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.

How 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 $30 billion in overdraft fees in 2011, 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 than 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.

Find more information about...

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

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report: Older Consumers in the Financial Marketplace: An Analysis of Complaints, and Results, From the CFPB

Mortgages were the leading source of complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from consumers 62 and over, followed by complaints about credit reports and debt collection, according to a new report by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and the Frontier Group.

> Keep Reading

California’s new drug price law is a win for consumers nationwide

Today, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 17 into law, a groundbreaking measure to increase transparency and accountability for the prescription drug industry. We celebrate the new law—passed with support and hard work from CALPIRG—as a landmark victory for consumers, not just in California, but nationwide.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG | Consumer Protection

New CFPB Rule Targets Payday and Car Title Lending Debt Trap

Consumers in states that are burdened by predatory short-term payday and car title lending will receive some relief from a final rule issued today by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Arizona already prohibits payday lending, which is crucial to prevent payday lenders from exploiting loopholes in the new rule. While the rule released today should be helpful in disrupting the abusive car title lending that still plagues Arizonans, advocates argued the state needs to expand consumer protections to also cover car title lending.

> Keep Reading

Statement on Walmart’s Decision to Strengthen Chemical Footprint Policy

Arizona PIRG applauds retail giant Walmart for updating its sustainability policy to restrict toxic chemicals in 90,000 products including cosmetics and skincare items, infant products, and household cleaners.

> Keep Reading

Agency votes to begin rulemaking process to protect American children, firefighters from hazardous flame retardant chemicals

Today, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) took three critical steps toward protecting consumers and firefighters from the hazards posed by a class of flame retardant chemicals (known as “organohalogens”). The CPSC directed the Commission’s staff to begin the rulemaking process to ban the sale of four categories of consumer products if they contain these chemicals. Once again, the CPSC has made an important action for consumers.

> Keep Reading

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Statement on Procter & Gamble’s New Preservative Tracker in Personal Care Products

Personal care product giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) recently unveiled a new preservative tracker, which lets consumers know which preservatives are included in various categories of P&G’s products, such as baby wipes, skin care, and hair care products. Consumers can search the tracker by ingredient or by product type.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Consumer Protection

Yahoo Data Breach Presents Opportunity for Strong Response

Statement by Mike Litt at the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, on the latest announced Yahoo data breach.

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

Consumer Advocates Concerned By Court Ruling Overturning Ban on High-Powered Magnets

We've joined leading consumer and pediatrician organizations in a joint news release with a sharp critique of a U.S. appellate court decision overturning a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission ban on the sale of high-powered small magnets (some as small as BBs) that pose a severe ingestion problem for children and youth. As our Trouble In Toyland report released on November 22 pointed out: "Nearly 80 percent of high-powered magnet ingestions require invasive medical intervention, either through an endoscopy, surgery, or both. In comparison, only 10 to 20 percent of other foreign body ingestions require endoscopic intervention and almost none require surgery."

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Analysis of Predatory Lending Complaints Reveals Need for Stronger Federal Protections

Consumer complaints about predatory lending to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) show a critical need for strengthening the agency’s proposed rule to rein in payday loans and other high-cost lending, according to a report by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Consumer Groups Outraged by Utility Rate Increase

Consumer groups are severely concerned about the impact on UniSource Electric residential electric customers, particularly low- and fixed-income customers, from an Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC)-approved rate increase and a 50 percent increase in the mandatory monthly fee or “basic service charge.”

> Keep Reading

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Report | Arizona PIRG | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2007

Hazardous toys are still sold in stores across the country, according to the 22nd annual toy safety survey released today by the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG).

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2006

According to the most recent data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), almost 73,000 children under the age of five were treated in emergency rooms for toy-related injuries in 2005. Twenty children died from toy-related injuries last year.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Arizona's Food Safety Net

Protecting the safety and integrity of the food supply is one of the oldest functions of government, one that the American people expect their government to perform and perform well.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG | Consumer Protection

Our Water, Our Future

In Arizona, the most recent drought of the past decade has surpassed the worst drought in the last 110 years of recordkeeping. Arizona’s finite, limited supply of water is being stretched between new, fast accumulating demands. Arizona’s population is projected to double by 2030. Much of this growth is occurring in rural areas of the state where there are minimal protections or regulations on water and its use. According to the U.S.

> Keep Reading
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2005

“While we can report substantial progress after 20 years of advocacy on behalf of America’s littlest consumers, we are still finding trouble in toyland,” said Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.

> Keep Reading

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

How to protect yourself from the security bug Heartbleed | Diane Brown

Heartbleed is a recently discovered hole in the security software used by most major websites – everyone from Amazon to Yahoo to eBay – that may have allowed hackers to access consumers’ passwords or credit card information. Here are our recommendations for protecting yourself.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Target says "Oops, 70-110 million consumers hacked." | Diane Brown

Target is now saying, reports the New York Times, that "a range of 70 million to 110 million people," not the original 40 million customers, had their credit or debit card numbers hacked in December (or possibly at other times). Even worse, Target is admitting that the database stolen from the big-box retailer included a lot more than credit or debit card numbers and their associated security codes and expiration dates.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

The CFPB is now taking your credit bureau complaints | Diane Brown

Excellent news! The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is now taking your complaints about credit bureaus and credit reports. Click here to go to the CFPB credit bureau complaint page.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

New Law Turns 4 This Week-- Got The Lead Out of Kid's Toys | Diane Brown

Less Lead in Toys Thanks to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Happy 4th Birthday!

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Bumbo, CPSC Recall Baby Seat Linked To Skull Fractures | Diane Brown

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Bumbo, maker of a baby seat linked to at least 84 incidents involving at least 21 skull fractures since a previous 2007 recall to add labels, have announced a broader repair recall.

> Keep Reading

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News Release | U.S. PIRG

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

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

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

Blog Post

Members of Congress hear repeatedly from lobbyists for corporate special interests in their offices and at fundraisers. How can consumer advocates balance the scales?

Blog Post

In most of the country, owning a car is all but required. And we're paying for it—to the tune of $1.2 trillion. This is putting the financial well-being of millions of Americans at risk, and Arizona PIRG and our national network are calling for change.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

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."

Consumer Protection | U.S. PIRG

Campus debit cards cost students over $24 million in fees

Report shows how campus debit cards — along with how they are marketed — are putting students' financial well-being at risk across the country.

 

Consumer Protection | U.S. PIRG

The real price of medications

The results of our investigation of variations in prescription drug prices may surprise you.

 

Consumer Protection | U.S. PIRG

Driving into debt

The hidden costs of risky auto loans to consumers and our communities

 

Consumer Protection

Congressional investigation concludes that Equifax breach was entirely preventable

The worst data breach in history could have been prevented with some basic security measures.

 
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