National Consumer Protection Week Seeks to Inform
Did you know that as a consumer you have rights when it comes to a lot of products you interact with? If you didn't, then next week is your week to learn. March 1-7 has been designated National Consumer Protection Week, a national effort to educate people about the rights that they have as consumers, in hopes that they'll be able to make better-informed decisions.
A lot of different groups come together to make this week possible--many federal, state, county and local government agencies, as well as non-profit organizations have all banded together to promote their efforts toward consumer protection and consumer rights.
While there will be various events held across the country, one of the main efforts is publicizing information. This week we'll take a look at some of the information available in the credit card sector:
Consumer Action Handbook. Did you know that you have the right to have credit in your name? Or that credit card issuers can't deny you credit based on your sex, race, national origin or religion? The Consumer Action Handbook tells you about all of these basic rights and more. Published by the federal government, this guide covers a lot of consumer categories, including credit card, credit scoring, credit counseling and debt collection. Look for it online at USA.gov, or you can order a print copy through their website.
Consumer.gov. If you need to explain the facts in pretty plain English, this is a great website that covers all of the basics. It explains how you can use credit, what interest is, where you can get a credit card and more. This site's great for teaching kids about credit and money management--and it's even great for non-native speakers of English.
Credit Card Loss Protection. Beware of this scam perpetrated by telemarketers and spammers who try to get you buy special insurance coverage for your credit card that you just don't need. The FTC's consumer information section explains these types of scams and tells you how to protect yourself from them.
HelpWithMyBank.gov. This website's name says it all--it helps answer questions you have about your bank. Since banks issue credit cards, there's a big section that answers questions about credit card balance transfers, disputes, fees, payments and late payments. It's put together by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Dealing with debt collectors. Although credit cards are a great way to build credit history and allow you to make large purchases, it's also easy to get into debt. When you get behind on payments, then you may have to deal with debt collectors, specialized services that work on getting those payments from you. By law, you have some rights when dealing with debt collectors. The FTC's posted a short video at its website that explains these rights. Additionally, Consumer Federation of America has put together a guide for dealing with debt collectors, and Consumer Action has a booklet that describes how to protect yourself from debt collection lawsuits.
Repairing your credit. Anybody has the potential to get in trouble with credit and accumulate so much debt that it ruins their creditworthiness. There are credit repair services--although there are also some credit repair scams--but fixing your credit is something that you can really do on your own. You don't need to pay for it. The FTC's website has information about credit repair, including how to fix it yourself, how to find a legitimate credit repair organization should you choose to go that route, and what rights you have in working with one.
National Consumer Protection Week's website is ncpw.gov.