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HELOISE: Debt collection scams

HELOISE: Debt collection scams

Dear Heloise: Debt collection scams have become very popular with the scammers, but here are some things to look out for:

• If you are contacted by a "debt collection agency," get the name of the person calling, their phone number, address and anything else you can. Ask them to give you their license number to do business in your state, and then verify that number by contacting the secretary of state for your state.

• Do not give in to threats of arrest or violence. They cannot call your employer, report you to immigration or take away your driver's license. They cannot garish your wages or call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. They should never use profanity or shout at you over the phone.

• Report the call to the Federal Trade Commission at

• Many states have a time limit on debts. If there has been no activity for a certain period of time, the debt must be written off. But check with an attorney to make sure your state has such a law and what that time limit happens to be.

• But, most of all, do NOT send them any money, gift cards or money wire transfers. If you want additional information, you can go to -- Josh H., Boston, Massachusetts


Dear Heloise: While dusting my china cabinet, I decided to let my four daughters, who are all married, have some of my lead crystal collection. They would have inherited these items after I pass away, so rather than wait, I've started to give them to my girls at birthdays and Christmas. From time to time, they have expressed a desire to have a certain piece, and I usually give it to them. This way there will be less to go through when I'm gone and no fighting over who gets what. -- Joan B., Rutland, Vt.

Insect bites and more

Dear Heloise: What do you recommend for homemade remedies for insect bites and poison ivy? — Diana V., Rockingham, N.C.

Diana, for insect bites, poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak, you can fill a bathtub with water and add a generous amount of baking soda. If the spot itches terribly, you can make a paste of baking soda and water (or baking soda and witch hazel) and apply it to the area to help lessen the irritation.

For more baking soda ideas, get my pamphlet "Heloise's Baking Soda Hints and Recipes." The helpful hints to make life a little easier and chores a little shorter. Go to, or send $5, along with a stamped (75 cents), self-addressed long envelope to: Heloise/Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. You'll be glad to have this information at your fingertips. This also makes a nice little gift for any new homemaker. — Heloise


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