Are you ready for Summer? Choose your vacation
There is nothing like a 90 degree day to get you in the mood for
summer. But if you are planning on renting a cottage or cabin,
you might want to do some homework to make sure it turns out well.
To make it easier, the MA Office of Consumer Affairs and Business
Regulation has prepared a fact sheet which gives tips on choosing
the right rental and what to do if problems arise. If you can, visit the property or get a recommendation from a friend. Use a credit card instead of cash. Consider a rental agent instead of using the Internet. Make sure your questions about distance to the public beach or shopping are answered to your satisfaction. Put any verbal agreements in writing and don’t sign anything you don’t understand. And make sure that your agreement provides for the unexpected. You don’t want to pay for a cottage you cannot enjoy because of electric outages or worse!
Prepaid Debit Cards — How do they really cost?
Prepaid debit cards are convenient to use. But depending upon their terms, they may cost a lot more than you realize. Some of the common fees include an activation fee, reload fee, a fee each time you make a purchase, a fee to check your balance, a fee to talk to a person, a fee
to withdraw money from an ATM machine, a fee to get a statement and even a monthly maintenance fee. And depending what type of purchase you are making, other fees might be added without your even being aware. Recently, a woman told us about her experience when using her prepaid card to pay for dinner. She had $15 left on her card and the dinner charge plus tax came to $11.32. She added a $3.00 tip to her bill and was quite surprised when she was told her card was declined. When she questioned why, she was told that every food purchase on her card automatically incurred a 20% gratuity charge. Unbeknownst to her, she was paying a 20% gratuity plus the $3.00 she had indicated for a tip! She removed the $3.00 tip and her card went through without any problems. The lesson here is before you purchase a prepaid debit card, do your homework. Find out what fees your card will incur before making a final decision — even it means contacting the issuing company. It may save you money in the long run.
Beware of advertisements for "Free Money" from the IRS
The IRS has just released its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams. It contains a variety of common scams that taxpayers can encounter at any point during the year, but many of these schemes peak during tax filing season. Among them is the “Free Money” from the IRS scam. In this
scam, flyers and advertisements have been appearing in community churches around the country promising free money from the IRS and suggesting that the taxpayer can file a tax return with little or no documentation. Refunds are promised to people who have little or no income and normally don’t have a tax filing requirement.
These scammers prey on low income individuals and the elderly and members of church congregations with bogus promises of free money. They build false hopes and charge people good money for bad advice including encouraging taxpayers to make fictitious claims for refunds or rebates based on false statements of entitlement to tax credits. According to the IRS, some promoters claim they can obtain for their victims, often senior citizens, a tax refund or nonexistent stimulus payment based on the American Opportunity Tax Credit, even if the victim was not enrolled in or paying for college. Con artists also falsely claim that refunds are available even if the victim went to school decades ago. In the end, the victims discover their claims are rejected. Meanwhile, the promoters are long gone. The IRS warns all taxpayers to remain vigilant.
Health Clubs' Business Practices Come Under Scrutiny
The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation recently concluded its investigation of health clubs and the results may surprise you.
Investigators visited 15 fitness clubs in the greater Boston area, but were only able to get copies of two membership contracts, because customer service representatives would not provide a contract unless the investigator agreed in advance to sign-up with customer service representatives. They also found that in addition to monthly or annual dues, some of the clubs charged enrollment fees, rate lock guarantee fees and termination fees. Under Massachusetts law, a health club must clearly post all of its courses and prices, discounts, sales and offers. Another area of concern to the investigators was that none of the locations surveyed adequately displayed a consumer’s 3-day right to cancel health club contracts. A summary of the investigation and the survey can be found on the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation website.
CE Celebrates National Consumer Protection Week
March 3 – Consumers Empowered is joining with more than 60 federal, state and local agencies, consumer groups and national advocacy organizations to participate in National Consumer Protection Week ("NCPW"), March 3rd - 9th, 2013. NCPW is a coordinated campaign designed to focus on the importance of keeping consumers informed while providing consumers with free resources explaining their rights in the marketplace.
For NCPW, Consumers Empowered has prepared 10 Tips for Smart Internet Use to inform consumers about steps they can take to help keep their personal information safe from cyber criminals. We invite you to read our Press Release for further details on NCPW activities..