Herald Journal Columns
May 10, 2004 Herald Journal
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Don’t let your kids read the new car manual


You’ll see me zipping around town in my new car, since I just got a new 2003 silver Grand Am.

We’re frugal folks at the Jensen home, and so this won’t happen too often.

Besides, it’s got 17,000 miles on it (‘bout as new as we get).

As it so happens, I have been test driving it around town with my kids, which I did last week.

To refresh your memory, my kids are 8 and 12 years old, and are seasoned pillars of advice when it comes to my driving skills.

The younger one will intermittently yell out “COP!” whenever he sees a patrol car (he can even spot unmarked squads).

This is thanks to me receiving two speeding tickets a few years ago in their presence.

In fact, my son will also wail “We’re going to run out of gas!” even though he doesn’t know how to read the gas gauge, because I made the mistake of doing this once with them in the car.

Nevertheless, there we were. My daughter was studying the car manual on the passenger side as we were rolling along.

Among things they noticed:

• I should engage the parking brake when I’m parked. It’s that big lever in between the seats.

• I can lock the rear power windows so my kids can’t continually make them go up and down (they regretted telling me this).

• They wanted to know what “cargo,” meant, since people weren’t supposed to ride in cargo areas. I said it means the trunk.

• If you park on top of things that are easy to ignite, your car might start on fire (page 2-32 of the manual).

Now, my daughter dutifully jumps out of the car and carefully inspects underneath in case anything is under it every time I park.

Also, my son advised the Pontiac people to add another piece of advice to the manual, since the car had power windows. “Don’t stick your hands outside of the windows or they could go up and smoosh you.”

. . . And just in case you were wondering, my cute little kids are just thugs when it comes to the speed limit. If I’m even FIVE MILES over the limit, they talk about how much my next speeding ticket will be. It’s just awful.

Saying goodbye to Old Reliable

Of course, the new car means I have to say goodbye to Old Reliable, otherwise known as my 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass.

I’m sure you’ve seen me toodling around town with it, gassing up at Joe’s in Howard Lake or at Casey’s in Winsted.

It will probably run forever, although it does have 168,000 miles on it.

We’ve run to South Dakota many times in it, and I’ve spilled plenty of coffee on the floor, too.

If you turn to the classifieds page, you’ll see my ad for Old Reliable.

Smart advice from an attorney

The following is excellent advice from an attorney in Maryland.

A corporate attorney sent the following out to the employees in his company:

“The next time you order checks have only your initials (instead of first name) and last name put on them.

If someone takes your check book he or she will not know if you sign your checks with just your initials or your first name but your bank will know how you sign your checks.

When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the “for” line. Instead, just put the last four numbers.

The credit card company knows the rest of the number and all the check processing channels won’t have access to it.

Put your work phone number on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a PO box use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO box use your work address.

Students: NEVER have your social security number printed on your checks you can add it if it is necessary. But if you have it printed, anyone can get it.

Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine, do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel.

Keep the photocopy in a safe place. I also carry a photocopy of my passport when I travel either here or abroad.

We’ve all heard horror stories about fraud – stealing a name, address, social security number, credit cards, etc.

Unfortunately I, an attorney, have firsthand knowledge because my wallet was stolen last month.

Within a week, the thieve(s) ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, had a credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer, received a PIN number from DMV to change my driving record information online, and more.

But here’s some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know:

We have been told we should cancel our credit cards immediately.

But the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them easily.

File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen, this proves to credit providers you were diligent, and is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).

But here’s what is perhaps most important: (I didn’t even think to do this).

Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and social security number.

I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me an application for credit was made over the Internet in my name.

The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

By the time I was advised to do this, almost two weeks after the theft, all the damage had been done.

There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves’ purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert.

Since then, no additional damage has been done, and the thieves threw my wallet away this weekend (someone turned it in). It seems to have stopped them in their tracks.

The numbers are:

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285

Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742

Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289

Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271.”

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