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 | Consumer Protection

Resources I used to prepare my advance directive | Mike Litt

Advance directives are legal instructions that include a living will (different from a regular will) and a health care proxy. In them, you state what treatments you do or don’t want at the end of your life and who you want making health care decisions for you if you can’t. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

What I decided to do after shopping for long-term care insurance | Mike Litt

Before listening to In Case You Get Hit By a Bus, I didn’t know about insurance that covers the costs of long-term care, such as home health care or nursing home care, for people who need assistance with daily living activities. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

How I’m supercharging my savings with socially responsible investing (SRI) | Mike Litt

Getting my finances in order has been a work in progress over several years, starting with tackling credit card debt, paying off my car loan and then building an emergency fund. 

After clearing those hurdles, I set more defined financial goals and plans in motion this year, including automatic deposits into new investment accounts.

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

Report: Only one-third of largest phone companies have completely adopted anti-robocall technology

A looming deadline should finally force all U.S. phone companies to take stopping robocalls seriously. However, according to a new report by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, Make the Ringing Stop: The FCC is Finally Fighting Back Against Robocalls, only one-third of the largest mobile and home phone providers nationwide have installed caller ID verification aimed at squashing illegal robocalls, even though many of those businesses were required to do so by June. The stakes get higher Sept. 28 when phone providers are required to block calls from companies that haven’t at least reported their status to the Federal Communications Commission.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Report: Only one-third of largest phone companies have completely adopted anti-robocall technology

A looming deadline should finally force all U.S. phone companies to take stopping robocalls seriously. However, according to a new report by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, Make the Ringing Stop: The FCC is Finally Fighting Back Against Robocalls, only one-third of the largest mobile and home phone providers nationwide have installed caller ID verification aimed at squashing illegal robocalls, even though many of those businesses were required to do so by June. The stakes get higher Sept. 28 when phone providers are required to block calls from companies that haven’t at least reported their status to the Federal Communications Commission.

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

Salt River Project Board Fails to Scrutinize $1 Billion in New Customer Costs

According to the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Wildfire: Igniting Community Action to End Poverty in Arizona, the elected Salt River Project Board of Directors today failed SRP customers by approving 16 gas units at the cost of approximately $1 billion dollars without proper scrutiny.

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

Arizona PIRG Education Fund Calls on Arizona Corporation Commission to Look at Overwhelming Evidence; Not Take Unvetted Report on Energy Rules at Face Value

With the official public comment period now closed, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund urged the Arizona Corporation Commission to review the substantial number of independent reports and ratepayer comments that have been provided as part of the Energy Rules, and to schedule a long overdue final vote within the next two months.

> Keep Reading
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

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

Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Resources I used to prepare my advance directive | Mike Litt

Advance directives are legal instructions that include a living will (different from a regular will) and a health care proxy. In them, you state what treatments you do or don’t want at the end of your life and who you want making health care decisions for you if you can’t. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

What I decided to do after shopping for long-term care insurance | Mike Litt

Before listening to In Case You Get Hit By a Bus, I didn’t know about insurance that covers the costs of long-term care, such as home health care or nursing home care, for people who need assistance with daily living activities. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

How I’m supercharging my savings with socially responsible investing (SRI) | Mike Litt

Getting my finances in order has been a work in progress over several years, starting with tackling credit card debt, paying off my car loan and then building an emergency fund. 

After clearing those hurdles, I set more defined financial goals and plans in motion this year, including automatic deposits into new investment accounts.

> Keep Reading
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

Pages

Blog Post

Advance directives are legal instructions that include a living will (different from a regular will) and a health care proxy. In them, you state what treatments you do or don’t want at the end of your life and who you want making health care decisions for you if you can’t. 

Blog Post

Before listening to In Case You Get Hit By a Bus, I didn’t know about insurance that covers the costs of long-term care, such as home health care or nursing home care, for people who need assistance with daily living activities. 

Blog Post

Getting my finances in order has been a work in progress over several years, starting with tackling credit card debt, paying off my car loan and then building an emergency fund. 

After clearing those hurdles, I set more defined financial goals and plans in motion this year, including automatic deposits into new investment accounts.

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

A looming deadline should finally force all U.S. phone companies to take stopping robocalls seriously. However, according to a new report by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, Make the Ringing Stop: The FCC is Finally Fighting Back Against Robocalls, only one-third of the largest mobile and home phone providers nationwide have installed caller ID verification aimed at squashing illegal robocalls, even though many of those businesses were required to do so by June. The stakes get higher Sept. 28 when phone providers are required to block calls from companies that haven’t at least reported their status to the Federal Communications Commission.

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