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Affordable Care Act Scams

September 5, 2013
(updated: Sept. 18, 2013)

As new health laws go into effect, you might find yourself surfing the Web for information about the Affordable Care Act and related topics.

You might want to think twice before doing that.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB), U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and Health & Human Services (HHS) are alerting consumers to potential online scams: For official government information concerning the Affordable Care Act, please follow this link to explore NYS and federal ACA resources in our health information guide.


For further consideration...
Before attempting to do any additional online research on the Affordable Care Act - or any topic for that matter - you might also want to read our blog post about advertisements and "sponsored websites" embedded in search engine results and perhaps visit our Critical Thinking Skills website so you can be better prepared to evaluate information, detect disinformation, and avoid potential scams!
Comments? or Questions?

Ads in Search Engines

June 25, 2013

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is taking an active stance on a problem which has plagued search engine users for years:

the inclusion of advertisements within search results.

To quote the FTC:

"In recent years, the features traditional search engines use to differentiate advertising from natural search results have become less noticeable to consumers, especially for advertising locate immediately above the natural results ('top ads')." (source)

If you haven't noticed, when you search the Web, results you receive can include such "paid placements": promotional listings companies, corporations, organizations, or individuals have funded to be displayed whenever certain topics, names, or keywords are searched.

The presence of such biased and/or commercialized information can pose any number of informational problems generally inherent in advertising and marketing campaigns.

For example, there might be a lack of facts or objectivity when someone wants to sell you something or persuade you to believe, eventually, that a certain product, service, or idea is preferable (especially if it appears often enough for you to grow curious about it or for you to begin to perceive it favorably).

Sometimes you can spot these issues right away. In fact, some ads are rather obvious or very clearly marked as "sponsored" or "from our sponsors." But, they can still be potentially problematic if you fail to identify them and then accept any information they present without questions.

Beyond this, some online advertisements are skillfully disguised as seemingly informative and objective websites (much like "informercials" can resemble documentaries on television). Failure to differentiate biased content or marketing from objective (balanced, unbiased) facts can pose any number of potential dangers to consumers or researchers!

To begin to address this tricky situation, the FTC has issued public letters to the search engine industry, following up on a previous notice issued in 2002: Even if this particular issue were ever to be resolved, there remains the continuous consideration of informational quality: whether or not any given "fact" you find through a search engine (or any other means) is indeed up-to-date, factual, authoritative, balanced, and trustworthy.

With that in mind, we encourage you to take advantage of Thrall's regularly reviewed and updated information guides, which enable you to browse some of most informative and authoritative websites for any given topic. You can also use our guides to delve into related items (books, videos, etc.) available through our library system.

Beyond that, we also invite you to explore our free Critical Thinking resources, which can help you become better prepared to evaluate information and to detect and deal with any informational issues on and beyond the Web.

Among those resources is our popular and easy-to-understand Web Checklist, which lists key questions you should ask whenever searching or browsing the Web.

For even more consumer guidance and advisories, please explore our Consumer Information guide and, of course, the FTC's website!
Comments? or Questions?

Cyber Monday

Shopping Tips & Advisories

November 23, 2012

Today, the day after Thanksgiving, is often popularly referred to as "Black Friday," the busiest day of the year for many retailers.

Shoppers are often lured, through promises of steep discounts and special offers, to attend sale events starting as early as the night before.

Over the past several years, "Black Friday" has been followed by what is now called "Cyber Monday," a day when bargain hunters are encouraged to go online in hopes of finding exceptional deals at various shopping websites.

While you might encounter some particularly inviting deals on the Web, you also should be aware of the potential risks involved when shopping electronically.

With that in mind, you might find the following shopping tips and advisories particularly helpful:
Beware of Cyber Monday... and Beyond
From the FBI.
Buying Online
From the New York State Attorney General.
Cyber Monday Do's and Don'ts
From the Better Business Bureau (BBB). See also their Cyber Monday: Counterfeit Sites and Sales article.
Cyber Monday Shopping Tips
From U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
On Cyber Monday, Don't Let a Cyber Grinch Steal Your Holiday Spirit...or Your Passwords
From FEMA.gov.
Online Shopping & E-Payments
From the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Shopping Online
From OnGuardOnline.gov.
Stop.Think.Connect. - Lookout for Cyber Monday Scams
From the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).


Of course, most of these tips will continue to be relevant throughout and beyond the current shopping season, so it's never too late to learn and proceed with more awareness :-)

For even more tips and information, please check out the Shopping section of our Consumer Information guide.
Comments? or Questions?

Credit / Debit / Prepaid / Gift Cards

August 28, 2012

Credit cards, debit cards, prepaid cards... same difference, right? Actually, they are different!

To help you decide which is best for you, the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC.gov) provides some guidance on the topic:
USA.gov also provides some information on prepaid cards and gift card:
For more information on this topic, we also invite you to check out the Credit section of our Consumer Information guide.
Comments? or Questions?

Credit Reporting Agencies Oversight

July 19, 2012

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently announced it will start supervising consumer credit reporting agencies.

As CFPB director Richard Cordray explains, "These businesses track your credit history and payment records, and they analyze the information to determine what risks are posed by extending credit to you in the form of any kind of loan." (source)

Mr. Cordray goes on to explain that the goal of this new government oversight is "to conduct on-site examinations of whether and how they are complying with the law" and to ensure "the credit reporting market is working properly for consumers."

You can read more about this development at the following links:
For more information on consumer credit reports:
Comments? or Questions?

New Consumer Database

June 19, 2012

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has just announced a new Consumer Complaint Database:

"No longer will consumer complaints only be known to the individual complainant, bank, regulator, and those in the public willing to pursue this information through the Freedom of Information Act. Instead this data-rich window into consumer financial issues will be widely available to everyone: developers, policymakers, journalists, academics, industry, and you. Our goal is to improve the transparency and efficiency of the credit card market to further empower American consumers." (source)


For more on this database, please see these links:
To learn more about the CFPB:
Comments? or Questions?

Product Placements

June 18, 2012

Advertisements appear nearly everywhere: billboards, e-mail, newspapers, television, the Internet...

When ads are obvious, we usually have a chance to acknowledge, evaluate, or ignore them accordingly, but ads can also appear where least expected.

When we use a search engine, play a video game, or watch a movie, there's the possibility we might encounter one or more "product placements."

A "product placement" is a kind of advertisement where a product appears (or gets mentioned) in a scene. It could involve a designer label shirt, shoes or sneakers, a beverage, car, or a brand name.

Product placements range from the utterly apparent to the extremely subtle, but the goal is usually the same: to portray that product in a favorable way so someone (perhaps you) might think well of it or want to own it.

It's all about perception - or the lack thereof...

People unaware of a product placement might be unconsciously persuaded to purchase such a product later. This situation comes dangerously close to the deceptive practice of subliminal advertising.

On the Web, it's not only banner ads and pop-ups we have to be on alert for - we also have to think twice before clicking on any search result from a search engine: that link could lead to an advertisement and (among other potential issues) less than objective information.


For more on this topic:
In most of its parent-oriented reviews of TV/movies/etc., Common Sense Media also provides a list product placement issues under the topic of "Consumerism."


You can also find information on "product placement" and related topics in the library system catalog by clicking on any of these links:
Comments? or Questions?

Deceptive Digits

June 11, 2012

Fractions, percentages, decimals, sums, data...

People use numbers every day to express all sorts of quantities. On their own, such figures can often produce a strong sense of objectivity and factuality - what appears to be the truth. So often it is said, "The numbers do not lie."

Numbers, being numerical, represent amounts: ratios, additions, subtractions, multiplications, divisions. Born of formulas, the products of mathematics, how could numbers ever be untrue or misleading? Numbers affect our lives daily, nonstop, but it's not merely the numbers in and of themselves we must carefully consider but their sources: who or what created, collected, or presented those numbers, and why.

In statistics, when there's a poll (survey), we often hear of a "margin of error," which has to do with how representative the statistical claims of a survey might be based on the number of persons polled (questioned) on a particular topic or issue.

The margin of error relates to the size of the sample - the number of people surveyed: the larger the sample (the more people are polled), the smaller the margin of error is said to be. To put it another way: the smaller the sample (the fewer people are polled), the greater the margin of error. But that's not nearly the extent of how statistics might fail to accurately represent real numbers or situations.

Formulas (mathematic statements) and equations (mathematical expressions of one set of numbers equaling another) are where many numbers originate. Formulas and equations make use of variables (letters like a, b, c, or x, y, z) which represent numbers (which can come from other equations). How those equations are created (and what variables they include or exclude) will decide the final numerical results.

As more variables are introduced into formulas and equations, mathematical operations and the numbers they generate can become extremely complicated, often to the point that even statisticians, mathematicians, scientists, or economists can have a hard time understanding the results.

Calculations can be checked - confirmed mathematically, - but then something abstract (non-mathematical) can come into play: interpretation. What might those numbers mean to someone?

How someone interprets certain numbers - either when constructing a formula or equation or when looking at the results of a calculation - can change everything, including (if you are unaware) your perception of those numbers and what they are said to represent.

Despite all the apparent impartiality of numbers, the meaning of those numerical results might ultimately come down to personal perspective: how someone sees or wants to portray those numbers.

And here we have something else we must consider: agenda.

What might someone want us to believe based on those numbers? Could it be that person intends to use those numbers to promote a particular perspective on an issue or a certain cause? How might those intentions influence you or someone else?

There are many questions worth asking...

Especially in an election year, with so many numbers loudly touted in dizzying discussions and debates involving things like the economy, "economic indicators," "job growth," and other topics, it is important to realize how numbers can be either misleading or informative in any given situation. Under such circumstances, the neatness and neutrality of numbers can quickly disappear.

Think of all the numbers we use or rely on to make decisions. Marketers and corporations often use certain numbers to their advantage (or to their competitor's disadvantage). Scientists can use numbers to advance theories or to undermine other scientist's ideas. Athletes and sports fans use "stats" and averages to gauge player and team performances. Legislators use numbers to propose increases or decreases in funding of legislative initiatives and public programs.

Stock brokers and analysts monitor financial numbers around the clock while investors base crucial decisions on ever-changing amounts. Currencies around the world are subject to constant change. News media outlets often report trends (and in doing so can promote or prolong trends) based on periodic surges or downturns of numbers...

As these seemingly impersonal numerical phenomena exert incredible influence throughout our lives, we have a simple choice: accept them at face value or begin to ask some questions. This is essential if we want to reach the truth, whether if it involves a product we might want to purchase, a fantastic statistical claim, or any figures affecting our decisions and ideas.

Critical thinking skills - asking questions and evaluating information - are absolutely relevant and required wherever there is information of any kind to be examined. Where numbers are involved, having a firm grasp of basic math can help you make better sense of the numbers you encounter, but there are also some fairy easy-to-understand books which can help to raise your awareness of potentially deceptive digits.

Here are some titles to consider:
To learn more about general mathematics, here are some topics you can explore in the library system catalog:
We also offer a handy ("ready reference") guide to mathematics topics on the Web and in the library system.

Mathematics aside for a moment, sometimes a "truth" will come down to simple logic, common sense, along, perhaps, with an awareness of the limitations of numbers, how they might fail to produce a truly complete account of a situation.

After all, in real life, so many things escape or defy "quantification" - being expressed as mere numbers - and there might come the opportunity (or perhaps the need) for you to advance beyond equations, formulas, or any figures presented as "facts," toward deeper or more basic inquiries mathematics cannot answer.

For even more thought-provoking considerations, please visit our Critical Thinking Skills resource guide.
Comments? or Questions?

54 MPG

"A New Fuel Efficiency Standard"

July 29, 2011

A new announcement at The White House promises consumers a future of increased fuel efficiency:
"President Obama today announced the next phase in the Administration's program to increase fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas pollution for all new cars and trucks sold in the United States. These new standards will cover cars and light trucks for Model Years 2017-2025, requiring performance equivalent to 54.5 mpg in 2025 while reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 163 grams per mile."

You can read the complete announcement at this link:

An illustration and a report are also provided:

Additional information on this development can be found at the following links:
Comments? or Questions?

Competition & Antitrust

June 2, 2011

Competition in the business world is a very good thing!

Why? Here are some ways you, as a consumer, can benefit as companies compete for your dollars:
As you can imagine, when there is little or no competition, this can be a very bad thing for consumers:
When there is no competition, a monopoly can form, enabling a corporation, for example, to dominate a particular market or set of services and then to go on to take actions which could harm consumers financially and in other ways.

Competition is essential in the prevention of monopolies.

Special "anti-trust" laws (and their corresponding enforcement agencies) try to preserve competition and guard against unfair business practices. Federal government agencies include:
State government agencies are also involved, such as:
In hopes of raising more awareness about this topic, Middletown Thrall Library recently expanded its Law information guide to include information on Antitrust and Unfair Business Practices.

Additional items on this subject can be found in the system library catalog under these subject headings:
For more consumer information, please visit our Consumer information guide.
Comments? or Questions?

Protecting Yourself

May 13, 2011

Middletown Thrall Library's Reference Department has published a new document:


Our two-page guide provides a brief overview of different ways you and your information can be at risk - and how you can begin to take command of such situations and proceed more securely in the future.

Potentially helpful tips and Web resources are provided.

We hope you can put the information to good use and share what you learn with others.

Free printed copies of this guide are also available by the Reference Department at Thrall.
Comments? or Questions?

Top Consumer Concerns

March 14, 2011

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently reported on the most frequent problems consumers encountered in 2010.

A list of the FTC's findings can be browsed at this link.

The complete report can be found at this link (Adobe Reader PDF format).
Comments? or Questions?

Holiday Shopping & Gift Cards

November 29, 2010

Gift cards are especially popular around the holidays, but not all gift cards are alike.

To help you decide which ones might be right for you, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a new advisory for buyers and users of gift cards:
Earlier this year new rules went into effect concerning credit cards and gift cards. You can read more about the changes at the Federal Citizen Information Center website (FCIC).

The FCIC also has a page dedicated to the topic of holiday shopping.

For more information, tips, and advisories, please check out the Shopping section of our Consumer Information guide.
Comments? or Questions?

Job Scams Alert

November 15, 2010

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is advising job seekers to be aware of possible scams involving employment opportunities.

Advisories address scams in the following areas:
Additional information about job scams is also available from:
Comments? or Questions?

International Privacy Effort

September 23, 2010

New technologies and business practices continue to emerge in our increasingly networked world, doing so in ways which, at times, can present unprecedented challenges to consumers, consumer protection organizations, and law enforcement agencies.

In an effort to address the global scale of this situation, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) along with privacy authorities are collaborating on an international effort called Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN).

As part of this effort, FTC / GPEN launched a new website inviting consumers organizations and governments to participate in GPEN. In their press release (September 21, 2010), the FTC states:
The Federal Trade Commission and privacy enforcement authorities from 11 countries around the world recently launched the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN), a new network that promotes information sharing and international assistance in enforcement of privacy laws. The new website is designed to promote public awareness of the network.

Their new website can be found at www.privacyenforcement.net.

For consumer-oriented information on privacy and related issues, please check out these links:
Comments? or Questions?

New Consumer Protection Agency

September 20, 2010

The White House has announced an intention to establish a new agency to help protect consumers. The name of the proposed agency is The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

President Obama said of the new agency:
"The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will crack down on the abusive practices of unscrupulous mortgage lenders, reinforce the new credit card law we passed banning unfair rate hikes, and ensure that folks aren't unwittingly caught by overdraft fees when they sign up for a checking account. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will be a watchdog for the American consumer, charged with enforcing the toughest financial protections in history."

For more information, please see these links:
Comments? or Questions?

Update on Credit Card Rules

June 16, 2010

An earlier blog post of ours ("New Rules for Credit Cards") covered changes in credit card rules which went into effect as of February 22, 2010.

There is a "part two" to this matter: more new credit card rules are scheduled for August 2010.

To help you find out the most recent rules mean for you and your credit card(s), the U.S. Federal Reserve Board has set up a website:
Comments? or Questions?

Young Consumers & Advertising

June 15, 2010

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has launched a new website to help young consumers learn more about the advertisements they might encounter.

The new website is AdMongo.gov

The FTC says the following about this site:
This campaign aims to educate tweens (kids ages 8 to 12) about advertising so they can become more discerning consumers of information.

The goal of the campaign is to boost advertising literacy by: raising awareness of advertising and marketing messages, teaching critical thinking skills that will allow tweens to better analyze and interpret advertisements, and demonstrating the benefits of being an informed consumer."

The website also includes information of interest to parents and teachers.

For more information about advertising and related consumer interests, please check out these Internet and library resources:
Comments? or Questions?

National Debt & Deficits

April 12, 2010

As the U.S. economy continues to make major headlines since the recession of 2008, more people are becoming interested in topics such as "The Deficit" and our nation's accumulated debt.

What is the national debt? It's a number, and a huge one at that. As this blog post is being written, the national debt was reportedly: Yes, that's dollars - trillions of dollars!

The amount will almost certainly have changed by the time you read this. You can click here to see the most recently posted figure from the U.S. Treasury.

What does this dollar figure represent, and why should you care? Simply put, it is money owed by the U.S. Government.

The Government, working on a yearly fiscal budget, must make decisions based on how much money it has to work with and what programs that money can fund. In addition to funding things like the military and NASA, the Government must also allocate funds for mandatory (entitlement) public programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

During difficult economic times, a government can go deeper in debt, needing and spending more money than what was initially budgeted for, and this results in deficits - having less money than what is needed to keep things going as they are - which ultimately increases the national debt as money is borrowed to make up the difference. Deficit and debt go hand-in-hand.

To make up for budgetary shortfalls, deficits, and reduce overall debt, federal and state governments might cut certain programs, raise certain existing taxes or establish new taxes, propose spending limits or freezes.

The combined impacts from these budgetary decisions can affect nearly all citizens to a certain degree for an indefinite amount of time. Future generations could be negatively impacted as well as they will have to confront the economic realities they inherited from present times.

There are also serious questions as to how long a nation's debt can continue to rise, especially when compared with a country's total economic output (known as the GDP, or Gross Domestic Product). The economy is extremely complex, and debt, somewhere, sometime, is inevitable as market forces and fiscal realities affect the flow of funds from day to day, country by country, as national and global measurements known as economic indicators demonstrate daily.

As more people come to understand these fiscal issues, there is renewed interest in seeing federal and state deficits reduced and the national debt settled eventually. Until these deficits and debts are adequately resolved, the national economy (along with the larger global economy it influences and is influenced by) will continue to face economic challenges and difficult choices down the road.

Resourcs for further learning and exploration...

To learn more about deficits and the national debt, please check out these pages from the The U.S. Treasury Department:
PBS and NPR offer some nice documentaries on the national debt:
You can follow much of the latest national debt news at this New York Times news page.

For a more general introduction to the U.S. economy and related topics, consider this section of our Global Economic Crisis & Recovery information guide:
These U.S. Government websites offer even further insight and statistics:
Our library system also offers a number of related items filed under these subject heading links:
Please click here for a more comprehensive list of economic topics in the library catalog.
Comments? or Questions?

New Rules for Credit Cards

February 22, 2010

New credit card rules go into effect today. What are they and what do they mean for consumers?

The U.S. Federal Reserve Board has established a new information page on the matter: It talks about fees, rates, terms of service, and other topics you will almost certainly want to read more about if you have a credit card.

The rules are the result of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009.

For more coverage on the new credit card rules, please see these links:
Comments? or Questions?

Student Loans & College Funding

December 16, 2009

The New York State Attorney General's Office offers guidance to parents and students contemplating loans for college funding:

The Student Lending Resource Center includes the following: Also available through the OAG's website is a Student Lending DVD, "helpful links," and related information.

For more information on student loans and college financing, please see:
Comments? or Questions?

FDIC Consumer Alert

October 27, 2009

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has posted the following advisory to consumers:

E-mail Claiming to Be From the FDIC - October 26, 2009

"The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has received numerous reports of a fraudulent e-mail that has the appearance of being sent from the FDIC.

The subject line of the e-mail states: "check your Bank Deposit Insurance Coverage." The e-mail tells recipients that, "You have received this message because you are a holder of a FDIC-insured bank account. Recently FDIC has officially named the bank you have opened your account with as a failed bank, thus, taking control of its assets."

The e-mail then asks recipients to "visit the official FDIC website and perform the following steps to check your Deposit Insurance Coverage" (a fraudulent link is provided). It then instructs recipients to "download and open your personal FDIC Insurance File to check your Deposit Insurance Coverage."

This e-mail and associated Web site are fraudulent. Recipients should consider the intent of this e-mail as an attempt to collect personal or confidential information, some of which may be used to gain unauthorized access to on-line banking services or to conduct identity theft.

The FDIC does not issue unsolicited e-mails to consumers. Financial institutions and consumers should NOT follow the link in the fraudulent e-mail."

(originally posted at this link)
As e-mail and electronic scams continue to take many forms, consumers are advised to exercise extreme caution before attempting to interact with any messages or websites, which can sound or appear very convincing.

If you haven't already, please take some time to browse earlier posts in this blog to familiarize yourself with other advisories and potential scams: most of these advisories remain in effect indefinitely.

Also check out these related resources at our website to learn more:
Comments? or Questions?

Secondhand Products Advisory

October 23, 2009

Every week there are food and product recalls. Products are usually recalled due to safety concerns.

U.S. government agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publish recall notices and advisories at their websites. You can reach their websites and others, such as SaferCar.gov, through the Recalls section of our Current Interests Center

Such information is only as helpful as it is heeded by consumers. Unfortunately, not every single product ever recalled gets returned or discarded by consumers. This can leave many potentially dangerous products in consumers' possession.

Eventually, if those products are sold instead of disposed (such as through a garage sale or through an online auction website), other consumers might unknowingly place themselves and their families at risk upon purchasing such items.

As recalled items can include toys, electronics, outdoor equipment, household products, cars, sports or fitness products, and many other things, virtually no one can safely claim immunity from these possible hazards.

To address this serious situtation, New York State's Office of the Attorney General offers a potentially life-saving publication explaining the dangers of purchasing used items:

Thrifty, But Smart Shopping: Tips for Consumers on How to Avoid Purchasing Dangerous Secondhand Products (PDF format: view with Adobe Reader)

Along with tips and contact information, their guide encourages you, as do we, to take a more active role in your personal safey by taking advantage of this free information.

For more on this topic, please consider these links:
Comments? or Questions?

NYS CPB: Recent Scams

August 20, 2009

The New York State Consumer Protection Board (CPB) maintains a list of recent scams.

Whenever you get the chance, check out their lists so you protect yourself from a wide range of predatory practices, including such things as "typosquatting" (see our post in our Science & Technology blog), "Cash for Clunkers" and work at home schemes, and more.

You can also visit the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website to learn about (and guard against) currenly known scams.
Comments? or Questions?

Consumer Awareness Flyer

July 28, 2009

As more companies and subscription services establish purchase and payment options on the Internet, you should be aware of some potential concerns.

In hopes of bringing some of those concerns to your attention, Middletown Thrall Library has published a consumer awareness flyer:

"Consumers: Be Aware! - Some Things to Consider before Purchasing Online" (PDF format: view with Adobe Reader)

Whether you are new to the Internet or consider yourself an experienced "power user," please consider reading this document so you can make more informed decisions before purchasing items and services on the Internet.
Comments? or Questions?

Credit Card Accountability Act

June 12, 2009

On May 22, 2009, President Obama signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act into law.

To find out what this means and what this legislation enacts, please visit these links:
Comments? or Questions?

Consumer Action Handbook 2009

March 11, 2009

The 2009 edition of the Consumer Action Handbook is available online at Consumer.gov.

Sections in the handbook include: Consumer Topics, Sample Complaint Letter, Consumer Assistance Directory, Corporate Consumer Offices, Car Manufacturers and Resolution Programs, State Offices, Banking, Insurance, Securities, Utilities, Federal Agencies, BBBs, Consumer Organizations, Trade Associations.

Click here to browse the handbook by section.

You can also click here to download the complete Consumer Action Handbook (over 180 pages, 15 MB file).

The book and individually downloadable sections are made available in the PDF format: you can view these files if your computer has the Adobe Reader.
Comments? or Questions?

DTV Delay Act

February 13, 2009

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has prepared a "DTV Delay Act Fact Sheet" at their www.dtv.gov website to help consumers understand and prepare for the transition to digital television:

Click here to download the FCC's factsheet from dtv.gov (Adobe PDF format - view with Adobe Reader)

You can also visit the FCC's DTV websites for more information about the transition and delay:
An overview of the Act is available (along with House of Representative and Senate vote totals) at The White House website (in the "Briefing Room"): "The DTV Delay Act of 2009"
Comments? or Questions?

HelpWithMyBank.gov

January 31, 2009

The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) maintains a website for consumers called HelpWithMyBank.gov.

The OCC provides this service to help you "find answers to your National Banking questions."

Topics include: News and advisories, Credit Cards, Fees, Interest Rates, Late Payments, Bank Accounts, Account Errors, Cashing Checks, Forgery and Fraud Funds Availability, Overdrafts, Mortgages, Late Payments, Loans, Credit Bureaus, Debt Collection, Debt Elimination and Fraudulent Schemes, Insurance, and more.

A compilation of answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) is also available.
Comments? or Questions?

Who Cares?

January 30, 2009

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published a new resource guide for seniors:

"Who Cares: Sources of Information About Health Care Products and Services"

The FTC states it has established this web guide "to help you find reliable sources of information on health topics important to you, whether you’re an older consumer or a family member, caregiver, or friend."

You can read more about "Who Cares" in the FTC's press release.

Click here to jump to the FTC's "Who Cares" website.
Comments? or Questions?

Using Credit Wisely

December 18, 2008

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) offers a website of interest to consumers, especially those facing issues such as debt:

DebtAdvice.org

NFCC describes the site as follows: "DebtAdvice.org is designed to help consumers understand the wise use of credit and locate a trained, certified counselor if you are in need of assistance."

DebtAdvice is also available in Spanish / en Español.

Thrall's Global Economy / Economic Crisis guide includes a link to DebtAdvice.org along with other topically related resources:

Credit & Debt Issues; Personal Budgeting & Finances.

See also the "Debt, Credit, and Loans" post in our Consumer blog for more information on this topic.
Comments? or Questions?

Homeowner Crisis Resource Center

December 17, 2008

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) has created a website for homeowners:

Homeowner Crisis Resource Center

Sections include: Contact a Certified Housing Counselor Today, Avoiding Foreclosure, Mortgage Reality Check, Useful Homeowner Information and Tools, Consumer Alert: Foreclosure Rescue Scams.

The site is also available in Spanish / en Español.

Our Global Economy / Economic Crisis guide has a directory of housing crisis websites:

Housing, Housing Crisis, Mortgages, Subprime Mortgages, Foreclosures, Assistance, Affordable Housing.

The "Homeowner Crisis Resource Center" can also be found in that area of our Economy guide.
Comments? or Questions?

FDIC Coverage

December 11, 2008

The FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) has published new information for consumers:

"FDIC Publication Helps Consumers Understand Their New, Higher Deposit Insurance Coverage; Latest Advice on How to Be Fully Protected is Available Free"

Included in the FDIC's announcement is a new publication: "Your New, Higher FDIC Insurance Coverage; How You Can Be Fully Protected"

A new Spanish website is now available from the FDIC:

FDIC Seguro (www.fdicseguro.gov)

Their new site seeks to inform Spanish-speaking depositors about the FDIC's deposit insurance and related bank account coverage topics.

In yesterday's FDIC announcement ("FDIC Reiterates the Guarantee of Federal Deposit Insurance", there was mention of another website:

MyFDICinsurance.gov

Like the Spanish website, this site seeks to educate depositors about current coverage offered by the FDIC.
Comments? or Questions?

Heat Smart

November 5, 2008

New York State Governor David A. Paterson has announced a "new statewide, multi-agency public information education campaign called HeatSmartNY."

The goal of HeatSmartNY is said "to provide New Yorkers facing skyrocketing home heating costs with the tools and assistance they need to get through this coming winter."

Part of this public information campaign can be found online at www.HeatSmartNY.org.

Topics at the Heat Smart website include: "Heating Help and Low-Income Programs, Weatherization Programs," "Energy Efficiency - Reduce Your Energy Bills," and "About Home Heating."

For more information on this initiative, please read the full press release from the Governor's office:

"Governor Paterson Launches Statewide Campaign to Assist Vulnerable New Yorkers With Rising Heating Costs"
Comments? or Questions?

Investors & Recent Market Events

October 1, 2008

The U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) offers Information for Individual Investors on Recent Market Events.

They describe this resource as follows: "The SEC's Office of Investor Education and Advocacy provides a variety of services to address the problems and questions you may face as an investor."

Topics include: Short Selling (Prohibition on Short Selling Financial Stocks), Naked Short Selling, Money Market Funds, Brokerage Accounts, and News.

The SEC also offers a "Fast Answers" page where you can click on key concepts and read brief definitions of financial / investment terminology.

For more information about stocks, investment, and the economy, visit our Investment and Economy / Global Economy Crisis web guides.
Comments? or Questions?

Recognizing and Reporting Phone Fraud

August 27, 2008

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published a consumer advisory concerning potential telephone-based threats of fraud:

Click here to read the FTC's guide called "Who’s Calling? Recognize & Report Phone Fraud."

The guide is also available in Spanish:

¿Quién Llama? Reconozca y Reporte el Fraude Telefónico

A number of books on this topic exist in the library catalog: click here to see a list of those titles.
Comments? or Questions?

Voter Registration Scams

August 11, 2008

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published a consumer advisory concerning the possibility of voter registration scams people might encounter by e-mail or telephone due to the 2008 Presidential Election:

Please click here to access the FTC's advisory: "FTC Cautions Consumers About Voter Registration Scams"
Comments? or Questions?

Debt, Credit, and Loans

July 31, 2008

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers a variety of consumer information documents on the topics of credit, loans, and debt.

You can visit the FTC's Debt website by clicking here.

You can also click here to explore titles relating to "personal debt" in the library catalog or here to locate items relating to personal credit issues.
Comments? or Questions?

Student Loans Consumer Guide

July 9, 2008

The U.S. Department of Education has published a guide for consumers on the topic of student loans.

Accompanying the publication is a press release ("New Guide Available to Help Consumers Recognize Deceptive Student Loan Practices") which describes the guide as follows:

"The U.S. Department of Education and Federal Trade Commission have jointly released a consumer guide to help students and their families navigate the maze of offers they may face when seeking new student loans or consolidating existing student loans to pay for higher education. Student Loans: Avoiding Deceptive Offers provides advice to help consumers detect deceptive marketing offers from private companies seeking their student loan business."

Click here to read the complete press release.

The student loan guide can be found at this link. The guide is in the Adobe PDF format, which can be viewed using the Adobe Reader.

The Department of Education also maintains a Federal Student Aid website offering "free information on grants, student loans, scholarships and financial aid from the U.S. Department of Education's office of Federal Student Aid." Part of their website is also available in Spanish.

You can also click here to explore "student aid" books available in our library system catalog.
Comments? or Questions?

After Disasters: Spam Scams

May 29, 2008

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has information for anyone interested in donating to charities after disaster has struck:

"After a Disaster: Spam May Scam"

It begins with a question and a warning: "Have you received unsolicited email asking for a donation to help victims of an emergency or with news about it? If so, you may have been the target of a scam."

Additional information regarding charities and potential fraud can be found at the FTC's Charity Fraud website.

There you'll find a collection of documents designed to make you more aware of potential issues. Titles include: Also included on that page is the latest charity scam advisory from the FTC (dated May 2008).
Comments? or Questions?

Federal Reserve Education

March 26, 2008

The Federal Reserve Education website can help you understand what the U.S. Federal Reserve does and how its actions influence local and global economies.

Here is the description from the FRE website: "Here you can find links to instructional materials and tools that can increase your understanding of the Federal Reserve, economics and financial education. All of the Fed web sites, curriculum, newsletters, booklets and other resources are free."

Information at their site is divided up into four categories: Teacher Resources, Personal Financial Education, Fed101, and Quick Picks.

"Fed101" offers information about the Federal Reserve, including its history, structure, monetary policies, banking supervision, and financial services.

"Personal Financial Education" categories include: Consumer Banking, Consumer Protection, Economics, Home Ownership & Mortgages, Interest Rates, Loans & Credit, General Information, Non-Fed Web Sites.

Other areas include educational activities for teachers and students as well as "Fed FAQs" (Frequently Asked Questions) and a glossary of terms.
Comments? or Questions?

National Consumer Protection Week 2008: Financial Literacy

February 25, 2008

The week of March 2, 2008 has been designated as "National Consumer Protection Week" by the U.S. Government in order to promote consumer education and protection.

This year's theme is "Financial Literacy: A Sound Investment." As stated at Consumer.gov, "Financially savvy consumers are likely to make smarter decisions about managing their money, using credit wisely, and building a solid financial foundation for later."

The NCPW website states it hosts a variety of informative materials and links to relevant government agencies and other organizations:

"Consumers can find practical - and tactical - tips from NCPW partner organizations about how to make well-informed financial decisions, avoid credit scams, and protect their personal information on this site. This site has information from federal, state, and local government agencies, and national consumer advocacy organizations. Use it to promote NCPW in your community, or at your school, job, or club. The Outreach Toolkit has promotional materials you can download and use."

A Spanish version of the NCPW website is also available.
Comments? or Questions?

Homeowners & Tenants Insurance

January 4, 2008

The New York State Insurance Department has just announced a new "Consumer Shopping Guide for Homeowners & Tenants Insurance" which, they as they describe, "will help New Yorkers shopping for homeowners or tenants insurance make the right choices for themselves and their families. The Guide offers descriptions of the types of basic policies that companies offer. Consumers will also find recommendations for how much coverage to purchase, how to save money, and what additional products are offered on top of the basic policies." (as quoted from announcement posted on the NYLINE list on January 3, 2008).

There are two editions available ("Upstate" and "Downstate," dated 2007). Those documents are in the Adobe PDF format. You can view them using the free Adobe Reader.
Comments? or Questions?

Holiday Hazards

November 29, 2007

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has published a holiday safety advisory for consumers:

"Avoid Hazards Related to Holiday Decorating"

Besides warnings, the CPSC offers advice for handling and installing holiday decorations, including trees, lights, candles, and fireplaces.
Comments? or Questions?

FDIC: The New Climate

November 28, 2007

The FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) has published a new consumer advisory: "The New Climate for Mortgage Borrowers".

The guide addresses recent developments in housing markets and provides information of interest to current and future mortgage borrowers.

For more information and websites on this topic, check out our earlier blog post: "Foreclosures and Mortgages."

If you'd like to read more about mortgages, click here to locate books and other related items in the library catalog.
Comments? or Questions?

Recalls, Recalls, Recalls

November 16, 2007

As more recalls in food, consumer, and other products continue to be announced in the news, it can be confusing if not exhaustive trying to keep up with all the announcements, especially as they can come from many different sources in and beyond the government and might not necessarily be reported prominently, promptly, or completely by news media in each and every case.

In hopes of making it easier and faster to find many of these major announcements, our recently expanded Current Interests and Events guide now has a special category dedicated just to recall announcements with direct links to websites featuring recall notices posted by such U.S. Government agencies as the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission), and the USDA/FSIS (United States Department of Agriculture's Food and Safety Inspection Service), among others.

We hope you find this information useful, and we encourage you to consider bookmarking our Current Events page so you always have easy and instant access to key news sites in major subject areas. There's plenty of fun stuff there as well, such as movie news, literary happenings, arts and entertainment, game and music sites, and more, so please check it out!
Comments? or Questions?

Foreclosures and Mortgages

November 5, 2007

The U.S. Federal Reserve Board has published a consumer information guide on the topic of foreclosures, credit, and loans: Foreclosure Resources for Consumers.

Their guide contains links to related government agencies that offer information and guidance to consumers.

Other government websites offering information on this topic include:
Comments? or Questions?

GDP: Gross Domestic Product

November 5, 2007

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce has published the following document explaining what GPD is and how it works as an economic indicator to give us further insight into the current state of the U.S. economy:

Measuring the Economy: A Primer on GDP and the National Income and Product Accounts

This document is in the Adobe PDF format. You can view it using the free Adobe Reader.
Comments? or Questions?

Consumer Price Index

October 10, 2007

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is something that gets mentioned in the news, but what does it mean? How does it work?

The U.S. Department of Labor/Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) web page that explains the CPI economic indicator.

An "Addendum to Frequently Asked Questions" is also available from BLS to further explain certain aspects of the CPI.
Comments? or Questions?

Toy Recalls

August 3, 2007

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has published information regarding the recent nationwide recall of toys that could be sources of lead poisoning.

For more information concerning other product recalls, visit the CPSC home page.

Convenient links to the CPSC website as well as food recall news from the FDA can be found in the Health, Safety, & Fitness section our Current Interests guide.
Comments? or Questions?

Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy

August 2, 2007

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has created a website of interest to any consumer interested in efficient energy use and renewable energy resources: A Consumer's Guide to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Their site includes news and information on many related topics including appliances, solar and wind power, heating, the Energy Star program, and building construction.

For more information on this topic, check out the many related informational items available in the library system.
Comments? or Questions?

Win or Lose

July 23, 2007

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has information of interest to consumers who have been (or might in the future be) informed that they have won something: Decrease your odds of losing by becoming aware of potential scams and exploitative tactics!
Comments? or Questions?

Botnets, Hackers, Spam

July 11, 2007

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a new Consumer Advisory out called "It's nine o'clock... Do you know who is using your computer?".

Consumers are encouraged to raise their levels of technical awareness and are provided by the FTC some tips to help reduce the risk of computers being abused or attacked.
Comments? or Questions?

E-Scams

May 22, 2007

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) publishes consumer advisories regarding new and known electronic scams ("e-scams") occurring on and beyond the Internet:
If you believe you might be the victim of potential Internet fraud, the FBI has a special website called Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov) which you can visit to file a report or view answers to frequently asked questions.

For more information on consumer scams, advisories, news, and more, be sure to check back at this blog as well as visit our Consumer Information web guide, the Consumers section of our Government Information guide, and our Current Interests guide.

If you require any more information, please call our Reference Department at 341-5461 or use our free Ask a Librarian service on the web.
Comments? or Questions?

Online Shopping

May 17, 2007

OnGuardOnline.gov, a website from the U.S. government, has some helpful tips for anyone interested in purchasing items over the Internet:

Online Shopping

In addition to this page they provide links to related topics, including:
Comments? or Questions?

Electrical Safety Month

May 16, 2007

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a warning in May ("Electrical Safety Month"):

CPSC Warns of Dangerous Counterfeit Electrical Products

They also provide a link to the Electrical Safety Foundation International website, where you will find related news, information, and notices of recalls.

For more government websites related to consumer safety issues and product recalls, try these other web pages at Thrall.org:
Comments? or Questions?

Buying a Home

May 9, 2007

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has just published a new alert for consumers considering the purchase of a home: "Buying a Home: It's a Big Deal"

For more information here is their press release.

For more information on this topic, try our library catalog for information on:
Comments? or Questions?

Publication of the Week

April 23, 2007

The U.S. Federal Citizen Information Center offers publications to consumers. Each week at their website they feature a free Publication of the Week.

This week they are featuring a guide to finding medical information. Early on you will see a section called "Start With Your Community Library," and that's where we can help you.

At Thrall we have a wide selection of health resources in print, in electronic form, and on the web to help you start learning more about various topics in health, fitness, nutrition, and related areas.

Some books are located at Reference, such as encyclopedic sets and specialized dictionaries, while others are located in our circulating collections. Other books may be available through interlibrary loan.

We also subscribe to a variety of journals, and you can access even more journal, magazine, and newspaper articles freely through article databases, either at home or in the library.

You can also check out our Health blog and Health news section of our Current Interests guide for more links to recent articles, studies, and web resources.
Comments? or Questions?

Public Knowledge of Current Affairs

April 16, 2007

The Pew Research Center has published their findings after studying what impacts the so-called "information revolution" is estimated as having on the American public's awareness of current events.

Their report, called "Public Knowledge of Current Affairs Little Changed by News and Information Revolutions - What Americans Know: 1989-2007" contains statistics, charts, and a quiz.
Comments? or Questions?

Investing Online

April 12, 2007

OnGuardOnline.gov has published a guide for consumers interested in learning more investing over the Internet.

Their guide is called "Investing Wisely Online" and includes some "quick facts" and tips.

For more information you can check out our recently revised web guide for investors as well as books on investing and related topics in the library catalog.
Comments? or Questions?

Pet Food Recall Expanded AGAIN

April 1, 2007

Even more products have been included in the recent Pet Food Recall Information at FDA.gov.

Be sure to click your web browser's RELOAD or REFRESH button once you get to that page to make sure you see the latest information!
Comments? or Questions?

Fuel Economy Guide

March 30, 2007

FuelEconomy.gov has updated their Fuel Economy guide for car models through 2007.

At this site you can also search vehicles from 1985 through 2007 and see how they compare.
Comments? or Questions?

Mortgages

March 30, 2007

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published a new consumer advisory: "Applying for a Mortgage Can Trigger a Landslide of Competing Offers". The FTC explains how they can beneficial and also how consumers can make the stop through opt-out and "Do Not Call" registries.
Comments? or Questions?

"Free Credit Report" Scams

March 29, 2007

If you used terms such as "free credit report" in web search engines, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states, "you may have unintentionally ended up on a site that charged a fee for its products or services."

Search engines match each word you type to web pages they have indexed. Some search engines attempt to sort results according to what may appear to be the most relevant websites being displayed first. This is not always true.

Sometimes the first sites you see can be "sponsored results," where website owners pay to be listed before other search results. Other sites can exploit your lack of awareness, even your mispellings, all while appearing quite convincing and professional.

Why should that matter? It can matter most of all if you wind up at the wrong website and proceed according to your belief that the website is legitimate and is what it appears to be. If it is not, you could compromise details concerning your identity, financial information, and other specifics you would normally not want others to have. In such a situation you could make yourself a prime target for identity theft.

There are many "free credit" websites out there promising you access to free reports and scores. At the FTC website is the following reminder: "annualcreditreport.com is the ONLY authorized online source for you to get a free credit report under federal law."

In another Consumer Alert, there is this document from the FTC warning of imposter sites used to gather and exploit personal information: Fake Credit Report Sites: Cashing in on Your Personal Information.

To learn more about credit reports you are entitled to annually, the FTC has a web page called "Your Access to Free Credit Reports".

To learn more about identity theft and how to protect yourself, Consumer.gov has a dedicated website.

Thrall also has a special coverage web guide on the topic as well as items in our Government Documents and regular circulating collections.
Comments? or Questions?

Pet Food Recall EXPANDED

March 26, 2007

More pet products have been included in the recent Pet Food Recall Information at Recalls.gov at the same links reported last week in this same blog.

A toll free number for further inquiries has been included in the announcement at that website along with other FDA contact information.
Comments? or Questions?

Free Consumer Action Handbook

March 26, 2007

At Firstgov.gov there is an offer for a free copy of the Consumer Action Handbook, 2007 edition.

As their site says, "If you feel like you've just been ripped off, take action." This book can help you get started!
Comments? or Questions?


Pet Food Recall Information from Recalls.gov

March 19, 2007

Recalls.gov has a link to Pet Food Recall Information from The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). If you have a pet or know someone who does, be sure to check this out!

Recalls.gov is described as a "one stop shop" for U.S. Government recalls for consumer products, motor vehicles, boats, food, medicine, cosmetics, and environmental products.

If you have some free time, browse Recall.gov's regularly updated lists to see if any of the food or products you own have been recalled.

For your convience, a link to this site is included in our Current Events page in the Health and Safety section. You can get there through our home page by clicking "current interests" in the News line.

Potentially life-saving information is just a few clicks away!
Comments? or Questions?

World Consumer Rights Day

March 15, 2007

March 15 is "World Consumer Rights Day," and in support of this a consumer-oriented organization called Consumers International has developed a presentation alerting consumers about "Unethical Drug Promotion."

Consumers International writes, "Consumers are largely unaware of how their drug consumption choices are being shaped by corporate motives for gargantuan profits."

For more information on this topic, and to read their report, please visit their website.
Comments? or Questions?




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