Consumer Tips

PROTECTING YOURSELF IN A COMPLEX MARKETPLACE — Our researchers and attorneys provide key tips for how you can shop for the best bank, get the best car loan, protect against identity theft and more.

Protect Yourself

In today's marketplace, it takes a savvy, informed consumer to avoid common pitfalls and threats. Financial decisions in particular require assessing a blizzard of advertisements and navigating pages of jargon-laden fine print to make decisions about credit cards, bank accounts, loans, health insurance, and cell phone contracts, among other things.

It’s more important than ever to protect yourself:

  • Consumers who finance their cars through a dealership pay more than $25.8 billion in additional hidden interest over the lives of their loans.
  • In 2010, more than 8 million households were victims of identity theft, a 33 percent rise since 2005.
  • One out of 20 consumers has errors on their credit report significant enough to lead to higher rates on loans.
  • Banks made around $30 billion in overdraft fees in 2011. Adding insult to injury, these fees were pitched as “overdraft protection,” which most consumers would be better off without.

That's why the U.S. PIRG Education Fund has compiled recommendations and resources for consumers. Our tip sheets address some of the most common complaints received by the Federal Trade Commission—read on, and protect yourself from becoming a statistic.

 
Note that these tips are not intended as, nor should they be construed as, legal advice. If you need legal advice dealing with a consumer problem, consult an attorney. 

Issue updates

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Tips, Consumer Protection

Largest bank hack ever, of Capital One, exposes 100 million to identity theft

Everyone should assume that their social security number has been exposed between this breach and breaches of other major companies’ databases, such as Equifax’s. With that in mind, U.S. PIRG recommends all Americans should use their right by law to freeze their credit reports for free

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

Equifax penalty is a “sweetheart deal” that leaves consumers at risk

Our response to Equifax paying a $650 million penalty for exposing the social security numbers of 148 million Americans to identity theft.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

U.S. PIRG celebrates 10 years of the Credit CARD Act

U.S. PIRG celebrated the 10th anniversary of the passage of the groundbreaking Credit CARD (Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure) Act today by joining with the law’s chief sponsor Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY) at a U.S. Capitol press conference.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

You're Not Alone: CFPB Complaints on the Rise

While the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new director entertains removing its consumer complaint database from public view, that website feature is proving its worth. The CFPB published a record 257,000 consumer complaints in 2018, according to a new report by U.S. PIRG Education Fund. That brings the total to nearly 1.2 million since the CFPB began collecting complaints in December 2011.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

You're Not Alone

While the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new director entertains removing its consumer complaint database from public view, that website feature is proving its worth. The CFPB published a record 257,000 consumer complaints in 2018, according to a new report by U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

> Keep Reading

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

You Should Change Your Experian Credit Freeze PIN

Our press release recommending consumers change their credit freeze PINs on their Experian credit reports after reports yesterday revealed a security flaw with Experian’s online PIN retrieval page.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Experian Should Reissue New Credit Freeze PINs Immediately

Our statement about Experian's security flaw with its credit freeze PIN retrieval form. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

U.S. PIRG response to reports of Facebook security breach

Facebook announced today that earlier this week, "attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that impacted “View As”, a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else. This allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens which they could then use to take over people’s accounts."

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

U.S. PIRG response to reports of Facebook security breach

Facebook announced today that earlier this week, "attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that impacted “View As”, a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else. This allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens which they could then use to take over people’s accounts."

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Tomorrow's National Free Credit Freeze Law

Our press release about the national free credit freeze law that goes into effect tomorrow. It includes tips about credit freezes and other steps consumers can take to protect themselves from different types of identity theft and fraud. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Bumbo, CPSC Recall Baby Seat Linked To Skull Fractures | Ed Mierzwinski

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Bumbo, maker of a baby seat linked to at least 21 skull fractures, have announced a repair recall to install a free safety belt. U.S. PIRG and other consumer groups had pressured them to act.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

For its own first birthday, CFPB sends gifts to consumers | Ed Mierzwinski

Tomorrow, Saturday, July 21, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns one year old. To celebrate its own birthday, the CFPB sent consumers some gifts this week.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Fines Capital One For Deceptively Marketing Junky Payment Protection, Credit Monitoring to Cardholders | Ed Mierzwinski

(UPDATED): The CFPB, which turns one on Saturday, is coming of age with the announcement of its first enforcement action, against Capital One Bank, for deceptive marketing of junky payment protection and credit monitoring products to cardholders. Capital One will pay over $200 million in direct restitution and civil penalties.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Issues Rule Regulating Big Credit Bureaus | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, as expected, the CFPB announced its first "larger participants" rule, giving itself the authority to supervise, or look inside the mysterious "black box" operations, of the biggest credit bureaus. This is a really big deal for consumers who've suffered through the mistakes made by these gatekeepers to financial and employment opportunity.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Arbitration: it's not just bad for you, it's bad for fair arbitrators, too | Ed Mierzwinski

A Bloomberg columnist is reporting that the securities industry's self-regulator FINRA has fired 3 arbitrators who ruled against BofA's Merrill Lynch in favor of a presumably grievously ripped-off investor (they rarely win). It's time for both the SEC, for investors, and the CFPB, for consumers, to step up and use their Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act powers to ban forced arbitration.

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Blog Post

In response to a tidal wave of unfair marketplace practices, the CFPB asked the public to submit comments on the impact of junk fees on their lives. Some 2,500 comments later, consumers have described the pain points caused by unfair junk fees.

Cover graphic courtesy Student Borrower Protection Center, used by permission

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Today, in response to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) request for information (RFI) on harmful “junk fees,” the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund submitted comments exposing how financial service giants and universities are plaguing postsecondary students with unexpected, unavoidable, and hugely expensive charges on a range of financial products.

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Report on issues with "Buy Now, Pay Later" financing plans.

Blog Post

Even with the knowledge I’ve gained working as a consumer advocate for several years, getting my finances in order has been a work in progress. 

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