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Top Five Smart Consumer Tips from the 2013 Consumer Action Handbook

Do you think some people are just instinctively smart shoppers, and when something goes wrong, they always seem to know what to do? 

It’s probably not instinct. 

They use the free Consumer Action Handbook.

The Handbook is your annual go-to guide for practical information to help you plan a purchase, know your consumer rights, and file a consumer complaint.

The 2013 edition of the Handbook features new content in areas that matter to you, such as banking, housing and protecting your privacy, as well as tips to alert you of the latest frauds and scams.

Here are the top five tips to help you be a smart consumer this year:

5. A deal that sounds too good to be true usually is.  Offers that often fall into this category are promises to fix your credit problems, low-interest credit cards, deals that let you skip credit card payments, business/job opportunities, risk-free investments and free travel.

4. Read and understand any contract or legal document you sign. Don’t sign a contract with blank spaces or where the terms are incomplete. Some contracts include a clause that prohibits you from taking legal action in the case of a dispute.

3. Protect your privacy and personal information. It’s easy to complete many transactions online these days, but each time you do, you provide more opportunities for your personal information to be stolen. Before you provide any personal information online, check the website for a privacy policy and look for signals that you’re using a secure website (a lock or key icon at the bottom of the screen).

2. Know the right person to contact. Sometimes all you need to do is get the right person on the phone to get your problem resolved. Use the updated Consumer Assistance Directory to contact corporate consumer affairs departments, national consumer organizations, and  local, state, and federal government offices.

1. Complain smartly. Download the sample complaint letter template so you can work out problems if you’re unhappy with a product you purchased. The template will help you clearly explain the problem and how you’d like it to be fixed.

Become a smart consumer and check out the Consumer Action Handbook online. In addition to trusted consumer advice, you’ll find how-to videos, infographics and easy-to-access tools that can help you get updates about product recalls, calculate college costs, check the background of an investment professional, compare health care providers, and more.

If you prefer, you can order hard copies of the Handbook in English or Spanish.