Saturday, April 28, 2012

Buyer Beware

A marketing representative for Southern California Telephone Company was rather persuasive that we would discover savings by accepting their Senior's Service Package, which meant leaving Verizon's landline service.

We would get a separate billing from them; however, our other services would remain bundled with remaining Verizon services + DirecTV. Imagine our surprise when DirecTV notified us that it was now unbundled from Verizon's billing.

All of this meant that our $48 monthly discount had vanished. Where was the wisdom in switching to Southern California Telephone Company? This necessitated a quick phone call to Verizon to switch back to them.

And some hassle has been added to the situation. I had to pay DirecTV around $95 (April's billing) to re-establish the bundling to my Verizon bill. And because of where we are in the billing cycle I may need to pay DirecTV for May's services. By June we will definitely be back on the Verizon bundle with DirecTV.

What a mess. The representative for Southern California Telephone Company misinformed us. Was it intentional, or did she just not know what she was talking about? When a representative has not researched specific issues regarding bundling then that is tantamount to intentional misrepresentation, IMO.

To my California friends I would say "buyer beware." The special package for seniors might be a good deal for some telephone service consumers. It was definitely a bad move for us. The money saved by switching away from Verizon was less than the lost monthly $48 discount from bundling.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Stop Unwanted Phone Calls

This unit seemed to offer the best features; albeit, a bit on the pricey side. It has an 80-number capacity. A blocked number is answered after the first ring, then the caller gets disconnected. The unit can be set so that the first ring is heard, or a silent mode provides no audible evidence of a blocked call coming in. Silent mode seems desirable.

It is possible to block all 800 numbers (or any entire area code) and still program specific numbers in that area code to get through.

And blocking numbers one-by-one is simple.

A "night mode" blocks any and all calls (excepting VIP calls) for a specified time period. Numbers placed on a VIP List will still ring through. Awesome!

So, why have we bothered to get this unit? Because we are bothered by not having it. When we placed our phone number on the National Do Not Call List our expectation was that eventually the unsolicited marketing calls would end. Never happened!

Lately there has been an increase in calls to us by telemarketers. When the presidential campaigns ramp up we expect telephone traffic from those entities. Unwanted callers will only reach us once. Afterwards we will not be bothered by them.

Manufacturers of call-blocking devices must be pleased to have a market for their units. I gladly pay their cost for having the benefit (and features) offered.

Are you pestered by telemarketing phone calls? If so, how do you handle them?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mystery Shopper Scam

The e-mail looked innocent enough. It appeared to be from a WalMart e-mail address. My wife was asked to sign up to be a WalMart mystery shopper for which she would earn money.

For signing up, Shirley received a UPS shipment containing two MoneyGrams. Each was in the amount of around $865 which she was to deposit into her bank account. Then she was to shop at WalMart, spending no more than $100. As well, she was to retain $100 as payment for her shopping excursion, wiring the balance of the monies to an individual in Kentucky.

Doing all of this quickly would get her a $100 bonus on the next shopping assignment. There was never a survey form to fill out that referenced her shopping experience at WalMart.

After having gone to Western Union and wired the $1,530 to the individual in Kentucky did my wife explain the mystery shopper arrangement. As Shirley described it there were bells (and red flags) going off in my head.

I immediately called the FBI. An agent explained this was a known scam and the two MoneyGrams would come back to Shirley's bank as being fraudulent. Oh no! Now what to do?

Proactively, Shirley notified her bank about the MoneyGrams that would be bouncing.

Shirley had not paid additional fee to have the Western Union money delivered immediately, opting for "next day" delivery. This allowed sufficient time last night to cancel the transaction with Western Union. She got back the $1,530 from Western Union this morning.

Next, we went to her bank and deposited the refunded cash. As well, I put in $300 of my money to make her bank account good again. When the MoneyGrams do come back Shirley will call the agent who helped us and be forgiven any bank fees for the returned checks.

How did Shirley get hooked into this? She is overly trusting in many situations. This is a prime example. I wish she had run this by me when she initially received the mystery shopper offer. I wonder how many others have been caught up in this scam.

I am a misanthrope. Loosely defined, a misanthrope is one who is distrustful of humankind. My question is, have you ever been scammed? It is embarrassing to admit, but there are tons of victims who have fallen for similar financial offers.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Harmless Looking Critter

Very Destructive Varmint in the Garden and Yard

One tomato plant in James' and Stephanie's garden has already been attacked. Most of the plant has been pulled below the soil level. No doubt the roots have been damaged.

We are researching methods for elimination. It is only a matter of time, we believe, for other plants to be hit.

Currently we are leaning toward the use of poison (placed safely underground) and the smoke bomb methods. Hopefully we can turn this around and keep the garden safe from harm.

We welcome suggestions based on the positive experiences of others.