Here are a few important consumer issues that have come across my desk:
Financial aid alert
The University of Akron this week issued a special alert to its students about a potential issue aimed at college students.
Zipmail is a system the university uses to communicate with students, usually on Fridays. But a special alert was sent out earlier in the week, said UA spokeswoman Eileen Korey, because the university felt the information was important enough not to wait until Friday.
The university warned that a private company with no affiliation to the college is offering to help UA students complete the federal financial aid application for a hefty $65 fee.
“The same service is provided free to students by our financial aid office,” said Michelle Ellis, executive director of the Office of Student Financial Aid. UA financial aid counselors will work with students, and the U.S. Department of Education does not charge anyone to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA),” the alert said.
A company called the Student Financial Resource Center has been sending the letters, the alert said. UA’s financial aid counselors have been receiving calls from students and parents asking if the service is legitimate.
“I have worked in this field for about 18 years,” Ellis said, “and we see these offers from time to time. It’s not necessary to pay the fee to get assistance. We encourage anyone who has questions about the financial aid process to come talk with us. We’ll help them for free.”
Students are encouraged to stop by the Student Services Center in the lobby of Simmons Hall for assistance, or call the Office of Student Financial Aid at 330-972-7032 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free insurance guides
The Ohio Department of Insurance has released new consumer guides that the department says explain insurance simply and can be “a trusted companion to help Ohioans make confident, smart insurance coverage decisions.”
The guides are available for a free download online at www.insurance.ohio.gov or by calling 800-686-1526 (this is also the number to call with insurance questions or complaints). The guides cover auto, homeowner’s, health, life and annuities, long-term care and Medicare insurance. The guides also address many insurance topics, including consumer rights, explanation of coverage, issues of cancellation and nonrenewal, answers to common questions, filing a complaint, appealing coverage denial and shopping tips.
Katie Ellis of Wadsworth emailed me to ask why she ordered something from a company in Cuyahoga Falls, but it had to go all the way to Pennsylvania before the U.S. Postal Service delivered it to her in Wadsworth.
Here’s the answer from spokesman David Van Allen: For any packages being shipped from the Akron area, the closest parcel or package sorting facility is in Warrendale, Pa. The sorting facility in Akron is for letters.
So even though Ellis’ package could have been driven from Cuyahoga Falls to Wadsworth in probably less than 30 minutes, it had to go about 1 hour and 40 minutes to Warrendale and back. It still made it within a day.
I’ve received quite a few calls from readers who are continually frustrated with the calls they get about consolidating their debt, often a recording from “Rachel” or Card Services.
The calls discuss your “account” or “debt,” even if you don’t have any debt.
You can read a previous column about this at www.tinyurl.com/rachelcalls
These calls are most often from companies that are breaking the federal Do Not Call rules and are not specifically targeting you. It’s likely they don’t know your debt situation — they are just cold calls.
Often, the scammers are hijacking real telephone numbers to show up on your Caller ID, but any information can help authorities.
I know from talking to readers that they pushed various buttons on the phone to try to talk to a live person, or want to yell at someone or blow a whistle in their ear in anger at being on a call list. Don’t do that. That actually confirms for the callers they have reached a real, working number, which could just increase the calls. Hang up and consider filing a report.