Consumer Advice: Psst: That’s not Amazon with a $100 cash present

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There’s an email going around the internet like a rash. In big splashy “Amazon” colors and copied fonts it announces that you have won a $100 gift certificate because you are a “good and faithful” customer. All you need to do is take a short three-question survey.

Your first clue should be the first question, “Do you like to shop online?” I guess if you’re naïve enough to think that’s a legitimate question to a legitimate survey, you’re just the kind of dupe the scammers are looking for.

Don’t be duped. Delete the email spam and DON’T click on the link.

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FREEZING POP-UPS: Speaking of clicking on links, last weekend I traveled to Denver to visit my daughters, their significant others and my granddaughter, Adelaide. One of my daughters is a high-level executive with an international company that deals in finance. She was telling me how the security division of her company keeps its employees safe from computer scamming and phishing.

The company itself occasionally sends bogus emails that tempt unwary employees to double click a link. Should the employee fall for the ruse, that computer screen is immediately frozen and a message is flashed that they need to call the information technology (IT) department. When they call, they are verbally admonished for clicking on the bogus link and immediately signed up for a mandatory multi-hour course on cybersecurity and safety.

Too bad this doesn’t happen to all of us who are careless with our clicks.

LESSON: Don’t click because you’re curious. Remember — offers too good to be true are always a prelude to a scam. Keep your wits and your fingers to yourself!

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NEIGHBORLY APP: NextDoor is NOT a scam. As a matter of fact, it is a highly useful and informative application you can use on your smartphone or computer.

Initially, I was skeptical of this website and app. NextDoor is a private social network for you, your neighbors and your community. It’s the easiest way for you and your neighbors to talk online and make all of your lives better in the real world. And it’s free. Thousands of neighborhoods are already using NextDoor to build happier, safer places to call home. The neat thing is that this app is really local and works without exposing the user to scams and fraudsters.

This is not to say you shouldn’t be careful. Don’t broadcast your personal email. There are often reports of lost pets and suspicious people in specific neighborhoods. Try it — I think you’ll like it and find it useful.

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RECALL OF VALSARTAN (BP MED): The FDA has recalled blood pressure drugs containing valsartan due to an “impurity” found in a number of batches of the drug. The FDA is still reviewing the recalled products but in the meantime, three companies based in the U.S. have agreed to stop selling specific medications that contain the ingredient commonly used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure.

To be clear, not all products containing valsartan are being recalled, just the ones that were found to contain N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a probable human carcinogen. See: https://bit.ly/2oSix5B

For some patients, however, valsartan is a lifesaving drug, and giving up treatment is not an option. In these cases, the FDA has told patients to continue taking the drug until their health care provider is able to provide them with a substitute.

LESSON: If your blood pressure medication contains valsartan, check with your doctor. If you don’t know, be safe and be informed.

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RV SCAM BECOMES AN EPIDEMIC: In a recent column I wrote about a scam that involves a team attempting to convince people to sell their RV at a grossly reduced price because of water leakage problems. One of the two scammers distracts the seller, ideally getting them out of the RV, while the scammer who remains in the RV sprays water from a hidden spray bottle. Sometimes the water is colored so it looks like an old stain, not just fresh water.

Once the staining is done, the seller re-enters the RV and then the “leak” is pointed out to the owner. The scammers then try their best to low-ball the owner into selling the RV for a ridiculously low price. Since the publication of that segment in this column, I have received more than a half dozen calls reporting identical attempts to scam consumers in our area.

If anyone contacts you about selling your RV, keep your antenna up. If it’s a pair, be extremely careful and NEVER let them lure you outside the RV while one stays inside — NEVER. If they try this, regardless of the pretense, send them packing and CALL THE COPS!

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SPEEDS ‘UP TO’: We all want fast internet speeds. The marketing guys, in big splashy ads, electronic and print, promise speeds “up to” a gazillion bps. (Broadband speeds are measured in ‘megabits per second,’ often shortened to MbMbits p/s or Mbps. Bits are tiny units of data, with a megabit representing a million of them. The higher the number of Mbps (megabits per second) you have, the speedier your online activity should be.)

LESSON: Remember Bill’s famous saying — “The marketing guys write the text for the BIG letters in any add, the lawyers write all the tiny words at the bottom of the screen or the ad.” Before making a decision about internet connection, read the little print and find out what the slowest speed the company promises NOT to go below. That way you won’t be unpleasantly surprised (SHOCKED).

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TARGETING THE HANDICAPPED: There is a nasty group of high-pressure sales people going from door-to-door targeting the handicapped, forcing their way into homes to sell “security systems.” They walk neighborhoods looking for handicapped license plates or window placards. Once they spot one, they zero in on the home and knock on the door to start their spiel.

If anyone knocks on your door, make sure you know who is on the other side BEFORE opening it. If you choose to open the door and find yourself face-to-face with a peddler, ask to see their city-issued license. If they don’t have one, regardless of their excuse — SEND THEM PACKING. Close and LOCK the door. If they don’t leave immediately call 911 and report the situation, your name and address. Follow the instructions of the 911 operator. LET’S HAVE A SAFE SUMMER.

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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 brookshomes@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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