You know about scammers, but also beware of skimmers

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Two incidents of credit card skimming were recently reported in North Idaho. The skimming machines were placed on gas pumps at local food stores. Luckily, a couple of sharp consumers caught the scam. They just happened to check their balances online and caught two big unauthorized charges, right after using local gas pumps.

Credit card skimmers are like little vacuums of your credit card information. They snap over the slot you normally put your card through, say at the gas pump. The skimmer mechanism collects your information as your card slides through and into the legitimate card reader. After awhile, the crooks come by and snap off the skimmer, take it back to their computer and unload your credit card data for their nefarious uses, or to be sold to other thieves.

QUICK HINT: An easy way to check is, with both hands, give the credit card slot a sharp yank. Skimmers don’t affix their mechanical skimmer to the pump or ATM. It would take too long. The mechanism kind of snaps in place. This makes for an easy connection and a quick disconnection and getaway.

Also, use pumps in plain sight of the attendant’s window. Most skimmers are placed on pumps not in direct sight of the pump attendant. Make sure you keep up with the charges on your card, preferably on a daily basis.

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LEARN MY SECRET TO MAKE BIG BUCKS: We’ll cut right to the chase on this one: The “secret” is to get the very gullible to send money!

Whether it’s stock market investing or real estate flipping, there’s no secret except getting you to send in your money to them. Otherwise, why wouldn’t the guy doing the advertising sit back and follow his “plan” and make millions and millions?

I’m a real estate agent and I can tell you that real estate agents are some of the biggest suckers for “get rich” schemes. There are literally thousands and thousands of companies selling THE SAME LISTS of “leads” for agents to call. I get at least a couple of calls per week from out of state numbers claiming to be specialists for real estate in “Kore DEE A Leene.” Just for fun I also ask them what county we’re located in.

Someday just for grins, I’ll compile a list of the various mispronunciations of Kootenai! Unfortunately, too many new agents use these lists and the homeowners of our area are subjected to repeated calls asking if we want to list our property.

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“ALL WORK IS GUARANTEED” – NOT: Almost every business advertises, “all work is guaranteed.” Until you have a copy of the guarantee, signed by the company or referenced in your contract, YOU DON’T HAVE A GUARANTEE! REMEMBER — A contract (that you read), evidence of insurance (if there’s work to be done on your home or property), and a copy of the guarantee.

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MONEY FOR NOTHING AND YOUR DRINKS FOR FREE: (My apologies to the rock band Dire Straits.) Calls keep rolling in about the $9,000 government grant that you’ve been awarded. IT’S A SCAM! Nobody is going to give anyone a $9,000 grant for free. If you believe that, I’ve got a got a bridge over the middle of Hayden Lake I’ll sell you! P.S. If you win the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes — please call me. I know a nice quiet spot in Tahiti!!!

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AMAZON, GOOGLE and FACEBOOK: These companies and websites have been part of our everyday lives. Those of us who are not Luddites (a person opposed to increased industrialization or new technology) are often easily enticed into using any website or service that appears to be connected with any of these big three companies.

BEWARE! There are many crooks and scammers imitating these company’s websites. They almost look like the real deal. The bad guys will send you an email explaining that your sign-on and password have been compromised and that unless you click on the link in the email and “verify” your information, you will be denied access to your account or credit card or bank account. DON’T DO IT! Also don’t call the telephone number in the email. Go online and find a real number for the company and call them. There is a great app I use called “GetHuman.” It will supply you with real numbers for most companies. It will also rate the quality of customer service and give you an approximate wait time to speak with a real person — what a concept!

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BAD COMPANIES: (Apologies to the rock band Bad Company.) Unless a company has been tried and convicted of illegal practices, I can’t comment on a specific company or merchant. On the other hand, I live by an old adage my mom taught me: “If you can’t say something good — don’t say ANYTHING.” That’s one I live by, so if you ask me about a specific company or merchant and all you hear is silence — draw your own conclusions. Always remember the old saying, “buyer beware.”

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PICKING UP STEAM: As this column goes along we, as a community, are really picking up steam and protecting ourselves. I’ve said it before, but thanks to The Coeur d’Alene Press and Mike Patrick, the managing editor. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be doing this column and hundreds and hundreds of people would have been cheated and bilked out of thousands of dollars.

It’s only been about 10 months. Our area has become a “hard target” for the bad guys. Let’s keep it up. If you have a question, call me. Don’t go it alone.

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SHAMELESS PLUG: You can read The Press online or subscribe to the hard copy. The small price of a subscription might save you a ton of money, time and trouble!

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REMEMBER: I’m in your corner!

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I have many more tips and interesting cases that I’m working on as The CDA Press Consumer Guy. Call me at (208) 699-0506, or email me at BillBrooksRealEstate@gmail.com or fax me at (866) 362-9266. Please include your name and a phone number. I am available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups.

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Bill Brooks is the CDA Press Consumer Guy and the Broker and Owner of Bill Brooks Real Estate in Coeur d’Alene.

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