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). See also FDIC Consumer News. To learn about credit unions and how they differ from banks, or to locate a credit union near you, see My Credit Union or Credit Unions: A Smarter Choice. For additional advice on bank accounts & services, consumer credit, mortgages, and more, see Federal Reserve Consumer Help (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 informative and timely BBB Consumer News, Scam Alerts UPDATED LINK!, an online complaint form, and more.
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 [Archived page; current and future Consumerist content is being integrated into Consumer Reports news.] - '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 2013 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 (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 Privacy When You Pay: Credit, Debit, Cash and More (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse).
Customer Service: 9 Ways to Get a Person on the Phone - Some general suggestions that MIGHT 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.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Consumer Help Center - Visit this website to file a complaint about a telecom service provider, or to get consumer information about TV, phone, internet, radio, access for people with disabilities, and emergency communications. See also FCC Consumer Guides.
Federal Citizen Information Center is now Publications.USA.gov, part of USA.gov, below.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC): Consumer Information - Online consumer guides and multimedia library 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.
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. Federal Reserve Consumer Help offers selected links to advice on bank accounts and services, credit cards, identity theft, leasing, mortgages, and personal finance.
Fraud Schemes - 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, gives additional advice to help you protect your kids and avoid becoming a victim of crime or fraud, online or off, as well as information on how to report crimes and frauds (Federal Bureau of Investigation). See also Online Auction Tips, below. Save & Invest: Protect Your Money VIDEO INTERACTIVE provides information, advice, and tools to help you avoid financial fraud (FINRA Investor Education Foundation; non-profit organization). The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office offers a printable Fraud Prevention brochure [Link opens a PDF] with brief tips for protecting yourself from frauds & scams. Skimmer Devices [Link opens a PDF] (2016, Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office) and Shimming is the New Skimming NEW! (2018, BBB) alert you about devices which may be attached an ATM, gas pump, or credit card reader to steal your information when you use the machine; these pages include photos and tips to help you avoid getting skimmed. If you have a dispute about an online or related transaction with a company LOCATED OUTSIDE THE U.S., 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 Basics VIDEO - Advice from an insurance industry association on choosing and using different kinds of insurance, including auto, home, and life insurance, plus articles & videos on related financial planning topics such as annuities, disability income, long-term care, and more (Insurance Information Institute). See also Consumer Information: Insurance (Consumer Federation of America). CLUE: How Insurers Size You Up 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 (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse).
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.
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.
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.
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 (including complaints against federal or local government and its agencies), 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 Pueblo.GPO.gov (formerly 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
Product Review Sites
Shopping, Coupons, and Price Comparisons
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. For many additional resources on 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 (Federal Trade Commission). See also Online Banking Tips (2011 - 2016, FDIC) and Banking Basics & related links, above.
Online Auction Tips for Buyers - Advice for consumers on buying goods through internet auction sites, with tips on avoiding scams (2015, Federal Trade Commission).
Shopping Tips - Tips that can help you save money, whether you're shopping online, by phone, by mail, in the store, or elsewhere (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 - See COMPUTERS & TECHNOLOGY: Cookies links.
Customer Loyalty Cards: Pros and Cons of Supermarket Loyalty Programs - Explains how grocery stores (and others) track your buying habits and how they use the data they collect - whether you use a 'loyalty card' or not (2018, TheBalance.com; part of the IAC family of websites). See also Privacy When Shopping (2018, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse).
Data Brokers - See COMPUTERS & TECHNOLOGY: Data Brokers and 'People Search' Sites.
Data Security Breaches - See COMPUTERS & TECHNOLOGY: Security Breaches.
Electronic Privacy - See COMPUTERS & TECHNOLOGY: Privacy.
Junk Mail: Stopping Unsolicited Mail - Advice on some steps you can take to cut down on unsolicited mailings, calls, and emails (Federal Trade Commission). You can register online with the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service and the consumer credit reporting industry's OptOutPrescreen.com website to get off a variety of junk mail lists. These sites also offer some tips and answers about junk mail (industry associations). Catalog Choice is a free service that will send merchants your catalog opt-out request; registration required (non-profit organization). 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 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.] (Federal Trade Commission). Caller ID and Spoofing explains how telemarketers and scammers are increasingly disguising their real identities and phone numbers - often to trick you into giving away valuable personal information - and what you can do to protect yourself from this fraud (2018, Federal Communications Commission). If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it's a Robocall (2012, Federal Trade Commission). See Blocking Unwanted Calls for more advice on dealing with robocalls (2016, Federal Trade Commission). See also Stop Unwanted Calls and Texts (2018, Federal Communications Commission) and the very detailed Telemarketing page from Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (2016).
Online Information Brokers - See COMPUTERS & TECHNOLOGY: Data Brokers and 'People Search' Sites and related links.
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. See related resources at Junk Mail: Stopping Unsolicited Mail, above.
Privacy, Identity, and Online Security - Tips 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 Identity Theft Solutions for helpful ID theft prevention advice (2011, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of San Francisco). See also COMPUTERS & TECHNOLOGY: Protecting Yourself and Your Family.
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. (Non-profit organization)
Robocalls - See National Do Not Call Registry and related links, above.
Security Breaches - See COMPUTERS & TECHNOLOGY: Security Breaches.
Social Security Numbers: Protecting Your Social Security Number from Identity Theft NEW! - Brief advice on steps you can take to protect your Social Security number from theft, and what to do if you suspect someone has stolen your SSN (2016, Social Security Administration). For more detailed information, see My Social Security Number - How Secure Is It? - Advice on using and protecting your Social Security Number (2018, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse; non-profit organization). For information about a new scam where callers say your SSN was suspended, see Your Social Security Number isn't suspended. Ever. NEW! (2018, Federal Trade Commission).
'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. (2018, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse; non-profit organization)
Telemarketing - See National Do Not Call Registry and related links, above.
Shopping, Coupons, and Price Comparisons
Consumer Reports Online [NOTE: Product links to Amazon and other online stores provide revenue for this website.] - A wealth of consumer news and product information. Covers cars, electronics, appliances, home & garden, babies & kids, money, health, and more. Now includes content from the Consumerist website. [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 [NOTE: Product links to Amazon and other online stores provide revenue for this website.] - '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. (IAC Publishing, LLC)
Wirecutter [NOTE: Product links to Amazon and other online stores provide revenue for this website.] - 'A list of the best gear and gadgets for people who want to save the time and stress of figuring out what to buy. Whatever sort of thing you need - tableware or TV or air purifier - we make shopping for it easy by telling you the best one to get. (A New York Times Company)
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). See related links at PARENTING: Healthy Stuff.
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! (South Plainfield Public Library)
Best Time to Buy Anything NEW! - Use this month-by-month information to see when you can typically find the best prices on a variety of products. (2018, The Balance Everyday; part of Dotdash.com). See also The Best Time to Buy Anything During the Year NEW! (2017, Lifehacker; part of Gizmodo Media Group).
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. How to Save With Every Type of Grocery Coupon 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 (2018, TheBalance.com; part of the IAC family of websites). See also Customer Loyalty Cards and related links, above.
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)
Online Shopping - See Buying Online, above.
Outlet Shopping: Ways to Save While Shopping at Outlet Malls (2017) - Helpful tips from Consumer Reports on how to get the best stuff at the best prices (2017, Consumer Reports). See also Outlet Shopping: Insider Tricks (2010) and 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 (2017, Consumer Reports). See also How to Save With Every Type of Grocery Coupon, above.