Malware Can Hurt – Protect Yourself

Malware is short for “malicious software.”  It includes viruses and spyware that get installed on your computer, phone, or mobile device without your consent. These programs can cause your device to crash and can be used to monitor and control your online activity. Criminals use malware to steal personal information, send spam, and commit fraud.

Today’s article focuses on Malware and how to protect yourself. This is the third in a series of four articles in support of NCPW logoNational Consumer Protection Week (NCPW).This year, NCPW takes place March 1-7, 2015. NCPW highlights free resources from government agencies and consumer organizations to help people make smarter buying decisions and spot rip-offs. Visit www.ncpw.gov to find out more.

First two articles:

Today’s material is taken the government site “OnGuardOnline.gov“, which is a federal government website to help you be safe, secure and responsible online.  Continue reading

Identity Theft – Yes It Can Happen To You!

EveNCPW logory year, National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) encourages people and businesses to learn more about avoiding scams and understanding consumer rights. This year, NCPW takes place March 1-7, 2015. NCPW highlights free resources from government agencies and consumer organizations to help people make smarter buying decisions and spot rip-offs. Visit www.ncpw.gov to find out about consumer education materials available from NCPW partners, and order free FTC materials.

Tri-Town Apple Is On Board
We’re getting with the program and will publish four articles under the banner of consumer protection, beginning last week with an introduction to NCPW. This article focuses on perhaps the most important topic, Identity Theft.

It Can Happen
If you think it can’t happen to you, think again. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, there were 12 million cases of identity theft in the U.S. during 2012. If you do the math, that’s one every 3 seconds!

“Consumers and institutions are now starting to act as partners—detecting and stopping fraud faster than ever before. But fraudsters are acting quicker than ever before and victimizing more consumers. Consumers must take data breach notifications more seriously and maintain vigilance to safeguard personal information, especially Social Security numbers.” Jim Van Dyke, CEO of Javelin Strategy & Research

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) views Identity Theft as a serious threat:

Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. It is a serious crime that can wreak havoc with your finances, credit history, and reputation – and it can take time, money, and patience to resolve. – FTC Taking Charge

This can happen to you!

Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance. An identity thief might even file a tax return in your name and get your refund. In some extreme cases, a thief might even give your name to the police during an arrest. – FTC

So what should we do to protect ourselves?
The FTC provides a thorough list of steps that everyone should be aware of:

  • First of all there are a number of precautions that we all can follow to lower the risk of having our identity stolen.
  • Secondly, monitor key information:
    • Review Your Credit Reports – You have the right to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the 3 nationwide credit reporting companies.
    • Read Your Account and Billing Statements.
    • Review Your Explanation of Medical Benefits.
    • Respond Quickly to Notices from the Internal Revenue Service.
  • If it happens, you want to minimize the impact and rectify the damage as quickly as possible. The FTC has published a very complete booklet, “What to Do If Your Identity Is Stolen“. In it are critical first steps you should take:
    • Place an Initial Fraud Alert
    • Order Your Credit Reports
    • Create an Identity Theft Report
  • Beyond these very important first steps are many other actions you may want to take, for example filing a FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. There are sample forms and letters to help you communicate with the many financial institutions and agencies  if your wallet or other information

Obtain a Copy
It would not be a bad idea to have a copy of this document in your possession. They are available from FTC, free. Or the Tri-Town Teachers Credit Union has a supply. Stop by and pick up a copy.

Tri-Town Teachers Federal Credit Union
61 Jesup Road
Westport, CT 06880

Be Prepared
In a nutshell, Identity Theft is very real. It is very serious. It very well can happen to you, especially if you are not taking all precautions. But even if you do take the best precautions, it may still happen to you. So be prepared, obtain a copy of the FTC booklet “What To Do I Your Identity Is Stolen“.

Being prepared will cost you nothing. Being ill-prepared could cost you really serious time, money and worry.

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Thank you for reading the Tri-Town Apple.

National Consumer Protection Week, March 1-7

We received a newsletter last week from the FTC. Among the items highlighted was a notice about the National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), which begins  March 1. Since Tri-Town Apple’s purpose is to provide useful and beneficial information to the Tri-Town Teachers Credit Union  membership, it seemed appropriate to look into this. We had never heard of the NCPW. Here’s what we found:

EveNCPW logory year, National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) encourages people and businesses to learn more about avoiding scams and understanding consumer rights. This year, NCPW takes place March 1-7, 2015. NCPW highlights free resources from government agencies and consumer organizations to help people make smarter buying decisions and spot rip-offs. Visit www.ncpw.gov to find out about consumer education materials available from NCPW partners, and order free FTC materials.

We discovered a vast collection of resources on the web, made available by about 75 government agencies (federal, state & local) and other organizations, such as the AARP & Consumers Union (part of Consumer Reports). We are going to focus on this subject over the next four weeks, but there is no way we can even begin to bring breath and depth of this information to light here. Today’s article is the introduction. We’ll cover three of these topics  in the next three articles.

We strongly urge you to take a quick look at the summarized list of topics below. If one or more of these topics relates to a concern or question you have, click here or on the image below for more information.

ncpw.01

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We hope this post helpful. Let us know, leave a comment. Tell us what topics would most help you. We’d love to hear from you.

Thank you for reading the Tri-Town Apple.

 

 

Automotive Series

Over the last few months, Tri-Town Apple has published a series of articles (7) on the acquisition and care of an automobile. for the most part these were based on material from the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC)  web site for consumer information.

Series Summary

This article is a summary of the seven series articles with links to each of them. Keep it in mind or bookmark it. The next time you’re looking for a car, considering a service contract, or facing major repairs, give the appropriate article a read. It can’t hurt and you might save yourself yourself some serious money and/or hassle.

Buying a New Car:

A new car is second only to a home as the most expensive purchase many consumers make. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, the average price of a new car sold in the United States is about $30,000. That’s why it’s important to know how to make a smart deal. – Federal Trade Commission  (FTC) 

Buying a Used Car:

Buying and owning an automobile for most all of us, is a life-long experience. The purchase cost, especially for a new car, may be second only to a home purchase or college tuition in size. Buying a used car is fraught with it’s own set of hidden pitfalls. And whether new or used, auto ownership will involve maintenance & repair questions, warranty issues, and eventually  questions about trade-in value.

Used Car Warranties:

When you buy a used car from a dealer, get the original or a copy of the final Buyers Guide that was posted in the vehicle. The Guide must reflect any negotiated changes in warranty coverage. It also becomes part of your sales contract and overrides any contrary provisions.

Automotive Services Contracts:

A service contract is a promise to perform (or pay for) certain repairs or services. Although a service contract is sometimes called an extended warranty, it is not a warranty as defined by federal law. A service contract may be arranged any time and always costs extra; a warranty comes with a new car and is included in the original price.

Renting a Car:

Even though most of us do own a car, we have the need to rent a car now and then, e.g. for vacation or business travels. Comparing prices online can save you a bundle. But make sure you compare the total cost — not just the advertised rate — because fees and options can increase the base price dramatically.

Auto Repair Basics:

Buying can be fun, repairing never is!

Car: Purchase or Lease?

The rate of leasing in the United States was higher last year than at any time in more than a decade, according to data provided by Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book.

 

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We hope this post helpful. Let us know, leave a comment. Tell us what topics would most help you. We’d love to hear from you.

Thank you for reading the Tri-Town Apple.

 

Auto Repair Basics

Buying can be fun, repairing never is!

This is the sixth in a series on Auto Buying and Owning. The earlier articles, for the most part, have dealt with the acquisition of a car. Today’s article turns to the need to repair and maintain our purchased vehicles. A list of the previous articles:

  1. Buying a New Car

  2. Buying a Used Car

  3. Used Car Warranties

  4. Service Contracts

  5. Renting a Car

The next article will address the question of Buy vs. Lease.

FTC Feature
Like the previous five, this article will be based on the FTC web site feature, Buying & Owning a Car. Tri-Town Apple strongly suggests you visit that site, maybe bookmark it. We all, at some time or another, are faced with acquiring an automobile (new or used), deciding about service contracts and, of course, having the car car serviced. Many of us have also experienced the sticker shock of a repair bill. Maybe that invoice was fair, reasonable, and justified. And maybe it wasn’t. To minimize that chance, and all the the other pitfalls of automobile ownership, reading the FTC web site article isn’t to high a price to pay. You may wish to download the Auto Repair Basics document (PDF) to keep handy.

Continue reading here to see the highlights from the FTC web site. Continue reading

Renting a Car

Today we continue our series on Buying and Owning a Car (OK, renting is neither buying or owning, but you get the idea). This is our fifth in a series on purchasing owning and automobile. Click on the articles below to view the first four. Content for all articles is taken from the FTC Consumer Information web site, Buying and Owning a Car.  Future articles will cover Repair & Maintenance, and Purchase vs. Lease.

Buying a New Car

Buying a Used Car

Used Car Warranties

Automotive Services Contracts

Even though most of us do own a car, we have the need to rent a car now and then, e.g. for vacation or business travels. Comparing prices online can save you a bundle. But make sure you compare the total cost — not just the advertised rate — because fees and options can increase the base price dramatically. For a look at what these fees and options might be, along with other considerations, continue reading the FTC advice. Continue reading

Automotive Services Contracts

Buying and owning an automobile for most all of us, is a life-long experience. The purchase cost, especially for a new car, may be second only to a home purchase or college tuition in size. Buying a used car is fraught with it’s own set of hidden pitfalls. And whether new or used, auto ownership will involve maintenance & repair questions, warranty issues, and eventually  questions about trade-in value.

This is our fourth in a series on purchasing owning and automobile. Click on the articles below to view the first three. Content for all articles is taken from the FTC Consumer Information web site, Buying and Owning a Car.  Future articles will cover Renting a Car, Repair & Maintenance, and Purchase vs. Lease.

Buying a New Car

Buying a Used Car

Used Car Warranties

 

A service contract is a promise to perform (or pay for) certain repairs or services. Although a service contract is sometimes called an extended warranty, it is not a warranty as defined by federal law. A service contract may be arranged any time and always costs extra; a warranty comes with a new car and is included in the original price. Used cars also may come with some type of warranty coverage included in the sales price. The separate and additional cost distinguishes a service contract from a warranty.

To decide if you need a service contract, consider:

  • whether the service contract duplicates warranty coverage or offers protection that begins after the warranty runs out. Does the service contract extend beyond the time you expect to own the car? If so, is the service contract transferable or is a shorter contract available?
  • whether the vehicle is likely to need repairs and how much they’re going to cost. You can determine the value of a service contract by figuring whether the cost of repairs is likely to exceed the price of the contract.
  • whether the service contract covers all parts and systems. Check out all claims carefully. For example, “bumper to bumper” coverage may not mean what you think.
  • whether a deductible is required and, if so, the amount and terms.
  • whether the contract covers incidental expenses, like towing and rental car charges while your car is being serviced.
  • whether repairs and routine maintenance have to be done at the dealer.
  • whether there’s a cancellation and refund policy for the service contract, and if it has cancellation fees.
  • whether the dealer or company offering the service contract is reputable. Read the contract carefully to determine who is legally responsible for fulfilling the terms of the contract. Some dealers sell third-party service contracts.

The dealer must check the appropriate box on the Buyers Guide if a service contract is offered, except in states where service contracts are regulated by insurance laws. If the Guide doesn’t include a service contract reference and you’re interested in buying one, ask the salesperson for more information.

If you buy a service contract from the dealer within 90 days of buying a used vehicle, federal law prohibits the dealer from eliminating implied warranties on the systems covered in the contract. For example, if you buy a car “as is,” the car normally is not covered by implied warranties. But if you buy a service contract covering the engine, you automatically get implied warranties on the engine. These may give you protection beyond the scope of the service contract. Make sure you get written confirmation that your service contract is in effect.

If You Have Problems

If you have a problem that you think is covered by a warranty or service contract, follow the instructions to get service. If a dispute arises, try to work it out with the dealer. Talk with the salesperson or, if necessary, the owner of the dealership. Many problems can be resolved at this level. However, if you believe you’re entitled to service, but the dealer disagrees, you have some options:

  • If your warranty is backed by a car manufacturer, contact the local representative of the manufacturer. The local or zone representative is authorized to adjust and decide issues of warranty service and repairs to satisfy customers. Some manufacturers also are willing to repair certain problems in specific models for free, even if the manufacturer’s warranty does not cover the problem. Ask the manufacturer’s zone representative or the service department of a franchised dealership that sells your car model whether there is such a policy.
  • Contact your state Attorney General or the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. You also might consider using a dispute resolution organization if you and the dealer are willing. Under the terms of many warranties, this may be a required first step before you can sue the dealer or manufacturer. Check your warranty to see if this is the case. If you bought your car from a franchised dealer, you may be able to seek mediation through the Automotive Consumer Action Program (AUTOCAP), a dispute resolution program coordinated nationally by the National Automobile Dealers Association and sponsored through state and local dealer associations in many cities. Check with the dealer association in your area to see if they operate a mediation program.

If none of these steps is successful, small claims court is an option. Here, you can resolve disputes involving small amounts of money, often without an attorney. The clerk of your local small claims court can tell you how to file a suit and the dollar limit in your state.

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act also may be helpful. Under this federal law, you can sue based on breach of express warranties, implied warranties, or service contracts. If successful, consumers can recover reasonable attorneys’ fees and other court costs. A lawyer can advise you if this law applies.

Was This Helpful?

We hope this post helpful. Let us know, leave a comment. Tell us what topics would most help you. We’d love to hear from you.

Thank you for reading the Tri-Town Apple.