Consumer advice: Extended vehicle warranties might (or might not) be OK

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If you’re considering a new vehicle purchase or made a recent purchase, here’s advice on extended warranties.

Be forewarned that the dealer will push you to purchase an extended warranty at the time of vehicle purchase, but many manufacturers allow you to defer purchasing a warranty until the basic warranty coverage period ends. Toyota, for example, offers a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty which is how long you would have to make a decision. The one advantage of buying the warranty when purchasing the vehicle is it would allow you to roll the price into the vehicle loan. But by waiting you also have a long time to figure out if your vehicle is trouble prone.

You may be able to find a better price on an extended warranty by buying it from another dealer; there’s no requirement to buy from the dealership where the car was purchased. Just pick up the phone and make some calls, or go online and find out where others with your car are buying theirs. However, stay with an extended warranty from your vehicle’s manufacturer instead of a third party offering because those companies are prone to going out of business.

Whether an extended warranty is worth it is a very individual decision, but with vehicles having so many electronic safety features they may be worth consideration. Also be aware that if you are being offered a five-year/60,000-mile extended warranty, you need to realize that the start date of the extended warranty coverage is the original in-service date of the vehicle. So in our example, since you have a basic three-year warranty when you originally purchased the vehicle and since the extended warranty runs concurrent with the original vehicle warranty, you are really only purchasing a two-year warranty.

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PAYPAL SCAM: Crooks are getting better at deploying tactics that spur victims into immediate action. What better way to do this than to say that until we resolve an issue, your account will be suspended, limited, or terminated?

A Coeur d’Alene consumer recently received an email from PayPal informing him that his “account has been limited until we hear from you.” The message informed him that his credit card had been deleted from his account and that he must follow the link in the email to restore it.

Adding to the apparent legitimacy of the email, it stated that if you notice any unusual activity on your account, to contact them immediately by clicking the link below. Now isn’t that convenient — and tempting?

PayPal has been targeted by scammers in the past because companies that conduct their business primarily through the internet are particularly susceptible to phishing scams like this one. Shysters copy the official company logo and create a website that looks very much like the real thing, to get you to put in your credit card information so they can steal it. In addition, crooks by their very nature are adaptive — because they understand that once a particular message stops working, they must come up with a new angle.

Back to our example: Upon closer inspection of this email, there were no glaring grammatical errors and it was written like an English-speaking native. The tone was friendly and helpful and with links included to the help center. There was one slight problem, though — it was from service192757@poypall.com rather than @paypal.com. But if you’re in a hurry, that might be easily overlooked, which is what the crook is counting on.

Bottom line: If you receive a message from PayPal, never click on any links in the body of the email. Instead go to your account through the PayPal website directly to see if there are any problems. As for the email you received, hit the delete button.

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DON’T BE ‘SEXTORTED’: This message claims your email was hacked months ago and now the hacker has created screenshots of you while you were watching porn sites or other insidious activities and they have also installed malware on your computer to gather your contact data.

The crook then threatens to send these compromising screenshots to all of your contacts unless you pay $800 within (usually) 48 hours. If you pay, they will delete the photos and malware. If you don’t, they claim they will lock up your computer. As verification to his claim, the scammer sends you proof in the form of a password that is associated with your email address.

This happened to a Post Falls reader. She received one of these emails. The password was correct but it was an old password she had changed months ago. As for the incriminating screenshots, they were a bunch of hooey. She wasn’t fooled so no money changed hands.

But since scammers send out thousands of these emails a day, you can bet that at least a few recipients will pay the fee demanded. One likely way scammers are gathering “correct” passwords associated with email accounts is through information collected from old data breaches.

Ways to protect yourself: Change your passwords frequently; check the website “have I been pwned” to see if your email was involved in a data breach and if so, change your password; and finally, don’t respond to the email. Instead, hit the delete button.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

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If you’ve encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please email me 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 a fulltime copywriter working with businesses on market branding and messaging, a columnist and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.

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