The US Surgeon General's Family
History Initiative offers "My Family Health Portrait," a tool to help you organize your family's health
history information to share with physicians or other family members. http://www.hhs.gov/familyhistory/download.html
Healthfinder.gov is a comprehensive Web site developed by the
US Department of Health & Human Services, together with other federal agencies, that provides links to 1,500 health-related
Web sites to government and other health-related organizations. http://www.healthfinder.gov
MedlinePlus, from the
National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), provides health information, a medical encyclopedia,
and a medical dictionary, as well as access to medical journal articles and health tutorials, and provides links to other
health organizations. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/interactivetools/
The best part about this deal is, all you have
to do is ask. I called the Social Security Administration to find out if this strategy is legitimate. The spokesperson I talked
to said it's perfectly legal. In fact, the government can't deny anyone the income boost.
If you're 62 or older and collecting Social Security right
now, this loophole could easily boost your monthly payments by 50% to 75%.
For more information, you can visit the Social Security website at www.ssa.gov.
a website called Air Now (airnow.gov), which lists current air quality index (AQI) information
for towns and cities throughout the U.S. If the air where you live is bad today, Air Now can fill you in on the specific level
#3. Pull credit reports
to check for errors and fraudulent activity — Because of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, every American
is now entitled to a free report from the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion)
every 12 months. Yet a lot of people are not taking advantage of this offer.
You can choose to pull all three reports at one time, or space them out throughout the year
so you get a frequent look into your records.
way you choose to do it, look for errors, incorrect addresses, or any suspicious activity. If you have questions or corrections,
don't hesitate to contact the agency. After all, your credit score affects the interest rates you pay on all kinds of
To get your reports, visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. You can also request them by mail at: Annual Credit Report Service, P.O. Box 105281,
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
Bargain hunters already know that the Internet is a great place to find low prices on
merchandise. Now a rapidly growing array of Web sites is offering savings of 50% to 90% on services and experiences, such
as restaurant meals, spa visits, carpet cleaning, dry cleaning, movie and theater tickets, haircuts, gym memberships, yoga
classes and dance lessons.
These "local deal" or "deal-of-the-day" sites,
such asGroupon.comandRestaurant.com, negotiate special group rates with area eateries and service providers, then sell vouchers to the
public that work much like gift certificates—except that you buy them at steep discounts to their face value. Local
businesses agree to offer these deep discounts to attract large numbers of new customers who, they hope, will come back and
pay full price in the future.
$25 voucher to a local restaurant might cost $10 or even $2... a voucher good for a series of yoga classes that normally would
cost $250 might cost as little as $25.
Consumers use a credit card to pay online for the
voucher, print the voucher at home, then bring it to the local business to redeem it. With many of these sites, each deal
is available for just one day. The vouchers need not be used that same day, however—most don’t expire for months.
On some sites, deals take effect only if a certain number of users purchase the voucher. If not, the deal is voided and no
one is charged.
The widest range of offers is available to those who live in or near major
cities, but some of these Web sites serve smaller cities and suburban regions, too, and others plan to soon expand into them.
Helpful:You also might want to
sign up for discounts in a city that you plan to visit.
Here’s a look at the sites
worth trying, how they work and how to sidestep the traps that can turn seemingly great deals into money losers...
WHERE TO FIND DISCOUNTS
Among the sites
that offer the most attractive deals and cover the largest number of regions...
Groupon.comis the largest of these sites, available in more than
500 local areas worldwide. Sign up to receive daily deal e-mails. Most Groupon.com deals offer 50% to 90% off at a restaurant
or spa or for some leisure activity. Each deal is available for just one day, and the offers take effect only if a predetermined
minimum number of users sign up. If not enough people sign up, your credit card is not charged.Recent
example:$22 for two pottery classes that usually cost $45.
LivingSocial.comis in 182 areas worldwide and works much the same way
as Groupon.com. Discounts typically are 50% to 90%... restaurants, spas and theaters are among the businesses most often featured...
and each deal is available for purchase for just one day. Unlike with Groupon, however, there’s no sign-up tipping point—if
you want to purchase a voucher, you can, regardless of how many other LivingSocial users sign up. And LivingSocial provides
an added savings twist. If you can convince three other people to purchase the same deal, you will receive your voucher for
for two movie tickets that usually cost $20 or more.
BuyWithMe.comis not yet in as many regions as Groupon or LivingSocial,
but each of its deals is available for seven days, not just one—so there is far less pressure for you to make a quick
for hair styling at a salon that normally charges $75.
Restaurant.comoffers discounted vouchers for more than 18,000 restaurants
nationwide. Enter your zip code, and Restaurant.com will locate any offers in your area. Unlike the previously listed sites,
Restaurant.com offers typically are available for extended periods, not just a single day or week. Many Restaurant.com vouchers
impose restrictions on how and which days of the week they can be used, so read the fine print. The site often e-mails offers
of extra discounts off its usual discounts to people who register.Recent
examples:Many local restaurants offer $25 vouchers for $10 or less... or $100 vouchers for $40 or less through Restaurant.com.
Those fees may be discounted by an extra 80% from time to time, so you actually can pay just $2 for a $25 meal.
AGGREGATOR SITES HELP
There are other, smaller
sites that offer attractive deals in certain areas, and new local deals sites debut all the time. Rather than trying to monitor
them all, consider using a "deals aggregator" site, which monitors the individual sites and consolidates their current
offers into a single list or map.
Not all aggregator sites cover every geographic area or every deal
site, and each reports local deals in a different fashion. Try several before settling on the one that does the best job helping
you find deals that you like. Aggregator sites typically feature only short-term deals, not those available for extended periods,
such as the ones offered by Restaurant.com.
A big discount does not necessarily mean that something is a great deal. If you’re not familiar with
the business that is offering the discount, look for reviews from other customers on sites such asYelp.comorCitySearch.com-- orChowhound.comjust for restaurants -- or ask friends their opinions.
Other issues that can make a seemingly great deal a bad money move...
businesses can be overwhelmedwhen a flood of customers signs up
for these discounts, causing a temporary decline in quality. It makes some sense to wait a week or two for the crowds to diminish
before redeeming a voucher offered by a smaller business.
Unused vouchers are money
wasted.Keep your vouchers well-organized, and note their expiration
dates on your calendar. Do not buy a voucher just because it seems like too good of a deal to pass up—buy it only if
you are certain that you will use it.
may be able to resell your voucher—if you realize that you won’t use it—onLifesta.com, a daily deals marketplace site. A voucher generally is transferable unless it specifically says otherwise.
There is no cost to post a voucher for sale, but Lifesta takes 99 cents plus 8% of the sale price if you find a buyer. It
also is a good place to buy daily deals that you missed when they initially were offered.
often cannot redeem vouchers the same day.Most sites won’t
let you print out your voucher until a certain number of people sign up for it or until the day after it is purchased.Exception:Restaurant.com
vouchers generally can be printed and used the same day.
There can be important
caveats hidden in the small print.Some vouchers cannot be used on
the most popular days of the week. Others have high minimum-purchase requirements or other rules.Example:A restaurant voucher might be valid only Monday through Thursday.
Helpful:If there is a problem with
any of the discounts, contact the specific Web site by e-mail or toll-free number.
hink that you can't predict the future? With help, maybe you can. Prediction markets are Web sites that forecast every
conceivable type of event in politics, sports, science, etc. with surprising accuracy -- from which team will win the Super
Bowl to the likelihood of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane.
Participants cast their votes -- some markets even
accept wagers* -- on a particular outcome. How you can use these markets to predict the future...
betting is illegal in=2 0the US.
Presidential elections. The University of Iowa created
the first prediction market -- Iowa Electronic Markets -- in 1988, to forecast the outcomes of US presidential elections.
In the five elections since 1988, this market has been correct every time and the prediction of votes garnered by each candidate
has been more accurate than exit polls.
How you might use it: If you think that
the prospects for your business or the success of certain stocks you own depends on which candidate wins, you could follow
this market. www.biz.uiowa.edu/iem.
Interest rate changes. This newer market, also from the
University of Iowa, collects views on how the Federal Reserve will affect interest rates.
you might use it: If the exchange predicts that the Federal Reserve will increase interest rates at its
next meeting, a home buyer might want to lock in a mortgage rate.A 0www.biz.uiowa.edu/iem.
A movie's success. The Hollywood Stock Exchange predicts
a film's first month of ticket sales.
How you might use it: You can decide whether
it pays to buy tickets in advance (for a surcharge) on opening night. www.hsx.com.
Helpful: To find more forecasting sites, type
the subject and "prediction market" into an Internet search engine.
Internet Guru's Secrets of Better Web Searching
Randolph Hock, PhD
hatever your question, the answer probably is available online. The challenge is finding it. Typing a key word into a major
search engine, such as Google.com, often does the trick. Unfortunately, a simple key word search might not turn up the Web
page you need... or it might turn up so many pages that the one you need is hopelessly buried. Here are smart strategies
for better Internet searching...
Group several words together in
quotes to find Web pages where these words appear as a phrase. This should greatly focus your results. Rather than search
the words Green and Mountains to find out about the Vermont mountain range, search the phrase "Green Mountains"
If you can't recall one of the words in a phrase, some search engines, including Google and Yahoo!, will
allow you to substitute an asterisk.
Example: You can't recall the full name of a golf
club where you once played, but you are sure that it starts with the word "Winter." Type "Winter * Golf Club"
into Google to find Web sites that use this phrase with various terms in place of the asterisk, including Winter Pines Golf
Club and Winter Creek Golf Club.
MULTIPLE SEARCH ENGINES
Google.com is the most popular search engine, but it is not the only option. If the first 20 sites returned by Google are not useful
to you, repeat your search on Yahoo.com, Microsoft (http://search.live.com) or Ask.com. Each of these search engines has its own ranking algorithm, so different Web pages could appear near the top of the listings.
This is more time effective than pouring through pages of inappropriate listings on a single site.
Most major search engines offer a wide range of "advanced search" features, but few users ever bother
to explore them. Click the link reading "advanced search" or "advanced" on a search engine’s home
page to access these options. You can...
Restrict your search to Web pages where your key words appear in the title of the page. These are likely to be particularly
relevant to your subject.
Restrict your search to pages written in English... or located in a particular country.
Exclude certain terms. For instance, if you are interested in animals, not athletes, use advanced search to exclude Web pages
containing the word "Detroit" from your search of the key word "tigers."
Limit your search to a particular Web site. For instance, type "long term care" into the search box, but restrict
the "domain" to AARP.org to find only what that organization has published on the subject.
Specify a "Numeric Range." Google.com's advanced search lets users restrict their search results to Web pages
containing numbers within a given range. This is particularly useful for historical research.
If you search the terms "England" and "Civil War," most of your results will be about England's Civil
War. If you are after information on England's role in the American Civil War, use Google advanced search to restrict
the results to Web pages containing numbers from 1861 through 1865, the years of the American Civil War.
Search for Web pages that include a specified word near another specified word within the text on a particular page. A less
well-known search engine called Exalead.com is the only one to offer this useful feature.
Smart search strategies for finding...
People. Enclose both first and last names in quotes and search it as a phrase, rather than search the names
as separate key words.
Example: Search "Laurence Houseman" rather than Laurence
In subsequent searches, try common nicknames instead of this person's formal first name. If you know
this person's middle name, search yet again with this inserted between the first and last name... then change the middle
name to a middle initial and search one more time. If you do not know the middle name or initial, use Google and insert an
asterisk between the first and last name as in "Laurence * Houseman."
If the name is common, add this person's
state of residence, job title or spouse's name (but not in the quotation marks) to your search to better focus the list
Example: Searching "Bob Smith" yields an unmanageable one million-plus
results on Google... but searching "Bob Smith" together with the word "Arkansas" reduces this by 95%.
specialized people-finding search engines might be worth a try as well...
Pipl (www.pipl.com) provides basic facts and contact information, plus links to search companies such as USSearch and Intellius, that will scan
public records to locate the person you are after. These sites typically charge $10 to $50 to access an individual's complete
records, but they often provide basic information, such as hometown and spouse's name, for free. Return to Google and
search the name again in combination with these new details, as described above... or to search the spouse's name.
Zoominfo (www.zoominfo.com) can track people down for free through their professional history, because it identifies job titles and current and former
Pandia People (www.pandia.com/people) provides a useful collection of links to other sites for finding people.
Articles. Google News (http://news.google.com) is a great place to search for articles published in the past month. Google News has an "archive" search feature
for older articles, but older articles usually aren't available free.
Web site Kidon Media-Link (www.kidon.com/media-link) features links to the home pages of 19,000 newspapers, magazines and other news sources worldwide... Web site MagPortal.com
(www.magportal.com) also lets users search for articles from a wide range of publications that are available for free online.
article search comes up empty, contact your local library’s reference desk. Many libraries have databases that access
a broader range of articles than are available online. In some regions, library cardholders can search these databases from
home on their own computers.
Directions and maps. Video clips and pictures. Google Images (http://images.google.com) is a great search tool for still images of people, places and things. Search engine Blinkx (www.blinkx.com) is the best place to find online video clips. It searches transcripts of Web videos to find those containing your key words.
Health information. Search tools that are likely to steer you toward health information you can trust include
Healthline (www.healthline.com) and WebMD (www.webmd.com), which search on their own sites and on other health sites believed to be reliable. Government sites MedlinePlus (www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus) and Healthfinder.gov (www.healthfinder.gov) can locate trustworthy medical information on government Web sites or other health-care sites.
Financial information. Yahoo! Finance (http://finance.yahoo.com) is one of the most trustworthy search tools for money matters, because it does an excellent job of weeding out scams and
advertising that poses as news. This specialized Web portal searches only carefully selected sites that provide useful articles
Most Work-at-Home Job Offers Are Not What They Seem to Be
Audri Lanford, PhD
ould you like to earn lots of money in the comfort of your own home? Generate thousands in income in your spare time?
Ads offering work-at-home opportunities can be
found everywhere, from Internet employment Web sites to neighborhood telephone poles. This might seem like the perfect solution
for those who want to bring in some extra dollars. But, there’s a catch -- most of these work-at-home "opportunities"
are scams, cleverly designed to leave you with less money than when you began.Among
the most common work-at-home scams...
big bucks -- usually more than $1 per envelope -- for folding papers and sticking them into envelopes.
will be asked to pay for your supplies or training. You’ll typically receive only worthless instructions suggesting
that you con others into applying for envelope-stuffing jobs.
mailers use machines to stuff envelopes.
Medical billing or insurance-claims processing.Lure:You can make big money processing medical paperwork.
will be asked to pay hundreds of dollars for the software and training required.
majority of medical offices process their own bills or outsource to large companies. Very few hire individuals.
Assembling crafts or sewing together clothing.Lure:Are you good with your hands? Then these companies claim to have a career for you.
They will send you unassembled parts and instructions, and you assemble them and send them back.
company will ask you to pay a deposit up front because it needs assurance that you will do the work and return the assembled
goods. When you send in your completed products, most or all will be rejected as not meeting specifications, and the company
will keep your deposit.
big bucks by receiving e-mail sent to the customer service Web sites of major companies, then forwarding these messages to
the proper departments. For a fee, you can receive a list of companies anxious to hire you.
list will be worthless, perhaps just companies pulled at random from the Yellow Pages.
usually do not hire individuals to work at home processing e-mail.
Payment processing for international companies.Lure:A company with clients around the globe needs a US representative to handle incoming
checks. You will receive checks from overseas, deposit them in your account, take a small cut as your fee, then send your
own check for the remainder to your foreign employer.
you receive will bounce. By the time your bank informs you that there is a problem, the check you wrote will have cleared,
and your "employer" will have disappeared.
thousands of dollars by reporting on the quality of the service you receive in stores.
who says that you can earn high pay mystery shopping is a scammer. They might be trying to con you into paying for mystery
shopping information that you could find on-line for free.
mystery shopping assignments typically pay up to $10 an hour (in some cases, as high as $20 per hour), or perhaps you’ll
receive a free restaurant meal or a token amount of some merchandise. For information on legitimate mystery shopping opportunities,
see the Idea Lady Web site (www.idealady.com/sb.html).
Variation:You are told that you are evaluating a financial company, such as a bank or money-forwarding
service. You are then sent a large check and told to deposit this money in your own account, then wire some portion of the
funds to the address provided. The check bounces, leaving you responsible for the money wired.
Some work-at-home scams can be applied to virtually any work-at-home occupation.Be
suspicious if you are told...
"We overpaid you with your first check. Please send the extra money back." Your new employer "accidentally"
sent you more than you were owed and asks you to send back a check for the excess. Sometime after you send this check, your
bank tells you that the original paycheck bounced. Your "job" was a ruse to get you to send the "overpayment"
"You got the job! We just need your Social Security number so we can pay you." It is perfectly reasonable for an
employer to ask for a prospective employee’s Social Security number. Scammers take advantage of this by posting legitimate-sounding
job offers on career Web sites, then stealing applicants’ identities. Do not provide your Social Security number until
you have thoroughly researched the employer and are confident that the company and job opportunity are real.
Job Web sites Elance (www.elance.com), Guru (www.guru.com) and RentACoder (www.rentacoder.com) offer legitimate work-at-home opportunities, but usually only for workers with specific skills, such as computer programming,
Web design, writing, sales or engineering. (Use caution even on these Web sites -- there might be scams among the listings.)To avoid becoming a victim of work-at-home scams...
Ignore work-at-home job opportunities that arrive unsolicited via e-mail. Legitimate jobs are not advertised by spam.
Avoid offers that promise big profits without asking for specific skills or experience.
If someone trying to sell you on a business opportunity swears that there are dozens of potential clients in your region anxious
to work with you, insist on speaking with at least two or three of them. If no names are forthcoming and/or these "prospects"
don’t confirm their interest, move on.
Be skeptical whenever money heads in the wrong direction. Legitimate employers pay employees -- they do not charge potential
employees for training materials or interview fees. It is reasonable for a company to charge a fee if it is going to help
set you up in your own independent business, but be cautious of these offers, too. Likewise, avoid any job that requires you
to deposit checks or send checks from your own account.
Do a Web search to research any company. A legitimate company should have a professional-looking Web site (though this is
no guarantee of legitimacy). You should be able to locate the company’s phone number and address, not just a post office
box. The company Web site should not be the only place that the company’s name turns up on the Web. Skim the mentions
of the company that your search uncovers. Do any of them say the company is a scam? Also, check with the Better Business Bureau
Check the employer’s e-mail address. Legitimate corporate e-mail addresses usually end with the company name, not the
name of a free Web-based e-mail service.
Consider how you would hire employees for this job, and how much you would pay, if you were the employer. If an offer made
to you seems too good to be true, walk away.
Hedge your fuel costs like the airlines.Autoweek reports that a company called MyGallons.com lets members buy gasoline via its website at a predetermined average price for
the area where they live. The gallons are loaded onto a debit card that the company says is accepted at more than 95% of the
nation's fueling stations. MyGallons charges members an annual fee of $29.95 or $39.95 for the service.
Based on how many gallons you buy, the service sends you a debit card that lets you purchase
as much fuel (per gallon, not dollar) as you have stored up.
let's have some fun with math. Let's say you think the price of gasoline is going up an average 50 cents in the next
year, and you drive 12,000 miles a year in a car that gets 24 miles to the gallon. That means you'd use 500 gallons in
the next year, and if you're right about the price rise, you'd pay an extra $250 for gasoline over what you pay now.
So, it might be worth your while to hedge your fuel costs.
MyGallons concept is similar to Chrysler's current program that promotes a set $2.99 a gallon for fuel for three years.
Chrysler's program limits the guaranteed fuel price to the equivalent of 12,000 miles per year, whereas MyGallons members
can buy as much fuel as they need.
MyGallons launched a pilot
program in April, and estimates that the testers paid about $3.10 a gallon for gas, saving roughly a dollar over today's
Just remember, gasoline prices can go down as well
as up, and if you hedge too much at too high a price, you'll rue it later.
The MyGallons program is something you can do right now to lock in lower prices if you think oil and therefore
gasoline are going higher.
With energy and inflation ramping
up, you'll also want investments that will rise with both. Select energy stocks could be a good bet, but many stocks will
get killed in a recession. So here are a couple of exchange-traded funds that track oil and gold.
A new search engine... that's better than Google? So claim the engineers who launched Cuil today. The founders – former wizards at Google, IBM, and other tech companies – took $33 million
from venture capitalists and have created an engine they say searches four times as many websites as Google.
Will Cuil really challenge Google for search supremacy? Who knows? But
knowing a handful of engineers with just $33 million in capital could build a competitor sure makes me wonder if Google is
really worth $150 billion...
A True Story: It Happened to Us... It Could
Happen to You By Dr. Steve Sjuggerud
"$32,000 is gone," I told my mother-in-law on Monday.
"Did you authorize a wire transfer of $32,000 out of your account today?"
Someone else got her information and used it maliciously.
We jumped on it as soon as we discovered
it. We spent the rest of the day and night closing accounts and cleaning up computers. But I'm afraid the damage was already
done... Her personal information and passwords are in the hands of a skilled computer hacker.
It could just as easily happen to you.
And if you don't discover it as quickly as we did, or know what
to do, then you could lose a whole lot more money. Worse, you could spend the next few years with the difficult task of getting
back your money when you don't know who you're chasing.
It all started innocuously enough...
can you help me get into my e-mail?" my mother-in-law asked. "For some reason, my password doesn't
work anymore." We're on a mini-vacation to the Florida Keys, so I'm the default computer guru.
"It seems like you changed your password," I said. She told me she hadn't.
I tried to
request a new password online, but we couldn't answer the "security questions." This was strange... But at this
point, we still didn't have a clue something was wrong. So we called her Internet provider.
We finally got
a new password and checked her e-mail. And there was the wire transfer... $32,000 going OUT.
We immediately called
the bank, got through to the fraud department, and they went to work on getting it back. (As of this writing, the money is
NOT back yet.)
Then we tried to get back on her e-mail. Whoa! We couldn't get in. The hacker had changed her
We called her Internet provider, asking to close the account immediately. Unbelievably, they wouldn't
let us do it. We were informed that the Billing Department was now closed. They said we'd have to call back in the morning.
(That, in my opinion, is a terrible business practice. Who knows what other vital information this hacker stole before the
account was closed?)
So how did this happen?
It is my non-technical opinion that my mother-in-law was
a victim of a newly discovered security "hole" in Microsoft's Internet Explorer. The flaw allows hackers to
get your passwords... which means access to your personal information, bank accounts, etc. You're probably using Internet
Explorer right now to read this e-mail. If so, you are likely vulnerable...
Microsoft says it's fixed the
hole. But if you haven't gone to the trouble of updating your Internet Explorer with the security patch, you are still
exposed to the exact same attack that hit my mother-in-Law. (You can read the details at www.microsoft.com/security.)
We updated Internet Explorer. But we also stopped using it. We're using Google Chrome as our browser now.
(Go to www.google.com/chrome to download it free.)
We've taken all the steps we know... For example, we placed a "Fraud Alert"
through Equifax, which goes to all three credit-report agencies. But a little prevention sure would have been easier than
chasing a thief.
A starting point for protection is the Federal Trade Commission's website. Go to www.ftc.gov then read the "Identity Theft" and "Internet Fraud" segments right there on the home page.
been assured we'll recover the $32,000. And we've closed all accounts and reopened them with new account numbers and
passwords. But are we safe from more attacks? We don't know – this hacker has my mother-in-law's personal information.
Please, do yourself a huge favor. Remember the old "ounce of prevention/pound of cure" saying. Take more
steps to protect yourself online than you ever thought you needed to. At least upgrade Internet Explorer or switch browsers
Identity theft is serious stuff. And you are likely at risk, right now.
But you think, "Aw, that won't happen to me," until it does. Take care of yourself. Believe me. We wish we had.
Call it a New Year's resolution if you'd
like. But promise to do something right now to protect your personal information... and your wealth.
Want to know the nearest place to buy the cheapest medications? Visitwww.drx.com. This site also compares prices to the cheapest mail-order offers.
email us any questions or ideas you may have
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