Jacquelyn Lynn - Online Consumer Advice and Commentary

Jacquelyn Lynn is a business writer whose dynamic books and insightful articles have been helping business owners and managers work smarter and more profitably for more than two decades. She is the author of Entrepreneur’s Almanac, Online Shopper’s Survival Guide and co-author of Make Big Profits on eBay, as well as a regular contributor to Entrepreneur magazine. For more information and for the link to her business blog, visit www.jacquelynlynn.com.

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Location: Central Florida

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Online Safe Deposit Box – Extra Security for Important Papers

Physical safe deposit boxes are a great idea, but they don’t meet all your document security needs. And they have definite limitations because they are physical.

An Online Safe Deposit Box lets you store copies of important documents (your passport, driver’s license, credit card information, insurance policies, etc.) online in a completely secure and encrypted location that you can access from virtually anywhere in the world.

Consider these scenarios: You’re traveling on business or vacation and your wallet is stolen. How fast can you access copies of your identification and credit card account numbers? With an Online Safe Deposit Box, that information is available immediately.

Or, what if your home is damaged by a fire or natural disaster such as a hurricane or tornado and your files are destroyed? With an Online Safe Deposit Box, no problem—you’ve got access to that information so you can begin your recovery process right away.

Visit www.keepyousafe.com for complete details and to sign up for a free box.



Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fraudulent Spam E-Mail Claiming to be From FBI Director Mueller

A bogus e-mail claiming to be from FBI Director Robert Mueller III is circulating around the internet. The attempt to defraud victims comes in two separate e-mails and includes threats from the FBI for those who fail to comply.

This e-mail is a scam; just delete it.

Click here for the full details from the FBI.



Keep pets safe this Halloween

This isn’t exactly consumer advice, but it’s good information. Halloween is potentially hazardous for dogs and cats. Click here for advice from Lorraine Corriveau, wellness veterinarian at Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, on keeping your four-legged friends safe.



Tuesday, October 24, 2006

An Easy Way to Protect Yourself from PC Viruses and Spyware

As I’ve shared with you in earlier posts, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Audri and Jim Lanford, who publish the Scambusters newsletter. They are recommending a product designed for new computer users, and I want to tell you about it.

Audri and Jim point out that every single day we hear about viruses causing major PC crashes, PCs being hacked into, spyware installed without the computer owner’s permission, and private information stolen.

The inconvenience and cost of repairing this physical damage is considerable, but the psychological effect can be devastating. Yet it’s relatively simple to protect yourself. Still, millions of new computer users never take the steps to protect themselves because installing security and safety precautions appears to be costly, technical, and intimidating. But when they don’t do it, the consequences are devastating.

The simple solution Audri and Jim recommend is The PC and Internet Security Kit. Read about it at http://www.theinternetguide.com/oct24.html.



Sunday, October 22, 2006

Get the customer service you deserve

You’ve probably gotten lost in the maze of a company’s automated telephone system more times than you can count. Click here for some great advice on how to get around the automated system and to a live person who (we hope) can help you.



Friday, October 20, 2006

Credit card fraud prevention

An e-mail has been floating around the internet for years with advice from someone claiming to be an attorney on how to avoid credit card fraud.

Some of the advice is very good, some simply repeats urban legends, some is useless, and some is downright silly. Click here to read the Scambusters newsletter that evaluates this e-mail—and if you happen to get this e-mail, please don’t pass it on.



Thursday, October 19, 2006

Getting a free credit report - a truly free report, with no strings

You know you should check your credit report regularly. Doing so lets you see if there are any mistakes on your report that could adversely affect you when applying for credit or even a job, as well as alerts you to the possibility of identity theft.

You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. However, if you go to www.freecreditreport.com, you’ll be asked to sign up for a trial membership in Experian’s credit monitoring service. If you want that, fine. But I don’t think it’s truly a free report; it’s a marketing technique to get you to buy a service. And that's why I did not make it a live link in this post.

To get the real free credit reports, go to www.annualcreditreport.com.



Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pretexting: another angle on identity theft

Have you ever participated in a telephone survey? In most cases, it was probably a legitimate poll, but fraudsters have discovered this as an identity theft technique.

It’s called pretexting. A pretexter uses false pretenses to trick you into revealing personal information, such as financial data (bank, credit card, investment account information), your Social Security number, your various passwords, and anything else they might be able to use to commit fraud. In addition to claiming to be conducting a survey, pretexters have been known to say they represent government agencies, banks, law enforcement agencies, and more.

The pretexter’s call may seem harmless enough, especially in the beginning. Remember, these are con artists, and they know they need you to relax and drop your guard so you’ll give them what they want.

Sometimes the pretexter is also the person who will commit the identity theft or fraud. Other times, the pretexter sells the information to private investigators or to scammers.

The concept isn’t new but, as with so many other scams, the criminals are getting increasingly sophisticated and doing far more damage.

How can you protect yourself?

Be wary of any unsolicited call asking you for information. Participate in phone surveys if you want to, but consider your answers carefully. For example, if the survey is about pets, it’s reasonable to expect questions about the number and breed of your animals, but there’s no reason for a survey company to need to know your pets’ names—especially since a lot of people use their pets’ names as passwords. The same thing applies to children: number and age, fine; names, no. And speaking of passwords, don’t use the names of your immediate family and/or pets as passwords.

If the caller wants to “verify” account numbers or other information, do not volunteer and details he does not already have. For example, if the caller says, “I show your account number as 12345,” your response should simply be, “No, that’s not accurate.” But do not offer the correct number. And never give the name of your bank, stock brokerage, or other financial services provider.

Remember that criminals know how to do things like spoof Caller ID – so you see a display with a phone number and name of a legitimate business, but that’s not really where the call is coming from.

Never totally relax when you are talking with someone you don’t know on a call you did not initiate. And before you answer any question, ask yourself this: Does this person really need to know this and can he or she use the information to commit fraud or steal from me?



Monday, October 16, 2006

Receipts printed with disappearing ink

When you make a purchase in a brick-and-mortar store that might need to be returned (either for an exchange or for warranty repairs) or that is a deductible business expense, make a photocopy of the original receipt and attach the two before filing them. Why? Because many retail receipts are printed on thermal paper that fades. When they become unreadable, you can’t use them to prove the date of purchase or the amount.

Read the discussion on this issue at Janet Attard’s blog.



Sunday, October 15, 2006

I hope Home Again Pet Recovery Service does a better job tracking animals than rebates

Orlando Sentinel columnist Greg Dawson repeatedly gives this advice, which I’m happy to echo: Never buy anything based on a promised rebate. If the seller or manufacturer is offering a rebate, fine. Ignore that when making your purchase decision. And if you happen to get the rebate later, then you’ve gotten a bonus. But if it doesn’t come, you don’t get around to filing for it, or you decide not to jump through the rebate hoops, or whatever, you should still be pleased with the terms of your purchase.

Earlier this year we added a dog to our family. When I had her microchip implanted (for those of you who might not know, that’s a small chip implanted under the dog’s skin coded with information that allows a vet or animal control facility to identify her if she gets lost), the receptionist at my vet’s gave me a rebate form along with my receipt.

I didn’t decide to have her “chipped” because of the rebate, but since they were offering to send me $10 back, I figured I’d take advantage of it.

About four months after sending in the form, it occurred to me that I hadn’t received the rebate. I called the toll-free number on the form for Home Again Pet Recovery Service and was told I had to call another (not toll-free) number to ask about the status of my rebate. Thanks to all-you-can-talk flat-rate long distance packages, I didn’t mind making the call. The woman who answered found my rebate in “the system” right away, told me I “had to understand” that it could take 10-12 weeks (it had been more like 16 weeks) to process the rebates. And surprise, surprise! My rebate arrived in the mail three days later.

Draw your own conclusions about the integrity of this particular rebate program. Just remember that if you make rebates part of your purchase decisions, you could frequently end up paying more than you intended.



Thursday, October 12, 2006

Identity theft: when someone uses your identity to get a job

When you think about identity theft, you usually think of thieves using your personal financial information to steal from you or others by getting credit in your name. There’s another aspect of identity theft that is a growing problem.

Illegal immigrants often buy a stolen Social Security number to that they can get jobs. Because they’re not applying for credit, nothing will show up on your credit report, and the theft of your information may not be uncovered for years.

But if someone is working under your SSN, it can create havoc with your own income taxes and Social Security payments and benefits. I saw a news story recently about a woman who spent years trying to get straight with the IRS and prove to them that she really had been a stay-at-home mom and had not earned any money for years, even though a number of illegal immigrants had been working using her identity.

According to an article in the New York Times, about 7 million illegal immigrants are working under stolen SSNs. Many of these stolen SSNs belong to children, who might not learn of the fraud until they start working. It doesn’t matter how you feel about immigration issues, if you are a victim of this type of ID theft, you could spend thousands of hours and a lot of money getting it straightened out.

What can you do? If you are 25 or older, the Social Security Administration will send you an annual statement of your earnings and benefits eligibility. Take the time to review this statement and make sure it matches your own records. You can also request a statement from Social Security at any time by going to www.ssa.gov. If you have children, review their accounts as well as your own, and do it on a regular schedule.



Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What do you do with gifts you don’t want?

More than half of Americans recently surveyed by Harris admit to re-gifting – that is, rewrapping and presenting a gift they’ve received to someone else. Click here to read more about that.

Something else you can do with those gifts that you don’t like or can’t use and can’t return is to sell them on eBay. You can either post the item for sale yourself or use a storefront eBay seller such as QuikDrop to sell it for you. That way you can have the cash to use as you please instead of cluttering up your closets until you can get rid of the item.


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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Online Shopper’s Survival Guide review

I’m pleased with the early response to my latest book, Online Shopper’s Survival Guide (Entrepreneur Press).

Leslie Halpern recently reviewed the book. She wrote:

If you’ve ever wanted to buy something online, but worried about problems with fraud, identity theft, defective merchandise, or shipping woes, Online Shopper’s Survival Guide can help you safely navigate your way through the Internet. If you’re already an active online shopper (or seller), but want to step up to more high-priced items, such as buying cars, boats, travel accommodations, real estate, or vacation rentals, then you can also benefit from reading this book. In fact, everything that’s legal, including food, pet supplies, jewelry, medicines, jobs, friends, and dates can be obtained through the Internet, and Lynn shows you how to do it.
Click here to read the full review. And click here for the link to the book on Amazon.com.

By the way, I very much admire Leslie Halpern’s work. Her book, Reel Romance: The Lovers’ Guide to the 100 Best Date Movies, makes a great gift. Click here to visit her website.



Sunday, October 01, 2006

Boost Your eBay Profits

If you’re thinking about putting some things up for sale on eBay, whether you want to just clear out your closets or start an ongoing business, consider the tips in “Boost Your eBay Profits.” Writer Farnoosh Torabi interviewed me for this piece and did a great job of presenting a lot of advice in a short space.

Of course, if you want to know more, be sure to get the book I wrote with Charlene Davis, Make Big Profits on eBay. Visit my website at www.jacquelynlynn.com for more details and a link to purchase the book.