Saying Farewell to NCL & Washington, D.C


I can’t believe how fast time has gone by since I first started my internship! It has been one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences interning at the National Consumers League (NCL) in Washington, D.C. I have gained so many memories with the fellow interns and the NCL staff, have grown so much as a consumer and consumer advocate, and have acquired more knowledge about important consumer issues than I had every imagined.

The specific tasks assigned to me allowed me to gain experience and knowledge in areas I was unfamiliar with. Extensive research opportunities on fraud and scams have allowed me to realize how essential non-profit organizations were in protecting consumers and informing them of issues that affect them. The research work I have done on various issues associated with public policy has been incredibly useful to me as a consumer as well. After researching and writing a blog about billing aggregators, who might place unauthorized charges on consumers’ phone bills on behalf of third-party companies, I always carefully review my phone bills and make sure there are no suspicious and unauthorized charges. I highly believe that every student should have the opportunity to intern at an organization like the NCL because the work that I have done has helped me to not only learn about billing aggregators, but also assist consumers to make good decisions and carefully review their phone bills.

Through national conferences, meetings, roundtable discussions, and Congressional hearings, non-profits are always actively working to protect consumers. By attending these events, I have gained new interests in particular consumer issues. By attending Women and Families on Attaining Perfection: What do women pay for the perfect body? hosted by the National Research Center for Women and Families, I learned that the yogurt company I have been purchasing from for years has been investigated and charged for deceptive marketing. I realized how serious this problem is and how many consumers, like me, have become victims of deceptive marketing or unproven claims. Even though I have completed my internship at the NCL, I hope to learn more about deceptive marketing in the future at Brandeis and other work opportunities.

I am most positive that the knowledge and experience I have gained at the NCL will be very useful when continuing my education and leadership commitments at Brandeis. Compiling data and researching different issues will allow me to gather information for research papers better. I have been trained to distinguish the most important details for a short term and long term research project. Furthermore, the networking and event planning experiences will allow me to act effectively as the middleman between academic departments and the students in the fall as the undergraduate departmental representative (UDR). Serving as the UDR will definitely take a lot of organization, concentration and teamwork to complete duties and responsibilities. The team projects I have completed at the NCL will help me to work together with other UDRs and assist each other to organize and coordinate great events and provide departmental information to students.

For any students interested in advocacy work, I would highly recommend interning at the NCL. The staff members are very caring and willing to help interns meet and go beyond their learning goals. They are very accommodating to what you would like to work on and are great about recommending various DC events that might be of interest to you. Although you have one head supervisor, you also have the opportunity to help other staff members at their events and conferences. I have noticed that individuals who work in a non-profit are very passionate about the work they do. They want to make a difference in the world. Every professional I have talked to at different events was willing to talk to me for probably hours about their work. You don’t necessarily have to be passionate about certain issues when finding an internship at a non-profit, but I am most confident that by the end of your internship, you will be passionate about at least one particular issue.

Through my internship with the NCL, my ideals of social justice have been reinforced. The strike for fair wages I mentioned in my earlier blog has definitely reminded me that fighting for social justice is fighting for human rights – the rights of low-wage workers and of those who need support. By writing articles for NCL’s on obamacare and credit card fraud against charities, I realized how there are many miscarriages of justice. People sometimes take advantage of those who are less educated, less wealthy, and less supported. I’ve learned that to become a more effective problem solver and citizen, I need to act and make a difference. I need to inform those who are unaware of their rights, which is one of the prime reasons I am in plans of creating my own consumer rights blog. During my upcoming study abroad in The Hague in the spring, I also hope to learn how to legally protect consumers who have been scammed.

– Heather Yoon ’15

Advocating for Consumers’ Rights in D.C.


6902b65b-c868-451b-a632-a193ded88049_zpsc3544296It has already been seven weeks since I first began my internship with the National Consumers League (NCL). It amazes me how much I have grown as a consumer and consumer advocate during this short period of time. During my first week, I was excited, nervous, and intrigued simply by meeting professionals who have made differences by advocating for consumers in major issues throughout the nation. I was proud to be working for the League in which Eleanor Roosevelt had been Vice President and for the organization that protected women’s rights in the famous Muller v. Oregon case. Now, I am also impressed by the extensive research and advocacy work I have taken part in throughout my internship. Every research project assigned to me has been a new and exciting learning experience. The research has not only allowed me to educate the average consumer about issues but also educate myself. I have definitely become a much more informed consumer, who is able to advise other consumers on issues including radio fraud, airline fee gouging, youth magazine traveling sales, billing aggregators, prepaid card use, and credit card fraud against charities. The NCL has given me the great opportunity to contribute to the fight against these practices that hurt consumers directly and indirectly.

Since my first week at the NCL, I have achieved my initial learning goals to learn how a non-profit functions and how NCL protects consumers’ rights. I have also learned how to execute an effective and meaningful research project. My research project on radio fraud has significantly allowed me to understand how to analyze an issue and carefully make conclusions. The radio fraud research project was intended to analyze whether certain radio advertisements were misleading, potentially misleading, or legitimate. While listening to the radio advertisements, it was important for me to carefully note what the companies were exactly advertising and what services they were clearly offering. Afterwards, I went on their official websites and compared the programs they offered online with what they were saying on the radio advertisements. I also read through the numerous pages of complaints reported to the Better Business Bureau and reviews that evaluated consumers’ experiences with the company. Although some radio advertisements may seem legitimate to the average consumer, some of them may be misleading. An advertisement that offers a free cruise may claim to be selective and completely free of any charges, but some consumers have reported that they were billed for extra programs they never signed up for or authorized. Consumers also had to pay additional hidden fees on board and attend long presentations, all of which were not explained in the advertisement. After carefully investigating into several radio advertisements, I wrote detailed reports that included my evaluation of the advertisement supported by consumer complaints. I expect that the reports will be useful during roundtable discussions and advocacy work related to radio fraud in the near future. After researching about radio fraud, I have become very cautious about misleading radio advertisements and compelled to warn consumers about potential scams. 

One of the most memorable experiences I have had so far at NCL is striking against wage theft and companies’ use of pre-paid cards as the default payment method at the Ronald Reagan Building. Fellow interns and I supported low wage workers as they voiced their anger against prepaid cards that are associated with high fees for ATM withdrawals, PIN transactions, balance confirmations, customer service, and inactivity.  Before participating in the strike, I had done initial research about prepaid cards. Directly hearing workers’ calls for fair wages and respect was an incredible and influential encounter. I witnessed low-wage workers explaining that pre-paid cards only drive them further into poverty. In the second strike, one woman explained how she was illegally paid less than the minimum wage and had to pay additional pre-paid card fees, but was expected to support herself and her children. While I realized that I must learn how to further advocate for their rights, I also felt proud of my work at the moment. The employees that I shared brief conversations with showed their appreciation for our support with warm smiles. Following the strikes, we released a press release praising New York’s Attorney General for launching an investigation into retail practices. We hope other states will follow and protect the rights of low-wage workers.


The unique experiences at NCL, such as meeting the former Surgeon General at the NCL’s Script Your Future Campaign event, combined with the short-term and long-term research work will help me to effectively advocate for consumers’ rights on campus. By utilizing the step-by-step process of organizing and promoting events and campaigns, I hope to organize campus events that will be engaging, inspiring, and informative. I will use the knowledge I have acquired at the NCL through research and first-hand experiences to effectively communicate with students, professors, and outside resources as I serve as the Undergraduate Departmental Representative for Politics, Legal Studies, and East Asian Studies this Fall semester. Before I head back to school, I look forward to learning and impacting more throughout the last few weeks with the NCL team.

Former Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin speaking at NCL's Script Your Future Event
Former Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin speaking at NCL’s Script Your Future Event

Week One as a National Consumers League Intern

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This summer, I am interning at the National Consumers League in Washington, D.C. as a Louis D. Brandeis Social Justice WOW Fellow. As America’s oldest consumer advocacy organization, NCL represents consumers and workers on issues including Internet fraud, child labor, and food safety. I discovered this internship through the Hiatt Career Center, and became immediately interested in NCL’s work in promoting international consumer protection and social justice. As a public policy intern, I primarily research public policies relating to consumer fraud. I will also be updating NCL’s websites, drafting content for NCL’s LifeSmarts competition, and helping coordinate meetings of the Alliance Against Fraud organization.

During the past week, I began my first extensive research project on senior fraud. By researching successful senior educational programs and individuals who have passionately argued for more online scam control, I learned about the numerous cases of financial scams specifically targeted at seniors. Although many cases are unreported, seniors are often victims of health care, insurance, telemarketing, Internet, and lottery scams. To gain more knowledge and different perspectives, I attended a roundtable discussion, where Google’s DC Public Policy Manager discussed the company’s interest in improving online safety and technology for older adults. Existing educational programs for online safety have benefited younger generations, but have yet to reach seniors who are more vulnerable to fraud.

U.S. House of Representative Marsha Blackburn
U.S. House of Representative Marsha Blackburn at
“All Eyes on Privacy: Transparency in the New Economy”

I also had the opportunity to attend All Eyes on Privacy: Transparency in the New Economy, an event hosted by Allstate, National Journal, and The Atlantic. Key speakers including U.S. House of Representative Marsha Blackburn and The Honorable Jon Leibowitz discussed their perspectives on the impact of technology and government collection of data on consumer privacy. While some panelists strictly argued that the collection of data was a violation of consumers right to privacy, others saw the government’s decision as a necessity for the protection of the country against potential threats and attacks. According to the Allstate and National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll, the biggest risk associated with data collection was identity theft, one of the biggest concerns associated with senior fraud.

In addition to my research on senior Internet fraud and privacy, I am also studying the impact of high airline cancellation and change fees on consumers. In 2008, airlines began charging consumers to check bags in response to high fuel costs. Since then, airlines started charging consumers with fees on food, drinks, priority boarding, seating arrangements, and extra leg room. Some airlines have even created policies that require overweight passengers to purchase an additional seat. Recently, major airlines have increased ticket change fees from $150 to $200. Airlines are profiting immensely from these fees while consumers continue to struggle to meet the already high airline prices. The government has carried out the three-hour flight delay law to protect consumers from long delays, but has yet to find solutions or alternatives to rising fees.

I am impressed by NCL’s over 100 years of advocacy and the positive changes NCL has made in many lives. This past week has been a truly new experience attending conferences and events. Fellow interns and I had a wonderful time helping out at NCL’s Child Labor Awareness Film Event, where we revealed some of the brutal conditions children are forced to work under. Many children sacrifice their education in order to support their families. I was once again reminded of my responsibility to make efforts to eliminate child labor internationally. I strongly believe that every child deserves an education, and I am proud to say that I am part of an organization that provides opportunities and protection for underprivileged children, seniors, and consumers. For the next upcoming months, I desire to use my international experiences and leadership skills to learn how to accentuate the rights of consumers and workers using public policies by performing detailed and through research and gaining first hand experiences at hearings and conferences.

Fellow interns and I (middle) at the
Child Labor Awareness Film Event