National Consumer Protection Week is being observed from March 1-7, and the NFCC is participating by connecting consumers to resources that can improve their level of financial protection. Consumers who are informed about their rights have an advantage over those who don’t. The following tips can help people learn more about managing their personal finances while protecting themselves from scams and abusive practices:
- Know the consumer rights associated with debt collection. During the past five years, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed legal action against 180 debt collection agencies. Threatening phone calls, abusive language, calling at odd hours, and revealing account information to others are among the ways that some debt collectors are violating consumer rights. All consumers should be familiar with the rules that protect their rights in these situations. The FTC offers information about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0149-debt-collection. If consumers feel their rights have been violated by a debt collector, they can contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/#debt-collection.
- Review credit reports every year. Credit reports are not only the gateway to loans, mortgages and credit cards, but are often reviewed by landlords, cell phone providers, and utility companies. The report reflects a personâ€™s financial track record, and can strongly influence a lending decision. Be your own personal watchdog by routinely reviewing your credit report. Consumers can access a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months from each of the three bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, by going to www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Get to know credit card protections. Many people don’t realize that certain protections are part of their credit card agreement. For instance, the Fair Credit Billing Act allows consumers to seek a refund if a product purchased was unsatisfactory. Cards may also offer return protection and extended warranties. There are many Federal laws in place to protect your rights when interacting with a credit card company. For a list of credit protection laws, go to www.federalreserveconsumerhelp.gov/learnmore/consumer-credit.cfm#CreditCards.
Being uninformed or misinformed about basic consumer protections can leave a consumer vulnerable to financial abuse. Those who take the steps to learn about their rights are in the best position to make healthy financial choices.
Bruce McClary is Vice President of Public Relations & External Affairs with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
Views expressed are the personal views of the author, and do not represent the views of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, its employees, its members, or its clients.