3 new phone and email scams to watch out for

Some of us in the personal finance realm have a weird little hobby: We try to scam the scam artists.

We’re not out to steal their money—just their time. When fraudsters call to say we’re about to be arrested for tax debt, our Social Security number has been “suspended,” or a loved one is in trouble, we play along. This gives us valuable insight into how the scams operate while wasting the time these jerks could spend victimizing more vulnerable people.

We have our work cut out for us. Government-imposter frauds have scammed people out of at least $450 million since 2014, according to the Federal Trade Commission. These are some of the phone call scams that could steal your money. Interestingly, people ages 20 to 59 are more likely to report being defrauded this way than those 60 and over, but older people tend to lose more money. The median individual reported loss was $960, but it was $2,700 for people 80 and older, the FTC said in a July report.

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Money-saving online shopping hacks
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Money-saving online shopping hacks

1. Clear your browser history

Some retailers might sneakily increase prices based on your browsing patterns and demand - so make sure to always clear your history and cookies before shopping! 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

2. Use an alternate email address

When you log in to a retailer's site with a new email address, retailers will often welcome you as a new customer with exciting new promotions and discounts. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

3. Note price changes throughout the week

Another pro tip: Prices and deals can fluctuate based on the day of the week. For instance, if you're purchasing a flight, monitor prices for around a week to see if they take a dip on any particular day before purchasing. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

4. Let items linger in your cart

Here's a hack: Add items to your cart, but let them sit for 24 hours before purchasing. The retailer might attempt to lure you back with additional discounts.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

5. Check out multiple sites

Do some research! Don't settle for the first price you see - poke around on a search engine and find the best deal. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

6. Bargain with customer service

Use customer service to your advantage. If you ask (politely!) about an expired coupon, you'll often find yourself pleasantly surprised by an extension or new code! 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

7. Don't purchase impulsively

Try this shopping hack - don't buy that shiny, new toy right away. Step away for a few hours, and if you find yourself itching to go back and click 'purchase', then you know you won't regret your investment!

Photo credit: FogStock

8. Avoid shipping fees

Take advantage of free shipping! If you are a few dollars below the free shipping price point, add a low-cost filler item you need anyway (like socks!) and make the math work out in your favor. 

Photo credit: Alamy

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You don’t have to engage with the bad guys to help thwart them. Answering the phone when scam artists call can put you on a “sucker list” that will prompt more calls. But you can sign up for free “watchdog alerts” from AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, report scam attempts to the FTC, and warn loved ones about the latest schemes, such as these three.

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9 Hotel Scams and Annoying Fees to Watch Out for
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9 Hotel Scams and Annoying Fees to Watch Out for
After you check in, the room phone rings, allegedly from the front desk. There's a problem with your credit card, the operator says, please give me the account numbers again. To pull it off, all a criminal has to do is trick their way through a hotel switchboard and catch a patron in the room. If you get a call like this, hang up, call the operator, and ask if there's a problem. That's a good habit at home, too. Hang up and call back. If there's really a problem, don't reveal your number over the phone. Just walk back to the front desk.
"You find a pizza delivery flyer slipped under your hotel door," the FTC says. "You call to order, and they take your credit card number over the phone. But the flyer is a fake, and a scammer now has your info." I've not seen widespread incidence of this. it would be pretty brazen for ID thieves to physically walk around hotel hallways, where cameras might be used to identify them. Still, the same principal applies. Use a smartphone to double-check the phone number you see on any flyer placed in your room before you order pizza.
The single easiest way for a hacker to hijack your computer is to set up a rogue hot spot and trick you into connecting to it. "Oh, free WiFi," you think. While that's a very real problem, it's also not terribly likely in a hotel room. After all, to be close enough to pull it off, the criminal's technology would in most cases have to be inside the hotel. That's a risky proposition. On the other hand, you might be visiting a lot of strange coffee shops on the road, where rogue Wi-Fi is a more likely possibility. It's always smart to double-check the safety of the networks you connect to, however. It might be wise to stick with your smartphone's connectivity, if that's possible.
The more expensive the hotel, the more likely you will be charged a hefty Wi-Fi fee of $10-$15 per day. The new trick I've seen lately is for hotels to offer "free" Wi-Fi in the lobby but charge for access in the room. Best way to avoid that fee? Before you leave, make sure you know how to use your smartphone for broadband access.
Hotels have a love-hate relationship with websites like Priceline (PCLN) or Expedia, which help them fill rooms,but systematically put downward price pressure on their inventory. Extra fees, added at check-in, are the hotels' way around this problem. Many folks pay online, only to find there's additional charges when they arrive at the hotel. Resort fees are often the biggest culprit. As the name suggests, this fee is most prevalent in restort-y places like Las Vegas. 
Hotels like charging to clean your room now, as if that's not included in the price. The worst part of the housekeeping fee: Often, housekeepers don't get any of the money.
More hotels are embracing travelers with pets, and they're charge $10 to $100 for allowing a pet in your room. If you use a site like Expedia to sort through pet-friendly hotels, make sure you manually check the fee. Not all pet-friendly hotels are created equal.
This one bugs me. Some hotels put a safe fee on your bill, even if you never use the safe. You can ask that it be removed. Same for the newspaper fee.
Finally, gone are the days when hotels could be canceled by 6 p.m. on the night of a reservation for a full refund. Cancellation policies are all over the map now and can even vary based on how the reservation was initially made. Never book a hotel without knowing what the cost of a breakup would be. Travel always involves adventure, which involves unpredictability, which means plans change. Make sure you plan for that.
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Government imposters

Fraudsters are nothing if not flexible. As media coverage of IRS-imposter calls increased last year, scammers switched to impersonating Social Security investigators. The crooks often use software to spoof caller ID services into showing phone numbers for the Social Security Administration or its fraud hotline.

Doug Shadel, AARP’s lead researcher on consumer fraud, recently pretended to take the bait. He returned a robocall from a group of these impersonators and was told the FBI was about to arrest him for opening 25 fraudulent bank accounts. To help the “investigators,” Shadel was advised to move all the money in his legitimate bank accounts to prepaid cards issued by “government-certified” stores such as Apple, Target, CVS, or Walgreens. Then, Shadel was supposed to give the caller the cards’ serial numbers so the information could be added to his “file”—allowing the bilkers to steal the money.

Details of these scams may seem absurd, but con artists are exceptionally good at creating an atmosphere of fear and urgency so you’ll react emotionally, Shadel says.

“Once you’re in that state of fear, it swamps all reason,” he says.

Variations on this scheme include warnings that your Social Security number has been suspended because of suspicious activity or that your help is needed to investigate a crime, such as immigration fraud. Know this: Social Security numbers can’t be suspended, investigators typically don’t enlist civilians, and government agencies don’t call out of the blue, says Kathy Stokes, director of AARP’s fraud prevention programs. 

“Anyone calling from the government saying there’s a problem and you owe money is a scam,” she says. If you get a phone call like this from the government or this other ominous phone call, you’re about to be scammed.

Password-enabled blackmail

“Sextortion” blackmail tries to convince you that your computer has been hacked and that the blackmailer is about to expose an extramarital affair, porn-watching habits, or other embarrassing behavior. The email is really just a boilerplate form, but the subject line may include your actual password (which was probably exposed in some previous, unrelated database breach). The blackmailer typically demands payment via bitcoin or other digital currency. The solution is not to pony up, but to hit delete—and change your passwords regularly.

Kidnapping scams

This is a twist on family emergency scams, where someone pretends to be a loved one who urgently needs money — to get out of jail, leave a foreign country or pay a hospital bill, for example. With kidnapping scams, crooks pretend to hold your loved one hostage, often including the sounds of someone screaming or pleading. The call may appear to come from the supposed victim’s phone number.

Resist the urge to panic, and instead verify your loved one’s whereabouts, Stokes says. That could mean hanging up without speaking — often the best approach—then calling or texting them. Alternatively, reach out to someone likely to know where they are, such as a spouse, friend, or parent, Stokes says. If you stay on the line, expect that the swindlers will try to keep you from checking out the story by threatening dire consequences.

“If they say, ‘Don’t tell anybody or drastic things will happen,’ just know that that’s part of their ruse,” Stokes says. If you hear this phrase on the phone, it’s definitely a scam. 

The post 3 New Phone and Email Scams to Watch Out For was written by NerdWallet and appeared first on Reader's Digest.

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13 Things That Seem Like Scams But Are Actually Great
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13 Things That Seem Like Scams But Are Actually Great
The site lets you know when movie screenings are happening so you can score free tickets.
The yellow cleaning spray named "Awesome" from the dollar store evidently lives up to its name. The guy who recommended it said that it really should be priced higher and he's never used it without gloves.

The dollar store toilet bowl cleaner named The Works is so strong it can etch concrete.
The cellphone company is designed to save you a bunch of money on your plan if you switch away from a major carrier.

This guy loves it: I seriously only pay $45 a month for unlimited everything for my Google Nexus 4 and also get great service since I have a AT&T compatible SIM card with them. Basically my service runs off of AT&T towers just without me having to pay $100 a month. It is cheap, and in the long run saves you a lot of money.

These seem like a clever ploy by Big Detergent to force you to spend more on rebranded soap.


Well, as it turns out they actually really work out well. Almost everyone uses a little too much detergent in their wash, but these little pods actually do the trick.

When one guy's friend hit a deer and had to unload his totaled car, JunkMyCar.com offered nearly six times as much for the Camry than local junkyards:

Submitted the request online, guy came out (to him) a day or two later with a truck, looked the car over to make sure everything checked out with the specs he submitted, handed him a check, and left with the car. Check cleared with no issues.

My guess is that they can give such a higher premium because they scrap the car and sell the parts online, so they'll have a much higher turnaround. Either that or it's some really eccentric millionaire finding new ways to pass the time.
I can personally confirm that Linux is awesome.

Here's why: "You mean I can get a fully-functional operating system for free, just download it off the website, and it's faster, more secure and easier than Windows? And it has thousands of free programs with it? And they're offering more and more games that often play better on Linux than Windows? Sure , whatever...."
But it's true!
It's a neoprene jacket you put on animals to reduce anxiety. It accomplishes this by gently squeezing them all over.

Got it for my frenchie who was going through anxiety after we moved, and it totally works on the short term and on the long term.

This pet comb really works: Furminator brush, a metal comb with tapered grooves that removes undercoat and reduces shedding. It's not a surprise it works, but how well it works. The ad photo with the husky surrounded by a giant pile of fur is exactly what happens.

Another endorsement: Bought a furminator yesterday and felt like a dumbass for spending $45 on a damn cat brush. Then I had a pile of fur twice the size of my cat.

Photo: sundaykofax, Flickr.com and _Tar0_, Flickr.com

Several people swear by this blender. The issue is that it's sold through infomercials which instantly sets off everyone's B.S. alarm.
You know those ads on television for sites offering free credit reports? Don't use those websites.
Congress made the credit report companies provide people with one free credit report per year, so they did that with AnnualCreditReport.com, but then made several easily confusable clones that charged money.

Here's the explanation: Annualcreditreport.com is run by the U.S. government and is designed to comply with the law requiring credit bureaus to give you your reports for free every so often.

Freecreditreport.com and sites like it are businesses who charge you money for these same services (or require that you bundle pay services with the free service of getting your report) [...] they're preying on the people who were trying to get their free report and just went to the wrong web address.

It's 100% Congressionally-mandated legitimacy. Check it out: AnnualCreditReport.com.
We're talking about Mr. Clean Magic Eraser kind of products. It perfectly breaks down any kind of material from very fine cracks and textures.

People use these on white sneakers to wild success, and one Redditor cleaned a horrifying tub in a new apartment to the point it looked like new. One guy used a similar product, Barkeeper's Friend, to get a sharpie'd genital off of his fridge.

RainX is the stuff you spread apply to your windshield that repels rain, meaning that you don't actually have to use your windshield wipers.

Here's one Redditor's endorsement: First, it will last a lot longer than a few days if you follow the directions to a tee. If it's at all cool air temps when you apply it, turn on your defroster for a while to heat up the window. Helps a lot. When you get up to speeds that make the rain "skitter" off the windshield, stop using the wipers; this speed will vary depending on the angle of your window. [...]

Photo: Kjarrett, Flickr.com
Lastly, I've heard Aquapel makes Rain‑X appear as though a drunken monkey had smeared feces over your window in comparison. I can't personally speak to this, as I cannot afford Aquapel.  Sounds fun.

Sold by the late but legendary pitchman Billy Mays, the sodium percarbonate cleaning product is actually really, really good at cleaning anything.

Granted, you can get the same chemical off-brand at a pool supply store for a fifth of the price, but the stuff just annihilates stains.
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