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Four false alarms to ignore
News You Should Lose By Sid Kirchheimer
M aybe you missed the news, but archaeologists working in Guatemala recently unearthed
a “new” Mayan calendar that goes beyond
2012, exploding notions that the world
would end on Dec. 21.
Whew! But as humankind journeys on,
so will other rumors, urban legends and misinformation—often shared by well-meaning friends
and family—that warn of impending risk to your
money, safety, privacy or identity. So before you
click the email “forward” button, here are the facts
on four false alarms that never die and are ever so
enticing to spread.
Electronic hotel room keys contain your personal information.
Since 2003, email warnings have claimed that your
credit card number and home address are stored
on the magnetic strip of your hotel key—and harvested by identity thieves when you leave the card
in your room or toss it in a lobby trash can.
Reality: Hotel keys contain coded information
for only the room number and check-in/out dates,
says Chad Callaghan of the American
Hotel & Lodging Association. If you
use a key to charge dinner at a hotel
restaurant, it’s billed to your room, but
“credit card information is stored on
another machine,” says Callaghan.
Been with the
same car insurance company
for years? Consider switching.
The Texas Office
of Public Insurance Counsel estimates that a driver who has
stayed loyal for more than eight
years could save an average of 19
percent with a new insurer. Why?
Paid claims tend to drop over time
but premiums don’t fall at the
same pace. —Joan Rattner Heilman
Too often, well-meaning friends
click on the email
and keep lies alive.
such as palms, bamboo, ferns and English ivy in each room
helps absorb indoor
toxins, making your
heating system operate more efficiently and extending the life of air
filters. Also, putting pans of water
near heat registers or radiators will humidify dry air and allow you to set your
thermostat several degrees lower and
still feel comfortable. —SK
Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your
Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.
Every home needs
a phone. If money’s tight, look
into the federal
Lifeline program, which can
cut an average $9.25 from your
monthly landline or wireless bill.
To qualify, you must meet certain
income standards or be enrolled
in social programs such as Medicaid or SSI. Apply through your
phone company or a designated
state agency. For more info, visit