Bill Brooks: Don’t redial, lettuce worries and kudos

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NO REDIAL: When you get a call to your landline and the caller does not leave a message and you don’t recognize the Caller ID of the caller — DON’T push the “auto redial” number. When you do this, you make yourself a “gift” to spam callers and salespeople everywhere. This week, one consumer wrote me a long, involved, very precise email asking how spam callers got her number and why the same number keeps calling her back (usually she’s not home). The reason they keep calling her back is that they have and use Caller ID to determine when they have a “live one” on the line. Without realizing it, they are engaging the spam callers in a game of phone tag. MY ADVICE: Never return spam, or unknown calls — NEVER!

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A LITTLE MORE ON ROMAINE: It looks like the romaine lettuce crisis in North Idaho is over, that is for newly purchased romaine. Kudos to our local grocers and even the big box stores for jumping on this one, removing stock, disinfecting and, once safe product was available — restocking! I’m surprised at how many of my readers were on top of this one and moreover — how many are apparently healthy eaters, enjoying their salads! As usual, keep an eye out for problems in our food chain. Some of this stuff, especially E. coli can make you mighty sick, and even kill you. The latest, a nationwide flare-up of E. coli, has sickened 84 people in 19 states and hospitalized 42. Most of the victims grew ill after eating chopped romaine lettuce from a farm near Yuma, Ariz. Food safety experts say convenience greens — those handy bags of pre-chopped and pre-washed salads — carry an extra risk because they come in contact with more people and machinery before they arrive on your plate. Contamination can occur on the farm when birds make flights overhead, or low-lying fields flood with contaminated water. E. coli can also be spread by farm workers who don’t wash their hands, or via farm equipment that has manure on it. Ewww!

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COMPUTER GUY — BIG THANKS: It is my practice to expect good service and reasonable prices from ALL merchants and service providers. Hence, I don’t single out specific businesses or merchants for doing a good or even excellent job. This column is not a business rating service, nor a referral service. On the other hand, when a merchant or company truly and consistently goes “above and beyond,” I believe it is essential that their efforts be recognized. Dennis Edelbrock, the Computer Guy in Hayden, deserves such recognition. I began writing this column almost a year and a half ago, and from the beginning, Dennis has offered his services to our community. I receive many calls about computer popups, hijacking and other scams that show up on our computers. I’m NOT a computer expert. At times cellphones, computers and video streaming devices all seem like magic. It seems as soon as I get one figured out, it changes or is replaced by another. Bottom line — if you want good tech support — DON’T CALL ME! When I get frantic calls for help I refer them to the Computer Guy — Dennis. Usually, he can fix them over the phone, providing the caller with instructions like — “unplug your computer for 15 minutes”or “press control, F3 and return buttons.” Dennis can’t hang on the phone with you to carefully walk you through a detailed series of steps, but if it’s quick and easy, he’s the man to call. He usually does the quick and easy ones for free. For more complex problems, you can bring your computer to Dennis or alternatively, he’ll come out to your location and do his magic on the spot. Please remember, don’t take advantage of his willingness to help. Being the Computer Guy is his business. This is how he makes his way in the world. It’s important that we recognize and appreciate him, but don’t abuse his willingness to give some quick, on the phone help for free. He can be reached at 208-660-1617.

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KEEP A CALM MIND: Life seems to become more and more frenzied and chaotic. If you believe that’s true, read on for some good advice. As we all know, the mind is very powerful. In times of crisis it can be your best friend, or worst enemy. When you get any upsetting information, stop and THINK! The crisis mongering call scammers are the best example of crooks trying to get you upset and to stop thinking so that you will react, without using your “calm mind.” Grandson or daughter in jail, the authorities are coming to arrest you, the IRS is starting a criminal investigation. (I can feel my face flush just writing these emotion-stirring phrases). I can almost certainly guarantee you that if you get a letter or more likely a phone call relaying information like this, it’s a scam. One very sophisticated and educated lady spent the better part of a day, running around town buying enough cash gift cards to pay her alleged IRS debt so they wouldn’t come to arrest her. During this frantic race around town, a close friend of hers called. The consumer told her friend what was happening. The friend psychologically grabbed her and “shook” her back to reality. The momentary return to a “calm mind” allowed her to gain her composure and stopped the scam attempt in its’ tracks. REMEMBER: Take time to think. Call someone before taking action — a friend, a relative or even me. Never panic — stop, breathe, call someone.

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MYSTERY OF THE MYSTERY SHOPPER: The good old “mystery shopper scam” is back with a vengeance. Do you need a little extra money? How about working only when you feel like it? How about feeling like your opinion is important and valued? If you answered yes to these questions, you’re the perfect target of this scam. There are virtually no independent “mystery shoppers.” Large corporations from time to time, do test their own stores but they utilize their own, specially trained, and controlled employees. Don’t fall for this one. The scammers will have you buying hundreds or even thousands of dollars in merchandise and sending it to them for “quality control” purposes, with promises of reimbursement using next day delivered cashiers’ checks made out to you. By the way, you probably saw this part coming — the cashiers’ checks are counterfeit. If someone contacts you by email, phone or snail mail offering you the “opportunity to be a mystery shopper” — let it remain a mystery. You’ll be happier and less poor.

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QUICK HINT: Travel insurance, that is, insurance that that pays you in the event you can’t make the trip, or your trip is interrupted through no fault of your own, can be a good deal. If you buy travel insurance, read the policy VERY carefully, print it out and save it in a safe place. Often times, the sellers of this kind of insurance change the terms and conditions of the policy, after you bought it and before you use it. In addition, insurance policies like this are termed “named peril” policies. In other words, if it ain’t named — you ain’t covered!

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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 (#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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