This everyday guide to being a smart shopper is full of helpful tips about preventing identity theft, understanding credit, filing a consumer complaint, and more. The information and resources you’ll need are arranged as follows:
Part I—Be A Savvy Consumer
Read this section for advice before you make a purchase. To quickly locate specific topics and information, look in the Table of Contents.
Part II—Filing a Complaint
Turn to this section for suggestions on resolving consumer problems. The sample complaint letter will help you present your case.
Part III—Key Information Resources
Look here for a list of public resources and contact information.
Part IV—Consumer Assistance Directory
Here you’ll find contact information for corporate offices, consumer organizations, trade groups, government agencies, and more.
As a savvy consumer, you should always be on the alert for shady deals and scams. To avoid becoming a victim, keep these things in mind:
1. A deal that sounds too good to be true usually is! Be wary of promises to fix your credit problems, low-interest credit card offers, deals that let you skip credit card payments, work-at-home job opportunities, risk-free investments, and free travel.
2. Don’t share personal information with someone you don’t know or trust. Learn how to recognize fraud.
3. Beware of payday and tax refund loans. Interest rates on these loans are usually excessive. A cash advance on a credit card may be a better option.
4. Read and understand any contract or legal document you are asked to sign. Do not sign a contract with blank spaces or where the terms are incomplete.
5. Get estimates from several contractors for home or car repairs. Make sure the estimates are for the exact same repairs for a fair comparison.
6. When paying for your purchases, watch the cash register screen. If you think the price that has been charged is incorrect, speak up.
7. Before you buy, make sure you understand and accept the store’s refund and return policies, especially for services and facilities that charge monthly fees.
8. Don’t buy under stress. Avoid making big-ticket purchases during times of duress (e.g., coping with a death or debt).
9. When shopping online, look for the padlock icon in the bottom corner of your screen or a URL that begins with “https” to ensure that your payment information is transmitted securely.
10. If you are having difficulty making payments on loans, notify your lender immediately so that you can work out a payment plan.