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Jewish World Review April 13, 2000 / 8 Nissan, 5760

Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams
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Consumer Reports



Beware of Internet auctions -- DEAR BRUCE: On an Internet auction site I recently purchased a $700 computer component. I sent my check to the vendor, who cashed it, but I have yet to receive the unit. Now I call and find that the phone number that they gave me has been disconnected and there is no response from their e-mail address, which apparently is still functioning. What do you suggest I do? -- N.C. (e-mail)

DEAR N.C.: Welcome to a very large fraternity. Many folks like yourself have been enticed to buy things on the Internet, which, all things being equal, is not bad. But then they send off money to someone they don't know, who has no credentials, and when it's too late, they find out that they've been burned.

You can make a complaint to the local authorities where the crook operates, given the fact that it appears he is committing wire fraud, but don't hold your breath while you are waiting to receive the merchandise or your money.

The message here is, only send money to those who you know and trust -- or to a trusty intermediary.

DEAR BRUCE: I bought a car from a neighbor who sold it to me for $4,500. He insisted that he write "as is" on a separate piece of paper. The car looked like it was in great condition and I didn't have a problem with that.

Only two weeks later, the whole transmission literally fell apart. Repair costs have run over $1,500, which is one-third the price of the car. I went back to him and asked him to help, and he pointed out that I had signed a statement taking the car "as is."

I sure didn't expect the transmission to fall apart in a couple of weeks. Doesn't he have some responsibility here? -- N.P., Bangor, Maine.

DEAR N.P.: I'm afraid not. What you entered into is called a casual sale. In a casual sale, the seller is not required to collect sales tax -- which is done ordinarily at the motor vehicle agency -- and no warranties apply unless specifically obtained. You bought the car "as is," which means that anything that happens to it after you buy it is on you.

While a dealer, even in this circumstance, might have some responsibility, a private individual has none.

DEAR BRUCE: For the first 10 years of our married life my wife and I overspent on our credit cards to the tune of $30,000. We tried several different ideas to lower our payments, but because of some stupid moves we ended up with average APRs of 21 percent to 24 percent on all of our cards.

We are over the limit on some, and every month more penalties are added, keeping us over the limit, for which we are penalized the next month. We have attempted to get a second mortgage, but we don't qualify for a low-interest loan because of our low credit rating. We were finally able to get one at 18 percent. This seems to be the only way to go, but it will take 10 years to pay off. Did we screw up? -- T.L. E-mail

DEAR T.L.: Did you ever! Unfortunately, it's going to take you a long, long time to get out from under this debt. The sad answer is, you will have to increase your income -- that means working part-time somewhere or maybe even a second full-time job.

The only way to dig out is to increase your income. At the interest rates that you have mentioned, it will take you forever to get out from under.

Send your questions to JWR contributor Bruce Williams by clicking here. (Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.) Interested in buying or selling a house? Let Bruce Williams' "House Smart" be your guide. (Sales of the book help fund JWR).


04/11/00: Six percent is a pittance
04/10/00: Married couples should share windfall
04/07/00: How not to blow an inheritance
04/06/00: Get genetic screening for Tay-Sachs
04/05/00: Beating the look-back period
04/04/00: Providing for retirement
04/03/00: Readers disagree on time shares
03/30/00: The road back to good credit
03/29/00: Pre-tax dollars in IRA taxed later
03/27/00: Gambling on business ventures
03/22/00: Old cars as hobby, not investment
03/20/00: Tax on foreign gifts?
03/16/00: How to buy government bonds
03/13/00: Buying treasury instruments
03/09/00: Subcontractors must pay S.S.
03/08/00: Real-estate lawyers are essential
03/07/00: Don't expect compensation for ideas
03/06/00: Too rich for a Roth IRA?
03/01/00: Is time-sharing a scam?
02/29/00: Paying for nursing-home care
02/28/00: Rely on a real-estate lawyer
02/23/00: Keeping child's money safe from divorce
02/16/00: Just how important is a 401(k)?
02/14/00: Shaky partnership buying house
02/11/00: Protection by residential zoning
02/09/00: Benefiting from a reverse mortgage
02/07/00: Ensure your insurability
02/04/00: Absurd community zoning laws
02/02/00: Money or securities?
02/01/00: Can we KO a custodian?
01/31/00: Why sell a home you love?
01/26/00: Everyone needs a will
01/25/00: Will splitting stocks affect rollover?
01/24/00: Should early retirees contribute to SEP?
01/21/00: Strategies for paying off debt
01/20/00: Is 15-percent growth achievable?
01/19/00: Selling a second home
01/18/00: Running from a time-share
01/14/00: Don't be a spendthrift!
01/13/00: Who gets the house?
01/11/00: It all depends on size of estate
01/06/00: Check references before hiring an advisor
01/04/00: Savings bonds a bad investment
12/31/99: Out of state ain't that great
12/29/99: Warranty rip-offs
12/27/99: Checking up on investment handlers
12/23/99: Options good only when company's strong
12/20/99: Capital gains tax sometimes best
12/17/99: Don't give up your nest egg
12/15/99: Small-claims court no panacea
12/13/99: Termite company not liable for termites?
12/10/99: Services provided must be paid for
12/06/99: How do we minimize house-sale gain?
12/06/99: Maximize your tax shelter!
12/02/99: My neighbor won't maintain even a modicum of civility
12/01/99: Long-distance rentals a bad idea
11/29/99: Mortgage strategy A-OK
11/18/99: Students can work and learn
11/16/99: Value is what will sell
11/11/99: Y2K: No big deal for real estate
11/08/99: Real life is tough luck
11/03/99: The right time to cash a savings bond
11/01/99: Slow road for savings accounts
10/29/99: What do you want from insurance?
10/27/99: You have a right to see your tax forms!
10/25/99: Why own a house at 65?
10/22/99: Online fine, but CDs?
10/20/99: Love, honor -- and separate credit
10/18/99: Find the value of your stocks
10/15/99: Property lien prevents trade
10/13/99: Clear up debt, only then tie the knot
10/11/99: If it ain't broke...
10/04/99: Should I stick with the company IRA?
10/04/99: Get a financial education!
10/01/99: Insurance: Not much one person can do
09/30/99: Lost tickets are lost cash
09/29/99: Trusting only one financial planner
09/27/99: Adult children should help out
09/24/99: Tips for first-time home buyers
09/21/99: Use the rule of 72s!
09/17/99: Legal strategy can be a pain
09/15/99: Teen drivers drive up insurance
09/13/99: Always use an attorney!
09/10/99: Whose taxes are they, anyway?
09/08/99: How do I roll over my 401(k)?
09/03/99: How can I work out my IRS payments?
09/01/99: When your company can't pay you
08/30/99: Beware of shady viatical investments
08/26/99: Landlords vary on security deposits
08/25/99: Educational IRAs must be spent on education
08/23/99: Finding out the value of old stocks
08/20/99: How to get an FHA refund
08/19/99: 100 percent financing is a scam
08/16/99: Will I have to pay a capital gains tax?
08/16/99: Thinking about PMI
08/13/99: Short-term mutual funds a-OK
08/11/99: It's your job to shop around
08/10/99: Sometimes, roots need to be uprooted
08/09/99: 'Pre-approved' doesn't mean a thing
08/06/99: Only you can determine your investments
08/04/99: Bank IRA the lowest-risk option
08/03/99: Reverse mortgages good for the elderly
08/02/99: Get the survey BEFORE you buy the house!
07/28/99: Get a lawyer -- it's worth it!
07/27/99: If it ain't broke...

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