Here are a number of timely things to talk about:
Undelivered refund checks
The Internal Revenue Service says it has $153 million in undelivered tax refund checks and a list of 99,123 taxpayers to whom the checks weren’t delivered because it had the wrong mailing address. The returned checks average $1,547 apiece.
In Ohio, there are 2,015 undelivered checks worth more than $1.8 million and for our five-county region, there are 227 undelivered checks worth $176,758.
The IRS has been trying to encourage taxpayers to move to direct deposit for their returns. Out of the nearly 103 million refunds the IRS issued through early June this year, 76 million were direct deposits. Of those delivered by the mail, about 0.3 percent bounced back to the IRS because of return address problems.
We have the list of Ohioans whose refund checks were returned. The full list can be found online with this column. Taxpayers from our five counties are on top of the list and all other Ohioans are below that. Maybe you’ll see people you know and can help them get their refund.
Taxpayers hoping to claim their refund can go online and click on the “Check on Your Refund” link at www.irs.gov, or call 800-829-1954.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine this week joined other attorneys general in a letter to Congress asking it to oppose legislation targeting consumers’ telephone privacy. The Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011 would amend the Communications Act of 1934 and allow for robo-calling to all cell phones, leaving consumers to foot the bill, DeWine said. For example, debt collectors and other businesses could place automated “informational” calls to cell phones, which would have an impact on those who pay by the minute or have a limited number of minutes available.
In addition, since businesses frequently have the wrong contact information, consumers could be getting and paying for repeated robo-calls on their cell phones to accounts that are not their own.
The legislation would narrow the definition of what constitutes an illegal “automatic telephone dialing system.” If passed, the new definition would prohibit only “random or sequential number generators,” which means “targeted” calls would be permitted, DeWine said.
Currently, federal law allows robo-calls to be placed to people who have consented to receive them or in case of an emergency. If the legislation passes, the law will be expanded to allow businesses to robo-call any consumer who has provided a telephone number in the course of a transaction — regardless of whether a consumer asks not to be contacted.
Officials also pointed out that an increase in calls to mobile phones could present a distracted driving hazard. A 2009 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that cell phone use was involved in 995, or 18 percent, of fatalities in distraction-related crashes.
The proposal is being considered in the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Citizens can voice an opinion by contacting their representative or by voting on Popvox’s nonpartisan website, www.popvox.com/bills/us/112/hr3035. Popvox said it will forward consumers’ comments to members of Congress.
If your cell phone is not registered with the federal Do Not Call list, you can do so for home and cell phones at 888-382-1222 or www.donotcall.gov.
You may also file complaints at that site for violators of the Do Not Call legislation, such as the annoying “Rachel” calls from “card services” that I wrote about a few weeks ago. I had suggested at the time to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. When you start to file the complaint form, it will send you to the Do Not Call website, so you can save some time by starting there.
If you don’t have Internet access and want to file your complaint by phone, you should call the FTC at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357), where you can get a live representative.
BBB warns of scam
The Better Business Bureau is issuing a scam alert cautioning businesses and consumers about an email purporting to be from a bbb.org email address about a recently filed complaint. The email contains a dangerous attachment regarding a complaint and appears to direct recipients to the BBB website. The BBB warns this is a scam and said the BBB does not send complaints as attachments via email.
The email appears to come from a fake BBB employee claiming that the recipients need to review a matter and advise the BBB of their position. From there, the email appears to direct the recipients to the BBB website, but actually directs them to an outside link.
This email is fraudulent and does not originate from BBB.
Summit gas aggregation
Summit County locked in a lower price for its natural gas aggregation rate than anticipated. The aggregation is for residents in the county’s townships — Bath, Boston, Copley, Coventry, Northfield Center, Richfield, Springfield and Twinsburg townships — plus New Franklin and for customers who aren’t currently with a supplier.
The rate will be fixed at $5.39 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) with a 10-cent discount for seniors. If you want a fixed rate, that’s not bad, although keep in mind that it doesn’t start until February and lasts until January 2014.
I still think the way to go this year is the Standard Choice Offer (SCO) through a provider selected by Dominion. So far, since we chose that in September, the price has been dropping and the December price for meters read after Dec. 9 will be $4.36/mcf. The November price was $4.52/mcf.
The county will be sending letters to aggregation customers. If you do not want the aggregation rate, you must opt out. For details about the program, call Direct Energy at 866-760-6040.
Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisher and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty.