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 Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Fisher-Price recalls nearly 5 million potentially deadly Rock n’Play sleepers

Fisher-Price recalled 4.7 million Rock n’Play baby sleepers on Friday. U.S. PIRG Consumer Watchdog Adam Garber issued a response: "“While we’re pleased that Fisher-Price is finally recalling these dangerous sleepers, 30 deaths in 10 years is 30 deaths too many and 10 years too late."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Food

Statement: CDC finds E. coli outbreak caused by tainted ground beef

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today that it suspects ground beef caused an outbreak of E. coli-induced infections that has sickened more than 100 people in six states.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Consumer Protection

Statement on Wells Fargo’s response to “Debit Cards on Campus” report

Read U.S. PIRG's statement on Wells Fargo eliminating some fees for student on debit cards.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

U.S. PIRG Consumer Campaign Director Testifies at Congressional Hearing on Data Security | Mike Litt

U.S. PIRG's Consumer Campaign Director, Mike Litt, was invited to testify at a Congressional hearing yesterday about improving data security at the credit bureaus. Here are his opening remarks. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Food

California avocados second major recall in less than a week

Henry Avocado Corporation is recalling avocados potentially contaminated with the deadly listeria bacteria. Adam Garber, U.S. PIRG said in a statement: “We are barely getting a chance to breath between recalls."

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Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

People impacted by Hurricane Florence face scams, price gouging and other consumer abuses; U.S. PIRG offers tip sheet to help

As people throughout the Carolinas and Virginia start to recover and rebuild after Hurricane Florence, they face a number of scams and challenges, from price gouging to collecting insurance to safety for their pets and themselves. In an online tip sheet, U.S. PIRG is sharing information and expertise that will help readers, listeners and viewers better understand and protect themselves from those who may prey on them.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Consumer Group Faults Exemptions for Second Recall of Compounded Drug in 2018

After a second major recall of all sterile compounded drugs manufactured by an "outsourcing facility", U.S. PIRG calls on the Food and Drug Administration to close loopholes that exempt these operations from safe manufacturing requirements.

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

Honey Smacks still on shelves 2 months after salmonella recall

Some stores are still stocking Honey Smacks more than two months after a massive recall due to Salmonella contamination that now has poisoned 130 individuals in 36 states, according to  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The latest FDA update includes 30 more sick people from three previously unaffected states:  Delaware, Maine and Minnesota.

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

New Report: How to Protect Consumers 1 Year After Equifax Breach

One year after announcing the worst data breach in history, Equifax has yet to pay a price or provide consumers with the information and tools they need to adequately protect themselves. A new report by U.S. PIRG Education Fund provides a recap of actions against Equifax over the last year, new materials to help consumers understand how to best protect themselves, and a case for why both oversight and financial consequences are needed to prevent future large-scale breaches.

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

Recall: Toys Still Found with Lead Paint Decade After Virtual Ban

On Wednesday, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled more than 30,000 units of BSN Sports rubber critter toys because of lead contamination. Despite Congress enacting stronger protections for toys and other children’s products 10 years ago this month due to a rash of China-manufactured lead contaminated toys, some toys with lead paint contamination are still reaching store shelves and getting into kids’ hands.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

On the Internet, Everyone Knows If You're A Big Dog, Or Just A Dog | Ed Mierzwinski

A Wall Street Journal story today has everyone talking about how Internet sites use profiles and cookies to offer different customers different offers, or the same product for different prices. On the Internet today, everybody knows whether you're a big dog, or just a dog.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Could portable bank account numbers ease moving your money? | Ed Mierzwinski

PIRG "Big Banks, Bigger Fees" reports have documented the many so-called "switching costs" problems consumers face when trying to move their money to a new bank (or credit union). Account number portability, which has worked well for phone company switching, could be a part of the solution.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB seeks your views on prepaid cards, including campus cards featured in our latest report | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB wants your views on general purpose reloadable prepaid cards. Some of the campus cards featured in U.S. PIRG Education Fund's new report, the Campus Debit Card Trap, are prepaid cards, others are debit cards, and there is a difference.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB holds field hearing on prepaid cards-- all the fees, none of the protections | Ed Mierzwinski

Several members of the PIRG-backed Americans for Financial Reform are among the witnesses at a field hearing on prepaid cards that the Consumer FInancial Protection Bureau holds at noon today in Durham, NC. While reloadable prepaid cards are growing fast as an option for convenience, for the unbanked and for distribution of government and student benefits, so-called general purpose reloadable prepaid cards sold under a variety of brands have fewer consumer protections than credit cards (gold standard), debit cards (fewer protections), and payroll, government benefit and gift cards (some protections).The CFPB will announce a advance notice of proposed rulemaking to improve the situation.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

NY Investigates Banks "Forcing" Consumers To Buy Overpriced Mortgage Insurance | Ed Mierzwinski

It's called force-placed insurance for a reason. Your mortgage lender buys it for you and you are forced to pay for it, even if it isn't the best deal for you. When lenders purchase a product to "benefit" consumers, they often have numerous incentives to make the more expensive, not less-expensive, choice due to what's called reverse competition. That's a bad deal for you and a bad deal for the economy, but a good deal for the kind of sordid crony capitalism that relies on kickbacks, not better products. Fortunately, the New York Department of Financial Services (both banking and insurance) and the CFPB are both taking a deep dive into the forced-place-insurance mess.

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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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