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

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Protecting Consumers from Runaway Gas Bills | Abe Scarr

The Illinois Commerce Commission is considering action that could hike Chicago gas bills for decades to come.

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

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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.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

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News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

31st Annual Survey Finds Recalled Toys in Online Stores

Some toys that have been recalled for lead, powerful magnets, or other hazards may still be available for sale in online stores, according to Illinois Public Interest Research Group Education Fund’s 31st annual Trouble in Toyland report. The survey of potentially hazardous toys found that consumers should be wary when shopping this holiday season.

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

Statement on Record $100 Million CFPB Penalty Order Against Wells Fargo Bank For Illegal Sales Practices

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News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

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News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

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Trouble in Toyland 2016

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> Keep Reading
Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble In Toyland

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> Keep Reading
Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Protecting Consumers from Runaway Gas Bills | Abe Scarr

The Illinois Commerce Commission is considering action that could hike Chicago gas bills for decades to come.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Protecting Consumers from Runaway Gas Bills | Abe Scarr

The Illinois Commerce Commission is considering action that could hike Chicago gas bills for decades to come.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

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