Entries Tagged as '! ALERTS !'

What is the RIAA up to?

The RIAA (Recording Industry of Association of America) is apparently backing off of the individual lawsuits they’ve been filing and working with major ISPs (read that as AT&T, Comcast, and Cox) supposedly with the help of New York’s Attorney General (hey, he failed in his war on Usenet child pornography, so we can only hope him as much success here) to implement new policies where by your ISP monitors your habits and slaps you on the wrist (or terminates your service).

The new “3 Strikes Plan” basically is a boom for the ISPs because even though they like to advertise “unlimited” internet service, they’d love to find ways to limit it and charge you for your use.

ISPs are looking at this as a way to test and implement system that cap your downloads, implement metered service, and just outright block you from doing things you might want to (and may in fact be perfectly legal).

My advice is start looking for an ISP that has gone on record as NOT supporting this type of activity and send a single to the “big boys” that you can choose who to spend your money with, and you will not accept limitations placed on your unlimited internet service.

Who’s a good choice — apparently Verizon has gone on record already as not supporting or participating in assisting the RIAA other than as required by law.

NOTE:  Remember, Comcast has basically told the FCC that they don’t have to disclose anything they don’t want to about their traffic shaping and filtering policies to customer, and they’ll file litigation against the FCC if they are fined.  So be warned, you may subscribe to Comcast’s 50MB service but you’ll only get what they want you to have!

Originally posted 2009-01-31 01:00:26.

Caveat emptor

Since 1817 consumers should have been aware of the need to be watchful when purchasing goods and services — never has that been more true than now.

From what I’ve been reading many food companies have been quietly changing the amounts in their containers without making any visible changes in their packaging except the labeling.

So, while that can of potato chips might look like it’s the same size as you got last month, it might not have as many in it — but the price has stayed the same (which means you’re getting less for your money).

It’s tough economic times, transportation costs are highly variable, and prices are going to vary widely from week to week and store to store…

Be an educated consumer and make it Caveat venditor… after all, it’s your money, you should keep as much of it as you can.

Originally posted 2008-11-11 08:00:15.

Check Cards

If you have a bank issued “check card” — that’s an ATM card that bears a VISA of Master Card logo merchants will always try and get you to authorize a PINned transaction, DON’T DO IT.

Why?

There are several reasons not to perform PINned transactions…

  • When you do a transaction with a PIN, you’re allowing the merchant to immediately remove money from your bank account.  They likely use a transaction network to do this, but there aren’t as many safe guards or controls on that network as their are a credit card authorization network.
  • When you do a transaction with a PIN, you’re not protected by VISA or Master Cards ZERO LIABILITY guarantee, you’re subject to the rules imposed by the merchant, processing network, bank, state, and federal laws.  If you’re defrauded you might find it’s a long and tedious process to get your money back, and you might find that your bank freezes assets in your account until the matter is resolved.
  • When you do a transaction with a PIN the money is immediately removed from your account (and sometimes immediate means instantly — but certainly within 24-hours, often even on non-banking days); however, when you go through the credit card processing system you’ll see at least an extra day, and generally those transactions are only posted on banking days.
  • When you do a transaction with a PIN your PIN could be intercepted (either electronically of through surveillance) and put you at risk of fraud (which may be hard to prove it’s fraud).

If your bank doesn’t offer VISA or Master Card logo’d check cards, change banks.

If you have access to a small local bank, or better yet, credit union open an account there (after making sure they have VISA or Master Card logo’d check cards and offer totally free services).

It’s your money, make the most of it… and protect it.  As the economy get’s worse and worse we’re going to see more and more “clever” schemes to try and take your hard earned money; start fighting back now.

And remember, if you are a victim, immediately contact your financial institution and any merchant you believe may be responsible via telephone and follow it up in a letter sent via the United States Postal Service (referring to the phone call) to preserve your rights.  You may also want to send an email (possibly using a DEA — disposable email address) as well; but you must send a letter via USPS!

Check cards are also called ATM Debit Cards or ATM Cards, the important thing is that you can use them as a credit card by signing the transaction form (they will have a VISA or Master Card logo).

It’s fine to use those cards at your bank’s ATM as long as you take reasonable precautions.

While using a check card through the VISA or Master Card network is preferable to a PINned transaction, if you can get a credit card, and can use it responsibly you’re even better off to use a real VISA or Master Card and simply pay the balance off every month (transfer the money from your checking account weekly if you need to, and track the expenses on your credit card as you would transactions from your checking account, your bank can probably provide you with online access to your credit card to help you — if they don’t find another credit card issuer).

NOTE:

I haven’t gotten confirmation yet, but it appears Lowes is responsible for leak of bank card numbers and PINs that are currently being used to defraud consumers.  If you have performed a PINned transaction at Lowes within the last several weeks call your bank and have your bank card terminated and re-issued with a different number (tell them you lost it).

Originally posted 2008-12-12 12:00:04.

Zeiss Lenses

Not lenses for your camera… lenses for your glasses!

Carl Zeiss Optical has been making high quality lenses for optical needs in glasses and sunglasses (I’ve always preferred to pay a little extra for Zeiss polarized lenses for my sun glasses) at While Mill Industiral Estate just outside Wexford, Ireland for over 30 years — on 30 September 2011 they announce the facility is closing and that production is being moved to China by years end.

While the quality of the production of Zeiss optics might be every bit as good after the move; I’m thinking I might just not want to waste the money buying a “name” that’s been put on a product that’s likely made in the same factory that something costing half as much does.

You’ll have to decide if you want to support Zeiss; but more and more it seems that brands I trusted for quality are just becoming labels that charge higher prices and offer nothing.

Originally posted 2011-10-03 02:00:25.

Report Fraud

Each and every time you encounter someone trying to defraud you make sure you report it.

Phishing scams, money scams, premium SMS message, suspicious phone calls, un-authorized phone charges, un-authorized credit card charges, etc — go ahead and visit the IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center; a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], the National White Collar Crime Center [NW3C], and the Bureau of Justice Assistance [BJA]) and file a report.

Take action and let the law enforcement community decide what’s a threat and what’s not – but DO NOT remain silent or these problems will continue.

http://www.ic3.gov/

 

NOTE:  If you have an un-authorized charge on any of your bills you will also want to contact your billing company and dispute the charge with them; the IC3 will not do this for you.

Originally posted 2008-10-24 13:00:38.

Amazon Prices

Generally I’m very happy with shopping on Amazon (though I tend to avoid merchants in the Amazon Market Place), however…

Last month I was looking at some garden implements, and I found a Corona Clipper Model RK62061; well built, good reviews but Amazon was charging $27.63 for the item (free shipping) and indicating that the manufacturer’s suggested retail price was $29.99.

Well, I went over to Corona Clipper’s web site to check out additional information on the RK62061, and found that they had an online store — so I clicked on the RK62061 (it was a little bit of work to find the exact item, they have a rather extensive catalog)… but when I did, I found that the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (and the price that Corona Clipper would charge from their own store) was $16.40.

I was more than a little disturbed that Amazon was indicating that the manufacturer’s suggested retail price was nearly twice what it was in fact being listed for on the manufacturer’s web site (pretty clear who I’m going to believe on this).

I then checked out the shipping rates on Corona Clipper — $5.95; so even after shipping Corona Clipper was nearly 30% less than Amazon.

I pointed out to Amazon that there was an obvious error in their listing — that the manufacturer’s suggested retail price was almost half what they indicated.

They sent back a lame response about a DVD and not having any price match policy (obviously sent by a poorly done automated system)… obviously from a company that has questionable ethics and questionable customer service.

My advice — when Amazon benefits you, but from them — but ALWAYS double check the information they provide…

Obviously the State of Washington has rather different laws regarding fraudulent advertising or perhaps it’s just that Jeffrey Preston Bezos feels his company is above the law.

Originally posted 2010-04-09 02:00:53.

Connect for the Cause

I’m a huge fan of credit unions; be they state or federal chartered; and I hate banks (all banks).  There’s a huge difference between what motivates a credit union and what motivates a bank, and dealing with even a bad credit union is generally much more satisfying than dealing with the best bank!

Personally I use credit unions when I can; and soak banks for their “give mes” on credit cards… I never pay a bank a penny further if they don’t pay me — I don’t make money for them, and my credit unions never charge me a penny (seems like a good arrangement to me) .

The quote below is from a web site that’s designed to keep you informed about legislation that might effect the services credit unions can provide to you; below it are two links to (California) organizations that support credit unions — while all of whats on those sites might not be important to you, certainly any of the federal changes proposed will likely effect you.

Support your credit unions in every way you can — and fight back against the greedy banks that feel you as a tax-payer (and a customer) should pay for their mistakes while they continue to pay the executive staff (who made the mistakes) huge bonuses.

Take back America… take it back from the greed that destroys the very foundation of our society!

 


As a credit union supporter, you are aware of the need for grassroots action and mobilization efforts to inform our elected officials about credit union issues. Thank you for your active support, and please visit this network frequently to stay informed about legislative issues that are important to your credit union.

Connect for the Cause

California Credit Union League

Originally posted 2009-11-28 01:00:29.

The new SPAM medium…

It looks like Facebook and Twitter and the like are the new medium of choice for unethical companies to send SPAM via…

This morning I received a message from SurfCanister via both Facebook and Twitter (I don’t have an account on either of those, and both were sent to the same [free] email address).

I don’t do business with companies that send SPAM or any sort — and it appears that neither Facebook or Twitter have created sufficient safeguards to protect the public from companies with low ethics.

Here’s a good policy for both of them:

1) A single complaint of SPAM, suspend the offender’s account for 30-days.

2) Two or more complaints of SPAM, permanently close the offender’s account.

That should put a quick end to using social media for SPAM… though it seem to me that the social media companies are not very ethical themselves, and they seem to want to encourage this type messaging.

Someone might want to point out that California has an anti-SPAM law, and both Facebook and Twitter are headquarted in California.

Originally posted 2012-06-08 09:00:56.

Perpetrating a Public Fraud

On my birthday I sent off my US Passport renewal application via US Priority Mail® because I wanted to insure that my old passport wasn’t lost, and of course the National Passport Center only has a Post Office box.

You can view the tracking information on the link below.

I called the US Postal Service about this (I actually had to make three separate calls, but it’s the post office so I didn’t expect stellar customer service).  The bottom line is they told me that even though this item was mishandled by the post office, and that the delay was not the result of anything beyond their control I was not entitled to a refund.

Read what the post office has on their web site about priority mail… “about 2 days” — 2 weeks (and one day) is no where near 2 days…

Like most “big businesses” in this country, the US Postal Service believes they are above the law and simply do not have to be truthful or honest in their business and advertising practices.

My advice, pay a little more and use a reliable carrier and simply avoid the US Postal Service — it’s no wonder that they’re having a difficult time making ends meet, maybe if they actually cared about consumers.

Personally I’m looking forward to the day the US Postal Service fails and I stop receiving “Junk Mail”.

Priority Mail®

With delivery in about 2 days and affordable prices, Priority Mail service is a great choice for shipping packages and envelopes. It includes Free Package Pickup* at your door. Plus, when you ship online you’ll get special savings and free Delivery Confirmation™.

You can view the tracking information here:

Show tracking information for 9405503699300472497222.

Or you can view it online at USPS.Com (you can confirm I haven’t edited the information):

Originally posted 2012-05-04 02:00:34.

Hybrid Vehicles

There’s been a great deal of “buzz” over hybrid vehicles being green… but for a very long time I’ve had some serious questions about just how green they are.

Yes, there’s no question that their carbon emissions are substantially lower than gasoline powered vehicles (but remember, hybrids do use gasoline).

Yes, hybrids are a significant step forward (though the modifications to hybrids that allow them to be recharged and ran totally from electricity certainly makes them far more green; and really shouldn’t cost any more in a production model).

But the reality is green isn’t just about the emission in the every day use of the vehicle — green also has to do with the environmental impact of the production of the batteries and their disposal.

Most hybrids use lead acid, a few newer ones use Lithium Ion / Lithium Polymer… neither of which is exactly eco-friendly (I’d prefer them not to be buried in my back yard, or any where near where my water comes from).

Lead acid batteries have a limit life; how long they last depends on a number of variables, and some of the materials can be recycled and reused – but you need to make sure that your community has setup to deal with those issues before you buy your hybrid.  My reading indicates that only California has implement stringent rules for the warranty and handling of lead acid batteries in hybrid (hopefully more states will follow suit).

Lithium cells appear to be a great solution.  They’re small and dense; but the downside is they have a three year life span from the time they were manufactured.  And Lithium is an extremely dangerous substance to release into the environment.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy a hybrid; they are good choices for many drivers (particularly commuters who can’t use all electric), but consider the impact of the improperly disposed of batteries, and even the properly disposed of batteries resulting from normal wear and tear as well as accidents.

Green isn’t something you should try and see under a microscope — it’s an end-to-end game.

Originally posted 2010-01-17 01:00:52.