Web ID secure
Personal Web data
According to professional Internet trackers,
here’s how to protect yourself against ID theft while
using the Internet.
■ Read the privacy policies of each Web site that
asks for identifying information. Although you
might not have control over what happens to data,
you can at least know the site’s policy about retaining and protecting any data they collect.
■ Avoid identifying information in user IDs,
such as a first initial and full last name. Choose a
name that avoids any reference to your name, where
you work or other personal information to make
tracking more difficult.
■ Use “anonymizing” software such as Tor
www.torproject.org). Such systems relay data packets
through many servers to help mask the numeric
Internet Protocol address identifying your computer.
Note: Costco offers protection against identity
theft through Identity Guard. For details, go to Costco.
com and click on “Services,” then on “Identity
IN NOVEMBER I ordered a
one-month, online free trial
of an acai berry weight-loss
product, using my MasterCard to pay the shipping fee.
[When I did not receive the
product], I tried to cancel as
instructed, but couldn’t reach
[the Web site] by phone or
e-mail. I called MasterCard
and they closed my account
to prevent further charges.
But in January, the new
account was also charged.
No product was even
received! When I called
MasterCard, they said I failed
to supply requested info.
Shasta Lake, CA
Prepaid phone deals
As many of us tighten our belts even more, one
way to save is on cellphone service, if you’re a low-use person. Many people are recognizing that the
$59 plan they signed up for has jumped by about
$15, $20 or more each month due to add-ons, taxes
and other fees.
That’s why prepaid cellular phones are quietly
and quickly gaining popularity. Phone users who
limit their monthly calls to 300 minutes or less can
achieve substantial savings, according to the nonprofit Telecommunications Research and Action
Center. If you can live with the restrictions, a prepaid phone is worth looking at.
All major carriers offer these plans. Here are
some issues to consider, according to the experts.
Purchasing the phone. The phones can cost as
little as $10 or up to $200 or more. While the hottest
phones aren’t available under prepaid plans, you can
still find models that take pictures, play music, offer
e-mail and/or provide Web access if you’re willing to
Paying for usage in advance. Each company has
different rates for each minute of talking or texting.
You can replenish your minutes when you run low or
wait till the phone goes dead when they’re used up.
Extra fees. Some plans charge a fee whenever
the phone is used. Some deduct text messaging and
Web access from the minutes purchased. Make sure
you know about these fees before you sign up.
Plans. Each plan is different, so read the fine
print carefully. Confirm in advance what the per-minute rate is, if there are calling-area restrictions, if
there’s a daily rate or if there are fees to reload your
phone with additional minutes.
Extras. Most prepaid phones are bare-bones,
but you can find models with a camera, Bluetooth,
Web browsing, GPS navigation and keyboard if
you’re willing to pay extra for the features. Of course,
that will sharply decrease your savings.
Talking and texting. Users are charged for every
minute of a call and every text message
sent or received. A prepaid is a good
option for kids only if you can trust
them to limit their calls to emergencies or checking in.
Prepaid only? If you are a
heavy user or texter, or if the mobile
phone is your only phone,
using a prepaid is not the
most economical strategy.
If you are able to drop
your land line, switching
to prepaid wireless for
everything brings the
most savings. Or, use
your prepaid for outgoing calls and your
land line for incoming,
to save money when
someone calls you. C
Note: Costco offers
a variety of cellphones
and service plans in its
T-Mobile, one of the
service providers available
through Costco, offers
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
© 2009 FIGHT BACK! INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
The Center for Science in
the Public Interest issued a
warning about widespread
online acai weight-loss double
scams. Some of these online
programs are set up to
an ongoing monthly
amount. It has proved
next to impossible
to contact vendors
You must write
Explain that you
want to cancel your
shipments, and refuse
any more charges from the
company. Stress that you
are disputing all current
charges and that the com-
pany has made it impossible
to communicate with them
directly to cancel. In the
letter, indicate a “cc” to the
Federal Trade Commission,
and do send them a copy. Mail
this letter to your MasterCard
customer service headquarters
via U.S. mail, return receipt
requested. Keep on top of this
until you get results.
More in archives
At Online Edition, search
Do you have a question for David?
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