BROOKS - OPINION: Biting into a big, fat bogus burger

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Don’t you be scammed!

I love to collect and investigate phony looking email offers. I got an email last week that looked like it came from Burger King and offered me a $100 gift certificate. All I had do was answer a few short questions on a simple survey.

I clicked on the link and took the survey. I was quickly whisked to another website with more forms to fill out. (Of course I entered fictitious information. (Just call me John Doe. My fake phone number is 555-555-5555.) The only thing I wasn’t asked for was my blood type. I did, however, continue to delve into the ownership of the website and found that it had NO relationship with Burger King.

This was not a surprise; I just wanted to see where it would ultimately take me. Needless to say, the $100 gift certificate was totally bogus. If you fill out these online forms with your personal information, be prepared for all kinds of fake offers and scams. Just don’t do it.

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CAN A MANUFACTURED HOME BECOME REAL PROPERTY?: The quick answer is yes, under certain circumstances. There are advantages to having a manufactured home recognized as real property, and some disadvantages.

Here are a few of both:

Advantages of Real Property Classification

• Increased availability of favorable financing

• More favorable titling options

• Equitable taxation

• Greater possibility of homestead exemptions

• Better consumer protections

• Stronger protections for heirs

• More vibrant resale market

• Equitable safeguards upon default

Disadvantages of Real Property Classification

• Possible greater tax burden

• Possible loss of some consumer protections

• Limitations on bankruptcy remedies

If you call me, I will be happy to email you information that is available from Idaho outlining how to convert your non-real estate manufactured home to real property. The process is too lengthy and complicated to go into in this column. You can find additional resources and information at https://bit.ly/2JRaygv

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LIVING WILLS & DNR INSTRUCTIONS: A consumer actually called me from the emergency room of Kootenai Health. She was concerned that the ER personnel wanted to know if she had a living will and a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate order) in place. She had no idea what these two documents were and what signing them would mean.

As any regular reader of this column knows, I am not an attorney. I cannot give legal advice, but here’s a little advice that is not legal: Make sure you have a living will and know what a DNR is and what it means. All living wills and DNRs are not created equal. I gave the caller some basic information but wasn’t able to fully satisfy her request for information at that late date. Avoid being like that caller; get your “ducks in a row” before you need to march them forward. See an attorney or ask at your local senior center. They will point you in the right direction.

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DO NOT FORWARD & SHARED ACCOUNTS: A consumer called. She had her “ducks in a row.”

She and her late husband had everything prepared for when one of them passed on. They had dutifully prepared wills, living wills, DNRs and the complete list of to-do’s for when the inevitable day dawned. The day did come, as it does for all of us. Her husband passed on and as they had discussed, she relied on good planning to carry her through a very difficult time.

She “downsized” and moved to a new home, more appropriate to her new situation. She went to the post office and arranged to have all her mail forwarded to her new address. All went well, until she stopped receiving her regular benefit checks and disbursements from their joint accounts. Upon contacting the various agencies and financial institutions entrusted with their funds and savings, she found out that the monthly checks had been sent out but had been returned stamped “undeliverable.”

In a basic move to prevent fraud, many of her regular payments were sent from the issuing institution with a “Do Not Forward” notice on the exterior of the envelope. The checks were not lost, just simply “Returned To Sender.” (Memory lane time: https://bit.ly/194q2eB That classic was released almost 60 years ago — I feel OLD!) But I digress. The point is, instead of putting a 6-month forward on all your mail, immediately instruct the senders of your checks, benefits and disbursements, to send all mail to your new address. There’s no way to accomplish this in one place. Each sender needs specific written instruction. Remember, it’s to avoid fraud.

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WHILE WE’RE ON THE SUBJECT: When you stop sharing any subscription type account, cable TV, telephone or other utilities, be sure to immediately place those accounts in the survivor’s name. To do this, you need to contact the company or utility immediately and follow their directions as to how to have a name removed from your account. This is even more important in the case of separation or divorce. It seems the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes.

One consumer, upon the death of her husband, decided some years later to cancel their TV service. The company explained to her that she needed her late husband’s permission or a certified copy of his death certificate. Later in the same call, she was routed to the “retention” office and offered more services at an increased monthly charge — all without her husband’s permission, even though he was the only signer on the account! Sorry, but there’s something really messed up about that.

MY ADVICE: Put all accounts you can in both of your names and upon death, divorce or separation, change the account to your name only. It turns out it was almost impossible for this consumer to get a small refund due her. She was asked to provide copies of the death certificate, the will and the first page of their Living Trust document — all for a measly nine bucks!

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SOME OF THOSE HELPED BY ONLY MENTIONING THIS COLUMN: Last week a number of consumers called and told me that I had resolved their various consumer problems. I didn’t remember the particulars of their situations or talking with them. It turns out, what they did was mention that if their situation couldn’t be resolved, their next call would be to me at the CDA Press. Sometimes you help people even when you don’t know it!

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VOICE YOUR OPINION ON THE SALE OF AVISTA: The Idaho Public Utilities Commissioners are accepting public comments until Wednesday, June 27, and are expected to make a decision on the proposal by Aug. 14. To weigh in via mail or fax, contact P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074, or 208-334-3762. To comment online go to puc.idaho.gov, click on “Case Comment Form” under the “Electric” or “Natural Gas” heading, and enter your comment. Be sure to include the case number, AVU-E-17-09 or AVU-G-17-05.

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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.billbrooksconsumeradvocate.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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