National Consumer Protection Week 2021

Being a consumer is tough. We want to help make it a little easier. In recognition of Consumer Protection Week from Feb. 28-March 6, U.S. PIRG is providing key consumer protection advice. Check in here every day for our updated tips and tools. 

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Teresa Murray
Consumer Watchdog

Author: Teresa Murray

Consumer Watchdog

 

Started on staff: 2020
B.A., Kent State University

Teresa directs the Consumer Watchdog office, which looks out for consumers' health, safety and financial security. Previously, she worked as a journalist and columnist covering consumer issues and personal finance for two decades for Ohio's largest daily newspaper. She's earned dozens of state and national journalism awards, including Best Columnist in Ohio, Best Business Writer in Ohio, and National Headliner Award for coverage of the 2008-09 financial crisis. Among the accomplishments she’s most proud of: A journalism public service award for exposing improper billing practices by Verizon that affected at least 15 million customers nationwide. Her work caused Verizon to reach an $80 million settlement with the FCC, the largest ever imposed at that time. Teresa and her husband live in Greater Cleveland and have two sons and a dog. She enjoys biking, house projects and music, and serves on her church missions team and stewardship board.

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 discern whether that incoming phone call is from your bank or from a scammer, no matter what the Caller ID says. It’s about learning how to freeze your credit files so bad guys don’t open accounts in your name or steal your income tax return. It’s about shopping for the best cell phone plan or streaming service. It’s about understanding that auto loan paperwork. It’s these things and much more.

A consumer advocate I know once said people should think of their world as “You, Inc.” You are your own individual little enterprise, taking care of your own affairs. Piggybacking on that, I always say that you need to be an informed, engaged consumer because no one will look out for you as well as you.

While that’s often true, we want to help you look out for you too. 

During National Consumer Protection Week, Feb. 28 through March 6, we are 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. 

Monday, March 1, 2021 - The consumer cop on the financial beat

 The Top 10 list is part of our report we're releasing Monday 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. It has handled more than 2.3 million consumer complaints during its existence. 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.

The CFPB says more than 5,000 financial companies have provided timely responses to 97 percent of the more than 1.6 million complaints sent to them for response. We look at the top complaints to the CFPB nationwide and by state, and show you how to file a complaint against a company.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 - Protecting your identity

 Fraud/identity theft is the biggest consumer problem reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), with 2.2 million complaints last year. Consumers reported losing $3.3 billion last year, up from $1.8 billion in 2019. Among the biggest issues: imposter scams and online shopping.

We have tips for consumers about protecting your identity, including step-by-step instructions on freezing your credit files with Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 - Filing your taxes

 Tax season can be confusing. We explain how to use free tax software and avoid costly, unnecessary add-ons. We will also share advice such as how to avoid scams and what to do if you didn’t get a stimulus payment.

Thursday, March 4, 2021 - Robocalls

 Illegal robocalls, which violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, cost consumers $3 billion a year in wasted time, the Federal Communications Commission says. Fraud from unwanted calls adds $10 billion a year, according to the FTC.

Friday, March 5, 2021 - Auto loans

 Consumers shopping for a new car have plenty to think about, from finding the right vehicle to negotiating a good price to managing their budget. However, some pitfalls, scams and traps can create new costs and headaches even for experienced shoppers. We share our research and tips on what to look out for.

Saturday, March 6, 2021 - Avoiding price gouging

 It’s been more difficult during the pandemic for consumers to shop around to compare prices on health and safety items as well as everyday purchases. There is a lot to worry about with this outbreak, but absurd prices for masks, sanitizers and other critical safety supplies shouldn’t be one of them. 

Our research during the last year found severe price hikes on Amazon and unreasonable prices at other retailers. We offer advice to help consumers purchase reasonably priced items, not just during the pandemic and other emergencies, but for the long term. 

Banner Photos: ABC News, Norma Mortenson via Pexels.com CC-BY 2.0, CSPAN, Staff, ABC News, Public Domain, Staff, Staff, Staff.

Teresa Murray
Consumer Watchdog

Author: Teresa Murray

Consumer Watchdog

 

Started on staff: 2020
B.A., Kent State University

Teresa directs the Consumer Watchdog office, which looks out for consumers' health, safety and financial security. Previously, she worked as a journalist and columnist covering consumer issues and personal finance for two decades for Ohio's largest daily newspaper. She's earned dozens of state and national journalism awards, including Best Columnist in Ohio, Best Business Writer in Ohio, and National Headliner Award for coverage of the 2008-09 financial crisis. Among the accomplishments she’s most proud of: A journalism public service award for exposing improper billing practices by Verizon that affected at least 15 million customers nationwide. Her work caused Verizon to reach an $80 million settlement with the FCC, the largest ever imposed at that time. Teresa and her husband live in Greater Cleveland and have two sons and a dog. She enjoys biking, house projects and music, and serves on her church missions team and stewardship board.