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 | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Debt Collectors, Debt Complaints

This is the fifth in a series of reports that review complaints to the CFPB nationally and on a state-by-state level. In this report we explore consumer complaints about debt collection, with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with debt collectors and documenting the role of the CFPB in helping consumers successfully resolve their complaints.

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Report: Capital One Most-Complained-About Credit Card Company in California

Sacramento, CA - California consumers file more complaints about Capital One than any other credit card company, according to a report released today by CALPIRG Education Fund. The report, which looked at data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) public Consumer Complaints Database, also found that California consumers filed the most credit card complaints.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Credit Cards, Consumer Complaints

California consumers file more complaints about Capital One than any other credit card company, according to a report released today by CALPIRG Education Fund. The report, which looked at data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) public Consumer Complaints Database, also found that California consumers filed the most credit card complaints.

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

CALPIRG’s Top Tips for Online Shopping

CALPIRG releases holiday online shopping guide to help California consumers save money and stay safe online as they shop.

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Doing Your Taxes: CALPIRG answers consumers' questions

CALPIRG Education Fund provides an online Questions & Answer guide to paying federal and state taxes.

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New FTC Report Highlights Top 10 Consumer Complaints for 2012.

California sees big increase in fraud and identity theft complaints.

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News Release | CALPIRG | Consumer Protection

CALPIRG Applauds FTC’s New Privacy Guidelines for Online Apps

“When less than one-third of Americans feel that they are in control of their personal information on their mobile devices, clearly there is a problem,” said Jon Fox, consumer advocate with CALPIRG.

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News Release | CALPIRG | Consumer Protection

Facebook Search Puts Privacy at Risk

CALPIRG calls on consumers to update privacy settings in light of Facebook's new social search engine, Graph Search.

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

CALPIRG Applauds AG’s New Privacy Guidelines for Online Apps

New guidelines urge mobile app developers to be judicious in the data they collect while being mindful of user privacy - shining the spotlight on consumer privacy.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Policing Privacy:

This report summarizes interviews CALPIRG Education Fund held with law enforcement officers from California and other cities with high identity theft rates.

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Report | CALPIRIG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Privacy Denied

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Common Sense Accounting Reforms For California Investors And Taxpayers

The California marketplace is plagued by increasing conflict-of-interest problems that lead to inaccurate corporate audits, an upsurge in “earnings restatements”, and a loss of investor confidence.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Rent-A-Bank Payday Lending:

One consequence of deregulation of interest rates, high credit card interest rates and high bank fees has been the rapid growth of the alternative financial services (or fringe banking) industry, which includes check cashing outlets, payday loan companies, rent-to-own stores, high cost second mortgage companies, sub-prime auto lenders, traditional pawn shops and the growing business of auto title pawn companies. This report examines payday lending in detail.

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