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CLEVELAND, Ohio (8/30/02)--"Budget" is not a dirty word. That's the message credit unions want to send to future collegians. Credit unions encourage incoming college students to adopt a simple, flexible accounting of income and expenses (a spending journal, for example). Students also should put some money from every paycheck in savings. And, students must decide what constitutes an emergency (usually not a midnight pizza break) and how to handle such a situation. Will they keep a stash of cash? Carry an emergency credit card? Or will they rely on electronic services? Finally, students should know whom they can talk to if they get in over their heads. Parents, school financial aid officers, and credit counselors are all good sources. For more information, check out the National Endowment for Financial Education's high school financial planning program (The Plain Dealer Aug. 18) ...

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently proposed the creation of a national Do Not Call list that would let people stop telemarketer calls made from outside their state simply by registering with a government agency. While the national list is under debate, 25 states already have their own Do Not Call lists.

But a new FTC warning indicates that some scam artists are trying to capitalize on your dislike of telemarketers. In this latest scam, con artists call posing as a worker for the Do Not Call registry and ask for personal information, including Social Security, bank account, and credit card numbers.

To protect yourself from scams such as this, never give your personal information to someone you don't know, no matter who they claim to be. And, most important, use your head. If you already registered for the list, you gave the needed information, so why would anyone call asking for your Social Security number?

Waiting game--How to avoid flight delays
SAN FRANCISCO (8/27/02)--Flight delays have become an all-too-common occurrence. Hate to wait? You can take steps to lower your chances of getting stuck in the airport (CBS Marketwatch Aug. 14).
    According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), you should:
  • Fly early. Early flights have fewer delays. And, the chances for rerouting are better earlier in the day if your flight is eventually cancelled.
  • Avoid rush hour. If possible, stay away from the peak flying hours--4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Book a nonstop flight. Delays are less likely on nonstop flights, because there are fewer legs of the trip that can be delayed.
  • Consider your connections. If you have to make stops, choose your connecting cities wisely. If possible, fly through Southern cities in the winter and Northern cities in the summer. It could help avoid major delays caused by weather.
  • Check the record. Before booking a flight, check out the airline's on-time performance record. The DOT requires that all major U.S. carriers make this information available to passengers upon request.

May 5, 2004 - There's yet another e-mail scan under way, but this one may be scarier to some then earlier ones: The e-mail being sent fraudulently informs recipients that they're under investigation for tax fraud.

IRS issued a warning in a press release Friday about the new scheme. The fraudulent e-mail is aimed at tricking taxpayers into providing their Social Security numbers, driver's license information and bank and credit-card numbers via a web site set up to look like it belongs to a federal agency.

Information such as that noted above can be used by identity thieves to take over a person's financial accounts, run up charges on credit cards, apply for loans and file fraudulent tax returns.

IRS says the fake web address presented and the e-mail itself contained grammatical errors, which should raise a red flag. However, it said new versions could surface later, so taxpayers should remain aware of the possibility of such scams.

Taxpayers that think they've received one of these e-mails should call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484. They can also call IRS at (800) 829-1040 to verify if an e-mail sent over IRS's name is legitimate.