Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Check Out Your Bank

With the nation’s financial crisis making headlines, it makes sense to use the technology to assist in making financial decisions. So, use your browser to visit http://www.bankrate.com/ and check out the rating for the bank, thrift or credit union where you store your money each payday.

Once you arrive at the bankrate.com site, look for the “Is Your Bank Safe” article under the Spotlight banner. The text “Safe and Sound Ratings” is a link to a page where you can start your search. First you’ll select whether you want to search banks/thrifts or credit unions. After making your choice and selecting the Next button, you’ll narrow the search by zip code, state, starting alpha character (e.g., the institution’s name) or other criteria. Follow the on-screen instructions and you’ll end up with the Safe & Sound CAEL rating (the lower the number, the better, but 1, 2 or 3 is considered good) or the Star Rating (more stars are better with 5 stars being tops) for the bank, thrift or credit union you select. See http://www.bankrate.com/brm/safesound/cael_explain.asp for more details on the rating systems.

Put technology to work on checking out your bank’s rating.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fact Checkers

I received yet another email message from the Department of the Treasury this morning stating I have a $189.60 tax refund coming (I only need to click on a link that goes to an AOL site!). That coupled with similar messages received a month ago mean I can fill up my car this week. But I won’t really count on it.

There are two sites that have been very handy lately. Both enable me to check the facts. The first is www.snopes.com where I often check various email “facts” such as:
  • Presidential candidate Barack Obama is a “radical Muslim” (false),
  • Presidential candidate John McCain declared during a 60 Minutes interview that he was a “war criminal” who “bombed innocent women and children” (false),
  • The USS New York was made using steel from the World Trade Center (true),
  • You can cook an egg or popcorn if placed between two activated cell phones (false), and
  • That an email greeting card from a family member may include a malicious virus (true, but generally only unpatched Windows-based systems are vulnerable and to infect your system you must click a link that goes to server with malware). Note, always hover over any link in any message and if the web address displayed on your status bar is inconsistent with a real online greeting card site (such as www.hallmark.com or www.egreetings.com or www.bluemountain.com) or the site you expect the link to go to, don’t go there.

The other site I use to check facts is http://www.factcheck.org/. The site is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania and identifies itself as “a nonpartisan, nonprofit, ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” The Annenberg Political Fact Check monitors “the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases.” Their goal “is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.”

So check your facts…before you pass them on.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Microsoft Office Help

Microsoft publishes an online newsletter (the Microsoft Office Insider) with tips, news, latest support articles, templates and clip art. To subscribe, check out http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/help/HA101864261033.aspx. As an example, the August issue includes the following tip:

Do you e-mail documents to yourself or others?
There's a new development that's faster and easier. Download this plug-in for Microsoft Office Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and save documents to a free Workspace on the web. Access, view, and share documents with the people you invite - anytime! Here's the free plug-in. http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=9382158. What's a Workspace? http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=9382159.

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