Riverside Public Library
:: Consumer Resources
- Federal, State & Local Consumer Resources
- Consumer Protection
- License Lookup
- Product Comparisons
- Home Buying & Renting
- Automobiles & Other Vehicles
- Investments & Investing
- Banking & Personal Finance
- Charities & Nonprofit Organizations
- Shopping & Thrift Shopping
This site is the online version of the popular Consumer Action Handbook. Look at the many "Consumer Topics," as well as the "Resource Directory" of contacts to consumer organizations, corporate consumer offices, and federal and state government agencies. You can also order a free print copy of the Handbook.
Information provided by over 175 US government departments, agencies, and commissions. Arranged by topics - food, product safety, health, home, money, transportation, children, careers, technology. For each topic, "how to file a complaint" information is given for the appropriate agency.
Online version of the popular Consumer Information Catalog, featuring the full texts of hundreds of publications available for viewing, printing, or ordering. Also features the Consumer Action Website of contact information for state and local consumer protection agencies.
The US Financial Literacy and Education Commission, composed of 20 federal agencies, was set up "with the purpose of improving the financial literacy and education" of Americans. These agencies provide information for such topics as Saving and Investing, Starting a Small Business, Home Ownership, Credit, etc.
This consumer group covers consumer problems commonly faced by "vulnerable consumers" such as the elderly and immigrants. Topics include surviving debt, credit, mortgages, foreclosures, utility concerns, scams, etc. Several of the links are in different languages.
Consumer Action, formed in 1971, offers California consumer information on a variety of topics. Use the pull down menus on the right to make selections.
The California Attorney General provides consumer information on topics ranging from bad checks to lemon law to work-at-home schemes. Also shows how to file a complaint on various types of businesses, indicating which federal/state agency/department to contact. Online complaint forms available.
The California Department of Consumer Affairs provides links to California consumer agencies such as small claims courts, legal aid societies, Better Business Bureau, etc. The Complaint Referral Table, arranged by topic, gives links to state agencies to deliver complaints. There are also links to DCA's list of consumer publications; most are available online.
Click on “Victim Services” and “Resources” for local consumer assistance.
This site allows you to check for complaints about a business or charity, file a complaint, or resolve a dispute. "Consumer/Business Tips" are consumer publications arranged by subject. "Locate a Bureau” has a searchable directory of BBB’s in the United States, and Canada
The CPSC is known for issuing safety recalls, but their site also offers short publications on a "wide variety of consumer safety issues." Learn about "product safety standards" issued by the government, as well as "voluntary standard activities" issued by non-governmental industry groups such as ANSI, ASTM, IEEE, ISO, etc.
This site, set up by the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, is designed to protect consumers against unfair practices. It offers helpful guides and alerts in many topics, ranging from automobiles to travel.
This site, a companion to Consumer Reports Online and similar to Consumer.gov, provides material developed by Consumers Union's advocacy offices on a variety of consumer issues, including health care, phones and media, food, product safety, and more.
The PRC established in 1992 and based in San Diego, offers "Facts Sheets" in English and Spanish on such privacy concerns as caller ID, telemarketing, stalking, credit reports, etc. Separate links are available for the hot topics of "Identity Theft" and "Internet Privacy" and "Background Checks."
This site allows you to search for recall information from 6 Federal agencies in the areas of consumer products, motor vehicles, boats, food, medicine, cosmetics, and environmental products.
Many professions in California require a professional license. Use these links to verify the licenses of real estate brokers, veterinarians, paramedics, etc.
Click on "Licensee Information" to find background information on physicians licensed by the Medical Board of California.
This site, set up by the California Department of Consumer Affairs, allows you to search for individuals or companies that are licensed by the DCA. Search by name, location, or license number for accountants, architects, chiropractors, dentists, psychologists, nurses, funeral directors, etc.
This Medline Plus link offers directories to help find background information on "doctors and dentists," including specialists such as periodontists, thyroid specialists, etc. Also offers directories of substance abuse treatment centers and other healthcare facilities.
The National Association of Securities Dealers lets you check the background of any licensed stockbroker and/or investment advisor firm.
Search by state and occupation to find background information on license holders.
Click on "Attorney Search" to find background information on California attorneys.
This online version of Consumer Guide by HowStuffWorks.com features product review and pricing information on a variety of products.
Consumer Reports claims that, since 1936, their mission is to "test, inform, protect. We accept no ads." This site gives basic purchasing advice for larger purchases such as appliances, autos, electronics, and computers. For an annual subscription of $26, users have access to their ratings and recommendations for specific brands.
This site offers "user-generated buying advice for outdoor sporting goods and consumer electronics." Users can "find the products they are interested in, read and write reviews, participate in discussions, compare prices, and shop online." Click on "Our sites" to see 9 different sub-sites that focus on computing, photography, golf, etc.
Look by the type of product for references to original reviews, as well as comments on the reviews. You can also get the Fast Answers ("what the research says") and the Full Story ("what the experts say").
This site features product reviews, both good and bad, by user members. For each product, you will find links to further details about the product, and also advanced search options such as buyer’s guides and store ratings. To prove reliable reviews, even the reviewers can be reviewed by Epinions "Web of Trust" system.
Set up in 1968, J.D. Power and Associates "conducts independent and unbiased surveys of customer satisfaction, product quality, and buyer behavior." Use this site to compare their ratings for a variety of products and services such as autos, electronics, finance and insurance, healthcare, etc.
With over 500,000 active rental listings and 4 million homes for sale, HotPads.com is the premier map-based housing search engine, delivering the most interactive and personal housing search experience online.
This site lists current properties for sale throughout California. Interactive functions allow for the selection of local area and city, as well as the type of property, number of bedrooms and baths, price, and amenities such as dining room, pool, spa, air conditioning, and fireplace.
This popular 120-page publication, subtitled "a Guide to Residential Tenants' and Landlords' Rights and Responsibilities," is available here in HTML and Adobe Acrobat formats. Covers rental agreements, security deposits, evictions, etc. Footnotes refer to appropriate California Code sections. BE AWARE, however, that there are 15 California cities with rent control ordinances, including 6 in Southern California (Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Thousand Oaks, and Palm Springs). Look at each city's website for more tenants' rights information in their rent control ordinances.
This site produces home value information from "100 million property, ownership, sales, and mortgage records, covering more than 85% of the US population." The home values are "based on publicly available property records and certain proprietary data." Also provides charts and graphs of zip code analysis, as well as other financial statistical analyses.
A Fannie Mae site to help you with buying or refinancing a home.
A variety of calculators for mortgages; includes one that lets you determine how fast your mortgage would shrink if you made extra payments.
This site lists homes for sale by owner (without a real estate agent) and provides contact information for the owner. Search for a home, or list your property.
Dictionary of real estate and construction terms on the Internet" with "almost 10,000 definitions."
This site, from the National Association of Realtors, currently lists more than 3 million homes for sale. Also offers a directory of realtors and "Real Estate 101" for buyers and sellers.
This site, with data provided by DataQuik, gives specific information on home sales in the last year in 6 Southern California counties. (Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, and Ventura) Can be searched by city or zip code, price range, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, year built, and square footage.
Created by the founders of Expedia, this site gives the estimated home values of over 67 million homes; the "Zestimate" is the "estimated market value, computed using a proprietary formula." Search by address or interactive maps. Also offers low aerial views of the property and neighborhood, with North/South/East/West views.
This link on the Autopedia.com site gives links to all of the world's vehicle manufacturers.
Click on "Driver License" to learn how to get licenses in Class A or B (commercial), Class C (regular), and Class M (motorcycle). Also tells how to get a SMOG check, ID card, or boat license. Also gives samples of driver written tests. Do a keyword search to find the 16-page Traffic Violator School Classroom Location List, arranged by county and by language spoken.
Comprehensive site gives advice for buying/selling new and used cars. Also covers leasing, financing, warranties, trade- INS, negotiation strategies, etc.
This site provides state by state "Lemon Law" information, including specific codes and strategies for making a Lemon Law claim.
Fuel economy ratings for vehicles made from 1985 - present. Search by name or type of vehicle. Also gives the Annual Fuel Cost for each vehicle.
Online version of the popular vehicle pricing source. Covers new and used vehicles back to 1987, including autos, trucks, vans, motorcycles, "personal watercraft," and snowmobiles.
This is the online version of the National Automobile Dealers Association's price guides, published since 1933. This site covers new and used autos, classic cars, motorcycles, boats, recreational vehicles, and "manufactured homes."
The Vehicles and Equipment Information section covers safety problems and issues, testing results, regulations and standards, and research and development. Covers vehicles and vehicle equipment such as tires, air bags, child seats, etc.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides safety information that covers child safety seats, tires, air bags, rollover and crash test results, and recalls.
Offers general descriptions and buying advice for computers (desktops, laptops, and servers), hardware, and software.
Consumer Reports offers this step-by-step guide to buying a new computer.
Use this Glossary to decipher any investment lingo you come across such as NAV or PEG ratio.
Noncommercial website designed to help investors decide when to sell mutual funds.
The Securities and Exchange Commission provides information about saving and investing. Search by Subject, A-Z list, or keyword. Link to “calculators for investors”.
This site, originally set up by Martindale Hubbell but now owned by LexisNexis, can help you find attorneys by their special area of practice, city, and state.
Nolo Press has been publishing self-help law books since 1971. This helpful site features the Nolopedia, a grouping of legal information on topics such as wills and estate planning, property and money, family law and immigration, and rights and disputes. Search their Lawyer Directory by location and legal issue to find legal help.
The California Earthquake Authority, set up by the California legislature in 1996, is "a privately financed, publicly managed entity to help California residents protect themselves against earthquake loss." Residents can get earthquake insurance through the CEA's member insurance companies.
This comprehensive site gives information of many types of insurance such as auto, health, home, life, annuities, small business, and travel.
Get free rate quotes for auto, life, home, renters, and health insurance. The "Learning Center" has background information on these insurances, as well as a Glossary of insurance terms.
Provides consumers with a letter-grade rating for insurance companies from Standard & Poor’s and Duff and Phelps Credit Rating. The ratings are based on the insurer’s ability to pay policyholder claims.
NetQuote, established in 1989, allows you to search for insurance quotes online for auto, home, health, life, and business.
The OPA, established in 2000, is "charged with informing and educating consumers about their rights and responsibilities as HMO enrollees." Look at their Healthcare Quality Report Card, as well as their Consumer Education Publications.
The California Health Advocates have set up this site about Medicare benefits for Californians.
This site, set up by the USDA National Agricultural Library, offers food/nutrition information in various ways. Click on "Look up Calories or Nutrients in a Food" or "Dietary Guidelines for Americans." Browse by Subject for Diet and Disease, Food Composition, Dietary Supplements, Food Labeling, etc.
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services, offers this guide to reliable health information. Read the Consumer Guides to make decisions about health care purchases, or browse the weekly newsletters for articles arranged by subject. You can also view tutorials about HealthFinder.
The California Dept. of Managed Health Care has set up this site to help Californians learn about HMOs, PPOs, and their benefits and rights when joining a health plan.
This site allows "consumers to request free annual credit reports." Can be used to fight identity theft by monitoring and reviewing your credit report. Request the report online, by phone, or by mail.
Updated daily, this site gives timely rates for mortgages and home equity loans, as well as interest rates for credit cards and CDs. Other features include various Calculators and a helpful "News and Advice" section.
CARDTRAK contains a survey of credit cards and their interest rates.
Up to the minute Investment and market news.
Consumers can get a credit report, repair credit, or report credit fraud by contacting the websites or 800 numbers of the three major credit bureaus in the US: Experian(formerly TRW), Equifax, and TransUnion.
Use these interactive tools to help answer financial questions about stocks, bonds, saving for college, retirement, etc.
Provides federal and state forms and instructions, links to state revenue websites, and tells where to request forms by mail or fax.
This site includes all of the California tax forms, instructions, and publications back to 1985. Also tells where to request forms by phone, mail, or in person.
Click on "Individuals" to find all of the federal tax forms, instructions, and publications back to 1990.
Search this California directory of tax assistance locations by county, city, or zip code. Covers VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) and TCE (Tax Counseling for the Elderly) programs.
Look up the IRS returns (Forms 990 and 990-PF or private foundations, public charities, and other nonprofits.
This service, part of the Better Business Bureau, provides "Charity Reports" that give background and financial information on over 1000 "charities and other organizations that solicit nationally." This site also gives short essays in their "Tips on Giving" series, as well as their "Standards for Charity Accountability." You can also order a copy of their quarterly "BBB Wise Giving Guide."
Set up by the California Attorney General, "Charities Search" can be used to find information on more than 150,000 registered charities in California; many listings provide copies of their IRS Form 990, filed annually. Learn to give wisely with "Charitable Giving."
Founded in 2001, Charity Navigator evaluates the "financial health" of over 5000 US charities, including over 1200 "4-star" charities. Free registration required "to access expanded features."
Search for grant makers by name, by geography, or by EIN.
Based in San Diego, this database currently contains federal tax returns filed by over 105,000 "private foundations and charitable trusts."
This site set up by Philanthropic Research, Inc., features a searchable database of more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the US. The listings provide information on each group's background, mission, goals, and finances; some listings provide copies of their IRS Form 990, filed annually. Free registration required.
This is the searchable, online version of the "Cumulative List of Organizations described in Section 170(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986," a directory of "organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions."
The American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) is "a nationally prominent charity watchdog service" that rates over 500 national organizations with annual budgets of over $500,000. Click on "Top-Rated" to find the highest rated charities by area of concern (hunger, literacy, cancer, etc.) Unfortunately, the actual reports are not available online; they are available in the Charity Rating Guide ($3) or with an AIP membership ($40).
This site features rate comparison charts for residential and business long distance phone plans. Also gives information on cellular plans and calling cards, as well as "free consumer phone advice" and a "Glossary of Telecom Terms."
The California Attorney General has set up this site to answer FAQs about the National Do Not Call Registry.
This FCC site gives consumer information about the broadcasting industry, as well as telephones, cable, satellite dishes, and the Internet.
Great site to learn how to decrease the junk mail, junk faxes, telemarketing calls, and spam.
This site, set up by the Federal Trade Commission, allows you to register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. You can also file a complaint against any offending telemarketers.
Advice on avoiding telemarketing or Internet fraud.
This site shows you how to calculate postage costs, locate a Post Office, find a Zip Code, get a passport, schedule a pickup, etc.
This site, geared to serious travel planners, offers information and advice. Click on Destinations, How-to Handbook, Trip Ideas, and Tools.
Click on "Getaway Maps" to find "the lowest fares from your home airport" listed by continent or geographic area.
The State Department provides information of interest to international travelers. This site has links to their popular travel publications such as Background Notes, Consular Information Sheets, and Travel Warnings. Also includes various Tips for Traveling Abroad and Living Abroad Tips.
This site, updated weekly by the State Department, tells you where you can go to get a passport. Search by state/city or zip code; it can also be limited by distance, handicap access, "photo on site," or "photo nearby." Most of the locations are post offices, but public libraries are also included.
Learn all about passports from this State Department link. Features a searchable directory of "over 8000 passport acceptance facilities."
The TSA, a component of the Dept. of Homeland Security, "is responsible for security of the nation's transportation systems." Learn about travel regulations by type of travel (plane, train/rail, ship, bus), including the "3-1-1 for carry-on" in airports.
Go here to book vacation packages, flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and train tickets. Also provides travel guides and advice.
This site offers "real advice from real travelers," featuring "5 million unbiased reviews and opinions covering 250,000+ hotels and attractions."
Click on "For US Citizens" to learn about bringing items from other countries back to the US.
Set up in 1995, this shopping link on the @LA site has links to the shopping centers, malls, department stores, Army-Navy surplus, pawn shops, swap meets, and thrift stores in 5 Southern CA counties (Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino). Use the "filter" button to select the county of interest.
This "shopper's search engine and directory," set up in 1996, features "over 300 million product offerings" from over 20,000 companies "dedicated to online commerce."
Searchable directory of worldwide factory outlet stores.
"This informational site, created by the American Bar Association, will help you order safely when shopping online." Covers security, privacy, payment, product, terms, delivery, records, complaints, and tips.
Search for over 34 million products from over 89,000 stores.
This site claims to be the most convenient source for finding "consignment shops, resale shops, thrift shops, and antique shops across the nation."
Scroll down to search for flea markets by state and city in the US, Canada, and other countries. The events range "from traditional flea markets to farmers' markets, antique markets, court days, and traders' marts."
To find the nearest Goodwill store, search the online directory of 2000 North American stores by zip code.
This site is the "world wide guide to farmers' markets, street markets, flea markets, and street vendors." Search for markets by country.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation opened the first Out of the Closet thrift store in 1990. "Locations" gives the 14 locations in Southern California. You can also "place an online pick-up request of larger items."
Search by zip code for the nearest store or donation center. You can also schedule a pickup online.
Learn about the sale of public assets that any US government (national, state, local) will be offering for sale electronically to the general public. Buy new items in government stores, or "surplus and seized property" such as real estate, planes, boats, cars, computers, jewelry, etc.
Search by state to find "local yard sales and thrift stores." The "Yard Sale Tips" is also good.
This site set up by the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, covers consumer aspects of California funerals.
Learn how to sign up to be an organ or tissue donor through "California's four federally-designated nonprofit organ procurement organizations," or OPOs.
The FCA has been "protecting a consumer's right to choose a meaningful, dignified, affordable funeral since 1963." This site offers a "Nationwide Directory of Affiliated Funeral Consumer Information Groups" by state, as well as FAQs about the legal, economic, and social aspects of all kinds of burial procedures.
This ICFA link provides "straight answers to real questions about funeral and cemetery arrangements, cremation, grief, and other issues related to the end of life."