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 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
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
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

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
News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Arizona Falls Behind for Energy Efficiency

Arizona fell in national rankings for energy efficiency, according to a new report released today by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The state is now 23rd in the country, down four spots since last year. The annual scorecard measures states’ progress on a variety of energy efficiency efforts, including utility programs and policies, transportation policies, building energy codes, and state government initiatives.

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

Help is on the way for Customers Struggling to Pay Utility Bills

Yesterday the Arizona Corporation Commission voted to help ratepayers struggling to pay their electric bill know there is at least a bit of light heading into 2021. Through the Commission’s action, Arizona Public Service, Tucson Electric Power and Unisource Electric will automatically enroll ratepayers behind on their bills who may be subject to disconnection in an eight-month payment plan, starting in January 2021. Utilities also agreed to work with customers who may need more time to catch up on their bills. In addition, qualified low-income customers will receive a discount up to $250 off their bill, due in part to support from APS, TEP and UNSE shareholders.

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

Arizona Corporation Commission Votes to Expand Energy Efficiency

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), Arizona PIRG Education Fund, and Wildfire: Igniting Community Action to End Poverty in Arizona, commended Chairman Bob Burns and Commissioners Boyd Dunn, Sandra Kennedy, and Lea Marquez Peterson - utility regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission - for voting yesterday to expand Arizona’s Energy Efficiency Standard through 2030.

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

New Report: COVID-19 Pandemic Worsens Existing Consumer Problems with Car Buying

Consumer complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regarding vehicle loans and leases have increased sharply during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. The analysis suggests that consumers in Arizona and across the United States are facing abusive and deceptive practices from the automobile lending industry. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

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
Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Equifax Breach: 1 Year Later – How to Protect Yourself Against ID Theft & Hold Equifax Accountable

The purpose of this report is to make sure consumers have the information they need to protect themselves as much as possible, review what has happened in the last year, and point out the need for Congressional action to prevent breaches as bad as this one from ever happening again. 

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2017

For over 30 years, U.S. PIRG Education Fund has conducted an annual survey of toy safety, which has led to over 150 recalls and other regulatory actions over the years, and has helped educate the public and policymakers on the need for continued action to protect the health and wellbeing of children.

Toys are safer than ever before, thanks to decades of work by product safety advocates, parents, the leadership of Congress, state legislatures, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 

> 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

Blog Post

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.

Blog Post

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

Report | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

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.

Blog Post

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.

News Release | Arizona PIRG Education Fund

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.

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