Savvy Consumer: Numbers to Know

As I cover various topics, I often pass on important phone numbers and Web sites that are helpful to consumers. Usually, I dole out these golden nuggets one a time, but today I decided to hit you with a whole laundry list of them.

The resources that work for me will just as easily work for you, so please … print, save or memorize this list. Share it with your friends, your children, your parents. These are some of the best resources I know. And after all, I am the "Savvy Consumer"!

Stop the Barrage of Credit Card Offers: The big three credit bureaus have given you a way to "opt out" and stop banks from sending you unsolicited credit card offers. Call the number below. Be aware that you will be asked for your Social Security number. By following the prompts, you can opt out for five years. Or you can wait for a later choice in the phone tree and opt out for life. (That requires filling out some paperwork and sending it back.)

(888) 567-8688

Drastically Reduce Junk Mail: The Direct Marketing Association keeps a list of consumers who do not wish to receive what it calls advertising mail. Its members -- major mass marketers -- honor the list voluntarily as a way to prevent the government from starting a mandatory list. Your request must be renewed every five years.

www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglist

Stop Telemarketers Cold:

The Federal Trade Commission's National Do Not Call registry continues to be incredibly popular. www.ftc.gov/donotcall/

(888) 382-1222

Get Your Free Annual Credit Report:

Be aware that some private companies have started up Web sites that try to make money from people searching for the free annual credit report registry. Below is the real Web site. www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp

The Nation's Consumer Watchdog:

The Federal Trade Commission looks out for consumers nationally. The FTC's Web site contains dozens of brochures on important consumer topics.

www.ftc.gov/ftc/consumer.htm

Check a Company's Reputation -- in Advance:

The time to check out contractors, retailers or car dealers is before you do business with them. One easy way is by looking up the company's Better Business Bureau complaint record.

www.bbb.org

Check Out Charities Before You Give:

There is no law requiring charities to use any particular percentage of your donation for the good cause you want to support. So look them up and see if they are known for spending donors' money wisely.

www.give.org

www.charitywatch.org

Forgotten Savings Bonds:

The U.S. Treasury is trying to find the owners of $9 billion worth of unclaimed savings bonds. Could your family have forgotten about bonds purchased 20 or 40 years ago?

www.savingsbonds.gov/indiv/tools/sbtdhunt.htm

Government Auctions:

The federal government auctions all sorts of merchandise confiscated from crooks -- from cars to jewels to golf clubs to top ramen noodles by the ton. But beware. Some shady private auctions try to pass themselves off as government auctions to get your business. Below is the real contact info.

www.ustreas.gov/auctions/

Credible Credit Counseling:

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