Don’t Get Scammed –Block “Third Party Billing” on your Cell Phone!

The other day I was getting ready to pay my cell phone bill online, and noticed that it seemed high. I took a closer look and noticed a $19.95 “usage fee”. Now, because I am a frugal person I purposely set up my service so that there would be no overages of any kind. So, I braved the potential one hour wait time to talk to a real person and learned that this charge was for a third party billing service for “premium texting”. Sometime ago I had begun receiving texts for some blingy contests. I had taken them as text spam, bad enough in and of itself. But this was much worse. They were charging me for these spam messages and I never signed up for anything like that! Why would I?

Well, they reversed the charges, and blocked any further third party billing requests. And I learned a valuable lesson. First—check every item on your phone bill every month. Don’t be afraid to raise a bit of a fuss over any suspicious items. If you completely understand what you are signing up for, you will spot phony charges right away.

Second—call your cell service right away and get them to block all third party billing. If you are getting a new phone or changing providers don’t forget to renew your blocking request. If they don’t understand the request ask to speak to someone who does understand and can help you.

Third—be careful how you use your texting service. These scam artists harvest numbers from many different sources, some of them very legitimate looking. If you are EVER asked to provide your mobile number online, find out first what the asker intends to do with your number.

Protect yourself. Don’t let rats steal from you a little at a time. If you follow these simple steps you will be sure you are not paying for things you didn’t ask for and don’t want.


The Nine Biggest Threats to a Frugal Lifestyle

Unless you are so broke you have no choice (and maybe even then) you are likely to run up against some real obstacles to your best intentions. These obstacles are not the same for everyone, but fall into some predictable patterns.
Here are a collection of the worst threats to the frugal lifestyle you need to finance your dreams:

Disorganization is the Number 1 Enemy of Frugality

1. Disorganization—This one will knock you out of the zone financially faster than any other single factor. The worst sort of money waste is the expense that gives you absolutely NO value and that is preventable. Things like late fees and overdraft fees. The usual cause for these absolute money wasters is disorganization, not willful waste. If you don’t balance your bank statement (maybe can’t even find it) you will no doubt make an expensive mistake sooner or later. If you have ever paid $33.00 for a cup of regular coffee you know what I mean. Then there is the high cost of clutter, such as buying duplicates, or even incurring medical cost when you trip and hurt yourself. Do yourself a favor-clean it up. And if you can’t, consider hiring a professional organizer. I know that it costs money to hire someone. But, with a little help you should be able to see daylight in a few hours or days. Once you have a system in place you can maintain it yourself.
2. Peer Pressure—Keeping up with the Joneses (known in social psychology as you reference group) is a real budget breaker. The people in the group you are trying to keep up with likely don’t have the same value system as you, or the same financial profile. If you buy a new TV because your neighbor did, what is the opportunity cost in terms of your real goals?
3. The People Closest to You—Whether it is a child harassing you for a new pair of Nikes or a revenge binge against an errant spouse, our own nearest and dearest can be murder on our budgets. This form of emotional spending requires maturity, compassion and a gentle touch to control, but making the attempt can deepen your relationships and make you a better person.
4. A Sense of Entitlement—We are bombarded by media telling us we are “worth it” and we “deserve it” which is true. We do deserve a good and happy life. But consider what the “it” is that we deserve. Advertisers are making a million dollar bet that they can convince you that the “it” you deserve is their product. Unfortunately all you actually get is another product, not a good life. The only way to feel real worth is by character development and genuine achievement. We prime our kids to have a sense of entitlement by never letting them fail on their own. I have heard of grade school races where everyone “wins”. The thing is, most kids aren’t really fooled by that. They get a sense of entitlement, but not of worth or achievement. The Frugal Goddess believes in splurging now and again, but in a mindful way, on thing that you know will bring real joy because you’ve done your homework.
5. Impatience—This threat is related to entitlement, and is one of the causes of that great threat to fiscal sanity known as retail therapy. Once upon a time we waited until we could afford something before we bought it. In the meantime we made do. Now we put it on the plastic and rarely get to enjoy it because we are working so hard to pay the credit card companies. Items three and four work together. The inner message is “I have to have this (fill in the blank) because I’m entitled to it, and I have to have it NOW because I’m entitled to it. Never mind that the item cost twice as much in the end, and will be worn out by the time it’s paid for. Impatience also causes other types of bad buying decisions, from paying too much for something because comparison shopping “takes too long” to buying things that don’t get the job done because you didn’t want to take the time to figure it out.
6. Boredom—Like eating, spending is exciting and makes us feel good in the moment. Like overeating, it turns out badly in the end. There are other cures for boredom that either have no bad future consequences or actually have good effects. Calling a good friend or meeting for a cup of house coffee, journaling, or taking a walk or bike ride will provide distraction of a much healthier kind than a trip to the mall.
7. Lack of Clarity—If you haven’t done your inner work to know what your true values are you won’t know how to spend your disposable income (if any). In my case, because I am a foodista, I would rather spend a little on a truly great meal than another pair of shoes. The trick is to make the absolute most of it-researching the restaurant, savoring the experience, and finally writing about it. When I have a project like that in mind it is easy to say no to those lovely strappy heels when they present themselves.
8. Laziness—OK, I admit it. The frugal way of getting what you need or want is often more labor intensive. It is a lot easier to buy a package of some convenience food at the nearest mega market than to create a shopping plan and then cook from scratch. The same is true of most other money conserving activities. But, if you have some true goals in mind, there is no way to sugarcoat this-You have to get out of your chair and do it. You will be glad you did when you are sailing down the road on that tour off the American West that is now affordable. Or whatever it is that you would love to have or do.
9. Depression—This may be the hardest issue to deal with. When you are deeply depressed you stop caring. About anything, including your own best interests. The depressed person is not likely to go on a spending spree, but more likely to rack up fees for unpaid bills and overdrafts. If you are deeply depressed it is very hard to do anything about it. Picking up the phone seems like a waste of time. Please, just do it. Call someone that you know cares even if you don’t believe it right now and ask for help. The sooner you do this the less of a mess there will be to clean up when you are feeling better. And you will feel better at some point. Just trust me on this.

So these are the nine greatest threats to your financial well-being. I will be discussing ways to defeat these threats in future posts.

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