I’ve had more than 40 calls this week from consumers who have received calls — some robo calls and some in person — from individuals claiming to be from various agencies of the federal government. These people are attempting to scare the daylights out of you, causing you to panic and allowing them to get money from you in any form they can.
First of all — agencies with the power to arrest you NEVER call you first. As a friend of mine in law enforcement said, “If we warned people, they would take off and our arrest record would quickly end up in the toilet.” He went on to say, “We never call. Actually we like to show up at 2 or 3 a.m. — when people are least expecting us.”
LESSON: If someone calls to arrest you — THEY ARE CROOKS AND SCAMMERS!
Second of all: No local, state or federal agency will ask you to go out and buy gift cards, Google Cash cards or iTunes cards — NEVER! Say it again — THEY ARE CROOKS AND SCAMMERS!
If you’re still not sure — call me at my new number — 699-BILL (699-2455). I’ll get right back to you.
KEEP NOTES, NAMES AND DATES: It’s difficult to help consumers when they call and want assistance if they don’t have this information. When I ask whom they talked with and the consumer says “some guy at the ABC Company,” I am almost at a loss with my efforts to help them.
To help me help you, please keep a short record of the name and position of the person you spoke with, the date of the conversation, and approximately what was said. That way I can make a quick call and usually get you some help.
Just for your information and edification, a contemporaneous (written as it happens) record of your contact with a company can be very useful in settling disputes, especially if you end up in court. Generally speaking, judges and small claims court magistrates give a lot of credibility to contemporaneous notes. REMEMBER: If it’s important — write it down!
BUY LOCAL: I believe in supporting local businesses and a strong local economy in the Inland Empire. Local merchants provide us with many, many benefits. Among these benefits are a multitude of competitive goods and services, jobs for our neighbors, friends and family members, local owners you can talk with about your buying experience, good or bad.
In the last column, I wrote about a purchase I made from Amazon. I do buy from Amazon, but usually only when I can’t find the specific product locally at a competitive price. Notice I didn’t say “lowest” price. As we all know, the lowest price is not always the best price — for our community and for ourselves.
Buying locally places a responsibility on our local merchants to provide good products at competitive prices. When used ethically, the internet can be very beneficial. One can easily compare products and services. Consumers shouldn’t complain or chastise others who choose to shop online. It’s an individual choice.
When possible — I choose local. Please consider doing the same. (P.S. I still have a set of Zebra striped sheets I bought online for sale — CHEAP!)
DO IT BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE: A distraught husband called me last week seeking my aid in getting some financial help in caring for his ailing wife. I was quickly told, by those in authority, that the husband and wife had too many assets to be eligible for any financial assistance. Even if he made the appropriate and immediate legal dispositions of their property (mostly real estate), he would have to wait at least two years before he would be eligible to even apply for financial help.
As we all know, or should know, long-term, skilled nursing coverage in a residential facility can cost between $4K and $10K per month! Two years at those rates, waiting to apply for coverage would bankrupt or significantly reduce whatever money the non-ailing spouse might have.
LESSON: Everyone should contact an attorney who practices “elder law” and get competent counseling regarding their estate structure. Talk to your family attorney about this. If you don’t have an attorney or for some reason can’t find an attorney specializing in elder law, call me and I’ll give you some names to start with. Believe me, someday you’ll be glad you did and very sorry if you don’t.
INSURANCE FOR MY BABY: It turns out that you can purchase (at a reasonable price) insurance to compensate you for what you think your vehicle is worth. Talk to your insurance agent and ask what it would cost to insure your classic 1958 Edsel Corsair (low mileage of course) for what YOU think it’s worth. You may be pleasantly surprised. P.S. Like all insurance, do this before some driver born in the 21st century backs into you in the parking lot.
WHAT’S “R&R”: R & R means remove and replace. Swarms of door-to-door salespeople are knocking on hundreds of doors, every day, offering to give you unbelievable deals on satellite TV services. The monthly prices are unbelievably low because they are not true.
Unless you have ALL the terms and conditions on a WRITTEN contract — just say “no,” or at least “wait” until you can think about it overnight and check it out. Again, when in doubt, wait. Also, if they take away your existing equipment, you will never see it again and the company that provided you your original equipment will probably charge you for it and it’s expensive!
HOUSEKEEPING: Just a reminder — call anytime. I may not always be able to answer, but when I can, I will. If you need a call back, tell me in your message. If you need a call back right now, say so. If I can call right then I will — promise. If I call you back, I will leave a message, but only once. The reason is that if I continue to leave message after message for the same person regarding the same problem, it cuts down the number of people I can help. By following these simple guidelines it helps me to help you.
REMEMBER BILL BROOKS: “He’s On Your Side”
I have many more tips and interesting cases that I’m working on. Call me at 208-699-2455 (699-BILL), or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow me at www.billbrooks.us. 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.