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WASHINGTON -- Being a consumer is a tough job. Really tough. It’s not just about reading a document completely before you sign it, or shopping around for the best prices. It’s about being able to avoid scam calls, even if the Caller ID says the call is coming from your bank or a government office. It’s about understanding that auto loan paperwork. It’s these things and much more.
During National Consumer Protection Week, which runs through March 6, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund staff is offering a daily dose of tips and advice to help you navigate life’s biggest consumer challenges. We’ve chosen our daily themes based in part on the Top 10 consumer complaints tallied by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The Top 10 list is part of our report we released today on the CFPB, which protects consumers from financial issues and has returned more than $12 billion to 30 million consumers wronged by companies since 2011. The report shows that complaints in 2020 set new records, led by credit reporting complaints, as the pandemic ruined family finances. The report makes recommendations to policymakers and the new CFPB leadership.
Here’s the lineup for the rest of the week:
Tuesday: Identity theft/fraud -- This for years has been the biggest problem consumers have faced. It takes the form of fraudulent income tax returns, phishing scams, stolen credit and debit card numbers and fraudulent unemployment claims in the name of someone who is not unemployed. We will walk you through how to freeze your credit files step-by-step. Consumer Watchdog Associate Grace Brombach even provides her first-person account of freezing her credit files for the first time.
Wednesday: Taxes -- Using free software; what to do if you didn’t get your COVID-19 relief/ stimulus payments; what to know about refund anticipation loans; and more.
Thursday: Robocalls -- Illegal robocalls cost consumers $3 billion a year in wasted time. Fraud from unwanted calls adds $10 billion a year. We offer tips to avoid scam calls and provide a state-by-state list on how to report bad actors.
Friday: Auto loans -- How to avoid an unfair auto loan and a look at the most common complaints.
Saturday: Price gouging -- It’s been more difficult during the pandemic for consumers to shop around to compare prices. We give some tips and discuss our investigative report from January 2021 on price hikes at Amazon on products popular during the COVID-19 era.
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