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

Report | PIRGIM Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland: The 25th Annual Survey of Toy Safety

The 2010 Trouble in Toyland report is the 25th annual Public Interest Research Group in Michigan (PIRGIM) survey of toy safety.  In this report, PIRGIM provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards. 

> Keep Reading

Macomb Daily: Trouble in Toyland Persists

Baby’s first train by Haba looks like fun with its colorful wooden boxcars that can be easily latched together by thin pegs. However, the wooden pegs can be easily swallowed, too. The pieces are only one centimeter longer than the choke test cylinder used to determine if a hazard warning should be put on a toy package

> Keep Reading
News Release | PIRGIM Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Parents Beware - Many Toys Still Toxic, Hazardous

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan Education Fund (PIRGIM) announced today in its 25th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

> Keep Reading
Report | PIRGIM Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland: The 24th Annual Survey of Toy Safety

The recall of 45 million toys and other children’s products in 2007 and continued recalls in 2008 reminded Americans that no government agency tests toys before they are put on the shelves.

> Keep Reading
News Release | PIRGIM Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Consumer Group Alerts Shoppers to Hidden Toy Hazards

The latest Trouble in Toyland report, along with a new interactive tool, will help parents and other toy-buyers avoid some common hazards.

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed

Support us

Your tax-deductible donation supports PIRGIM Education Fund's work to educate consumers on the issues that matter, and to stand up to the powerful interests that are blocking progress.

Learn More

You can also support PIRGIM Education Fund’s work through bequests, contributions from life insurance or retirement plans, securities contributions and vehicle donations.