For a free copy of the newest edition of the Consumer's Re-source Hand-book, send your name and address to: Handbook, Pueblo, CO 81009.

All consumers need help from time to time. The handbook has an extensive consumer assistance directory listing private business and government offices where you can file a complaint, request information or ask for assistance.Do you need to contact the Arizona state consumer protection office? It's listed in the handbook. What about the Florida offices for aging and adult services? They're listed, too. Also included are contacts at car companies, airlines, department stores, manufacturers, Better Business Bureaus and federal agencies.

The rest of the handbook provides advice on becoming a wiser, better-informed consumer. Some of its suggestions:

- Guidelines for effective complaining, including a sample complaint letter. Launching into a tirade of threats and demands is easy, but generally doesn't work. Remain calm, whether you're complaining in person, on the phone or in writing. State when and where you made the purchase, describe the problem and explain how you'd like it resolved. If you have realistic expectations, and remain firm without blowing up, you'll find that most companies will do their best to see that you're satisfied.

- Tips for avoiding fraud. Anytime you get a letter or phone call congratulating you on your free trip to Hawaii or valuable cash prize, be wary. Often you're required to make a purchase or pay handling charges to be eligible. But if you have to buy something or pay anything, you really haven't won. Another warning: Never give out your bank account or credit card numbers to claim a prize for "identification purposes." If you're asked, it's almost certain you're being set up. When in doubt, hang up.

- Important advice on credit. Your credit record is reviewed whenever you apply for credit, basically to determine if you're a good risk. Make sure it's free from mistakes or inaccuracies by requesting a copy from your credit reporting agency. The names and numbers of the three major reporting agencies are listed in the credit section of the handbook. Reports are free for 60 days after you've been denied credit and for a nominal fee any other time. If you find errors, and if the credit agency investigates and agrees, your record will be amended. But this applies only to mistakes. The agency isn't required to remove accurate information for at least seven years. Don't be conned by companies promising to "fix" or "clean up" your credit record. It can't be done.

- Cautions on home improvement contracts. Home improvements often mean big money, so watch out for unscrupulous contractors. Decide in advance exactly what work needs to be done, then get estimates from several reputable contractors. Don't be swayed by price alone, though. You should ask for, and check out, references from each. Never hire contractors who approach you unsolicited, especially if they're offering "special deals" on leftover materials. Get everything in writing, including a timetable, types of material to be used, total price and schedule of payments.