Under pressure, gross meals might emerge

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One of the latest culinary fades is the use of pressure cookers. Fifty years ago, pressure cookers were replaced by microwave ovens. Now the circle is complete: The marrying of pressure cooking and computers has given rise to the electric, computerized pressure cooker, complete with touch screen controls and pre-programmed settings.

I’m a sucker for gadgets and a double sucker for new, computerized kitchen gadgets. A couple of nights ago we fixed the most perfect corned beef and cabbage in a fraction of the time it takes using the traditional stovetop or oven method. It was amazing and done in a jiffy.

A couple of days later, I cooked a batch of steel-cut Scottish oats. This process usually takes a lot of time — soaking and careful simmering for at least an hour. Imagine my surprise in finding a “porridge” button on the front of my new pressure cooker. Drop the recommended measure of oats and water in (with a little pinch of cinnamon), push the button, five minutes after the steam fills the chamber, release the steam and voila! — perfectly cooked steel-cut oats.

The problem is, there’s often the proverbial “fly in the ointment.” In this case, it was maggots in the oatmeal.

There are numerous reports of consumers finding colonies of maggots hiding in their new pressure cookers. The genesis of the problem seems to be the “yogurt” setting and the condensation catch cup of the new pressure cookers.

All cookware must be scrupulously cleaned and dried after every use. In the case of pressure cookers, this includes the gasket, which ensures a tight seal, and any device designed to catch condensation.

LESSON: AFTER YOU USE IT — CLEAN IT. “Set it and forget it” may sell products, but add a thorough cleaning to keep your health and your food down! ICK!

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REVERSE MORTGAGE DANGER: Last week a senior called me with a major problem. Some time ago, she saw an ad on TV featuring a well-known, handsome, aging actor extolling the virtues of reverse mortgages. She called the number on the screen, and as quickly as she could, signed up for a reverse mortgage. Unfortunately, she didn’t read the entire contract, and certainly didn’t read the fine print or understand the legalese or her obligations under the contract.

Because she did not comply with her obligations, she has now lost her home. Upon checking with an attorney, it looks like she has no recourse. A very expensive and tragic tale. LESSON: Before you enter into a reverse mortgage agreement, go see an attorney who specializes in real estate law, and if possible an attorney trained in the area of “elder law.” A couple of hundred bucks may very well save you or yours hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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LITTLE BLUE PILL SCAM: The ads for “little blue pills” are ubiquitous. Most of these advertised offers are scams of one sort or another. A little blue pill could very well be nothing but sugar, at best a placebo, or it could be something much worse. Many of these products are manufactured outside the U.S., and are not vetted for effectiveness or safety. Buying this cheap replacement for Viagra usually involves providing your personal information, including credit card information and/or bank account information.

Before you know it, you’ll be receiving a month’s supply, month after month, fulfilling your “standing” order, on an automatic basis — even if you never authorized an ongoing monthly order. (My own non-medical advice: If you’re having sex 30 times a month, you don’t need anything but a sedative.)

Consumers who get taken advantage of by falling victim to the “little blue pill” scam are very unlikely to complain to anyone about the situation. MY ADVICE: Don’t buy this stuff and you won’t get STIFFED!

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FALSE DEBTS: This past week I have had scores of alarmed consumers reporting that they have received mail claiming they owe small debts to well-known retail companies. The mailer is a third-party firm, allegedly hired by the major retailer to collect small debts. The stated threat is that if you don’t send a payment to the writer of the letter, or call the number provided, your outstanding indebtedness will be reported to the three credit bureaus and will negatively affect your credit score.

Once you call the telephone number provided, you will be asked for your credit card information, including expiration date and security code. Once you hand over that information, the scammers will “take care” of you. Don’t do it unless you want to see an all-expense trip to Aruba show up on your next credit card billing statement. THROW THE LETTER IN THE TRASH!

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TECH SUPPORT FALSE CALLER ID: Not only are the scammers using false telephone numbers to fool consumers into thinking calls are coming in from a local number, the scammers are making the number look like the technical support department of various computer companies.

For example, first, you get an email that looks like it’s from Microsoft. The email asks for your telephone number. Once you provide it by email, a call comes in to your phone identified as “Microsoft Tech Support.” The caller offers to solve the problem with your computer or eliminate your computer virus or reauthorize your expiring account. Once you provide your credit card information — you guessed it — off to Aruba again! DON’T GIVE OUT CREDIT CARD INFORMATION over the phone!

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QUICK TIP: If you’ve had the unfortunate experience of falling victim to a scam, the worst thing you can do is beat yourself up and worry about it. Call me; we’ll talk about it. Experiences like this are painful and sometimes expensive. Sometimes we can find a solution, sometimes not. In any event, consider it a lesson. Don’t let worry and regret ruin your life and your sleep. If you do, the Bad Guys win twice.

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REMEMBER BILL BROOKS: “He’s On Your Side”

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I have many more tips and interesting cases that I’m working on. Call me at 208-699-0506, or email me at BillBrooksAdvocate@gmail.com or fax me at 866-362-9266. (#GOGETEMBILL BROOKS) You can follow me at www.billbrooksconsumer

advocate.com. I am available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups. Bill Brooks is a consumer advocate and the broker and owner of Bill Brooks Real Estate in Coeur d’Alene.

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