Stubborn is a good ass-et for this mule

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A concerned grandmother called me this week asking if I’d heard of a company called Air Mule. Her adult grandchildren are about to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime backpacking trip to Europe and beyond.

It seems the travelers found a service that will pay them to carry someone else’s parcel with them, as theirs, on their airline flight. (The company MUST be legitimate: they have a website — https://www.airmule.com/).

Sorry. Any Tom, Dick or Harry, in a few minutes, can have a very impressive website (located in “Over-There-Astan”). Setting aside the marketing faux pas of calling your company a name that brings to mind drug mules, (those who transport illegal substances strapped to their body or secreted in various body orifices, across international boundaries), this is a stupendously bad idea.

To begin with, the rube, sorry, the traveler, has no idea what they’re actually carrying. A simple suitcase is rife with ways to conceal illegal substances and contraband. Terrorist explosives, drugs, stolen property, not to mention classified computer information, contained on microchips, secreted in the lining or wheel of a roller bag can all be considered highly illegal and subject the mule to harsh penalties, without benefit of U.S. law and our Bill of Rights. Forget the concept of “you get one call,” let alone “innocent until proven guilty.” How soon we forget the hapless U.S. Marine who took a simple wrong turn at the Mexican border and ended up in a Mexican jail for the better part of a year.

First thing I did was call the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) to check out this group. Two phone calls and a day and a half later, no return call. It’s obviously NOT a priority. It couldn’t be a matter of miscommunication, certainly not like the FBI and the recent school massacre. “See Something — Say Something” seems to be like the joke called “THE NO CALL LIST.” Oh well. I tried. I’ll call again until I get an answer.

By the way, remember the warning blaring over the PA system at every airport? “If someone you don’t know asks you to carry a parcel on your flight, don’t do it and immediately alert the TSA.” You could end up in a foreign prison or worse, blown to smithereens in the middle of the ocean. MY ADVICE: Don’t use this service until we find out more about it.

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SHARP SENIOR CITIZEN: This lady got a call from “Microsoft Technical Support.” They informed her that her Microsoft license was about to expire. She wasn’t convinced, and had a very difficult time understanding the caller’s thick accent. She expressed her skepticism. The caller gave her a number she could call to confirm the legitimacy of the call. Her response was perfect. She said, “Yeah, I bet the person who is going to ‘confirm’ the legitimacy of your call is probably sitting at a card table next to you.” The caller immediately hung up and did not call again. Good Job!

Interesting note: The call originated from Hanoi, Vietnam — hardly a hub of Microsoft technical support!

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PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS AND ENFORCEMENT: Recently, a real estate appraiser was forced to surrender his license because of the number of complaints the state of Idaho received concerning his bad behavior in our area. I received numerous complaints about this one individual.

Whether the state revoked his license, or he voluntarily surrendered it, is of little consequence. At least he’s not out there promising services that he’s not delivering.

Along with my readers, I like to take a little credit in getting this guy off the street. We did it again. On a similar note, if you’re having trouble with an attorney who takes your money and doesn’t do what he agrees to, or overbills you, give him or her one written warning by certified mail. If within five days of receipt of your letter you don’t get a satisfactory response, report him or her to the Idaho Bar Association. Make sure you demand a response IN WRITING. I think (KNOW) you’ll get a response.

The vast majority of attorneys are professional, honest and reputable, but there’s always the bad apple.

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COSTCO CITIBANK CREDIT CARDS: Watch out! If you get a statement for a Costco/Citibank credit card, especially if you don’t have one, call me. There’s a scam out there trying to stampede people into paying balances on these cards, threatening you if you don’t immediately pay the entire balance. If you get a call like this, DON’T call the number provided by the caller. Call me, and I’ll get you a real number for Citibank or Costco. DON’T BE STAMPEDED — DON’T SEND THESE THEIVES ANY MONEY!

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QUICK TIP: If you get a call about credit or money, don’t be afraid — call me, please. I don’t care what time it is. The bad guys will try to keep you awake all night worrying about things. MY ADVICE: Call me, get a good night’s sleep and we’ll deal with it tomorrow — together!

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WE WANT TO GIVE YOU MONEY: One of my readers reported that she had received a call from a pharmaceutical company warning her not to take a prescription that her doctor wrote for her a few years ago. They told her that in some “very limited” cases, this particular drug had been found to cause some “adverse” reactions with other prescriptions she was taking. So far so good. Here comes the kicker — the company wanted to send her $1,000 for her “trouble.” I immediately smelled a rat (probably a big fat white lab rat!).

I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that along with the check for $1,000 comes a multiple-page release, written by a bunch of lawyers limiting the company’s liability FOREVER, and for ANYHING. LESSON HERE: Take the letter to a competent attorney to see what rights you’re signing away, BEFORE signing the check and depositing it. Also, don’t spend ANY of it until your bank tells you it’s cleared. BE CAREFUL OUT THERE!

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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. (#GoGetEmBillBrooks) 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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