Being a smart consumer means more these days than just clipping coupons
and buying in bulk. These sites were selected to help you make sense of
what's being sold to you, where to go to find the truth, and how you can protect
yourself and your family from modern day snake oil.
On this page: Basic Starting Points, Cars, Cars
- Alternative Fuels and Fuel Efficiency, Credit and
Banking, Government Resources, Health
Basic Starting Points
The Best Information on the Net: Consumer
Information -- online information from phone service providers to
product ratings, from scam and fraud alerts to law and health resources
Better Business Bureau -- Type in your zip
code for the BBB serving your area.
Catalog Choice -- "a free
service that lets you decline paper catalogs you no longer wish to
receive." Requires registration, an email address, and your customer
number from catalogs you have received in the mail.
Charity Navigator --
"Find a charity you can trust." This site not only rates
charities but also provides tips for older donors, choosing your holiday charity
gifts and how to avoid scams. Did you know that 50% of donations by
individuals are made between Thanksgiving and Christmas?
Consumer World -- The Consumer
Resource Guide; "a public service, non-commercial guide cataloging over
2000 of the most useful consumer resources." This site also
highlights companies that have questionable practices such as installing spyware
on home computers.
FTC Bureau of Consumer
Protection -- Learn more about business fraud, scams, and unfair practices,
and how to protect yourself or what to do if you become a victim of these
National Do Not Call Registry --
"gives you a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls at home."
OptOutPrescreen -- using this
website you can "opt out" of receiving offers from credit card and
insurance companies for five years or permanently; you will need to provide your
name, address, social security number, and date of birth.
Recalls.gov -- several federal agencies
have created this site to help people find out about recalled items from a
single source. Also gives you the option to sign up for emailed notices.
Car Care Council -- information
for vehicle owners about the importance of preventive maintenance and repairs
Edmund's Automobile Buyer's Guides
-- buyer's guides, new and used car reviews, invoice/MSRP information for
new cars, and a lot of other useful information for those thinking of buying
a new car
Fuel Economy Guide -- Looking for
the most fuel-efficient SUV? Want to know more about hybrids and
alternative-fuel vehicles? Check here first.
There are the official mpg's for vehicles, and then there are what you get when
you drive your own car. Browse Fuelly to see what the average mpg really is for
a vehicle you want to buy, or compare your car to others to see if you need to
change your driving habits to save money. If you register, you can track your
own mpg's and your spending on fuel.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety --
crash test results and vehicle ratings from the "nonprofit research and
communications organization funded by auto insurers."
Kelley Blue Book -- new car prices,
old car values, buying and selling tips, and more from a trusted source
NADA Guides -- More than just a site
for car and truck values, you can also look up retail values for classic cars,
motorcycles, RVs, boats, and manufactured homes.
NHTSA -- (National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration) How safe is your car? Has the child seat you've
been using been recalled? Find answers to these kinds of questions
on this excellent website.
Windshield Guide -- When can a cracked windshield be repaired? How
does a professional repair a crack? This site has a variety of information
meant to help you understand more about your car's windshield.
Cars - Alternative Fuels and Fuel Efficiency
DriveClean -- This site from the
California Air Resources Board provides lots of information about zero and
near-zero emission cars. Learn more about hybrids, fuel cells, alternative
fuels, and the future of driving cleaner!
- Drive Green --
Hybrids, fuel cells, algae; it's all covered here by Popular
Mechanics. Researchers look beyond the hype and into the future of
- Edmunds Green
Car Guide -- Find out how to shop for a fuel-efficient car, how to save
money on the car you already have, and other tips to help you save money.
- Online NewsHour Science Reports: Alternative
Fuels -- This site from PBS helps explain the big deal about ethanol,
biodiesel, and other alternative fuels, both as fuels and how they impact
other parts of the economy (such as corn for fuel increasing the cost of
feed for livestock).
Credit and Banking
Report -- All consumers are eligible
to receive 1 free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major
credit reporting agencies. Note that your credit report does not
include your credit score unless you purchase the service from a reporting
agency. Go to the
Trade Commission's site to find out more.
Bank Rate Monitor
-- find out the rates for mortgages, CDs, loans, credit cards, and more
Financial Protection Bureau -- "Our mission is to make markets for
consumer financial products and services work for Americans — whether they are
applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, or using any number of
other consumer financial products." If you are being harassed for a debt
you dispute, also take a look at the
letters you can use to contact the debt collector.
History of the Credit Card -- this site from PBS' Frontline and The New
York Times may give you new insight on the history of consumer credit!
Read "Eight Things a Credit Card User Should Know" for some surprising
practices, quiz yourself to find out how much you know, read the "More to
Explore" section or individual interviews, or watch the complete
show. Viewing the show requires RealPlayer or Windows Media Player.
Center for Responsive Politics: Opensecrets.org
-- "nonpartisan guide to money’s influence on U.S. elections and public
policy." Find out how
much money candidates are raising for their campaigns, or how much lobbyists
FactCheck.org -- How much of what you
hear on the news is true? You might be surprised about the
facts! "The Annenberg Political Fact Check is a project of the
Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. We are a
nonpartisan, nonprofit, 'consumer advocate' for voters that aims to reduce the
level of deception and confusion in U.S.
politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S.
political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and
Federal Citizen Information Center
-- site now called Publications.USA.gov; online and for-purchase consumer information brochures from federal
agencies, including the Consumer Action Handbook (free to download or to
order a print version)
USAspending.gov -- "Have you
ever wanted to find more information on government spending? Have you ever
wondered where federal contracting dollars and grant awards go? ... The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006
(Transparency Act) requires a single searchable website, accessible by the
public for free."
- The Cochrane Collaboration --
This site features articles concerning "evidence-based health
care", aimed at both the public and at practioners.
-- Don't have health insurance? This is the place to go to find a plan that
works for you. You can even create
an account before the October 1 opening, so you are ready to go.
- Health News Review --
"Grades for Health News Reporting" Did the media get a
health story right, or are you only hearing part of what you need to
know? Start on this site to find out what the experts think about what
the media tells us.
- PubMed --
News stories often mention "a recently published study" when
announcing a medical discovery. Many of those studies can be found
here; read them for yourself!
"Your Guide to Quackery, Health Fraud, and Intelligent Decisions" --
run by a retired doctor, this site focuses on non-traditional medicine and helps
you identify the warning signs of hoaxes and fraud. For more information
about who's behind the site, check out the
Funds Quackwatch?" and
Asked Questions" pages.
Health Letter -- Published by the Friedman School of Nutrition Science
and Policy, this newsletter tries to clear up confusion about eating,
nutrition, exercise, and more. Many of the articles can be read online
Letter -- With a focus on food, testing, exercise and more, this site
offers one free article each month from the newsletter, published by UC
Committee for Skeptical Inquiry --
"encourages the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science
claims from a responsible, scientific point of view and disseminates factual
information about the results of such inquiries to the scientific community and
Consumer Product Safety Commission
-- the federal agency that helps identify items that pose "unreasonable
risks" to people; has lists of recalls by date and topic
Do It Yourself
-- guides on everything from home decoration and improvement to financing
and frugal living
National Consumers League's Fraud Center
-- nonprofit group organized to fight telemarketing and internet fraud
Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Consumer
Information -- Pennsylvania consumers can choose their local telephone
carrier, electricity supplier and natural gas supplier. But how do
you make the best choice? Start with this page first to get the facts
that can save you money.
Policy and Ethics:
Critical issues and legislation surrounding genetic research
-- reports and
studies made available by the National Human Genome Research Institute
Product reviews and reports
by Consumer Search -- provides both quick summaries and complete reviews,
collected from a variety of publications
RoofHelper -- This site provides
information like when you might want to repair or replace your roof or windows,
what to expect when your roof is being worked on, and how to find a
contractor. There's even a discussion of "green roofs" and their
advantages and disadvantages.
Snopes.com: Urban Legends Reference --
Have a question about something you read online or in an email? Seeing
lots of warnings about changes in Facebook privacy settings? Check out this site which researches "urban
legends [as well as] common fallacies, misinformation, old wives' tales, strange
news stories, rumors, celebrity gossip, and similar items."
Last updated August 24, 2013.
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