Tips, Links and Scams

Miscellaneous Tips and Links

Regardless of how well organized we think we are, there always seem to be things that won't fit into the categories we've defined. So, here's an eclectic collection of miscellaneous tips and links we think you'll find helpful.

Debit or Credit? – If you are using a debit card, the best answer is usually "credit." Either way, the money for your purchase will be deducted instantly from your checking account. But, by selecting "credit," you'll avoid transaction fees. More importantly, you'll gain legal protection. That is, should you have a dispute with a store about defective merchandise you purchased from them, you can file the dispute with your debit card issuer (just like you can with a credit card) and have them resolve the problem for you. On the other hand, if you made the purchase as a "debit," you must resolve the problem on your own. The downside – You can't get cash back when you use your debit card as a credit card.

Product Recalls – Finally, here's a one-stop Web site where you can get the latest information about recalls of consumer products, motor vehicles, boats, food, medicine, cosmetics and environmental products. It's accurate, up-to-date, and combines the resources of the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Coast Guard, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration.

Unwanted junk mail, annoying phone calls and emails – How can you get rid of them?

— Scams —

Update your billing information. You receive a courteous, official looking email from a well-respected company that asks you to update your billing information. The email even includes a convenient link for you to click. DON'T DO IT! Regardless of how well-known the company is, the email is a FAKE! If you do click on the link and enter your information on the page it takes you to, even if that page looks official, you've just allowed someone to steal your identity. Instead, if you suspect that your billing information does need to be updated, go directly to the company's Web site through your browser, NOT through your email program.

Variations on this theme. You receive an email from eBay or PayPal, or from a financial institution or stock broker. Their email says that they have noticed suspicious activity on your account, and to protect you from identity theft, they've suspended your account. To clear things up, you are told to click on the link they've included and resubmit your personal information to verify your account.

Once again, DO NOT click on any link in an email that involves your personal information. If you do need to update your account information, or if you just want to make sure that your information is up to date, go directly to the company's Web site using your browser, NOT your email program.

Scam emails look very real, and crooks are getting better at it every day. It is very difficult to identify fake emails, even if the email includes a link that begins with "https://." The "s" after "http" is supposed to mean that it connects to a site that's safe and secure, one that protects your private information. But, we've recently seen scam links that begin with "https://" and then redirect you to a crook's website without your knowing it.

You missed jury duty. Someone claiming to be a court official calls and says that you missed jury duty. Then, they offer to fix things up. All they need is your Social Security number and date of birth. Don't fall for it. It's another scam. Your Social Security number and date of birth are all that a crook needs to steal your identity and ruin your credit rating.

Bottom line – protect your personal information. NEVER give out your Social Security number, credit card numbers or other personal identification information to an unsolicited source. Remember, a legitimate company will never call you to ask for this information over the phone or through e-mail.