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.

The Best Ways to Protect Yourself

Being a consumer in today’s marketplace can be tough. Financial decisions in particular often require navigating a torrent of misleading advertisements and pages of jargon-filled small print. Even the simplest choices — everyday financial decisions like opening a credit card, creating a bank account, applying for a loan, or sorting through cell phone contracts — can take time, energy and knowledge that too many of us don’t have.
   
Many financial institutions don’t set out to make it easier for their customers:

  • 1 out of every 20 Americans — millions of consumers — have errors on their credit reports significant enough to raise their rate on loans.
  • Financing cars through dealerships costs consumers more than $25.8 billion in additional hidden interest.
  • From 2005 to 2010, identity theft rose by 33%. In 2012, an estimated 12.6 million Americans became victims. That is 1 victim every 3 seconds. 
  • Banks made around $11 billion in overdraft fees in 2015, fees they pitched as “overdraft protection” but actually cost consumers more.

Despite these practices, there are ways to protect yourself. We want to help. This is why we’ve created the following tip sheets based on common complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. Read on. Protect yourself from becoming a statistic.

File a complaint if you have a problem

For all sorts of everyday consumer problems, there are government resources that can help. Federal agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Consumer Product Safety Commission exist to protect us from unfair or dangerous products. Submitting complaints to government agencies can help resolve your problem AND it helps these agencies hold companies accountable for unfair practices. For more information, consult our tip sheet on the subject, which includes information on how to contact the CFPB with financial complaints, the CPSC with toy and other product safety complaints, the NHTSA with car safety complaints, and DOT with air travel complaints: How to File a Consumer Complaint and Use Government Databases.

Keeping Track of Your Money:

Credit Reports, Credit Scores, and Identity Theft:

Common Consumer Problems:

Please 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

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumers Count: Five years of the CFPB standing up for consumers | Kathryn Lee

This week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns five years old! As part of our efforts to tell more people about the CFPB, we're cross-posting this video blog and comments written by Zixta Q. Martinez of the CFPB (check out the infographic at the end, too!).

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S.PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay, Transportation

Framework for VW Settlement Announced

Statement by Mike Litt, Consumer Program Advocate at U.S. PIRG Education Fund, on todays announced VW settlement. For more details on what a strong settlement agreement ought to look like, please see the open letter that we released earlier this week with other consumer and environmental groups.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S.PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay

Leading Groups Send Criteria for Evaluating VW Settlement

Four leading consumer, environmental, and public health organizations wrote an open letter in advance of the April 21st deadline set by U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer for a proposal that deals with Volkswagen’s emission scandal.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

30th Annual Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according CoPIRG Foundation’s 30th annual Trouble in Toyland report. The survey of potentially hazardous toys found that, despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping this holiday season.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

We Commend CFPB For Adding Consumer Stories To Public Complaint Database

Yesterday, the CFPB published the first batch (7,700) of consumer narratives or stories to the Public Consumer Complaint Database it began in 2011. We've used the database to publish five reports (so far) analyzing complaint trends in markets ranging from credit cards to student loans but we have also long urged the voluntary addition of stories to the data fields. Now, consumers can learn if what happened to them happened to anyone else. Now, researchers can track which banks are more responsive to particular problems and which ignore their customers. A good resource is now an excellent resource.

> Keep Reading

Unfixed Recalled GM Cars Still On Dealer Lots In Denver

“When there’s been a problem clearly identified that is linked to injuries and fatalities, they need to get those cars off the road immediately, and it doesn’t look like that’s happening fast enough,” Danny Katz with the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG) said.

> Keep Reading

GM to pay maximum fine of $35 million over delayed recall

General Motors agreed to pay a $35 million fine to settle a federal probe into the 10-year delay of its ignition switch recall, federal safety regulators announced Friday.

> Keep Reading

Congress to seeks answers about why GM, gov't didn't act sooner to recall cars with defect

New General Motors CEO Mary Barra has been cooperative with members of Congress investigating why the company did not act sooner to address a potentially deadly defect in some of its small cars, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette said.

> Keep Reading

Net neutrality: How it might affect consumers, startups and Level 3

CBS is broadcasting Sunday's Denver Broncos playoff game and also streaming it live over the Internet for viewers without access to a TV. Imagine a scenario where CenturyLink broadband subscribers receive an uninterrupted stream of the game on their Web browser while customers of Comcast, owner of rival network NBC, are intentionally stuck with choppy Internet footage.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | CoPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Private Loans, Public Complaints

This report is the second of several that will review complaints to the CFPB nationally and on a state-by-state level. In this report we explore consumer complaints in the private student loan sector with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with their student loans.

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland: 26th Annual Survey of Toy Safety

The 2011 Trouble in Toyland report is our 26th annual survey of toy safety. In this report, we provide safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for young children and provide examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

Highlights of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009

To educate consumers about the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility And Disclosure (CARD) Act signed into law on May 20, CoPIRG released a factsheet about the upcoming changes and tips on how to avoid remaining abusive credit card practices.

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Colorado Tenant Rights

This pamphlet will provide you with some basic information regarding tenant rights and landlord rights.

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed

Support us

Your tax-deductible donation supports CoPIRG Foundation's work to educate the public on the issues that matter, especially when powerful special interests are blocking progress.

Learn More

You can also support CoPIRG Foundation’s work through bequests, contributions from life insurance or retirement plans, securities contributions and vehicle donations.