Congratulations, you’ve won a free $1,000 gift card – just click here to redeem it!

Viktor/Shutterstock
Viktor/Shutterstock
If you clicked on this story for your “free” gift card, you’ll definitely want to keep reading. I’ve issued plenty of warnings about “free” products and some of you, dear readers, think I’ve gone too far.

After all, aren’t some of the best things in life free?

Perhaps.

But you might also want to consider a tale of two companies — one in South Carolina, the other in California — which allegedly hired affiliate marketers to send millions of spam text messages to consumers around the country.
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Can Capital One really “erase” my debts? And while you’re at it, could you do another rant about loyalty programs?

Can Capital One really “erase” my debts? And while you’re at it, could you do another rant about loyalty programs?

When Capital One offers to “erase” part of her debts with award points, Kate Morrical calls on a loyalty program skeptic to clear things up. Find out what happens next.

Question: You’ve gone on record plenty of times with your feelings about loyalty programs, so I wondered if you’d seen this ad for Capital One’s “Purchase Eraser.” In it, Alec Baldwin implies that he can “erase” a $700 purchase with 30,000 miles.

But the program overview clearly states that any purchase over $600 is 100 miles per dollar to redeem.
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Is your phone card phony? 5 ways you can tell

phoneWhen is an hour just 36 minutes? When you buy some phone cards, apparently. That’s the conclusion of a recent Federal Trade Commission investigation, which found certain pre-paid calling cards offered an average of just 40 percent of call minutes customers thought they were buying — and some, significantly less.

You should care about this if you travel outside your wireless company’s regular calling area, because that’s when you’re likely to buy one of these cards. If you don’t read the fine print on the agreement, you could end up getting shorted by close to a half hour of talk time, according to the FTC.
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“I feel like Starbucks is stealing money from me”

Katecorn/Shutterstock
Katecorn/Shutterstock
Question: I need your help with a problem I’m having with Starbucks. Over the years, I have regularly purchased Starbucks gift cards on eBay at a discount and simply transferred the balance to my loyalty card registered to my Starbucks account.

I recently discovered a website called Raise.com that was selling Starbucks gift cards at a 20 percent discount, so I purchased about $1,600 worth of cards from the company. I thought these could not only be used by my family and me, but would be great gifts for coworkers.

Realizing that I bought these from a third party, I tried to protected myself by transferring the balances to cards registered to my Starbucks account.
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Ridiculous or not? Oops, I forgot to check my credit card statement

It happens all the time.

I get a plea for help from someone like Eugene Teow, who appeared to have been scammed on a recent trip to Australia. In his case, it looked as if Hertz had indiscriminately sucked $3,857 from his bank account for damaging a rental car — money to which it wasn’t entitled.

But then, when I ask the company about the overcharge, it turns out that the only problem was that the customer had failed to check his credit card statement. Because if he hadn’t, he’d know the money — or at least most of it — had been returned.

Reviewing your credit card statement is the first step anyone must take when they’re looking for a refund. Because some of the time, they’ll find the money has been quietly put back into their account without notification.
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