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Avoid being scammed! Join the Federal Trade Commission Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET on Twitter (@FTC) and learn how to protect yourself.

Use the hashtag #NCPW2014.

National Consumer Protection Week Q&A

We hosted a live Twitter chat yesterday as part of National Consumer Protection Week. We partnered with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to answer your questions about consumer topics, like identity theft, scams and fraud.

You can find some of the most useful questions and answers below:

Question: Where/how do I file complaint online?
Answer: You can find links to file consumer complaints on USA.gov. If the complaint is about a financial product (like a mortgage) or service, learn how to submit a complaint.

Question: What’s the agency’s position on regulations enforcing simpler, shorter contracts for bank issued consumer credit cards?
Answer: Check out the CFPB’s Know Before You Owe campaign to learn more about credit card agreements.

Question: What steps can consumers take if they suspect tax fraud?
Answer: You should contact the IRS if you expect tax fraud.

Question: How can we best protect our children from identity theft?
Answer: The FTC has resources about protecting kids’ identities.

Question: What happens after a consumer complaint? Is there consumer feedback?
Answer: Yes! It’s the fourth step in the CFPB’s complaint process. You can find the consumer complaint database online.

Question: Any new informational videos or mobile apps focused on consumer protection available or in the works?
Answer: We have compiled some consumer protection videos on our YouTube channel. Many government agencies offer mobile apps to protect consumers. You can see the full list in the mobile app gallery on apps.usa.gov

Question: What are we doing about crushing student debt? It’s killing the American Dream
Answer: Great question. Check out the CFPB’s Domino Effect campaign for more information about dealing with student debt.

Question: What should you do if you’ve been contacted by a scammer impersonating the government?
Answer: This is the worst. Here’s advice from the CFPB on recognizing a government impersonator. File complaints about scammers at ftc.gov/complaint. Learn more about government imposters.

Question: What new resources do you have about the intersection of social media and consumer protection?
Answer: You can use social media profiles to interact with companies when you have a complaint and protect your rights. The FTC has lots of information on social media and endorsements, background checks, debt collection, and more at www.business.ftc.gov.

Question: What’s the number one tip to avoid a health care scam or health insurance fraud?
Answer: One tip: Beware of "medical discount" scams. They say they’re insurance, but they aren’t.

Question: If consumers discover they’re the victim of identity theft, what are the easiest steps to take to repair the damage?
Answer: If you’re a victim of identity theft, take these steps immediately to help repair it. If you’re unable to remove incorrect information from your credit report, file a complaint with the CFPB.

Find all the questions and answers from our NCPW chat on Twitter.

National Consumer Protection Week: Six Tips to Make You a Smarter Shopper

Sales pitches and financial advice come at you from every direction—by phone, by mail, and every time you read an ad, go online or turn on your TV. It can seem like a full time job just to sort it all out, but you don’t have to do it alone.

Government agencies, consumer organizations and advocacy groups join forces during National Consumer Protection Week, March 3-9 with shopping strategies and consumer tips to empower you to make better buying decisions and protect your rights in the marketplace.

Start learning now with these tips:

DID YOU KNOW:

  • A free mobile app can help you check any product or vehicle, new or used, to see if it’s been recalled or has safety complaints? Keep up with recent recalls of things you may have around the house or check on that great thrift shop bargain before you buy. Use the Recalls.gov app and mobile site to search by product type and brand name.
  • When your wallet is lost or stolen, there are eight steps you need to take right away (PDF)? A thief won’t waste time trying to cash in on your loss. Learn now so you’ll be ready to protect your identity and your credit as soon as your wallet goes missing.
  • A new federal agency is working to eliminate deceptive and unfair lending practices? Established in 2010, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) works to make sure providers of mortgages, credit cards, student loans and banking services market their products honestly, clearly and legally. Learn more about their work, and their simple tips for protecting yourself.
  • Scammers see tough economic times as an opportunity? Job scams are abundant, as swindlers “guarantee” you an unadvertised job, try to get you to pay for their placement services or tell you that you can get rich by working from home. Learn more about financial scams and saving money at the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer.gov.
  • There’s a formula for complaining effectively? If you’re not satisfied with a product or service, use the Consumer Action Handbook’s sample complaint letter to let the company know where they went wrong and how you want them to fix it. To get the free Handbook or its Spanish counterpart, la Guía del Consumidor, visit the consumer protection sections of USA.gov or GobiernoUSA.gov.

You can ask us your consumer questions during a special National Consumer Protection Week online Q&A session. In partnership with the Federal Trade Commission, we will connect you with government resources to answer your questions during the live event on Wednesday, March 6 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST. Find out about the latest scams, how to protect your family from identity theft, and more. To participate, submit your questions during the event on Twitter using the hashtag #NCPW.

Asked by Anonymous

How do I find forgiveness for my student loan. I will never be able to pay it off. I am on disability now.

It’s possible to have your student loan debt discharged (canceled) or reduced, but only under certain specific circumstances:

  • You die or become totally and permanently disabled.
  • Your school closed before you could complete your program.
  • For FFEL℠ and Direct Stafford Loans only: Your school owes your lender a refund, forged your signature on a promissory note, or certified your loan even though you didn’t have the ability to benefit from the coursework.
  • You work in certain designated public school service professions (including teaching in a low-income school).
  • You file for bankruptcy. (This cancellation is rare and occurs only if a bankruptcy court rules that repayment would cause undue hardship.)

If you are unable to work and earn money because of an injury or illness that is expected to continue indefinitely or result in death, you may apply for a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge of your FFEL Loans, Federal Perkins Loans, Federal Direct Loans, or TEACH Grant service obligation. Disabilitydischarge.com has more information on qualifying and to apply for a TPD discharge.

Visit the Department of Education for more information on student loan cancellation.

If you are not sure what kind of loan you have, you can get information on your loan from the National Student Loan Data System.

If you would like to file a complaint about your student loans, you can do so through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

This week is National Consumer Protection Week. Today we are answering your consumer questions. You can join us for a live social media chat at 2 p.m. EST. Learn more about the chat and how to submit your questions.

Asked by Anonymous

What is the Law that governs the operation of credit reporting agencies?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that was enacted in 1970 to regulate the dissemination and use of consumer information, including credit information.

The FCRA requires consumer reporting agencies to maintain correct and complete files. It also requires the agencies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report every year. Annualcreditreport.com is the ONLY website authorized to get free credit reports. 

Learn more about the FCRA and how to get a credit report.

This week is National Consumer Protection Week. Today we are answering your consumer questions. You can join us for a live social media chat at 2 p.m. EST. Learn more about the chat and how to submit your questions.