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Pass It On: Unexpected bills and paying too much

dfox • Nov 11, 2015 at 6:00 PM

Pass It On reinforces what older people already know about some of today’s most common scams, and it gives them a short and straightforward way to share that knowledge with their family members, friends and communities. It focuses on their ability to be part of the solution instead of implying they’re part of the problem when it comes to scams.

This week, let’s discuss paying too much. Everyone pays all kinds of bills. Some are higher than you think they should be. Sometimes, unexpected charges appear on your bill – or sometimes, you might see a fee for a service you don’t recall ordering. Are you paying more than you should?

You are your own best advocate. How often does a company figure out that you’ve overpaid – and refund your money? It could happen – but you’re more likely to get money back if you spot the error and point it out.

It means keeping track of what you normally pay, and what the charges are for. You also can ask for a better deal: call to see if there’s a promotion you qualify for and how long it will last, or if they can lower your interest rate. They might say no – but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

 Here’s what you can do:

1. Read every statement, every time. Does something look wrong or unfamiliar? Call the company and ask. If you don’t like the response you get, ask for a supervisor. And keep written records of your calls.

2. Pass this information on to a friend. Not paying more than you need to might come easily to you. But you probably know someone who could use some friendly encouragement.

If you spot a scam, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Report scams online or call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or TTY 1-866-653-4261.

Your complaint can help protect other people. By filing a complaint, you can help the FTC’s investigators identify bad business practices and scam artists, and stop a friend from over-paying. It really makes a difference.

The topics in the first generation of the Pass It On campaign include imposter scams, identity theft, charity fraud, health care scams, paying too much, and “you’ve won” scams.  Pass It On bookmarks and fact sheets are free, and available for bulk order or download at ftc.gov/PassItOn.

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state and provides equal opportunities in all programming and employment. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.

For more information on this or other family and consumer sciences related topics, contact Shelly Barnes, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County.  Barnes can be reached at sbarnes@utk.edu or 615-444-9584.

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