■ Auction alert
■ Home scams
SOME DOCTORS are finding new ways to make
up for dwindling income by passing new fees on to
patients, according to various reports.
They are generating cash by charging for formerly free services such as refilling prescriptions
over the phone, writing permission or excuse letters
and providing copies of patients’ files, to name just a
Some medical offices are also reportedly charging for returning patient phone calls or e-mail, filling out medical or insurance forms and responding
to other clerical requests.
Medical experts say such fees are inevitable as
practitioners seek increased cash flow to make up for
Medicare treatment cuts, lower health-care insurance fees and higher office operating expenses.
“In the old days, we just did it—it was part of
doing business and doctors would absorb the cost,”
says an East Coast pediatrician. “But in today’s climate, with so much paperwork involved, doctors
feel they can no longer give services for free.”
For example, the pediatrician said he now
charges $5 for such services as filling out school,
camp or athletic participation forms.
If you have questions about any charges, discuss
them with your physician. You might also want to
check the American Medical Association Web site at
www.ama-assn.org to see if such charges are allowed
by AMA policy.
approve release of your payment to the seller. Just
make sure you use a reputable escrow service.
Check it out the way you would any business.
WHEN I HAD new bedroom furniture delivered,
the delivery men damaged my hardwood floor,
leaving a 15-foot gouge
from the entry to the
bedroom. Several refinishers agree that the
floor must be refinished
because a repair will be
obvious, and my family
has to move out while
the work is done. But the
store’s insurance company says they're liable
to fix only the gouge, not
the whole floor.
San Ramon, CA
Be smart about online auctions
Buying and selling items online through auctions, classified ads, newsgroups and chat rooms
puts buyers at risk for many common types of fraud.
Unfortunately, resolving disputes can be difficult
when the seller is in a different city, state or country.
Crooks apparently know that federal agencies
may be unable to help buyers because many laws
don’t apply to private sales between individuals.
Here’s how you can protect yourself.
■ Find out how the auction works before you
bid. Don’t assume that the rules or protections of
one Internet auction apply to another. For example,
can you cancel a bid? Does the site provide free
insurance or guarantees for items that are not delivered or don’t match the description?
■ Research the value of the item you are bidding on. Establish your top price and stick to it.
Don’t bid on an item you don’t intend to buy; otherwise, if you’re the highest bidder, it’s yours!
■ Use an escrow service if the seller can’t accept
payment by credit card. In such a case, a third party
holds your money until you get your purchase and
Scam artists target homeowners
Once a property owner misses two or three
monthly payments, a lender routinely files a public
notice of default with the county recorder’s office,
which is a precursor to formal foreclosure. Scam
artists simply have to re ad the notices
to find possible victims. They then
descend on the homeowners with
outstretched hands and an offer to
help, and trick them into signing
over title to their homes.
Here are some tips to prevent
foreclosure fraud: Never
sign a contract under
pressure. Never sign away
ownership of your property to anyone without
getting advice from a
lawyer or knowledgeable expert. And don’t
make mortgage payments to someone
other than your lender.
Also, beware of
any home sale contract in which you
aren’t formally released
from liability for your
mortgage. And if you’re
use your own translator; don’t depend on
translation offered by
AMY CAN TRELL
David Horowitz is a leading consumer advocate.
His “Fight Back!” commentaries are heard daily on
the Jones Radio Network. For stations and times,
check the radio page at
© 2006 FIGH T BACK! INC. ALL RIGH TS RESERVED.
RICHARD, if the delivery
Do you have a question for David?
service is part of the
store, then they
should be insured
for such damages.
You should file a
claim to restore
the floor to its
tion, plus hous-
ing costs for
your family dur-
ing the repair.
Keep a paper trail
of all your communica-
tion, with all offers or
counteroffers in writ-
ing. If the store refuses
to do the necessary
work, turn this case
over to your insurance
company. Your best bet
may be to have the
repairs done under your
own policy and have
your insurer subrogate
the claim—going after
the store’s insurer to
Just log on to
www.fightback.com and “Ask David.” He will personally respond to
your problem if you follow the instructions printed on his Web site. (Costco members
receive a rebate off the normal fee.) Questions and answers of the greatest interest to
Costco members will be used in this column with the permission of the contributor
and will be posted on