Saturday, April 01, 2023

Quick guide if you're considering a Chromebook

by TERRI DICKERSON/ CDA Press Consumer Gal
| May 6, 2021 1:00 AM

Chromebooks initially weren’t very popular because they had a number of limitations, but now they have a decent battery life, you can get on the internet quickly and they are relatively inexpensive.

Because some online learning platforms use Google OS, this makes the Chromebook a good choice for children to use for school work. The ease of use also makes it a good choice for older users who want an easy option so they can get on the internet to do research or do online banking.

If you're looking to purchase a new or used Chromebook, be careful of the Auto Update Expiration (AUE) date. This means there will come a time when the Chromebook will not be able to receive new software updates from Google.

Usually the time frame is about five years from the date the device went into service (but in some cases could be longer) — not necessarily from the date of purchase. The good news is you can find the exact AUE date by following these steps:

1) At the bottom right corner of the screen, select the time.

2) Select “Settings” (the gearbox icon).

3) At the bottom of the left panel, select “About Chrome OS.”

4) Select “Additional details.”

5) In the “Update schedule” section, you’ll see a sentence that tells you the date your Chromebook will receive its last update.

You can still use the Chromebook like normal after the automatic updates expire; however, you won’t get the latest security updates which means your device could be susceptible to viruses and malware.

Google set expiration dates on Chromebooks because the company does not want to be burdened with keeping things complaint and bug-free with every chipset ever used in a Chromebook.

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Scam call detection gets tougher

Typically, government entities correspond with consumers via U.S. mail and not on the phone. So when a reader received a phone call from the Washington Department of Revenue, he wondered if it was a scam.

Turns out, it was not. The call came from 800-631-4028.

The Washington Department of Revenue uses the automated dialing system to call business owners who have excise tax returns that are past due. The system leaves a generic message so confidential taxpayer information does not get shared with the wrong person in the event the Department of Revenue doesn’t have the correct contact number.

In case you're wondering, the Idaho State Tax Commission also uses the phone system through its toll-free number 855-556-4230 to contact taxpayers. The State Tax Commission’s purpose for calling you could be to confirm your plans for paying a tax debt or to check on a tax return (e.g. sales, withholding) that wasn’t received.

A Revenue or Tax Agent may also call directly and leave a more specific message asking for the business owner, corporate officer or taxpayer to return the call. If the call has reached you in error, The Department of Revenue and The State Tax Commission ask that you return the call and provide a message that they haven't reached their intended party so they can update their records.

It seems that trying to figure out if a call is a scam just got a bit more challenging. One thing you can do in order to determine that this is a valid call (since so many calls are spoofed) is let the caller leave you a voicemail with a return number then verify the number you are calling so you make sure you are calling back the correct party.

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Tax refunds: What not to do

If you're getting a tax refund this year, don't take your refund in a gift card or prepaid debit card.

There have been reports that Turbo Tax and several smaller tax prep companies are offering you the option to put your refund on a prepaid debit card. Even H&R Block is reportedly offering taxpayers the option to take their refund on an Amazon gift card along with a bonus of about 3.5%.

These offers can be enticing because they allow you to receive your money quicker. However, what they don’t tell you is there are junk fees involved when you don’t wait to get your refund directly from the IRS. The fees can include monthly fees or per-transaction fees and all of this amounts to a rip-off.

Even though you might have to wait a little while to get your refund, the best course of action is to wait and get your refund directly from the IRS. I had my refund set up to automatically credit to my bank account. Now I’m free to spend the money at any business of my choice once I receive my refund.

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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 or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. I’m a copywriter working with businesses on marketing strategy, a columnist, a veterans advocate and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.

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