■ Annual checkups
■ Old debt scam
WHEN YOU CALL toll-free or pay-per-minute The Colorado researchers acknowledged that,
numbers (such as “900” or “976” services), your given the cost of a doctor’s-office visit and diagnostic
incoming number can be automatically recorded in a testing, the necessity of this annual ritual should be
database for later commercial and telemarketing use. examined closely. The experts say you should take
The technology is known as “automatic number this into consideration when doctors remind you to
identification” (ANI). It’s the same system used by schedule your next annual physical.
rescue services to identify an incoming call and
record the number to assist in pinpointing location. Beware of old-debt scam
And it’s impervious to the standard caller ID block- SOME COLLECTION AGENCIES are illegally resing provided by your phone company. ANI is urrecting old debts to try to collect payment by
approved by the Federal Communications Commis- threatening to damage the individual’s credit scores
sion (FCC), and commercial use of the system is not if the money supposedly owed is not paid. The
currently regulated. problem is that man y of these debts have
The phone-number harvesters are not required been paid off or are null and void.
to inform you that the information is being The Federal Trade Commissionhas
recorded. Your call qualifies you as an existing busi- charged some collectors with what is
ness contact, which gives them the right to call you called “re-aging” of old debts. One col-directly with a sales pitch—or to sell your phone lection agency recently was fined $1.5
number to other telemarketers. million for using the technique.
Here’s what to do to fight back. If you call one of It was the largest civil penalty
these numbers and you reach a live person, let them ever obtained under the Fair
know that you do not want any of your personal or Credit Reporting Act.
contact information to be added to their company If you suspect you might
records. Make it clear that you don’t want any of this be a victim of such a scam, law
information to be released or sold to other compa- enforcement agencies advise
nies. You can also inform them that you do not want you to report the activity, in
the company to solicit future business from you. writing, to the credit bureau
For phone-blocking information, call customer that is sharing the inaccurate
service at your local telephone company. To com- information with the collec-plain about a company using ANI to lift your phone tion agency. Then, send copies
number, contact the FCC Governmental Affairs of your letter to the Federal
Bureau at www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html. Trade Commission, your
state’s attorney general and
Annual checkups: necessary? the Better Business Bureau in
FOR MANY OF US, a yearly physical exam is a rit- the city where the collection
ual, particularly if it is covered by health insurance. agency is located. C
However, medical experts are divided about
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has
declared there is insufficient evidence of any benefit to
healthy adults from many of the tests used in checkups David Horowitz is a
such as urine analysis, blood-sugar testing for diabetes leading consumer advocate.
and thyroid exams. Yet according to a survey by the His “Fight Back!” commen-
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, pub- taries are heard daily on
lished in Archives of Internal Medicine, many of the 783 the Jones Radio Network.
medical doctors interviewed believed that the routine For stations and times,
exams should include these tests. check the radio page at
IN 1998, I PURCHASED a
high-end car-alarm system
with a lifetime warranty. It
malfunctioned and I took it
to the retailer for repair.
They’ll provide the labor
for free, but said the alarm
needs a new “brain.” The
manufacturer filed for bank-
ruptcy and was bought out
by a new company that
won’t honor the warranty
for the part. They insist
I purchase an upgrade
Santa Monica, CA
AMY CAN TRELL
learned, “lifetime war-ranties” mean little.
Whose lifetime? The manufacturer’s? The equipment’s? The buyer’s?
legally, the new owner
acquired the origi-
assets but did not
assume their lia-
bilities. It is no
different than if
a store had sim-
ply gone out
buying the upgrade,
or simply get a new
system from the
retailer. You might be
content with a new
alarm with more
after seven years.
However, I would
not let the retailer off the
hook. To keep you as a
happy customer, suggest
they either negotiate a dis-
count with the new owner
for the “brain” or reduce
the purchase price of a
new system—and possibly
install it for free.
An earlier study by the same researchers found www.fightback.com.
that about two-thirds of consumers believe the
annual physical is necessary, but only one-third got
such an exam if they had to pay personally for it. Do you have a question for David?
The survey concluded that while there’s no Just log on to www.fightback.com and “Ask David.” He will personally respond
medical guidance that annual physicals for healthy to your problem if you follow the instructions printed on his Web site. (Costco
adults are useful, 65 percent of primary-care doctors members receive a rebate off the normal fee.) Questions and answers of
think they are necessary and nearly nine out of 10 the greatest interest to Costco members will be used in this column with the
perform the exam. permission of the contributor and will be posted on www.fightback.com.