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 | Public Health, Consumer Protection

What’s up with the ‘DARK Act’? | Anya Vanecek

The House just passed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015. This will have major implications for GMO labeling and consumer information about the foods they eat.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report: Mortgage Problems Rank #1 at CFPB for Consumer Complaints

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Mortgages and Mortgage Complaints

Our sixth report analyzing complaints in the CFPB's Public Consumer Complaint Database evaluates mortgage complaints, the number one source of complaints to the CFPB, totaling 38% of nearly 500,000 complaints posted since 2011.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

The CFPB is 4 years old and has a lot to show for it! | Ed Mierzwinski

Tuesday, July 21, marks four years to the day since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opened its doors to protect consumers and make financial markets work. We've summarized some of the ways CFPB works for you on a new web page.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Annual Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on store shelves, according to the PIRG’s 28th annual Trouble in Toyland report. The survey of hazardous toys found that despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping this holiday season.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report Analyzes Complaints About Credit Bureaus

According to new analysis from the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, thousands of consumers with errors on their credit reports are getting relief through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The report also found that credit reporting agencies vary widely in how they respond to consumer complaints: Equifax responded to over half with relief, while Experian responded with relief to only 5 percent.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Foodborne Illness Racks up $22 million in Economic Costs in 2012 and 2013

According to a new study by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) delays in implementing the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act have put lives at risk at a cost of $1,363,353 in Arizona. Contaminated food makes 48 million Americans sick every year.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report Identifies Most Troublesome Private Lenders to Students

Thousands of American students are using the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s public Consumer Complaints Database to settle disputes about private student loans, according to a new report from the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.

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News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Arizona PIRG Education Fund Report Identifies Banks Consumers Complain About Most

Thousands of Americans are using the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s public Consumer Complaints Database to settle disputes with their banks, according to a new report from the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. The report highlights banks that generated the most complaints through their various banking services in each state.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Big Banks Bigger Fees 2012

Since Congress largely deregulated consumer deposit (checking and savings) accounts beginning in the early 1980s, the state PIRGs have tracked bank deposit account fee changes and documented the banks’ long-term strategy to raise fees, invent new fees and make it harder to avoid fees.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

The Campus Debit Card Trap

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Getting All the Cards on the Table:

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2011

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.

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Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Building A Better Health Care Marketplace

Consumers across the state know that the health insurance marketplace is broken. Insurers don’t compete for their business, instead offering take-it or-leave-it deals. Important information about coverage is buried in the fine print, making it hard to know what’s really covered. Instead of working to lower costs and improve quality, too many insurers focus on covering healthy enrollees and dumping the sick. And costs are continuing their unsustainable rise.

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