Call 2-1-1 when you need to find state or local resources to address urgent needs or everyday concerns, including health & mental health services, food banks, shelter, rental or utility assistance, adult day care, Meals on Wheels, transportation, childcare, crisis intervention services, job training, education, and more. 2-1-1 is free, confidential, multi-lingual, confidential, TTY accessible, and available 24/7 2-1-1 resource specialists will guide callers to the most helpful available resources. Visit the website for more information. NOTE: 2-1-1 calls are generally toll-free; however, if you are calling 2-1-1 from your cell phone, please check with your cell phone service provider first to find out whether you will be charged for the call. You can also reach 2-1-1 by dialing 877-652-1148. (United Way, in partnership with the State of New Jersey)
Consumer.gov - This U.S. government website provides basic, easy-to-understand information that can help you manage & use your money wisely, use credit & loans carefully, protect your personal information, and protect your money from people who try to take it (Federal Trade Commission). For additional consumer information from the federal government, see Federal Trade Commission: Consumer Information, Consumer Action Handbook, and USA.gov, below.
Attorneys General - Links and other contact information for offices of Attorneys General in every U.S. state. 'As chief legal officers of the states, commonwealths, and territories of the United States, the Attorneys General serve as counselors to state government agencies and legislatures, and as representatives of the public interest.' (National Association of Attorneys General)
Banking Basics - 'A simple introduction to the main services offered by banks and credit unions, including checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit and debit cards. It also covers opening an account and resolving problems.' Available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Laotian, Cambodian, and Hmong (2012, Consumer Action; non-profit organization). See also Bank Accounts & Services Q & A (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) and Electronic Banking, below. The FDIC offers a variety of bank- and finance-related consumer information (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation). To learn about credit unions and how they differ from banks, or to locate a credit union near you, see Credit Unions: A Smarter Choice. For additional advice on bank accounts & services, consumer credit, mortgages, and more, see Financial Information for Consumers (Federal Reserve Bank).
Better Business Bureau (BBB) - Before dealing with an unfamiliar company, you may want to search this site to find out whether the BBB has a report on them. The site also offers the informative and timely BBB Consumer News & Opinion blog, an online complaint form, consumer tips, scam alerts, and links to local BBBs.
Consumer Action Handbook - This annual publication offers information on various consumer issues, explains how to file complaints (includes a sample complaint letter), and provides contact information for corporations, consumer organizations, and relevant government agencies. You can read the handbook online (browse by topic), download a PDF of the complete handbook (or specific sections), or order a free printed copy to be mailed to you. (U.S. Federal Citizen Information Center)
Consumer Reports - See Consumer Reports Online, below.
Consumerist - 'The Consumerist highlights the persistent, shameless gaffes of modern consumerism - and the latest scams, rip-offs, hot deals and freebies. We also encourage our readers to tell us about their everyday experiences with absurdities of consumer culture - and suggest ways for them to fight back.' (Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports)
Credit Reports - Federal law now gives you the right to obtain free copies of your credit reports every year. This FTC page explains how, why, and when to order copies of your free annual credit reports. For more on managing credit cards, credit scoring, loans, and other consumer debt, visit the FTC Website on Credit & Loans. See also Gift Cards (2011, Federal Trade Commission). To understand the pros and cons of different ways to pay for goods & services - cash, check, credit card, or debit card - see Best Way to Pay: Paper or Plastic? UPDATED LINK! (2016, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse).
Customer Service: 9 Ways to Get a Person on the Phone offers some suggestions that may help you cut through the automated messages and get a response from an actual person more quickly (2009, Reader's Digest). Because so many online companies make it difficult to find out how to delete your account, Just Delete Me provides direct links to the account deletion pages for numerous websites & services including Amazon.com, eBay, Groupon, iTunes, Netflix, Paypal, Yelp, and dozens of others. The site also rates the difficulty of account deletion for each service as Easy, Medium, Hard, or Impossible - making it a useful place to check BEFORE you sign up for a new service, as well as when you are trying to delete an existing account.
FCC Consumer Help Center - Visit this website for consumer information about TV, phone, internet, radio, access for people with disabilities, and emergency communications. You can also file a complaint or check your complaint status. See also FCC Consumer Publications Library . (Federal Communications Commission)
Federal Citizen Information Center is now Publications.USA.gov, part of USA.gov, below.
Federal Trade Commission: Consumer Information - Online consumer guides and multimedia library AUDIO VIDEO INTERACTIVE offering useful advice on a variety of topics, including automobiles, credit, investment, privacy, health, jobs, and others. You can also file an online complaint and sign up for e-mail updates. If you don't see the topic you're looking for, go to Shopping & Saving for more. The National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW.gov) website offers consumers a wealth of tips and information from federal & state government agencies and non-profit organizations.
Financial Q & A: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) - Answers to common questions about credit cards, mortgages, loans (including student loans), debt collection, and more, plus information about credit discrimination, foreclosure help, and an online complaint form. The Federal Reserve Board's Financial Information for Consumers offers selected links to advice on bank accounts and services, credit cards, identity theft, leasing, mortgages, and personal finance. See also Federal Reserve Consumer Help.
Fraud Schemes UPDATED LINK! - Describes some of the most common scams that the FBI investigates and what you can do to avoid them; a related page, Be Crime Smart UPDATED LINK!, gives additional advice to help you protect your kids and avoid becoming a victim of crime or fraud, online or off. Also provides information on how to report crimes and frauds (Federal Bureau of Investigation). Save & Invest: Protect Your Money UPDATED LINK! VIDEO INTERACTIVE provides information, advice, and tools to help you avoid financial fraud (FINRA Investor Education Foundation; non-profit organization). See also Online Auction Fraud, below. If you have a dispute about an online or related transaction with a foreign company, you can file a complaint at eConsumer.gov.
Housing Law - Explains your rights and responsibilities under state and federal law, covering topics such as Housing Discrimination, Landlord-Tenant, Public Housing and more (Legal Services of New Jersey). See also Fair Housing - It's Your Right (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) and New Jersey Law Against Discrimination: Housing Rights (N.J. Division on Civil Rights).
Insurance Topics VIDEO - Helpful advice from an insurance industry association on choosing and using different kinds of insurance, including auto, home, health, long-term care, and others, plus videos, facts & statistics, checklists, related safety information, and tools such as free home inventory software (Insurance Information Institute). See also Consumer Information: Insurance (Consumer Federation of America). CLUE: How Insurers Size You Up UPDATED LINK! explains how claims you file and even inquiries about your coverage can appear in the insurance 'score' you receive, and may affect how much you pay for homeowner's or automobile insurance. Includes useful links (2016, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse).
New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs - Provides an online complaint form, and consumer information on topics such as NJ's Lemon Law, home contractors, identity theft, and cyber fraud. If you can't find the information you need, check the A to Z Consumer Briefs section and Publications.
New Jersey Legal Information: LSNJ Law - Information for non-lawyers on a variety of legal issues and problems such as family law, landlord-tenant law, employment, immigration, and many others. (Legal Services of NJ). For more on your legal rights, see the South Plainfield Public Library's Government & Law links.
New Jersey Professional Licensing Boards - Information about professional licensing in New Jersey. Use the Licensee Directory to find out the current status of the professional license (active, inactive, suspended, or expired) for practitioners of dozens of professions and occupations in the state of NJ, including dentists, accountants, acupuncturists, social workers, veterinarians, barbers, funeral directors, locksmiths, and many more. Use the NJ Attorney Index to search for attorneys who have been admitted to practice in New Jersey (New Jersey Courts). Click here to search for medical doctors (including osteopathic physicians), podiatrists and optometrists (New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs). The South Plainfield Public Library's Doctors, Hospitals & Health Plans links offer more health-related consumer resources.
Middlesex County Consumer Affairs Department - Have a complaint against a business in Middlesex County? You can download a printed form or perform a Business Complaint History Search here.
Public Citizen - Research reports on consumer issues such as health & safety, energy, financial reform, trade issues, and government reform.
USA.gov: Consumer Information - Official consumer information and services from the U.S. government. Includes advice & resources for resolving consumer problems such as a sample complaint letter and Complaint Letter Wizard. For free U.S. government brochures and pamphlets on cars, computers, education, employment, family, food, health, housing, money, small business, travel, and more, see Publications.USA.gov. You can read the publications online or order printed copies (there is a charge for some printed documents).
Fraud Schemes & related links
Junk Mail, Privacy, & Identity Theft
BUSINESS RESOURCES: Computers, Technology, & E-Business
COMPUTERS & TECHNOLOGY: Protecting Yourself & Your Family
PARENTING & FAMILY: Media & Entertainment
OnGuard Online VIDEO - Practical tips to help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information (Federal Trade Commission et al.). The date of each article is provided at the bottom of the page, so you know how up-to-date the information is. To find out more about internet fraud, online privacy, computer viruses, cell phone/portable device safety, and other electronic security threats, please visit COMPUTERS & TECHNOLOGY: Protect Yourself & Your Family
9 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Trust Online Reviews - This article alerts consumers how different kinds of fakes and frauds can make online reviews and recommendations untrustworthy (2012, Time Magazine).
Electronic Banking - Explains how online or electronic banking, also known as electronic fund transfer (EFT), works. Offers advice on keeping your bank transactions secure (2012, Federal Trade Commission). See also Online Banking Tips & Banking and Bill Paying (2008 - 2015, FDIC).
Online Auctions for Buyers - Advice for consumers on buying goods through internet auction sites, with tips on avoiding scams (2015, Federal Trade Commission). See also Online Auction Fraud [Link opens a PDF] (2009, National Crime Prevention Council).
Shopping Tips - Tips that can help you save money, whether you're shopping online, by phone, by mail, in the store, or elsewhere (2000 - 2015, Federal Trade Commission). See also Safe Shopping, Buying and Paying: How to Protect Your Money (2014, FDIC).
To find out more about internet fraud, online privacy, computer viruses,
cell phone/portable device safety, and other electronic security threats, please visit
COMPUTERS & TECHNOLOGY: Protect Yourself & Your Family
IdentityTheft.gov - The federal government's one-stop resource for victims of identity theft. The site provides streamlined checklists and sample letters to guide you through the recovery process (Federal Trade Commission). See also Identity Theft Resource Center (non-profit organization).
Behavioral Advertising Opt-Out - Allows you to opt out of some Internet ads that are specially tailored to you by tracking your Web preferences and usage patterns (Network Advertising Initiative). [NOTE: This opt-out service only works if you allow and retain cookies in your browser. For alternative methods, see EPIC's recommended Web Browser Add-ons.]
Data Security Breaches: What to Do When You Receive a Data Breach Notice UPDATED LINK! - 'Have you received a letter informing you that your personal information (such as Social Security numbers, account numbers, and driver's license numbers) may have gotten into the wrong hands?' This fact sheet offers advice on dealing with all kinds of data security breaches. This website includes a searchable, frequently-updated chronological list UPDATED LINK! of corporate and institutional data security breaches from 2005 to the present. Data Breaches: Know Your Rights VIDEO is a 4-minute film exploring how a typical consumer may respond to a data breach notification (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse; non-profit organization). See also Protecting your Child's Information after a Data Breach (2015, Federal Trade Commission).
Electronic Privacy Tools - Links to electronic privacy tools such as snoop-free email, web browser add-ons, web or disk encryption, secure instant messaging, cookie busters, firewalls, and many others. (EPIC, Electronic Privacy Information Center; a non-profit public interest research center)
Junk Your Junk Mail - Advice on how to get off junk mailing lists (Center for a New American Dream; non-profit organization). You can register online with the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service to get off junk mail lists. This page also offers other tips and answers about junk mail (industry association). Go to Yellow Pages Opt-Out to customize or stop delivery of printed phone books; registration required.
National Do Not Call Registry - Tired of telemarketers interrupting your dinner? If you put your number on the Federal Trade Commission's national 'do not call' list, it will be illegal for most telemarketers to call you. [NOTE: The FTC does NOT investigate individual complaints against do-not-call offenders. Click here for FAQ.]. In Caller and ID Spoofing: Who's really on the line?, the FCC explains how telemarketers increasingly are disguising their real identities and phone numbers to provoke people to pick up the phone, and what you can do to protect yourself from this fraud (2014, Federal Communications Commission). And be aware that when someone calls you via Google Voice - including scammers - your caller ID will display 'unknown' if the caller has not chosen a Google Voice number. NOTE: Google Voice is no longer using the generic 760-705-8888 number (Google). If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it's a Robocall. If the recording is a sales message and you haven't given your written permission to get calls from the company, the call is illegal, and probably a scam. This page provides more information and advice on dealing with robocalls (2012, Federal Trade Commission). See also How to stop unwanted robocalls (2012, Consumer Reports).
Online Information Brokers and Your Privacy UPDATED LINK! - Advice to help you get your name off websites that sell or provide personal information about individuals, gathered from many sources including white pages listings (directory assistance) and public records. For related information, see Data Brokers and 'People Search' Sites UPDATED LINK! (2016, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse; non-profit organization)
Prescreened Credit and Insurance Offers - Companies sending 'prescreened' solicitations of credit or insurance to consumers must now provide easy-to-understand notices that explain consumers' right to opt out of receiving future offers (2011, Federal Trade Commission). This page explains prescreening and how you can opt-out by phone, by mail, or by using the Opt-Out Prescreen website.
Privacy & Identity - Advice on protecting your privacy and your children's, avoiding identity theft, what to do if your identity is stolen, and related information (Federal Trade Commission). See also Identity Theft Solutions (2011, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of San Francisco).
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse - Frequently-updated info & advice on preventing or coping with identity theft, and safeguarding your personal privacy on the Internet and elsewhere. PRC's short videos on important privacy issues VIDEO (including debt collection, employment background checks, annual credit reports, debit cards vs. credit cards, data breaches, and smartphones) are a good place to start. See also Spring Cleaning Tips to Keep Personal Data Safe. For a summary of more than two dozen key privacy issues affecting consumers today and tomorrow, see Privacy Today: A Review of Current Issues. (Non-profit organization)
Robocalls - See National Do Not Call Registry and related links, above.
Social Security Numbers UPDATED LINK! - Advice on using and protecting your Social Security Number. (2016, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse; non-profit organization)
'Specialty' Reports: What Have They Got On Me? - The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) covers a lot more than simply credit reports. 'Nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies' may also have records of your medical history, residential or tenant history & evictions, check writing history, employment background checks, and homeowner & auto insurance claims. Read this online publication to learn more about the kinds of information these companies collect about you, and your rights to obtain that information. (2015, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse; non-profit organization)
Shopping, Coupons, and Price Comparisons
Consumer Reports Online - A wealth of consumer news and product information. Covers cars, electronics, appliances, home & garden, babies & kids, money, health, and more. [NOTE: Only paid subscribers have online access to ratings and repair records for specific products, but you can access them through our EBSCOHost Masterfile Elite database.] You can also read them in person at the library!
Consumer Search - 'ConsumerSearch product-review editors pick the best electronics, appliances and services by comparing professional product reviews (like the ones you'd find at Consumer Reports or CNET) with consumer reviews (like those at Amazon.com and Epinions) to separate the top-rated from the duds.' Click on 'Full Report' tab for an in-depth report and list of sources.
Green Living Webfinders
Consumer Product Safety Commission - Information on unsafe products and product recalls. You can search product reports & recalls, and file complaints online at SaferProducts.gov. The CPSC also provides Safety Guides and Safety Education Centers on a variety of products and topics, including cribs, drywall, recreation & safety, carbon monoxide, TV & furniture tip-overs, and more. Recalls.gov is a 'one-stop shop' for government recalls on food, drugs, autos, and other consumer products. You can sign up for email alerts for any and all categories. (All from U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission)
Environmental Working Group - Consumer guides on the health and environmental hazards of common products.
Healthy Stuff - Provides test results for toxic chemicals such as lead, cadmium, chlorine, arsenic, and mercury found in everyday products. Items tested include toys & other children's products, pet products, apparel & accessories, and automobiles. (Ecology Center; non-profit organization)
Our MONEY Webfinders offer selected links to helpful resources on money management, green shopping & green living, charitable giving, investment, home heating & energy conservation and more! (2015, South Plainfield Public Library)
Catalogs from A to Z - Links to an enormous number of mail order and online retail catalogs, plus phone numbers. Despite this website's title, the catalogs are actually arranged by subject rather than alphabetically. [NOTE: If you get an error message after clicking on a link, copy the catalog's URL and paste it into your browser's address bar to bring up the catalog website.]
Consumer Fraud Schemes - See Fraud Schemes and related links, above.
Coupon Codes: Retail-Me-Not - Enter a store's name, web address, or keyword to find coupons for thousands of stores. You can also contribute publicly-available coupon codes to share with other users. Coupon Zone offers tips and links on coupons and grocery savings, food buying & storage, buying in bulk, and other information to help you be a smart shopper (About.com; site may be slow to load and navigate). See also Customer Loyalty Programs and Your Privacy UPDATE LINK! (2016, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse).
Customer Service - See Customer Service links, above.
Government Sales - Searchable listings of government assets for sale to the public, including land, houses, jewelry, cars, trucks, tools, computers and much more. Items are sold via online auctions, or live auctions in various locations around the country. Updated daily. (U.S. General Services Administration)
Outlet Shopping: Insider Tricks - Helpful tips from Consumer Reports on how to get the best stuff at the best prices (2011, Consumer Reports). See also A Savvy Shopper's Guide to Outlet Shopping (2014, Consumer Reports).
Supermarket Buying Guide - Smart shopping tactics you can use to save money and avoid traps & tricks at the grocery store (2015, Consumer Reports).
Ten Things They Won't Tell You - Useful consumer advice on buying a wide variety of products & services: pre-schools, eye doctors, dentists, debit cards, pollsters, vacation rentals, caterers, yoga instructors, and many others. (SmartMoney.com, Dow Jones & Company / Hearst Communications )
When to Buy What - Use this month-by-month information to see when you can typically find the best prices on a variety of products. (Consumer Reports)