If you feel a ‘draft,’ time to take shelter

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There’s a new scam on a big upsurge in our area. It’s called the “bank draft” scam.

In many circles, especially overseas, bank drafts have replaced cashier’s checks. The reason is because cashier’s checks, for the past few years, have become the tool of thieves and scammers. “I’ll send you a cashier’s check by overnight delivery” has become tantamount to “the check is in the mail” and other such notorious often used lies.

Bank drafts, on the other hand, are relatively new to Americans. A real bank draft is often used to transmit large sums of money from one financial institution to another, or to a company and in some cases, to an individual.

How It Works: The target (you) of the scam gets an offer in the mail or a phone call or email telling them that they’ve won a prize. If you take the bait, at some point you will be called by or be instructed to call the scammer. They will ask if you have a checking account in which to deposit your winnings. If you answer yes, the scam starts, and the crooked operation’s wheels are put in motion.

Once they know you have a checking account, you will then be asked to provide the numbers at the bottom of your check. When you ask why they need this information, they will tell you that’s how they verify where to send your money. The scammers also point out that they need a legitimate account to deposit your winnings. As soon as you hang up, the thieves use the information you provided to make a bank draft, also called a demand draft.

It’s easy for scam artists to create a document that looks like a real check, complete with your name, address, phone number, account number and routing number. Using modern technology like computers, high-definition printers and software, a Demand Draft is created. Demand drafts DON’T require your signature. When your bank receives this draft, it immediately takes the money from your checking account and puts it in the criminal’s bank account. You won’t know what happened until you get your bank statement, or until you check your account online.

MY ADVICE: As soon as you see or hear the words “bank draft,” run for the hills, hang up or tear up the letter, and throw it in the woodstove or the shredder.

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BLOOMING BUGS AND BEASTIES: To be exact, spring starts the 20th day of March. Not quite The Ides of March (March 15), but close enough to warn you to beware. Here are some general warnings that you NEED to HEED:

Consumers have been asking for recommendations for pest control companies and exterminators. Unfortunately, I don’t have any at this time. Lately, I have noticed a lot of little creepy crawlies coming out IN my house; an ant here, a spider there. I don’t know if it’s the recent warm spell we experienced or the increased minutes of daylight that triggers their little minds. In any event, if you’re like me, I want them gone.

In Idaho there are certain rules and certifications required of individuals and companies that offer pest control services. Since moving here in 1999, I have used a number of pest control companies, and honestly haven’t been very happy with any of them. The problem as I see it is that the application of the pesticide, usually in spray form, is done by an individual whose skill is key to how well the pesticide will kill the little beasties. Also VERY important is to know what the exterminator is using in advance so you can look up the specific pesticide.

According to the Idaho Department of Agriculture, the arm of government that licenses exterminators, each legitimate exterminator MUST have a license with them and MUST show it to you upon request. You can go online and check out anyone or any company offering pest control services by logging on to:

www.isda.idaho.gov/ApplicatorLicensing/Applicator/LookupApplicator

With all the chemical links between various illnesses and cancers, I think it’s only smart to do your research on this one.

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QUICK TIP: Zip Cash, if not a scam, is a badly run company. They have a bad reputation and bad reviews online. If you get a mailer from them, my recommendation is throw it in the trash.

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CAPITAL ONE REFUND SCAM: If you get an email or call from someone purporting to represent Capital One credit card company, offering you a refund, beware, especially if you’re not due a refund. It’s another scam. The key here is they “need” all your info, credit card number, expiration date, and security code to process your refund.

These scammers use consumers’ desire to get something for nothing to fleece them. Heed the Greed — don’t fall for this one.

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FEAR THE GEEKS: A breaking story alleges that a national retailer’s tech support arm has been actively working with the FBI for at least a decade, to peek at consumers’ computers. It is alleged that the FBI has paid this retailers’ techies to snoop into consumers’ computers for “suspicious content.” I will really dig deep into this one and report more findings as they become available. Unfortunately, even if isolated instances of this alleged clandestine cooperation with FBI snooping is further uncovered, it will push the “tin foil hat” extreme left and right wing conspiracy theorists into their respective, extreme, and paranoid states of panic.

MY ADVICE: Don’t freak out over this. Let’s wait and see what actually has been going on. Sounds like “monkey business” to me. In the meantime, I won’t be calling them to come and “help” me with my computer.

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COLORLESS, ORDERLESS, TASTELESS — DEADLY: Sadly, carbon monoxide poisoning recently caused the death of a well known, well-liked member of our community. It could have been any of us.

Being a good consumer doesn’t just mean exposing the scammers. In reality, it has a deeper meaning, taking care of ourselves, our families, loved ones and our neighbors.

Read up on carbon monoxide safety. If you have elderly friends and neighbors, offer to check their CO detectors. If they don’t have at least one, encourage them to buy one — immediately. If they can’t afford one — buy them one. It very well might save a life or two.

VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure you have a well-qualified heating and air conditioning company check the operation of your furnace at least once a year. Here is a good starter link for carbon monoxide safety: https://youtu.be/unKWGA6PpqE

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NOTE TO READERS: There was so much to write to you about today that my column has run a little long. I will catch up by covering some very important subjects in Monday’s column. Don’t miss it.

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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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