Consumer Advice: Don’t take the Craigslist bait

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CRAIGSLIST CLAIMS ANOTHER VICTIM: A couple from Chicago contracted for the perfect Seattle location for their wedding using Craigslist. The couple rented a Seattle residence for two weeks for about $3,000 for their wedding preparation and nuptials.

When they arrived, they quickly realized they had been taken to the cleaners by a Craigslist scammer. The Seattle residence was NOT owned by the person they contacted (who was the person they sent $3,000 to). The residents who live in the home were, to say the least, very surprised when the wedding party arrived. Unfortunately, the couple never recovered their $3,000. They were also forced to rent another venue — at sky-high, last-minute prices. The good news is, the couple was married as scheduled and learned a valuable lesson.

LESSON: Don’t trust Craigslist. If you insist on using Craigslist, you’d better be one savvy consumer and check the legitimacy of your Craigslist “partner” nine ways from Sunday. Here’s a link to the couple’s woes: https://bit.ly/2BYnwYP.

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MATTRESS FIRM FILES FOR CHAPTER 11 BANKRUPTCY: The company Mattress Firm is reorganizing under Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws. This does not mean they are going away, but they are closing 700 stores. As with all merchants, do your research BEFORE you buy. Here’s the link to that information: https://cnn.it/2IEq9jX

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COMPUTER REPAIR OR REPLACE: Many consumers are hesitant to have a tech person look at their computer in person. Unfortunately, it’s very easy for a company or individual to do a little flimflam and pull the wool over computer owners’ eyes, or be just plain incompetent. Here’s a link to a great example: https://bit.ly/1A5tqRT.

MY ADVICE: Don’t EVER allow anyone to “fix” or “clean” or “update” your computer over the internet. Go local on this one and always have everything in writing before repairs are made.

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CALL THE CORRECT NUMBER: Anymore, it is absolutely essential, that anytime you call a number, you are 100 percent sure who you are calling. Scammers usually provide scam victims a telephone number to call, or to be called from. They use VOIP (voice over internet protocol) telephone numbers with fake caller ID names. If you need to call your bank, look on the back of your credit or debit cards for a valid number. Even if it’s not the exact department you want, the person who answers your call will either transfer your call, or give you the correct number.

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LOW COST CHECKS: Don’t get sucked into this one, it could do some real damage to your bank account. Here’s how it goes: You get a very official email, sometimes from a company pretending to be your bank or a company that prints checks. In fact, the email is from some very sophisticated scammers. Once you answer the email you will get a call or an email asking you for your checking account routing number, checking account number and a slew of personal identifying information. Once you provide all that information to the scammers, you will be asked to pay the “very low” fee for the new checks by credit or debit card, including the number, the expiration date and the security code. The next thing that WILL happen is that your bank account will be cleaned out and your credit or debit card maxed out.

Don’t fall for this one. I’ve had a dozen reports from consumers in our area reporting this scam. Unfortunately, in an effort to save a few bucks, some consumers put their brains on hold and their head in a noose.

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FACEBOOK WARNINGS: There is porn on Facebook. The people making money off nude pictures and sex videos have found a way to embed their websites, as a clickable line, on their “friend requests” on Facebook. As I wrote about in an earlier column, the real danger with these websites is extortion and blackmail. The senders of the friend requests usually ask to “exchange” photos with their new friends. Soon they send some sexy and suggestive photos and then quickly ask that you send similar pics of you to them. Next you will be asked to send some big money to the scammers using gift cards, so they can’t be traced. The threat will be — “if you don’t pay, we will expose you (so to speak!).

Here’s a new wrinkle with Facebook — it takes 30 days to permanently delete your Facebook account. In other words you will have exposed yourself to the scammers for at least 30 more days. Here’s a video about canceling your Facebook account: https://bit.ly/2PdltDY

Bottom Line — be very careful with Facebook. You could be sorry and very embarrassed.

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HERE’S THE AREA CODE LIST AGAIN: I know I’ve repeated this a couple of times in the last two years, but the list of no-no, don’t call area codes is by far the one list I’m asked for over and over. Here it is again:

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DANGEROUS AREA CODES: One of my readers stopped me at lunch the other day and asked if I would publish a list of area codes not to return calls to or answer calls from. The FCC says you should never call back numbers in these area codes: 268, 284, 473, 664, 649, 767, 809, 829, 849 and 876. There are others, but these seem to be the ones that are popular with the scammers this week.

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REMEMBER — PUBLISHERS CLEARING HOUSE: The end of October is the time a winner is named. The scammers are working this one very hard, right now. Publishers Clearing House Scam Call — WARNING, BAD LANGUAGE IN THIS ONE — Go to https://bit.ly/2vpzrKk

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DON’T WASH YOUR HAIR IN THE SHOWER: (It’s always good to get information one can use.) This is from one of my loyal readers:

This involves shampoo when you shampoo your hair in the shower. A warning to us all. Don’t know why I didn’t figure this out sooner. I used to use shampoo in the shower when I wash my hair. The shampoo runs down my whole body. One day I noted that it is very clearly printed on the label — “FOR EXTRA BODY AND VOLUME.” No wonder I’ve been gaining weight. Well, I got rid of all my shampoo and I’m replacing it with Dawn dishwashing detergent. The label on Dawn clearly states: “DISSOLVES FAT THAT IS OTHERWISE DIFFICULT TO REMOVE.”

Problem solved. LOL!!!

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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-BILL. You can follow me at www.billbrooks.us. I am available to speak about consumerism to schools and civic groups. Bill Brooks is a consumer advocate who lives in Coeur d’Alene with his proofreader, Bobbi (who is also his wife).

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