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‘ICE’ your phone for help in an emergency

Car accidents and medical emergencies happen all the time. If you were unconscious, would first responders know how to contact your family?

Could paramedics find out about your medications, allergies or health conditions?

Fortunately, it takes five minutes and zero dollars to make sure those first responders can reach your emergency contacts if you’re the one unconscious. You just have to “ICE” your cell phone. “ICE” stands for “in case of emergency.”

If you add the prefix “ICE” to your emergency contacts in your phone’s contact list, first responders will know to call them first. So, if Jane Doe is your emergency contact, simply change her entry in your contact list from “Jane Doe” to “ICE: Jane Doe.”

A paramedic in the United Kingdom, Bob Brotchie, came up with the idea. Perhaps you remember when he promoted the ICE system in 2005, gaining a lot of media attention as the system caught on in other countries, especially after the London bombings that summer. Even though the ICE system made national headlines in the United States, many people haven’t “iced” their phones. If you haven’t, stop what you’re doing and update your phone contact list right now. It won’t cost you more than a few minutes – and it could save your life some day. Here are tips for getting the most out of your icing:

• Don’t password protect your phone or ICEing it is pointless. Alternatively, some phones have programmable ICE buttons that a first responder can press to call your emergency contacts without having to unlock the phone. Ask your carrier if your phone has this ability.

• “ICE” multiple emergency contacts. In case one emergency contact can’t get to the phone when the paramedics call, pick two or three emergency contacts. Some people who have multiple ICE contacts label them something like “ICE1: Jane Doe,””“ICE2: John Doe,” etc. That way, the paramedics will know you have multiple emergency contacts, regardless of which one they scroll to first.

• Use relationships instead of names. For example, your ICE contact might be labeled “ICE: mom” instead of “ICE: her name”. Do this for non-ICE contacts too, just in case. So my brother is in my phone as “brother” instead of “Peyton.” If a person finds your phone and is nice enough to try to return it, he/she would know which would be a good contact to call to let you know where the phone could be picked up.

• Supplement your ICE. If you have any medical conditions or drug allergies or take any medications, you should have more than ICE for emergencies. If not a medical bracelet, put something in your wallet.

• ICE friends and family. Next time you talk to your folks or others you love that could benefit from ICEing, tell them about it. And if they’re tech-challenged, do it for them.

Credit reports update

If you’ve used your quota or otherwise don’t qualify for a free report you’ll have to pay for additional copies. The law sets the maximum fee for that at $11. But considering what they charge wholesale clients, it’s outrageous.

According to the New York Times article, while credit reporting agencies are allowed to charge you up to $11 to see your credit report, they routinely sell them to corporate clients for as little as 20 cents. The law that limits the charge for a personal credit report to $11 doesn’t do you much good if the companies tasked with providing it hide it instead. And that’s exactly what you’ll encounter when you try to find an $11 credit report from any of the big credit reporting bureaus. What you’ll find instead is up-sell: a confusing plethora of product pitches from credit monitoring services to report/score bundles. When the FTC was advised on how credit reporting bureaus deceive customers they declined to get involved. This despite the mission statement on their website that they exist to prevent deceptive practices. Apparently, it does not apply to these companies. To assist those who need to obtain a report, here is a step-by-step guide that can steer you to the cheapest options — at least until the reporting agencies shuffle the deck again.

TransUnion — This took a professional credit counselor 11 minutes and 5 seconds to find the cheap option. The shortest route found to get there is:

1. Click the tiny “Site Map” link at the very bottom of TransUnion.com. (It’s in the middle, sort of.

2. In the leftmost column (labeled “Personal”), under the section header “Credit Disputes, Alerts and Freezes,” click “Credit Reports and Disclosures.”

3. On the right is a “Convenient online services” box with a link to “Purchase a TransUnion Credit Report.”

4. This leads you to a form to create an account, after which there is a checkbox trying to upsell you again — it says you can get your “personal score” for $9.95. Skip it, and you’ll get the option to purchase a “personal credit report” for $11.

Equifax — It took professional credit counselor 7 minutes and 22 seconds to find the basic option here. Here’s the route around the front-page up-sell to the $11 report:

1. Go to Equifax.com and move your cursor over “Equifax Products” in the upper left, which will present a drop-down menu. Click the last link, “Compare Products.”

2. Here you’ll see a handy list of all the junk you didn’t ask for compared side-by-side. What you want isn’t even visible as an option yet — click the red “Single Use Products” tab.

3. Now you’ll see four more options ranging from $15 to $40, which still don’t include just the basic report. Scroll down and find the $9.95 “Identity Report,” which is the cheapest option found.

Experian — The professional credit counselor gave up after 15 minutes of hunting for the $11 option. Given the number of links on the front page — including Experian’s highlighted product, which claims to provide your credit report and score for $1, but will auto-bill you $17.95 a month unless you cancel within a week — we can’t blame him. But in terms of the number of steps and clicks, this may actually be the easiest CRA to navigate once you know where to look.

1. On Experian.com, in the bottom left “Products” column, click the first option: credit report.

2.You’ll get a side-by-side comparison that, unlike Equifax, includes the cheap option on the first page. On the right you’ll see a link to order a $10’“Experian credit check.”

(Source: MoneyTalksNews Stacy Johnson, March 9, 2012)

Useful links

For further information on VA benefits, call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center, on Hot Springs Boulevard. The office number is 264-4013, the fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590, and e-mail is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the VSO office.

Durango VA Clinic

The Durango VA Outpatient Clinic is located at 1970 E. Third Ave. in the old Mercy Medical Center.

Meetings

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

American Legion Post 108, second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

Veterans for Veterans, every Tuesday at 10 a.m., 164 N. Pagosa Blvd. (Buffalo Inn).

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