Digital switch sends some Spectrum heads spinning

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This week I’ve had a number of calls about Spectrum and its recent move to digital. I’ve included a link below to a very well-written article in the Cd’A Press by Brian Walker. One of the reasons I say it’s a very well-written article is that corporate representatives of Spectrum are pointing to it as a good explanation of what the upcoming move to an all-digital network means for consumers.

The article was originally published in the June 2 edition of the Cd’A Press. I would highly recommend you read this article. You can read it online, using the link at the bottom of this section of this column, or find it in the online archives of the Cd’A Press. You can also contact me by email and I will send you a PDF of the document. Do this instead of asking your friends and neighbors how the switch to digital will work and how much it will cost. Ultimately it will cost consumers more, but Spectrum is promising a “path for future innovation.”

As far as I’m concerned, “the jury is still out.” We’ll see where the “path” leads us. If great new entertainment and educational programs and services become available to consumers, the increased costs may be worth it. If, on the other hand, the result of the move to digital brings us only a bunch of new shopping channels hawking cheap jewelry and gadgets and more reruns of old TV sitcoms — well, I’ll be disappointed, but not surprised.

I was heartened Tuesday when I talked with one of the top regional executives of Spectrum/Charter. He assured me that if I encounter a problem that the local office can’t solve, he will personally work to find the right person to get to the bottom of the problem. This executive has worked with me since I began writing this column over a year and a half ago. He hasn’t failed yet.

Here’s the link to the article in The Press: https://bit.ly/2sMHqzK

Remember: Spectrum is not your only choice. There are alternatives. Competition is good for us consumers!

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QUICK NOTE: I’d like to think I’m one of the most accessible people in Kootenai County. I publish my email address and phone number in our local newspaper twice each week. In addition, I try really hard to answer or return every phone call or voicemail I receive. PLEASE — when you send me an email, include your telephone number and address. I welcome emails, but I read very fast and type really slow. Therefore I don’t usually respond by email — I will most likely call you. If you only send me an email and not your telephone number, I can’t guarantee that I’ll return your communication. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

The reason including your address is important is that many utilities and services are indexed by providers using your address. Without your address, it can take the utility a lot of time to do the research to find your record. Sometimes they can’t connect a phone number with an account.

Simply put, if you only want a call back from me, just leave me a voicemail with your name and phone number. If you have a service or utility question, include your address. Thanks!

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APOLOGY TIME: In my last column I made an ill-considered, tongue-in-cheek comment about government employees and experts not being one and the same. A reader called and sternly but appropriately reminded me that most government employees are in fact highly skilled at what they do, and dedicated to serving the public. Sorry about that. I know I can count on my readers to keep me on the straight and narrow.

Another reader took me to task about “trashing” Craigslist. What I said was, I won’t use Craigslist. I don’t think it’s worth the risk. Crooks and scammers have infested that site. My reader rightly pointed out that users of Craigslist should use caution when listing or buying items.

As far as I’m concerned, I still won’t use Craigslist. If you do, in the words of Elmer Fudd, be vewy, vewy cawefuw!

•••

I’VE LOST MY CREDIT CARD: Those words make most of us instantly break out in a sweat and start ripping through our purses and wallets.

First things first: Don’t panic. Mentally retrace your steps. Do these things, in this order:

Call your credit card company and tell them you may have lost your card. Ask them to put a temporary freeze on your account. Always remember, get the name or employee number of the person you talked to — always. Federal law limits the amount of money you can be held liable for, once you have reported the loss.

Then call the last place you remember using the card. Ask to speak to the manager and make sure you get a name. Ask if a card has been turned in. Once those things have been accomplished, you can do the usual — go through the pockets of all laundry, look between and under the seats of your car. If the card is not found within a day or two, it is my recommendation that you ask the credit card company to close that account and issue you a new card in your name with a different number.

In that I use my card almost every day, I’ve asked that the card be “rushed” to me and sent by an overnight delivery company. It costs 10 or 20 bucks extra but I’ve found it useful. I can almost guarantee that once you’ve carefully followed all these steps, your mind will be at peace — and you’ll find the card between the cushions of your couch, with loose change and popcorn kernels!

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UPDATE: I’m still looking into medical facilities’ room “rental” charges. The topic is complex, involving government reimbursements, insurance coverages and various providers’ policies. I will do a segment on this but better to be right than quick! Please be a patient patient.

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CAR WARRANTY SCAMS: Recently I have been called by an inordinate number of consumers about the legitimacy of calls they receive offering extended car warranties. These calls are almost always scams or at best, very bad “insurance” policies. Don’t bite. Just say “no” and hang up. At the end of the day, you’ll be happier and have more money if you don’t fall for this one.

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DON’T EVER CONFIRM: When someone calls you representing themselves as working for a company or a government agency and wants to confirm information about you — HANG UP! Ninety-nine times out of 100, they are crooks trying to get you to give up your personal information for nefarious (read: bad) purposes. One reader recently “confirmed” her banking information, including the name of her bank, the routing number AND her personal checking account number. The next day she discovered her bank account was down to zero!

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REMEMBER BILL BROOKS: “He’s On Your Side”

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I have many more tips and interesting cases that I’m working on. Call me at 208-699-0506, or email me at brookshomes@gmail.com (#GoGetEmBillBrooks) You can follow me at www.billbrooksconsumer advocate.com. I am available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups. Bill Brooks is a consumer advocate and the broker and owner of Bill Brooks Real Estate in Coeur d’Alene.

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