News from the Reference Desk Category: Consumer

Identity Theft

In 2012, approximately 16.6 million individuals (or 7% of the population) over the age or 16 were victims of identity theft in the United States according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The increasing number of security breaches occurring just in the past few months has made it imperative that consumers take precautions to safeguard their private information and to know where to turn and steps to take if they become victims themselves. The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information website has an Identity Theft  guide which provides useful and detailed information for victims and tips for those who would like to safeguard their identity. Specific sections (e.g. initial steps to take if you are a victim; what to do later in the process; how to safeguard your identity and different types of identity theft) are presented in an easy to understand format with helpful checklists to simplify the process.

Chicago Consumers’ CHECKBOOK now with remote access

You can now access Chicago Consumers’ Checkbook from computers outside the Library if you have an MPPL card. You’ll need to register the first time you use it, but this will give you the privilege to submit reviews for all kinds of local services. It’s kind of like Yelp or Amazon, but you don’t have to write clever reviews, just concise.

The popular Chicago Consumers’ Checkbook contains articles and ratings on a wide variety of local service firms, professionals, and stores. Includes ratings for insurance companies, plumbers, heating and air conditioning contractors, auto repair shops, dentists, doctors and more. The Chicago Consumers’ CHECKBOOK online database also includes their national online Guide to Top Doctors, which lists 20,000 of the top-rated physicians in 35 specialties across the country, as well as their Guide to Hospitals which provides detailed information and ratings of more than 4,500 hospitals nationwide.

Steven Browne, Reference Librarian

Choosing Wisely: American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM)

Choosing Wisely is a composite of U.S. specialty societies which represent more than 500,000 physicians.

They worked to develop lists of “Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question” in recognition of the importance of physician and patient conversations to improve care and eliminate unnecessary tests and procedures. Here are practical treatment guidelines, and suggested patient/advocate questions to ask in easy to understand language.

Consumer Action Handbook

The Consumer Action Handbook is published each year by the Federal Citizen Information Center at the General Services Administration. Inside, you’ll find helpful tips about preventing identity theft, understanding credit, filing a consumer complaint and many other useful topics. MPPL has two copies in English and one in Spanish in our collection. You may also view the entire Handbook online or in PDF format.

Topics include: Banking, Employment, Health Care, Housing, Identify Theft, and other consumer interests.

Furnace and Central A/C Reviews

A pricey appliance purchase deserves some consumer research and a furnace investment is no exception. Consumer Reports hasn’t reviewed individial models since 2000, but it does provide descriptions of the top sellers.

Another site, FurnaceCompare gives details of brand models and customer feedback in very organized listings.

The most recent reviews of central a/c brands are noted in the Consumer Reports May 2012 issue.

And the Library’s access to ChicagoCheckbook is also useful when learning more about heating/cooling contractors. Please let us know if you need help using this or any of our subscription databases.