As scams go, this is one of the breast

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Katherine called me the other day from an outfit named the American Breast Cancer Support Association. She was soliciting donations. They were calling using a 208 area code. When I asked her where she was really calling from, she admitted she was in Texas. Maybe the Idaho and Texas attorneys general should talk to each other and at least investigate the people behind this cruel ruse.

This group is, in my opinion, a total scam that uses breast cancer as a tool to raise large sums of money from well-intentioned, caring consumers. I asked Kathy, “How much of the money raised goes to research and/or the victims of breast cancer?” Her answer was damning: “10 percent.”

You can hear my conversation with this scammer by clicking on the following link: https://bit.ly/2ont9YA

If you answer a call from a “live” charity solicitor, ask the key question — what percent of the money raised actually goes to the named charity? Often you’ll be shocked; usually the callers will quickly hang up.

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VERY DANGEROUS SCAM: While waking up and having a cup of coffee in bed last week, I stumbled upon a website that allowed me to apply for and receive a concealed carry permit. The entire application process took less than five minutes. The website leads the reader to believe the permit allows the bearer to carry a concealed handgun in all 50 states.

If you read ALL the fine print, it doesn’t exactly say that. What it does say is that by filling out the online form, answering the online “exam” and paying upward of $100, you can apply to the State of Virginia to obtain a Virginia Non-Resident Concealed Carry Permit. Once you qualify with the State of Virginia, some other states might allow you to carry a concealed handgun — or they might not. The laws regarding concealed carry are very murky and confusing and are in a constant state of flux.

The website is replete with images of civilians carrying guns in a concealed carry fashion together with a very official looking certificate and a police-looking badge. Trust me, if you are stopped by an officer of the law and flash your badge, certificate and gun while informing the officer that you have a concealed carry license, you’re very likely to be immediately arrested on a weapons charge.

This scam is dangerous in three ways: 1. To the community and those around you in that it requires NO training whatsoever. 2. By illegally carrying a concealed weapon, you risk being arrested for and being found guilty of a “weapons charge.” This could be very expensive for you and in many jurisdictions would preclude you from actually obtaining a legal concealed carry permit. 3. This is truly the least important; you’ll spend well over $100 for absolutely nothing but a worthless, bogus certificate and a cheap piece of tin.

If you want to carry a concealed weapon, research the laws in your state, get the best class and live fire training available and practice often — at least once each month. If you’re not going to do it correctly, don’t do it at all. Mistakes in this area will be costly and can be deadly.

• • •

AARP — GOOD WARNING: The AARP is warning consumers about the old “I’m From The Government and Have a Grant for You” scam.

Consumers are getting fake checks that look very real, so real that people are cashing them without verifying that they are valid checks and not forgeries.

The government does not award anyone or any group a grant unless you apply to a specific program by submitting a grant application. If you get a call informing you that a cash grant is waiting for you — hang up. If you receive a check in the mail, call the issuing bank. DON’T call the number listed on the check. If the check is bogus — the number will be a fake, too.

Get the number of the bank from the bank’s website or the back of a credit or debit card you own. If you can’t find any number — call me. Even if you don’t try to spend the money before the check clears, and it turns out to be a scam, you will be charged a returned-item fee when the check bounces. If you try to spend the money, you could be seriously overdrawn!

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DEFECTIVE BABY MONITORS: Researchers in England have determined that a popular baby monitor is defective and doesn’t monitor the vitals of infants accurately. Specifically a very popular brand, the Owlet Smart Sock 2, was found by the researchers to give a false reading.

What relevance does this information have for consumers in the good old USA? Well, that exact baby monitor is being sold on Amazon for about $199. If you’re a new parent with a baby you want to monitor, or a new grandparent shopping for a gift for your kids who have a new addition to the family, take my advice and don’t buy this one. It doesn’t actually do anything harmful — it just provides potentially false and misleading readings.

• • •

OLD CREDIT CARD DEBT: There is a scam going around where the crooks check records to determine if you have old debts of any kind. This is relatively easy to do if you know where to look.

The scammers call you and attempt to “collect” the debt. They offer you the option of using a credit card, a debit card or (you guessed it), gift cards!

Hang up immediately. The only way you should pay old debts is by first verifying that the debt is still on your credit report and hasn’t been listed as a “charge off.” If it has, don’t pay it in hopes of improving your credit report — it won’t. If it’s still listed as a current, valid debt, by all means pay it.

Also, even if it’s written off and you feel it’s the moral thing to pay it off, call the company that you originally owed the money to and offer to pay it, all at once or over time. Don’t be surprised if the company is a bit surprised and doesn’t initially know what department to refer your call. They don’t get many calls from honest people like you.

• • •

QUICK TIP: Before you get in line at for your TSA check at the airport, make sure your drivers’ license is not expired. (Thanks for this tip from a quick-thinking friend and reader.) If it is expired you can use any other photo, government issued ID, like a concealed carry permit or a passport.

• • •

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-BILL. You can follow me at www.billbrooks.us. I am available to speak about consumerism to schools, and civic groups. Bill Brooks is a consumer advocate who lives in Coeur d’Alene with his proofreader, Bobbi (who is also his wife).

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