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

Arizona Corporation Commission Approves APS Energy Efficiency Plan

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) and Arizona PIRG Education Fund praised Chairwoman Lea Marquez Peterson, Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, Commissioner Anna Tovar, and Commissioner Jim O’Connor - utility regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission - for voting yesterday to expand programs and services to help Arizonans save energy and money on their electricity bills.

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

Clean Energy, Clean Transportation, Clean Air

Arizona’s U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, our U.S. Representatives, and state and local officials need to lead efforts to significantly increase clean energy and clean transportation. Arizona PIRG Education Fund compiled 10 of numerous documents that illustrate from job creation and utility bill savings to reduced air pollution and decreased adverse health impacts, Arizonans and Arizona businesses clearly benefit from clean energy and clean transportation investments.

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

New Report: The Hidden Costs of Peer-to-Peer Payment Apps

Consumer complaints about peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps such as PayPal, Venmo and Square have surged during the pandemic year. In April, there were 970 digital wallet complaints — almost double the previous monthly high from July 2020. Arizona PIRG Education Fund analyzed this growing problem for Virtual Wallets, Real Complaints, a new analysis of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB’s) Consumer Complaint Database.

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

Virtual Wallets, Real Complaints

Consumers are increasingly using digital payment apps -- Venmo, Cash App and Zelle are a few --  for convenience. A 2020 Nerdwallet survey found that “[r]oughly 4 in 5 Americans (79%) use mobile payment apps.[1]” The apps were originally marketed as a way for friends to split expenses. However, the ease of opening peer-to-peer (P2P) accounts,[2] the ease of obtaining information about other users and a variety of ways to trick consumers have created new fraud risks to users.[3]

> Keep Reading
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

Pages

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Arizona Corporation Commission Approves APS Energy Efficiency Plan

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) and Arizona PIRG Education Fund praised Chairwoman Lea Marquez Peterson, Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, Commissioner Anna Tovar, and Commissioner Jim O’Connor - utility regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission - for voting yesterday to expand programs and services to help Arizonans save energy and money on their electricity bills.

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

New Report: The Hidden Costs of Peer-to-Peer Payment Apps

Consumer complaints about peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps such as PayPal, Venmo and Square have surged during the pandemic year. In April, there were 970 digital wallet complaints — almost double the previous monthly high from July 2020. Arizona PIRG Education Fund analyzed this growing problem for Virtual Wallets, Real Complaints, a new analysis of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB’s) Consumer Complaint Database.

> Keep Reading
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

Pages

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Clean Energy, Clean Transportation, Clean Air

Arizona’s U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, our U.S. Representatives, and state and local officials need to lead efforts to significantly increase clean energy and clean transportation. Arizona PIRG Education Fund compiled 10 of numerous documents that illustrate from job creation and utility bill savings to reduced air pollution and decreased adverse health impacts, Arizonans and Arizona businesses clearly benefit from clean energy and clean transportation investments.

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

Virtual Wallets, Real Complaints

Consumers are increasingly using digital payment apps -- Venmo, Cash App and Zelle are a few --  for convenience. A 2020 Nerdwallet survey found that “[r]oughly 4 in 5 Americans (79%) use mobile payment apps.[1]” The apps were originally marketed as a way for friends to split expenses. However, the ease of opening peer-to-peer (P2P) accounts,[2] the ease of obtaining information about other users and a variety of ways to trick consumers have created new fraud risks to users.[3]

> 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
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

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

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) and Arizona PIRG Education Fund praised Chairwoman Lea Marquez Peterson, Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, Commissioner Anna Tovar, and Commissioner Jim O’Connor - utility regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission - for voting yesterday to expand programs and services to help Arizonans save energy and money on their electricity bills.

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Arizona’s U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, our U.S. Representatives, and state and local officials need to lead efforts to significantly increase clean energy and clean transportation. Arizona PIRG Education Fund compiled 10 of numerous documents that illustrate from job creation and utility bill savings to reduced air pollution and decreased adverse health impacts, Arizonans and Arizona businesses clearly benefit from clean energy and clean transportation investments.

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Consumer complaints about peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps such as PayPal, Venmo and Square have surged during the pandemic year. In April, there were 970 digital wallet complaints — almost double the previous monthly high from July 2020. Arizona PIRG Education Fund analyzed this growing problem for Virtual Wallets, Real Complaints, a new analysis of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB’s) Consumer Complaint Database.

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

Consumers are increasingly using digital payment apps -- Venmo, Cash App and Zelle are a few --  for convenience. A 2020 Nerdwallet survey found that “[r]oughly 4 in 5 Americans (79%) use mobile payment apps.[1]” The apps were originally marketed as a way for friends to split expenses. However, the ease of opening peer-to-peer (P2P) accounts,[2] the ease of obtaining information about other users and a variety of ways to trick consumers have created new fraud risks to users.[3]

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.

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