darkoshi: (Default)
Remember that song I bought on iTunes, which was so much trouble to buy?

Not only that, but in addition to the price of the song I bought, iTunes charged me an extra $1 which they are now refusing to give back. When I initially contacted them about it via their Report a problem link, they replied by email that it was only an "authorization hold on my credit card" and that it would automatically drop off in an unspecified amount of time. I was dubious, as the $1 had been taken from my PayPal balance (which I told them), not from a credit card. However, I found a PayPal page which indicated that those kind of charges might take a month to get refunded, so I decided to wait that long to see, before bugging iTunes about it again. The $1 never got refunded.

After the month was over, I tried contacting iTunes again via the same link (twice!), but even though upon submitting the report, the confirmation page states that they'll get back to me within 48 hours, they haven't, either time. I didn't even get the immediate "We'll be in touch" email response like I did the first time. So it seems like their system is purposely ignoring me now. (Why? I can't figure that out.)

I had also tried disputing the charge via the PayPal site, however none of the choices PayPal provides for the reason of the dispute seemed applicable. I clicked what seemed the most relevant one and chose answers to the remaining questions that were presented to see what would happen, even though none of the answers were applicable. I thought I'd be given an opportunity to either Submit or Cancel at the end, and that I'd choose Cancel and maybe then try a different initial option. But after selecting the answers, I was only shown a message like "Well, you said you received the thing you ordered (ie. the song), so you can't dispute the charge."

Now when I try clicking the link to dispute the charge again (thinking that maybe I'll select a different initial reason this time), the link doesn't work ("Sorry — your last action could not be completed"). I suspect it is because they previously decided that I have no grounds for dispute.

I do still have the option of calling the PayPal customer support phone number. Maybe I could find an iTunes phone number.

It is only $1 they stole from me. It's not worth the hassle. But it's not right.

Update, 2017/08/19:
I still wasn't getting any response via Apple's Report a Problem page. So instead I contacted Apple support via chat (from that support page, I selected the links for: iTunes - iTunes Store - Purchases, Billing & Redemption - iTunes Store Account Billing - Chat). During the chat, the Apple rep reiterated that the $1 charge was only an authorization hold, and told me to contact PayPal; that PayPal should credit me the $1 back.

So I disputed the charge via the link on the PayPal site again (the link was working ok now - maybe there's a time-out period for how often you can click it?) This time, I selected the option for reporting a Billing issue, and an "issue that's not described". I attached a copy of my Apple support chat, and submitted the report. Within 24 hours, PayPal sent me a reply that they had accepted my claim and credited the $1 back to my account.

So finally, the problem has been resolved.
darkoshi: (Default)
Got a message on my answering machine with a guy's voice saying they need people for a one-day "focus group" which pays $250, with breakfast and lunch provided. It didn't even sound like a recording, though it probably was. He left a phone number for calling him back.

I've never gotten a message quite like that before, and couldn't tell if it was a scam. Focus Group? What could that be, and why would they pay that much money for it? I've got a job, so I'm not interested, but maybe my mom or niece would be.

So I looked online, and found a Craigslist ad for the same thing. It links to nelsonrecruiting dot com, which seems like a legitimate company for that kind of thing.

While looking up about focus groups, I came across the term "mock jury". I hadn't heard of that before either, so I looked it up. Apparently, if you're rich, not only can you hire a good lawyer to defend you, but your lawyers can hire people to act as mock juries, to find out which arguments are most likely to help them win their case. Sigh.

beware MoneyGram

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016 12:42 am
darkoshi: (Default)
I wanted to send some money to my sister, and she suggested MoneyGram as she'd used it before without a problem. She'd used it at a CVS location to send money to someone. I checked the MoneyGram website to see what the fee would be, and it showed $11.50. That sounded reasonable; less than a wire transfer at least. The website also indicated that you could do transfers directly via the website, instead of going in person to one of their locations like CVS. The website also showed that you could do transfers from your bank account as opposed to only from a credit/debit card. Using a credit card would result in extra cash advance fees, which would be bad. It wasn't clear if a debit card would result in such a charge or not, so I wanted to avoid that too.

So this evening, I go to their website again, enter my bank account info, and go to do the transfer. But then it showed the fee as $89.99 - almost 12% of the amount being sent!!!! Their online fee is much higher than their physical location fee. Not only that, but the option for selecting my bank account was disabled with a message "Note: Bank Account is unavailable for U.S. to U.S. sends." Why didn't they say that in the first place, before I entered my bank data!? Their "Learn More" page only says "You can either pay with your credit or debit card, or directly from your bank account" - it doesn't list any such restriction.

So I left the MoneyGram site and instead did a direct transfer via my bank's website, with NO fee at all. (which sort of surprised me, or I would have selected that option to begin with.)
darkoshi: (Default)
Medicare Provider Utilization and Payment Data - a government site. It has spreadsheets which let you compare the amounts that hospitals charged for various procedures.

I downloaded the inpatient & outpatient spreadsheets, and used the Excel filter options to show data for 3 hospitals in my area - Palmetto Richland, Palmetto Baptist, and Providence.

The inpatient data is surprising to me. In nearly all cases where there is data for all 3 hospitals, Providence shows the lowest charges (Average Covered Charges - this is the amount an uninsured person would have to pay). Their charges are generally way less; in many cases less than half that charged by the other hospitals.

The outpatient data shows more variance - in some cases, Providence has higher charges (Average Estimated Submitted Charges), in some cases lower.

As for hospital ratings/quality of care, these pages provide some comparisons:
Medicare Hospital Compare
LeapFrogGroup Hospital Ratings

In general, Providence has good ratings, though in some cases, Palmetto Richland has better ratings.

I wonder why Providence is able to have lower inpatient charges. Palmetto Richland is the largest one, by number of beds. Maybe fewer uninsured people use Providence, compared to the others? Based on the below articles, that doesn't sound like the case, although it could change as the hospital was just sold this year (which I hadn't heard about til now).

Providence to be sold to for-profit hospital company
Providence will maintain its ties to the Catholic church through the bishop in Charleston and uphold church ethics and religious directives, including its ban on abortions, said Sister Judith Ann Karam, a congregational leader.

Trends, finances drove Providence Hospital sale

odds, ends

Sunday, June 26th, 2016 05:12 pm
darkoshi: (Default)
The house's side door has a motion-activated light fixture mounted by it. The lights always attracted moths and other flying insects. To prevent the bugs flying into the house, I always had to slip inside the door and shut it quickly, but sometimes moths still got in. Now I've replaced the two bulbs with LED bug light bulbs. It's amazing the difference that makes. Light! And yet absolutely no bugs flying around in the light! The light is yellow, but that's no problem. I should have done this years ago.


Qiao bought a set of lithium battery-powered yard tools. At first the hedge trimmer looked scary to me, with all the sharp teeth. But it is easy to use. So easy that I have to remind myself to be careful with it. It's so much easier than using clippers to cut individual stalks, especially for the jessamine bushes on the fence.


Cyber bank robberies... North Korea to blame?

North Korea Linked To $81 Million Bangladesh Bank Heist
Obama strikes back at North Korea

...or maybe not North Korea, exactly?
Vietnamese bank hit by cyber heist
North Korean Cyberhacking Redux: The Bank Heist Cases


The unstoppable march of the upward inflection?
High rising terminal
(aka "upspeak")

A lady was talking on TV a while back, and I wasn't interested in whatever she was talking about, but was fascinated by her manner of speech. Her sentences kept ending on a rising note, as if she was asking a question even though she wasn't. It was much more pronounced than the audio samples on the first link above. When I recently came across that page, I realized that maybe it wasn't a peculiarity to her, but a common way of speaking, where ever she was from.

Then I realized the similarity of that to another manner of speaking which at first struck me as odd. Some people insert phrases like "you know what I mean", "you get me", "you know what I'm saying?", "you know?" in the middle of each sentence and/or after each sentence. They don't necessarily pitch it as a question, nor even slow down waiting for feedback - it just seems to be how they are used to speaking.

The rising pitch is similar, in that the speaker sounds like they are asking the listener if they understand or agree with what is being said, except without adding any extra words in.

Then again, maybe that is just my biased impression of it, and not what is actually intended by the speakers.

Vocal fry register : Speaking in the lowest register of your voice, where it makes a creaky grating sound. I do that sometimes, and didn't realize there was a term for it.

Apparently there's been a lot of criticism of how young women speak these days.

From Upspeak To Vocal Fry: Are We 'Policing' Young Women's Voices?

From the audio samples given in that NPR broadcast and elsewhere, women using vocal fry in their speech sounds totally normal to me, and not bad. The upspeak can be a bit disconcerting to me, but not much so. That one lady I mentioned hearing speak on TV had a much more pronounced and unusual version of it, which is why it fascinated me so much. I wish I had written down who the speaker was.
darkoshi: (Default)
Faith-based groups earn millions on refugee loan commissions - whether that is somewhat unethical, I'm not sure. But I did find this part interesting:
The loans, which are interest-free and extended by the federal government, do not go directly to the refugees. Instead the loans are intended to cover the costs of bringing the refugees to the U.S. and can run up to $6,000 for a large family. Refugees are expected to repay the loans and, when they do, the government takes 75 percent, letting the agency have the other 25 percent.

Collectors assess no penalties for late payments, and they work with refugees to adjust timetables as needed. Most refugees take five or six years to pay off their loans.

So if I'm understanding that right, the government pays about 25% of the cost of resettling refugees. I wasn't aware of there being loans which the refugees have to pay back.
darkoshi: (Default)
How My Mom Got Hacked - malware that encrypts all your files and requires a bitcoin ransom payment.

...they almost always honor what they say because they want word to get around that they’re trustworthy criminals who’ll give you your files back.”

Welcome to the new ransomware economy, where hackers have a reputation to consider.

school fees

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014 10:58 pm
darkoshi: (Default)
I didn't realize that some public schools in the U.S. charge parents mandatory fees for each student. It seems to be common in Illinois. Up to $500 or more per student per year, although they are supposedly waived for low income families.

From what I remember of my own school years, there may have been various fees, but I think they were mainly for "optional" things like field trips, after-school activities, school photos & yearbook.
darkoshi: (Default)
[personal profile] marahmarie discusses their experience using Opinion Outpost in this post. If you need a little extra money and have the time and internet access, it sounds like a not-too-bad way to get some.

The sign up page requires you to choose whether you are either male or female.
darkoshi: (Default)
Having a HSA means that I can avoid paying some taxes that I would otherwise have to pay. But it doesn't easily fit into my normal thought processes of "(money in) minus (money out) equals (money that I have left over)".

Money that I'd otherwise get in my paycheck (after having taxes deducted) is instead placed into a separate bucket without having taxes deducted. Therefore I can still consider it "money in", but in a special separate bucket.

I had a dental appointment and was charged $XXX, of which my insurance paid $YYY, leaving me with a bill of $50. I paid the $50 bill out of my regular income. Then I got reimbursed the $50 from my HSA. This is the mentally tricky part. I'm left feeling like I didn't pay anything, but I have to remember that while those two $50 amounts cancel each other out, there was still a net $50 taken out of my "special separate bucket".

So the $50 still falls into the "money out" category. The benefit of the HSA is that, without the HSA, it would have been more like $60 to $65 money out, because an extra $10 to $15 would have been deducted from my income in taxes before ever getting into my "money in" bucket.

I can think of it as: Now my "money left over (special bucket)" has an extra $10 to $15 in it that otherwise wouldn't have been in my "money left over" category.

Or I can look at in terms of all the money in the HSA having already been spared taxes, so my (money in; ignoring bucket boundaries) amount is that much higher than it would otherwise be, and the $50 is just a normal (money out) amount.
darkoshi: (Default)
After a credit card fraud incident 3 years ago, I procured two separate credit cards for myself - one for in-person purchases and the other for online purchases. Benefits:
- if I cancel a card due to it being stolen or due to fraudulent activity, I'll still have use of the other card in the meantime.
- if fraudulent use occurs, I'll have a better idea of where my number could have been stolen.
- the card I use for online purchases has a feature called "ShopSafe", whereby I can generate unique credit card numbers, limits, and expiration dates for each merchant. If one attempts to use such a number at a different merchant, or over the limit, the transaction is declined*.

However, it is best to use a regular credit card number for Amazon. The ShopSafe feature doesn't work well due to Amazon's charges being submitted under several different merchant names:
"Amazon.com" - items sold directly by Amazon
"AMAZON MKTPLACE PMTS" - Marketplace items, possibly including ones "fulfilled by Amazon"
"Amazon Digital Svcs" - MP3 purchases
"Amazon Services Kindle" - Kindle purchases

It is possible to create separate ShopSafe numbers for each of the above Amazon categories, but then you need to select the appropriate number for your order, and not mix items in a single order.

If you mix Marketplace and Amazon.com items in a single order using a ShopSafe number, part of the payment may go through, but the credit card will be declined for the other items. You can then select a different ShopSafe number for paying the remaining items. However, you may get declined multiple times for a single order, as you can't know which items will be charged together or separately. It seems to depend on which locations the items are shipped from, as well as whether they are Amazon.com or Marketplace items. As indicated on the Amazon Help page, "Orders may be split into multiple shipments [...] Because we charge for items when they are shipped, this may result in multiple charges."

For a while, I was able to deal with the above issues by not mixing Amazon.com and Marketplace orders. However, recently Amazon submitted charges under 2 separate merchant names, even for an order which only contained Marketplace items. The only way to see the merchant name is from your credit card account, after a charge has been successful.

*The credit card/bank does not notify you when this happens - it is up to the merchant to inform the purchaser. So unfortunately, I have no way of knowing if any fraudulent use of my ShopSafe numbers has ever been attempted. But from reviewing my statements, at least I know that no fraudulent charges have succeeded.
darkoshi: (Default)
A donation page for a particular non-profit gives the option of donating via justgive.org, paypal, or bitcoin.

This made me wonder which one would be better for me to use from the charity's standpoint. Which one charges the charity the least fees, resulting in the most money for the charity?

For that matter, don't credit card companies themselves charge processing fees for each transaction? If these other payment processing organizations accept credit card payments, doesn't that mean that some fees are going to the credit card company, as well as additional fees going to the payment processor?

According to this page: Saving On Credit Card Processing Fees (dated Feb 2007),
the processor must pay a fee to Visa and MasterCard, which typically charge 1.65% for a normal credit card transaction.

According to the last comment on this page, some payment processors charge initial setup fees and monthly fees, in addition to the per-transaction fees.

According to this page (dated Aug 2011),
PayPal’s fees are smaller than either of the above options [JustGive and Network for Good], so long as the charity gets at least $3000 a month

Edited to add:
The video on this page explains bitcoins. It isn't what I thought it was (based on the name, I thought it was an official currency-backed micropayment service), and I'm a bit confused by it. It's a new artificial currency which anyone can "mine" by running a software program? Who are the people who exchange bitcoins for actual currency, or who accept bitcoins as payment, and what do they get out of it? It sounds sort of like the "money" you can accumulate in certain video games, and which you can sell to other gamers, except that its usefulness isn't limited to a particular game.

Edited to add:
I ended up using JustGive.org. One of their pages displayed this message: Please note that your credit card will be charged by JustGive and 4.5% will be deducted from your donation to cover transaction costs.

bank question

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011 11:04 pm
darkoshi: (Default)
Does anyone know... with a Bank of America (checking or savings) account which has a monthly fee, if the account becomes overdrawn for an extended period, does the bank still charge the monthly fee and keep adding that to the overdrawn balance too?

Are there any other fees might get added to an account that was overdrawn and which has had no further activity since, other than the overdraft fees?
darkoshi: (Default)
I was wondering why the "Wages, tips, other compensation" (box 1) amount on my W2 form did not match the "total earnings" amount on my final pay stub of the year. But I figured out how the Box 1 amount is calculated.
Box 1 amount = (Total Earnings + EGTL Amount) - (Pretax Salary Deductions)

The EGTL Amount is related to employee group term life insurance. This amount is shown on the pay stub in the earnings section, but is not added into the "Total Earnings" amount. It is not an amount paid to the employee, but it is considered a taxable fringe benefit.

The pretax salary deductions include amounts deducted from the paycheck for medical, dental, and vision, 401K plans, and health savings account (HSA). It does not include deductions for Pension, Long Term Disability plans, nor Medical-Retiree benefits.

.. [edited to add the following on 2011/12/22] ..

Box 3 and Box 5 = Social Security Wages / Medicare wages and tips
= (Total Earnings + EGTL Amount) - (Deductions for medical, dental, vision, and HSA)

For Box 3 & 5, 401k contributions are NOT subtracted.

Box 4 = Social security tax withheld = Box 3 * 6.02%

Box 6 = Medicare tax withheld = Box 5 * 1.45%

Amounts paid for Travel Expenses are NOT included in any of the amounts on the W2 form.

[edited to add additional details on 2016/01/06]

insurance links

Friday, February 25th, 2011 10:06 pm
darkoshi: (Default)
Insurers keep a secret history of your home
Insurers increasingly are using a huge industry database ... to drop or deny coverage based on a home's history of claims or damage reports.

Insurance companies are terrified of rising losses from water and mold damage. So a single report of water-related problems may be enough for insurers to shun your home.

Links to U.S. state insurance departments

SC Dept. of Insurance - See the link "Top 20 Homeowners Premium Comparison Guide" for a spreadsheet comparison of rates from several insurance companies.

money, money

Sunday, January 16th, 2011 12:46 pm
darkoshi: (Default)
In between 5 different stores, I spent $250 while grocery shopping yesterday! Thankfully, I can afford to spend that much, but the amount still shocks me. When I was a teenager, and my parent's total at the cash register came up to $100, I thought *that* was a lot.

Included were 2 containers of detergent (~$20), 24 rolls of toilet paper (~$20), and a bottle of B12 vitamins ($10). But that still leaves about $200 that I spent on food; food that will last me maybe 3 to 4 weeks, although some items last longer and some shorter.

If I were short on money, there are many items I would have not gotten, or gotten cheaper substitutes for.

However, I now have 2 magnificent mangos, 2 lovely lemons, 2 awesome avocadoes, colorful rainbow chard, green collards, a large cauliflower, a beautiful butternut squash, the makings for pizza, dark-chocolate covered pistachio nuts, cinnamon-vanilla almonds, and other good stuff.

Out of sheer curiosity, I got a bottle of coconut aminos, which is made from the sap of coconut tree blossoms, and is somewhat similar to soy sauce.

Last time I was grocery shopping, I bought some raw cacao butter. I'm going to try to melt it and make vegan white chocolate from it. I'm not aware of any stores here which sell vegan white chocolate.

The snow from last week still hasn't all melted yet.

Money, Money, Money - by patriciaet colette

darkoshi: (Default)
Oh boy. The delivery of the tech item I had ordered for Forestfen somehow got badly botched. Instead of receiving a printer/scanner all-in-one, I received a big box full of paper shopping bags! The bags were presumably intended for a certain large chain store whose name is shown on the bags, yet how they got mixed up with a printer/scanner, I have no idea. The store I ordered from was apologetic about the situation and will be sending me a new package.


More info on debit cards vs credit cards, from earlier this year -
Debit vs. Credit Cards: How They Stack Up
I like it when articles show dates on them like that one does. Otherwise it is hard to tell how outdated the information may be.


If you are paid by someone with a paper check, and you are not certain of the check's veracity, it is apparently safer** to try to deposit it at an ATM (even though it may bounce), than to try to cash it in person at a bank. If it is fraudulent and you try to cash it, you may end up handcuffed and in jail. That incident happened 4 years ago, but I assume the same kind of thing could still happen now.
** All I've been able to figure from reading comments on that story is that depositing a bad check is less incriminating than trying to cash it. Otherwise, how could anyone feel safe accepting checks for payment from people not known to them?
Curiously, young people commenting on the story seem to be of the opinion that using checks at all is old-fashioned and idiotic.
darkoshi: (Default)
Fucking great.

When I reported the fraudulent credit card transaction to my bank last week, they closed down that account/card number and said they'd be sending me a new card. In order to get the new card via "rush delivery" in 1-3 days, I would have had to pay a $16 fee. (That's more than the fraudulent charge was for!) I opted for regular delivery (7-10 business days) and am still waiting for the new card to arrive. In the mean time, I haven't been able to use it. (GRRR)

However, this month's statement for the new card has been posted to my online account already. Apparently, due to the closing of the old card number, last month's automatic payment did not go through. So last month's balance has been brought forward to this month, with *interest* added (ARGHHH!@). The interest amount is more than the fraudulent charge was for! (GRRRRRR!!!!) Not only that, but the new statement does not mention automatic payment at all, so it seems I will have to get it set up again. (GRRRRR....)


The fraudulent charge posed as being pet-store-related ("GOODFORYOURPET"). As I have made a couple purchases from online pet stores in the last year, at first I suspected that one of those sites might have been hacked or somehow related to the fraudulent charge. However, one of those orders did not involve the credit card in question, and the other one was done through Amazon Marketplace - I'm fairly sure Amazon does not pass credit card info on to the retailers.
That leaves just one other pet-related store that I've ordered from, but it was almost exactly a year ago, and I had ordered from them many times before - I ordered vegan dog kibble for Yoda from them, before I found local stores that had it.

So.... either that site may have been hacked, or Amazon was (both of which seem unlikely), or it's just coincidence that the fraudulent charge posed as pet-related.

credit card fraud

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 10:05 pm
darkoshi: (Default)
FYI for anyone searching on this like I was...

I found a fraudulent $9.96 charge that was posted to my credit card last week. I reported it to my bank and had the card canceled. This is the first time I've had a fraudulent charge to any of my credit cards.

The info listed for the charge was this:
GOODFORYOURPET2066005593 206-6005593 NY

I googled "goodforyourpet" and the number, and found this page where several other people have reported similar fraudulent charges from that entity.

I wish I still had my old credit card which had something called "Shop-safe". It allowed you to easily (via an online page) create temporary card numbers with preset limits and expiration dates, which you could then use when ordering from websites. That way if the site attempted to charge more than the amount you had set, or if the card number got stolen due to lax website security, you were still safe because your real credit card number was never divulged.