My pay-as-you-go flip phone regularly receives calls from numbers I don’t recognize. For a while I’d pick up any that began with 206 or 425; having lived in Seattle for eight years I figured it might be an old acquaintance or former classmate.
Each time, though, it was a robonotification about a great deal on a credit card, vacation or something else I didn’t need. Nowadays I don’t pick up, and guess what? Those unknown callers never leave messages!
I’m not alone in feeling pestered. Phone-spam victims received an average of 118 sales-pitchy or downright fraudulent calls this year, according to a new study from Hiya, a free caller ID/call-blocker app.
And there’s no place like your phone for holiday fraud. Seasonal scams are up by 113 percent over last year, the study notes.
Gift card scams. A recipient is told that he’s won a FREE CARD! To get this prize, all he has to do is pay an activation fee and/or shipping and handling. Alternate scenario: The recipient is given the opportunity to purchase one card and get two more for free. In either case, you can imagine what happens once the victims have handed over their credit card numbers.
Cruise scams. Being told that you won a free cruise call sounds great, until you’re also told that you must pay “port fees” or some kind of tax to claim the tickets. Riiiight.
Charitable scams. Veterans need your help! So do police unions, state troopers, breast cancer survivors and firefighters. And indeed these groups do – but it’s essential to check the veracity of the organizations. Personally, I never donate over the phone because I have no idea who’s on the other end of the line.
Generally I screen my numbers on our landline, too. But if I accidentally pick up a begging call, I ask that an official request be sent to me on company letterhead so that I can research the organization through a watchdog site like Charity Navigator. Not once has a caller agreed to do that.
Holiday team challenge at Swagbucks
A seasonal team challenge is currently on at the Swagbucks rewards site. “Dashing Through The Dough” divides Swagbucks users into four groups – I’m one of the Ginger Bread Heads – and the team with the most points wins.
It’s a friendly competition but there’s a little incentive, too. All members of the winning team who have contributed at least 400 points (formerly “Swagbucks,” now “SB”) will earn 50-SB bonuses.
Contribute those points through activities like using the Swagbucks search engine, taking surveys, watching videos and shopping online through the site’s portal.
If you’re not already a member, I hope you’ll join with my affiliate link.
Even if you don’t use my link, I hope you’ll join somehow. This is my favorite rewards program, one that has helped me pay for a lot of holiday shopping. Meals out, too: Later this month I’ll be heading down to Phoenix and plan to treat my daughter and son-in-law to dinner with some Swagbucks gift cards.
Get going on that FAFSA
You’ve had since Oct. 1 to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Money savant Jean Chatzky says that the best time to have done this was, well, right away.
And if not? The next best time is right now.
Citing an Edvisors.com study called “Leaving money on the table,” Chatzky points out that “students who file the FAFSA in the first three months after applications open have historically received more than two times the grant funding.”
In her newsletter, Chatzky cited another interesting study result: More than 1.1 million students might have gotten an average of $3,400 more apiece in state and institutional grants had they filled out the FAFSA in the first three months. That’s because such funds may be apportioned on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Filing early could get you earlier responses about aid offers – meaning more time for you to make college decision pro/con lists,” Chatzky says.
If you or someone you know has been procrastinating on filling out the FAFSA, get going. Yes, I know it’s a pain: I did it first for my daughter and then for myself. But the chance at an additional $3,400 is worth a little torment.