Extended warranties: Worth it, or not?

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Many retailers don’t like the term “extended warranty,” preferring to use “product protection plan” instead. Whatever you call it, the real question is: Is it worth buying?

In most cases, extended warranties offer little in terms of real protection when compared to their cost. Most electronic items initially come with a 90-day warranty from the manufacturer. The short time frame is fine because electronics that fail for manufacturing reasons generally do so quickly.

And here’s another thing: The term extended warranty begins the day you purchase the item, but the product protection plan does not. If the item breaks down during the manufacturer’s warranty period, you will likely have to send it back to the manufacturer for repair.

Several studies indicate that warranty service for electronic items isn’t usually needed and if the product lasts through the initial warranty period, it will likely last through the extended warranty period as well. Even though computers purchased today can last five to eight years, you should know warranties are really designed for defective electronics that are the manufacturer’s responsibility.

I spoke with one of our local tech experts, Dan Gookin, and asked him to weigh in on this question since many readers might be considering an electronic purchase this holiday season. Dan recommends getting an extended service plan from the manufacturer for laptop computers and for Apple products.

Why? Laptops have greater potential to break down due to wear and tear, so the extended manufacturer’s warranty (not a service plan from the retailer) is worth it. Apple products cannot be fixed with off-the-shelf parts, so its extended service plan is also worth the cost.

Bottom line: Buy extended warranties from manufacturers, not service plans from retailers.

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MEDICARE BRACE SCAM: It appears that our local seniors are being targeted by unscrupulous representatives pretending to work for insurance companies or health care companies with great news that Medicare will pay for you to receive a back or knee brace.

If you show any interest in the brace, the scammer will start asking for personal information such as your Social Security number or a Medicare number to access your benefits. Don’t fall for these phony claims no matter how persistent the caller.

Typically, the caller offers no company name and if you ask for further company information they are likely to hang up. If a bona fide Medicare provider or another governmental organization contacts you, they should already have your name, address and basic information without you providing it to them.

Remember this: Treat your Medicare number like your credit card information or other personal information. Don’t share it with any unsolicited caller — period!

•••

MONEY ORDER MAYHEM: This warning comes from a local B&B owner.

A potential customer wanted to rent the entire B&B for a week-long stay. She said she worked for the Shell Corporation but all correspondence had to go through the London office, not the U.S. headquarters in California. Attempts to contact the customer via phone were difficult because she preferred only to correspond via email. The customer also disclosed that she had a family situation going on with an ailing father who might die soon, so there was a possibility that she might cancel the trip at the last minute.

She offered to hold the $5,000 reservation with money orders. So she forwarded 10 money orders for $500 each to the B&B owner.

This suspicious owner thought he’d better check this story out so he went to his local bank. Turns out the money orders were real but they were originally drafted for $5 each, not $500 each. The owner told me he couldn’t tell that the money orders had been altered in any way.

The potential customer/scammer, in the meantime, contacted the B&B owner to cancel the trip since dear ole dad didn’t make it. She requested that the owner wire her a refund less $500 for the inconvenience. It was a good thing the owner checked this one out or he would have been out $4,500.

Be careful with money orders. Scammers have figured out a way to alter the amounts with virtually no evidence of having done so.

In some cases, it can take the bank up to five days to figure out if a check or money order is fraudulent, so don’t be in a rush to refund or pay out money for such tall tales.

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REMEMBER: I’m on your side.

•••

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

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Extended warranties: Worth it, or not?

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