Repository opens many otherwise secret doors

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There’s a state of Idaho website called the Idaho Supreme Court Data Repository. It’s a handy little website. Have you ever heard somebody say “TMI” (too much information)? Well here it is — on the web for us all to peruse.

Is your roommate a convicted felon, or maybe only evicted from their last 14 residences? You can find out. From a consumer’s standpoint, you can check out the head of the company you are considering doing business with or even the handyman you might hire to do your gardening.

If you want a peek, go to www.idcourts.us/repository/start.do. Just for fun (?) check out your own name.

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TSA UPDATE: No update on Air Mule. Unfortunately, the representative of the Transportation and Security Administration did not return my call as promised. I will follow up on the follow up and will get some answers.

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SEC TO INVESTIGATE BITCOIN: It’s pucker time for all you “black helicopter” types who have been squirreling away your nuts from Uncle Sugar. Bitcoin was set up as an untraceable currency, specifically designed to avoid government oversight and tracking. When first announced, I posited that it wouldn’t be long before governments, all over the world, put the kibosh on this currency that could be used for various nefarious purposes, including evading taxes. Stay tuned and I’ll keep you updated on the direction and scope of the investigation. In the last three months, the price of the coins has gone from about $19K to $11K.

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IS PUBLIC (GOVERNMENT) INFO PUBLIC?: It is, but only insofar as the beaurcrats are willing to make it available to you. The Internet and a well-constructed website make a lot of information very available. The problem with getting the information lies in the construction of the website and how — or if — the information has been entered into the website.

LESSON HERE: Don’t be put off by uncaring bureaucrats or their fast-talking bosses. If you can’t seem to get the information you need, “go up the ladder” until you find someone who will help.

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SAVY SENIORS: I had the happy occasion to speak to a group of “seniors” at The Grove, a senior citizen residence here in Coeur d’Alene. There were about 20 people in attendance.

It would be a big mistake for a scammer to walk into that gathering — kinda like a cobra falling into a pit of mongooses.

These people were sharp and very well-educated on consumer protection laws. One gentleman purchased an electronic scooter that didn’t work. He, with the advice of the group’s members, sprang into action and put the charge “in contest,” immediately getting the full attention of the out-of-state retailer. The scooter is in the process of being returned for a full refund. The purchaser swears he’ll buy local next time.

What a great group. In the past, many seniors sat around, watched TV and crocheted. At least in this facility, they seemed to have formed an informal “consumer action and education committee.” Shades of the Grey Panthers from decades gone by!

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VOIP — WHAT THE HECK IS IT, AND WHY DO I CARE?: VOIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol. Here’s the quandary — VOIP can save you a lot of money or it can cost you a lot of money. If you use it to subscribe to one of the many services for phone service, offered to both consumers and businesses, it could save you money, if you shop carefully for a good service. They are not all the same.

If you are getting robo sales calls or scam calls, it’s probably from a VOIP-generated number. The way that works is the scammer or spam caller goes on the Internet and within about five minutes and for about $5 signs up for a number. They get to select the area code and number that will show up on your caller ID. In addition, they get to select the name that will be displayed, like “Internal Revenue Service.” They then go to their computer, sign into their new account, put on their voice and mike headset, and start calling innocent people like you and me, trying to hide their true identity to sell us junk and services we don’t need or worse yet, scamming us out of thousands of dollars.

VOIP is not a bad thing in and of itself, but can be used for bad purposes.

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HOW EARLY CAN I CALL?: I’m up with the chickens. Anytime after 4:30 a.m. I am open to calls anytime up to 10:30 p.m. — 7 days a week. If I’m for some reason not immediately available, I’ll let it go to voice mail and return your call later.

Here’s a very important point to remember: If you’re awake stewing about a problem at 2 a.m., use you imagination, wrap it in some newspaper, put it in a shoe box and put it on a closet shelf. It will still be there in the morning. At that point you can call me and we can do something about it.

In the meantime, you can get some good sleep. You’ll feel better in the morning, the problem will look smaller, and you can call me!

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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.billbrooksconsumeradvocate.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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