Consumer protection help: Your frequently asked questions

For Consumer Protection Week, our staff collected your questions so we could provide useful tips on protecting you, your family and all consumers.

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Scams, unsafe products, or customer service challenges got you down? We can help.

For Consumer Protection Week, our staff collected your questions so we could provide useful tips on protecting you, your family and all consumers.

You asked – and we can answer. Here are some of your most frequently asked questions:

Q: How do I protect myself from identity theft?

A: Freezing your credit is a fast, easy, and safe way to protect yourself from identity theft. Anytime you apply for a new credit card or loan, the bank will check your credit score and evaluate your ability to repay the account. If your credit files are frozen, no bank can access them – so no new accounts can be opened in your name. 

Freezing your credit is like putting a padlock on your personal information, protecting you from fraudsters opening up accounts in your name without your knowledge. And then, when you actually do need to open up a new account, thawing your credit is simple. 

Learn how to reduce your risk with step-by-step instructions and more details:

Q: I got hit with an enormous surprise medical bill – what can I do?

A: “Surprise” medical bills happen when, through no fault of your own, you are treated by providers outside of your insurance network, often labs or anesthesiologists you didn’t choose. These out-of-network providers can charge exorbitant rates which are only revealed after the bill arrives.

If you get hit with a larger-than-expected bill, don’t panic. There are several things you can do to attempt to lower it. 

First, ask for an itemized bill. Check to make sure that you are not being mistakenly billed for treatment you did not receive. Then, compare the itemized bill to your Explanation of Benefits to see whether your insurer is paying their share.

Then, contact your care provider or hospital and ask them to explain any charge you don’t understand. Do the same with your insurer to see if any mistakes were made on their end. Keep careful notes of all conversations you have, and get the names of the people you are speaking to. Keep your files in one place for easy access.

Many hospitals have patient advocate departments to help you manage your bills. Even if it turns out that there are no mistakes, give them a call to see if it’s possible to make your bill more manageable.

Q: How do I get a refund from my airline for a canceled flight?

A: Right now, cash refunds are required by law when the airline itself cancels a flight. You’re entitled to a refund when your airline cancels your trip for any reason.

If the airline canceled your flight, it might try to offer you a voucher in exchange instead of a refund. If a voucher works for you, great. If not, you are legally entitled to and can ask for a refund instead.

To get your cash back for a canceled flight, be persistent! Use our tips guide to help get the refund you deserve:

Q: I feel like I got ripped off! What can I do?

A: If you were the victim of a scam, you can report the problem and get support by contacting your attorney general. Here is a list for every state, including the phone number, email address and resource page.  You can scroll down, find your AG, and click on their name to find their website and/or phone number so you can get in touch with them.

Do you have another question? We have dozens of consumer guides with great tips to walk you through even more everyday issues. Check out our Consumer Tips: