Every year consumers lose money to scams. Simply put, scams are designed to separate
you from your money, while you receive nothing of value in return. Just because
scams are often directed toward senior citizens, don’t let down your guard.
They can and do happen to anyone. According to the Federal Trade Commission
(FTC), in 2002, American consumers lost $5 billion online alone to scams. $5 BILLION!
This is a battle for your hard earned dollars and Credit Advisors Foundation shares
5 basic rules of engagement in the battle for your bucks.
You’ve heard it before: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Scammers have used every imaginable way, (and some you’d never imagine) to
separate you and your money. Some may come to your door, others may call. They’ll
work through email, ‘businesses’, and may tell you there is unclaimed
property in your name. Scammers send fraud solicitations in the U.S. mail, replace
ATM’s keypads to access you account information, set up fake websites, advertise
fraudulent ‘scholarship’ programs, impersonate utility workers, as well
as, get you to dial 900, 500, or 700 numbers or make emergency calls to 809 and
other area codes (these are NOT United States area codes-these area codes connects
you to a number outside the U.S. with charges as high as $25 per minute, so check
it out before calling).
Just say ‘NO’. If it’s legit, you can change your mind later.
Refuse high-pressure sales calls, especially if you have not requested information
from or ever done business previously with the company. Many people mistakenly believe
that all businesses are legit, regulated or registered with the government. Think
again. Consumer protection agencies are usually only effective after the fact, when
a duped (too-trusting) consumer reports a scam or fraud.
Use caution: guard your personal information closely. Never give out your
personal information to an unknown caller or emailer. Remember, even if you have
done business with the company in the past, some scammers have been known to send
‘legitimate’ looking letters and emails, as well as, make professional
service calls to ‘update’ or confirm your personal information. Protect
yourself. Take the time to look up the telephone number and call the company back,
before giving out your information. Professionals making legitimate information
requests will understand your caution and applaud your efforts to maintain the security
of your personal information. Examples of information requested can include, but
is not limited to: social security number, credit card numbers, checking account
numbers, and email address. (See the CAF Defeat Debt newsletter, November 2003 story
, located on our website, on identity theft). Remember, you can ask why this
information is needed and request to review the company’s sales offer
in writing. (Please note: fortunately, the telephone company does not need us, ‘their
customers’ to assist them in repairing their lines. If a telephone company
representative contacts you and asks you to call a number to assist them in line
testing-hang up the phone and immediately contact your telephone provider.)
If you have to pay money to get the Big Bucks, take a pass. Be especially
cautious if you are notified you are a winner but you must pay money to claim your
prize (they may ask for your credit card number: see rule #3). Other versions of
this scam include paying money to receive your previously unclaimed property, or
paying to redeem a ‘free’ trip. There are, also, many scholarship scams
that fall into this category, such as, requiring advance fees, application fees,
redemption or disbursement fees that you must pay to receive the scholarships. These
Research, research, research: check with the BBB (Better Business Bureau), state
attorney general, FTC, local television and radio websites, even your local police
department website for scam updates. No one is immune. Recently, one of
our local consumer watch television reporters ran a report about himself. It seems
someone had been calling military bases across the U.S., using his name, trying
to gain information on troop deployment. Ignoring the national security implications,
such information could conceivably be used to begin working scams on family members
still at home. The FDIC was also recently listed in a scam email telling depositors
that unless they confirmed requested personal information they would relinquish
their rights to insurance on their deposits. Possible scam? You bet. The FDIC quickly
issued a statement in an effort to notify depositors of the scammer’s hijinks.
Always check out new companies or individuals with whom you are doing business.
The standard places to check (those listed above and others) can give you valuable
information, as can a search of the world wide web for ‘scams’.
Finally, your best defense against scammers is knowledge and caution; but if you
suspect you or a family member has been a victim or target of a scam, please report
it. Reports of scams can be made to the BBB, FTC, your state’s attorney general,
and your local police department. Also, consider reporting scams to local consumer
news reporters. Every report made could help someone avoid being scammed in the
Tax season is no fun...for anyone, but if you owe taxes Credit Advisors Foundation
can help! Our certified credit counselors can set you up on a program to make payments
to your outstanding balance each month. We’ll make arrangements with the IRS
on payment amounts and forward that payment to the IRS right along with your payments
to your other creditors. The IRS will work with people that owe taxes, however,
as expected, they have a stipulation. You’ll need to explain your reason for
owing back taxes. If you lost your job and lived off your 401(k) without paying
tax on that money, you probably owe quite a bit. What about being bumped into a
higher tax bracket when you and your spouse’s incomes are combined? You can
owe substantially in both of these situations, and the IRS will set up a payment
plan for both reasons, but there is one important difference.
This month the word search words are reminders of our article topics, reminding
you of taxes, and using caution against scammers.
With the “wearin’ of the Green” upon us, Program Director Michaela
Harper was encouraged to share her top secret corned beef and cabbage recipe - according
to the Defeat Debt editor it’s the best-ever! So, here you go,
“One or two day before you plan to serve, cover corned beef with water and
allow to soak overnight in the refrigerator to remove some of the salt (a.k.a.:
corn) from the beef. Drain and rinse. Place in a large pot and boil until completely
cooked. It will now be possibly the grossest piece of meat you have ever seen in
your life because all the fat will have swollen up and ...well, you get my drift.
Allow it to cool so that it can be handled without burning your fingers. Once cool,
remove as much fat as you can from in and around the brisket. You may end up with
a couple pieces of meat rather than one large piece once all the fat is removed,
depending on the marbling. Arrange your pieces in a shallow roasting pan, casserole,
13 by 9, etc. stud with whole cloves, and then make a paste out of brown sugar and
yellow (yes, Plochman’s is fine) mustard and cover the top. Cover with a lid,
foil, etc. and throw it in the oven at approximately 350 until heated through. Remember
to slice against the grain (whatever direction that happens to be) and hide some
in the kitchen for yourself before you let everyone else taste it.
Some will say that this doesn’t let your cabbage boil with the meat, but cabbage
is better from a microwave (the only reason the original Irish didn’t ’wave
their cabbage is microwaves hadn’t been invented yet.)
Note: when shopping to purchase your corned beef from the grocer just pick one-don’t
worry about the fat or salt (corn) as you’ll be removing that during your
Now if you’re really good, I might share a really excellent cabbage/onion/potato/bacon
casserole or even Little Nana’s Soda Bread recipe.” Editor’s note:
Wish me luck. I only have a month to try to get that casserole recipe for you. Michaela
says it’s sooo good that children fight over cleaning out the bottom of the