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

News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

National Payday Lending Rule Could Protect Wisconsinites from Predatory Loans

Today, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) unveiled a proposal for a new national rule on payday and car title lending that has the potential to protect Wisconsinites from predatory high-interest loans. At a press conference in Eau Claire, consumer advocates joined faith and community leaders to highlight the harms of payday lending in Wisconsin. WISPIRG, the interfaith organization JONAH, and Citizen Action also underlined the importance of a strong federal rule to rein in abusive lending practices, and urged the CFPB to prevent loopholes from weakening the rule.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

Faith Leaders, Advocates Release New Fact Sheet Detailing the Impact of Payday Lending on Wisconsinites

Faith leaders and consumer and low-income advocates participated in a joint press conference call to detail the harms of payday and high-interest loans on individuals, families and communities across the state.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

Stop Payday Predators

Payday loans are among the most predatory forms of credit on the market. Though they are marketed as having “reasonable” fees or charges, typical interest rates exceed 300 percent. And because the payday lenders’ bottom line actually depends on borrowers’ inability to repay — most payday fees come from borrowers who take out more than 10 loans a year — they target people with low incomes and no other options.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S.PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay, Transportation

Framework for VW Settlement Announced

Statement by Mike Litt, Consumer Program Advocate at U.S. PIRG Education Fund, on todays announced VW settlement. For more details on what a strong settlement agreement ought to look like, please see the open letter that we released earlier this week with other consumer and environmental groups.

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News Release | U.S.PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay

Leading Groups Send Criteria for Evaluating VW Settlement

Four leading consumer, environmental, and public health organizations wrote an open letter in advance of the April 21st deadline set by U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer for a proposal that deals with Volkswagen’s emission scandal.

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Free checking still widely available, report says; some banks mum on fee info

Free checking can still be found at financial institutions in Wisconsin and nationwide, but consumers are more likely to see it at smaller banks and at credit unions than at some of the biggest banks, according to a survey by Public Interest Research Groups around the country.
Free checking can still be found at financial institutions in Wisconsin and nationwide, but consumers are more likely to see it at smaller banks and at credit unions than at some of the biggest banks, according to a survey by Public Interest Research Groupsaround the country. 

Read more: http://host.madison.com/business/free-checking-still-widely-available-report-says-some-banks-mum/article_a45e708c-2f79-11e2-8638-001a4bcf887a.html#ixzz2CVvvHGyc

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

New Survey Shows Free Checking Widely Available At Small Banks

A survey of 26 Wisconsin banks and credit unions and hundreds of banks and credit unions in 24 states and the District of Columbia found that free checking remains available at more than 6 out of 10 small banks and credit unions but was only found at one-quarter of surveyed big banks (those with over $10 billion in deposits). The survey released by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) also revealed that fewer than half of branches surveyed obeyed their legal duty to fully disclose fees to prospective customers on the first request, while 12% provided no fee information at all.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Consumer Protection

Poll Shows Voters Favor Strong Oversight of Wall Street and Back New CFPB

Financial reforms enacted in response to the financial meltdown remain popular with those likely to vote in 2012, a new opinion poll by Lake Research Partners shows. The poll was commissioned by AARP, National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) and Americans for Financial Reform (AFR). Saturday July 21 will mark the two year anniversary of the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a new agency with a strong record of successes for consumers despite facing constant unfounded political attacks in its first year of work.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Consumer Protection

Poison in Paint, Toxics in Toys

A new report identifies for the first time more than 650 brand name products that contain two hormone-disrupting toxic chemicals. 

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Capital Times: New study shows toxics in toys, poisons in paint

Popular children's toys, including Playmobil play figures, are on a list of 650 brand name products containing two hormone-disrupting chemicals, according to a new report.

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