Consumer advice: How to save money while watching TV

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Is there a good alternative to cable?

That depends on what you like to watch and how much money you would like to save.

Your cable bill runs anywhere from the basic $22 per month for TV service, but if you add premium channels the cost quickly escalates from there. It can easily reach $60-$80 per month, as most of us know.

So is there an alternative to cable? Yes, and the secret is to obtain a digital TV antenna.

These antennas have come a long way since the old aerial ones that once stood prominently atop many roofs in suburbia. Don’t bother digging one of these old relics out of the garage because they were rendered obsolete when broadcast TV went digital back in 2009.

Prices of digital TV antennas vary, with the cheapest models being about $20, but these are best suited for locations that receive good signals. For about $30, you can get a long-range (about 80 mile) digital antenna, which helps pull in weak signals and is a promising option considering our distance from Spokane.

Once connected, you can watch all the local TV stations, which brings back your network television at zero cost after you buy the antenna. Furthermore, each channel has various sub-channels that also offer free programming.

If you find you just can’t live without your HBO (or other cable channels), options are available to deliver those services via mobile apps. For example, a subscription to HBO is around $15 a month. Even with that monthly fee, you’ll be ahead financially by going digital.

With fees continuing to rise, it’s good to know that an inexpensive option is available. Digital TV antennas can be purchased online or from a local electronics store. From what I’ve been told, installation is easy enough to do yourself.

Bottom line: If you decide to “cut the cable,” you should retain your internet service and just discontinue TV. You’ll see an immediate reduction in your cable bill and still be able to watch local TV and your favorite premium channels, but at a hefty discount. If you need a recommendation on which antenna to get for your location, check out: http://www.gomohu.com

You will need to supply your address.

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TAX SCAMS IN SEASON: IRS scammers have kicked it into high gear this tax season and are on the prowl to steal your identity and money. Watch out for the tax refund fraud scam. This is when crooks steal people’s Social Security numbers and then file a false return, typically claiming a low income and high deductions to get the highest tax refund.

They file electronically so when you go to file your legitimate return, it gets rejected by the IRS because your tax return was already filed. It eventually gets straightened out but as you can imagine, it takes time (usually over a year) and is a frustrating process.

As a way to protect yourself, you can get an Identity Protection PIN from the IRS before you file your taxes. The IP PIN is a six-digit number that must be used on a tax return along with your Social Security number, which helps verify the identity of the taxpayer. There is a catch: Once you opt into the program you can’t opt out. A new PIN is issued each year and mailed to you.

For more information on the program, check out: https://bit.ly/2eSrXLK

Here’s the new twist for this year: The IRS has reported a W-2 email phishing operation where the scammers impersonate the CEO and ask the payroll clerk or human resources rep to send them sensitive W-2 information. Several major companies have been tricked into turning over copies of W-2 forms for all employees. The criminals then use this information to file bogus tax returns or they sell the breached data online to other criminals.

If you’re a payroll clerk or work in human resources, verify any requests prior to sending out sensitive information.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. Please include your name and a phone number or email. I’m available to speak about consumerism to schools, local and civic groups. I’m a copywriter, columnist and consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.

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