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:
- Top Ten Ways the CFPB Can Help You With Financial Questions
- How to Choose a Bank
- How to Avoid Problems When Paying Taxes
- How to Choose a Credit Card
Credit Reports, Credit Scores, and Identity Theft:
- How to Access Your Credit Report and Avoid 'Free' Credit Report Scams
- How to Fix Mistakes on Your Credit Report
- How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Common Consumer Problems:
- How to Pick a Cell Phone Plan
- How Tenants Can Protect Themselves from Predatory Landlords
- How to Avoid Common Mistakes When Buying a Car
- How to Avoid Dangerous Toys
- Your Rights As an Air Traveler
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.
CoPIRG released new data highlighting the success of the Denver Office of Financial Empowerment and Protection (OFEP), which in 2020 helped thousands of Denver residents reduce debt by $1.4 million, increase savings by $227,000, avoid $826,000 in tax prep fees, and improve credit scores by an average of 43 points. CoPIRG highlighted that the Denver OFEP success underscores the role a statewide Office of Financial Empowerment could play to help leverage Denver’s success across the state.
Data provided by the Denver Office of Financial Empowerment and Protection shows that thousands of people were helped in 2020.
Here in Colorado, we want to fix our stuff – even during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a review of data from iFixit, which describes itself as the “repair guide for everything, written by everyone,” over 1 million unique users from Colorado went to www.iFixit.com to look up how to repair something in 2020. Even as repairing our devices for learning and working became critical to staying safe, 6 of the top 10 most popular manufacturers of devices that Coloradans were trying to fix restrict access to parts and service information
Consumer complaints about problems with financial companies such as banks, credit bureaus and debt collectors rose by more than 50 percent in 2020 and set new records for each month of the year, according to a new report from the CoPIRG Foundation. The report, Consumers In Peril, which analyzed complaints received by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), was released Monday to kick off National Consumer Protection Week.
Being a consumer is a tough job. Really tough. During National Consumer Protection Week, which runs through March 6, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund staff is offering a daily dose of tips and advice to help you navigate life’s biggest consumer challenges.
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