Consumer Protection Week: a webinar and lots of helpful advice

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From scams to medical bills to airline refunds, MASSPIRG is providing tips and tools to help Americans address common consumer problems.

BOSTON — As technology and bureaucracy get more complex, the threats facing consumers seem to be increasing. As if robocalls weren’t bad enough, we’re now deluged by robotexts and related scams. We also face new privacy threats we didn’t see a few months ago, even ones targeting our children. And we’re still burdened by junk fees, airline refunds, fraudulent credit card charges and errors on our credit reports. Millions of people every year report these and similar types of consumer problems.

In recognition of National Consumer Protection Week 2023, MASSPIRG is providing consumer protection tips and tools to help Americans address a wide range of common consumer issues.

“It’s really tough being a consumer today. Making sure no one takes advantage of you is like having a second job,” said Deirdre Cummings, Consumer Program Director, MASSPIRG Education Fund. “And anytime we figure out how to handle one type of problem or threat, new ones emerge, from smart toys that creep on our kids to medical providers that illegally hit us with surprise bills to scam moving companies that steal all of our belongings.”

You, Inc.
People can think of themselves as their own little business. Your financial transactions, purchases, data and consumer interactions all start with you. Using the FTC’s top complaints for 2022 as a guide, we offer proactive steps you can take to be a smart consumer. We provide advice on avoiding all sorts of fraud, scams, online shopping problems, junk fees and more.

According to the FTC’s complaint data, 37,925 Massachusetts consumers reported losing $136.2 million to fraud in 2022, an increase of 43 percent compared with 2021.

Everyone wants to know your business
From retailers and marketers to con artists, it seems everyone tries to get our data — our personal information, our buying habits, our location, even our conversations. Our kids are easy targets through addictive apps. As the threats snowball, protecting our data is like playing Whac-A-Mole. We walk you through steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Identity theft is a huge problem in the United States, with more than 1.1 million cases reported nationally – 15,000 from Massachusetts residents last year, according to the FTC. Dealing with identity theft is a time consuming and annoying process that no one wants to go through.

Not-so-friendly skies
The airline industry has been a mess for nearly three years. First, in 2020, airlines pushed back on refunds, which are required by law. Then there are the ongoing cancelations and delays that have turned many holidays and some routine travel into nightmares for passengers. Regulators are planning to crack down on some issues. For now, we have advice to help you get that refund and tips to protect yourself before you book that next flight.

Avoiding high, unfair medical bills
Dealing with medical bills and insurance networks can be confusing and stressful. The good news is new laws provide you with new consumer protections. We explain surprise medical billing protections you can use now, what medical debt should no longer appear on your credit report and how self-payers can get a written estimate for planned procedures.

Because credit reporting complaints always top the list, we offer tips on freezing your files, requesting your credit reports, finding mistakes and other steps you can take to protect yourself.

Those dreaded scam texts and robocalls
The government crackdown on robocalls has steered con artists to robotexts. The number of robotexts has risen from 1 billion a month in mid-2021, to 12 billion a month in mid-2022, to 15 billion a month in January 2023. Regulators only recently proposed new rules to attack robotexts. We have advice on how to deal with this bombardment, which is both a nuisance and a threat.

Thursday March 9:

Webinar: On Thursday, March 9, at 9.30 AM, Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG Education Fund’s Consumer Program Director is joining Attorney General Andrea Campbell and Bill O’Hearn, Division Chief of the AGO’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division on a joint training and information webinar on trending consumer topics. MASSPIRG will release a new analysis of the consumer complaints filed by Massachusetts residents handled by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2022.

Webinar: Thursday, March 9, 9.30 AM, RSVP here

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created in 2011 after the Great Recession to protect consumers from financial problems. Since then, it has handled more than 3.2 million consumer complaints.

Because credit reporting complaints always top the list, we offer tips on freezing your files, requesting your credit reports, finding mistakes and other steps you can take to protect yourself.

Consumer Protection Week: Tips, Tools and Step-by-Step Guides

Need help resolving a consumer complaint? Find out more about MASSPIRG Education Fund’s Consumer Action Center, or  file a complaint on line with the Office of Attorney General, 617-727-8400.