That Time They Tried to Scam Me

I saw this headline at msn.com this morning:

Ex FBI agent: 2 things you need to know to avoid falling for a money scam

So I tucked in for a read.  The author – Ali Montag – shared the professional advice of FBI agents that could help the reader avoid scams.

This is interesting and timely to me because of an experience I had just last week.

After several days of reading CNET and PC Magazine blog reviews and changing my mind between Hulu and SlingTV (then Hulu ans SlingTV, again), I finally decided to get a Roku to stream Hulu.  Seriously, I believe I read everything there was to read online about these services before jumping in.  So, imagine my surprise when some voice over the phone was telling me I needed to pay $49 to activate the device. Basically it happened like this…

After Mirror Image read the instructions that came in the box, we hooked the cute little $29 Roku Express to the television after a longer than should have been game of find the HDMI plug. We went through the process of entering data on the screen and then got to the part where we we instructed to go to the activation website to enter a code.

I entered the web address on my phone and got a message saying the code wasn’t accepted and that I needed to call this number – 866-567-5581.  I did and a loud rushed male voice answered.  I wish I could remember what words he answered with but can’t.  I shared that I received a message to call this number about the activation error.  He told me that I can’t submit the activation code until I until I pay the activation fee.  I was shocked.

I told him I wasn’t aware of any such fee.  I told him I never saw any mention of a $49 fee on the web site.  He told me – get this – that the website was down.  All of the websites? Really?

By now I was teeth gnashing mad. I told him I would have to think about this before moving forward and hung up. I was perplexed.  How could no site, including all of the reviews and the Roku site itself, ever not mention a $49 activation fee? Maybe because there is not an activation fee. Then I asked Google “tell me about Roku scams”, and she did.

Apparently I was not the first (and probably wont be the last) to have an issue.  Those stories weren’t exactly the same as what happened to me but just similar enough that it was obvious that a scam was certainly a possibility here. In one post, I read that customers had actually returned their units to the stores because of the $49 charges and the confusion over having to pay for something that didn’t supposed to have an additional fee and trust me, it is likely I would have done the same thing.

So I tried it again with the Roku. I got a new code, typed in the activation website EXACTLY as was on the screen, entered the activation code, it was accepted with no issues that time and I merrily binged watched the rest of the evening.

It is frustrating that some people’s jobs is to steal money other people work hard for at their own jobs.  And this would have been a real blow to my finances as the scam likely wouldn’t have ended with a $49 charge but would have wreaked more havoc as my credit card would have been exploited. The whole reason I got Roku/Hulu in the first place was to lessen my financial burden.

I am glad I had researched the process before or I may have believed the grift.

Life – it is always something!

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Changing Car Insurances – Again!

 

Sometimes I feel like it costs a lot to save a lot.

In this case I mean the high cost of insurance to negate the high cost of a potential car incident claim.  To be specific, that is a cost of $1,100 for six months.

If you read an earlier post where I was ridiculously pleased with myself for changing insurance companies to get a better rate, then this post should seem a bit odd.  For me, finding out my insurance increased by about $300 in one period, I found it very odd.  Not accidents.  No claims. Just an increase.

When I finally realized the extreme increase, I called Progressive and said “huh wha?”  The response was that the elimination of a one time $75 discount and the rest was a general rate increase.  There is nothing general about a $300 rate increase.

Thank goodness for the creation of the modern interweb and insurance comparison sites. After checking several – including Esurance, State Farm and Geico –  I signed up with Geico for about $115 per month.  That is about $70 less per month I would have paid with Progressive had I stayed and the policies are comparable.

My guess is that going forward, I will need to shop yearly for insurance.  The companies are resetting rates quicker and higher than I have experienced in the past and I am unwilling to keep paying higher just because of “general rate increases” that have nothing to do with my personal driving record.

The good news is, getting a discount on what I was paying will make room for the new added Allowance line item in the budget.

Question – at what point do you decide to forego Comprehensive coverage form your policy?  Age of car?  Kelly Blue Book value of car?  Amount in savings account to replace the car with cash? I am curious.

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Planning for College…at 13 years old?

When I was in high school, I was clueless about the college process.  I had a vague notion that I would go.  I was in a college prep magnet school after all.  Everyone in my school was expected to go to college or university.  But I didn’t have a real vision of college.  Or what to do to prepare myself.  Or, how much it would cost.

Fortunately  I was a good standardized test taker and my SATs made me desirable to colleges.  But including my grades, not desirable enough to offer huge scholarships. My mother, God bless her, paid for the majority of my undergrad education.  I only had to take out a few small loans.

Ironically, I wound up working as a recruiter for colleges and universities once I graduated.  I educated high school students and families what to do to prepare themselves and their finances for college attendance.  And now, I want to use all that expertise to prepare Mirror Image.  And I want to do it too much.

Fortunately, when Mirror Image was in elementary school, she developed into a very bright student.  Loved learning, loved delighting her teachers and loved being the best student.  She was competitive. She carried the good grades into Middle School where she has been on the Honor Roll and Principal’s List and last week, was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society.

If she wants to, she can parlay her natural abilities into high school success and eventual college scholarships.

This has made me a bit greedy strategic in my thinking.

I want a paid college experience for her soooo bad.  I want it soooo much that I am really pushing her to get the best possible grades, stay on the honor roll NO MATTER WHAT. And, I am going to push her to get an associates degree while in high school.  Our County offers this with the local community college – earning an A.A. while earning a high school diploma.

Only paying for 2 years of college (excluding any types of scholarships, of course) is a HUGE savings.  Plus, it allows us to invest more in advance degrees, which she will likely need, if she continues to love the idea of a career in STEM.

But she doesn’t quite appreciate my nagging enthusiasm.  That is because she is not mother of a lovely bright daughter paying the mortgage, supporting an excitable destructive German shepherd dog, currently replacing the hot water heater (more on that in another post) who now knows the value of stretching yourself a bit more for big payoffs at the end.

I think when she is a mom of a genius, she will appreciate me then.

Don’t you?

Question – How early do you think families should start the college planning process?

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Changes!

Gimme my money, mommy!

Some changes have come and are continuing to come to the Thrifty Image household.  And that’s a good thing!  How boring would it be if everything were to stay to same?

One change?  My little one is not so little anymore.  She turned 13 last week!  THIRTEEN!  She is growing into a lovely, smart, frisky and expensive young lady.  Who am I kidding?  She has always been expensive.  Kids bring their own set of fiscal allocations plus, she eats more than any kid I have personally known!  I have had the pleasure of learning to cook for her very healthy appetite and we are both healthy and better for it!

And with that change to THIRTEEN, comes an allowance or Change (with a capital C).

Just a random insert – whenever I think of allowance, I think of these awesome and somewhat dated but moral of the story relevant videos:

My kiddo knew this was the year we were planning to start giving her an allowance.  I was very clear with her, she needed to prove she could handle it.  No falling down on the job, so to speak. No forgetting chores…no school work issues…Well, she was ready!

I had to get ready, too.  What would go in order to add an Allowance line item to the budget?  How and when would she be paid?  What would the expectations be?  Total freedom with ‘her’ money? Financial lessons on giving?

Well, I thought the best thing to do was to teach her how I spend my salary and how I manage my income.  I created a simple budget that showed her my salary in yearly, monthly and weekly amounts.

I then broke down the taxes and tax sheltered deductions giving the net amounts.  I also shared with her how I broke down the take home pay into church giving, non-variable (mortgage, savings, insurance and gasoline) and variable (food, pet expenses and power) amounts.

I shared with her my money goals and my money woes.  Yep, laid it all right there on the coffee table.  She wasn’t exactly surprised.  She has ask me my salary before and she knows that it costs to live so, not really a huge reveal.  That was to come…

Then I revealed her budget.  A Whopping $20 per month! or $10 every 2 weeks! or $5 per week!  20 crisp dollar bills also laid out on the coffee table.

I let it be her choice when she received he allowance and she chose weekly.  That proves she’s a smart cookie because in all my planning, I totally forgot about the months with the extra week.  If she had gone with monthly, she would have lost out on $10 for the year.

Her budget looks like this:

  1. Income
    • $5 per week
  2. Expenses
    • Church giving $1 per week
    • Long term savings $1 per week

I shared with her that she should consider her savings ‘gone’ and that she could save even more if she wanted to but $1 was the minimum.  She says she wants to be an aggressive saver so, we will see.

I am excited to see this next chapter in her life.  I am hopeful that she accepts this opportunity to become a smart money manager, frugal and a strong saver.  I am very hopeful she doesn’t just by cheap crap and junk food.

I don’t have a fully thought out plan on raises yet but I will get there.  It took me a long time to decide on the $20 per month.  I wanted it to be high enough to ‘mean’ something to her but not so much that it would be a distraction or something that she brags about.

She said “thank you” when I gave it to her so maybe it was the right amount after all.

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