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

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Report: Getting Off The Hook Of A Predatory Tow In Arizona

Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s latest report “Getting Off The Hook of a Predatory Tow” highlights 14 common sense towing protections that the organization believes should be available to consumers in every state. The report outlines protections ranging from who is responsible for damages caused by careless towing, to the maximum rates and fees owed when towed, to whether an individual is guaranteed the option to pay by credit card.

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

Getting Off The Hook Of A Predatory Tow

Every year, millions of Americans have their cars towed. In some cases, the vehicle was parked improperly, the driver tracks it down and pays the bill without incident. Other times, the vehicle owner may face an array of unfair circumstances. Predatory practices following an initial tow can range from charging exorbitant fees to refusing the owner access to personal items in their car during business hours.

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

Corporation Commission Revives Energy Rules: Groups Applaud Bipartisan Vote to Enact Consumer Protections, Cut Electricity Bills

Earlier this month, when the Arizona Corporation Commission voted to kill its comprehensive Energy Rules, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), Arizona PIRG Education Fund, and Wildfire: Igniting Community Action to End Poverty in Arizona denounced the decision. Today, those very same organizations applauded the Commission for reviving its Energy Rules and voting to extend and expand Arizona’s successful Energy Efficiency Standard.

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

Electric Buildings

New and improved technologies are putting clean, efficient electric space heating and water heating, and electric appliances like stoves within the reach of most American households. Analysis shows that electrifying the vast majority of America’s residences and commercial spaces by 2050 could reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from the residential and commercial sectors by about 306 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2050. That is the equivalent of taking about 65 million of today’s cars off the road.

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

New Report Shows How Electrifying Buildings Could Transform The Energy System

Arizona could see a critical reduction of gas usage and greenhouse gas emissions if it electrifies buildings during the next 30 years, according to a report released today by Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. The report, Electric Buildings: Repowering Homes and Businesses for Our Health and Environment, outlines how overcoming key barriers standing in the way of widespread building electrification can improve public health and benefit consumers.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Report: Getting Off The Hook Of A Predatory Tow In Arizona

Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s latest report “Getting Off The Hook of a Predatory Tow” highlights 14 common sense towing protections that the organization believes should be available to consumers in every state. The report outlines protections ranging from who is responsible for damages caused by careless towing, to the maximum rates and fees owed when towed, to whether an individual is guaranteed the option to pay by credit card.

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

Corporation Commission Revives Energy Rules: Groups Applaud Bipartisan Vote to Enact Consumer Protections, Cut Electricity Bills

Earlier this month, when the Arizona Corporation Commission voted to kill its comprehensive Energy Rules, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), Arizona PIRG Education Fund, and Wildfire: Igniting Community Action to End Poverty in Arizona denounced the decision. Today, those very same organizations applauded the Commission for reviving its Energy Rules and voting to extend and expand Arizona’s successful Energy Efficiency Standard.

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

New Report Shows How Electrifying Buildings Could Transform The Energy System

Arizona could see a critical reduction of gas usage and greenhouse gas emissions if it electrifies buildings during the next 30 years, according to a report released today by Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. The report, Electric Buildings: Repowering Homes and Businesses for Our Health and Environment, outlines how overcoming key barriers standing in the way of widespread building electrification can improve public health and benefit consumers.

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

Arizona Corporation Commission Kills Critical Consumer Protections: Fails to Save Energy, Cut Electricity Bills

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), Arizona PIRG Education Fund, and Wildfire: Igniting Community Action to End Poverty in Arizona, denounced yesterday’s action by the Arizona Corporation Commission to kill its Energy Rules, including critical consumer protections to cut utility costs that would have expanded Arizona’s Energy Efficiency Standard through 2030.

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

Study: CFPB complaints shattered records in 2020, exposing how the COVID-19 pandemic battered consumer finances

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 Arizona PIRG Education Fund. The report, Consumers In Peril, which analyzed complaints received by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), was released as part of National Consumer Protection Week.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Getting Off The Hook Of A Predatory Tow

Every year, millions of Americans have their cars towed. In some cases, the vehicle was parked improperly, the driver tracks it down and pays the bill without incident. Other times, the vehicle owner may face an array of unfair circumstances. Predatory practices following an initial tow can range from charging exorbitant fees to refusing the owner access to personal items in their car during business hours.

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

Electric Buildings

New and improved technologies are putting clean, efficient electric space heating and water heating, and electric appliances like stoves within the reach of most American households. Analysis shows that electrifying the vast majority of America’s residences and commercial spaces by 2050 could reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from the residential and commercial sectors by about 306 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2050. That is the equivalent of taking about 65 million of today’s cars off the road.

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

Consumers in Peril

Analysis of complaint volumes and the types of complaints received shows that, as consumers dealt with the economic fallout of the pandemic, they increasingly faced problems with financial companies.

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

Report: Auto Loan Complaints Rise in Pandemic

A review of consumer complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Complaint Database reveals long-standing patterns of abusive and deceptive practices in the automobile industry. The pandemic has brought to light growing auto sales and loan problems.

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

Trouble In Toyland

For over 30 years, PIRG Education Fund has conducted an annual survey of toys to look for safety problems. This research has led to more than 150 toy recalls and other regulatory actions over the years. Our work has also helped educate the public and policymakers on the need for continued action to protect the health and well-being of children. This year, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) passing, which strengthened protections against dangerous consumer products.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Tips, Consumer Protection

How to get your stimulus payments when you file your tax return | Teresa Murray

Some of your friends or relatives have received two COVID-19 relief/ stimulus payments in the past year. And a third may be on the way soon. If you haven’t received anything yet and believe you should have, don’t fret.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Tips, Consumer Protection

Tips to file your tax return while avoiding fees, scams | Jacob van Cleef

You have six weeks to file your income tax return for 2020. Every year, it seems there are more issues to watch out for. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Tips, Consumer Protection

The worst consumer problem: Fraud/identity theft | Teresa Murray

One in 20 people was a victim in 2019. Account takeovers, which involve a criminal gaining access to an existing account, soared by 72 percent in 2019.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Every year, millions of Americans have their cars towed. In some cases, the vehicle was parked improperly, the driver tracks it down and pays the bill without incident. Other times, the vehicle owner may face an array of unfair circumstances. Predatory practices following an initial tow can range from charging exorbitant fees to refusing the owner access to personal items in their car during business hours.

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s latest report “Getting Off The Hook of a Predatory Tow” highlights 14 common sense towing protections that the organization believes should be available to consumers in every state. The report outlines protections ranging from who is responsible for damages caused by careless towing, to the maximum rates and fees owed when towed, to whether an individual is guaranteed the option to pay by credit card.

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Earlier this month, when the Arizona Corporation Commission voted to kill its comprehensive Energy Rules, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), Arizona PIRG Education Fund, and Wildfire: Igniting Community Action to End Poverty in Arizona denounced the decision. Today, those very same organizations applauded the Commission for reviving its Energy Rules and voting to extend and expand Arizona’s successful Energy Efficiency Standard.

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

New and improved technologies are putting clean, efficient electric space heating and water heating, and electric appliances like stoves within the reach of most American households. Analysis shows that electrifying the vast majority of America’s residences and commercial spaces by 2050 could reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from the residential and commercial sectors by about 306 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2050. That is the equivalent of taking about 65 million of today’s cars off the road.

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Arizona could see a critical reduction of gas usage and greenhouse gas emissions if it electrifies buildings during the next 30 years, according to a report released today by Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. The report, Electric Buildings: Repowering Homes and Businesses for Our Health and Environment, outlines how overcoming key barriers standing in the way of widespread building electrification can improve public health and benefit consumers.

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