Credit Card Spending: What’s your first bill in 2008 like?

Today was the day that my first credit card bill landed on my doorstep with a small thud! Thankfully, for me, the thud was due to the included catalogue, NOT the size of the bill. But with the worsening economy in the US, home to the majority of my readers, the first credit card bills of 2008 couldn’t be coming at a worse time. So, as I peruse my light reading, I can’t help thinking of those for whom things are much worse:

So, how did I do? Let’s see. It seems that in December I spent nearly NT$14,738 on things that I can’t remember (I’ll have to look over the bill from December to see what went on!).

But WORSE, I only paid about $7,179 dollars of the outstanding balance off, meaning that I incurred an interest charge on the remainder – I haven’t done that in months. At 11.5% per annum, that’s about NT$174 (or nearly US$5.00).

The other charges are minimal (all currencies NT$32.5:US$1).

  1. The biggest is my regular insurance/investment product that charges about $2000 to my card every month. I should really blog about that product from Cigna but I can’t make up my mind if it’s a good thing or not.
  2. Then I added a $1000 amount for a regular membership of the local video store, as I was in the middle of watching the DVD series The Apprentice Series 4. Very enjoyable overall, though the final candidates didn’t surprise me at all. We still have a few hundred dollars outstanding so we can rent more movies.
  3. Of course, my mobile phone bill came in at $398 but that was for 2 months, not one. I hardly use it these days at all, even for incoming calls. It helps if I charge it and turn it on!
  4. We also went to Hola in Taipei which is a furnishings store near B&Q, where we were looking at the Roomba. Between these two stores, we bought a new shower curtain, and a few odds and ends: total $1233.

So why didn’t I pay off the bill in full? Well, it was for a stupid reason: I was trying to save a round number to open a new CD. I had planned to open one for NT$100,000 (about US$3,000), but that move cost me more than I’d have earned. I prefered to earn 2.4% per annum instead of paying off a bill that charged 11.5% per annum – how dumb is that: to spend $174 to save an extra $20? Not a smart move.

Have you ever made dumb moves with your credit cards? Let’s hear it here.

IRS Fraud: A whole new scam!

InvestorBlogger doesn’t often write about scams, but this time I received one scam email that was quite surprising, but obviously a fraud to me. In Taiwan, there’s been quite a bit of publicity about scams involving overpaid taxes being returned. So the nature of the scam wasn’t new to me. Still, if you receive an email looking like this. Beware.

It looks innocent enough, but given the fact that I don’t submit US tax returns, and I’m not a US citizen. I don’t even live there, enough reason to just hit ‘delete’.

But for my readers, I decided to investigate a little further. The link to the scam website was obvious enough, though. Also, the tone of the email was just wrong for an official communication. Why would the IRS hide an address in the first place? And why would the IRS use a website that doesn’t even link to the IRS, but is registered as a Swiss domain (*.cc)…. Mmm. Enough warnings yet?

tax refund fraud

I accessed the website through a proxy server to mask my IP address at home. I don’t know about it being a wise move to visit the website at all, though, as many of these websites attempt to load spyware and other nasties on your computer at the same time as defrauding you. So, don’t be tempted to click! I now regret that I did.

refund fake website

The website then asks you to verify your details (a typical scam trick) without inputting details about your tax filing information or even basic information personal information. Lastly, the website asks you to submit your credit card details to retrieve your payments. The IRS only offers two methods for return of taxes (and neither one involves a credit card).

And if you never submitted an email address to the IRS or the form arrives in an email address that you never used, you can simply dump it. So there are a lot of ways that you can determine if the email is a scam, a spam or genuine.

Email is a useful form of communication, but you still need to be ware any requests for sensitive information. If in doubt, visit the website of the purported institution by directly entering the information in your browser window.

When it’s hot in Taiwan, what do you do?

When it’s hot in summer, it’s HOT! Temperatures during the summer days are a hot and sultry 35C, it cools off at night, too. But not that much. Night time is a relatively cool 28-30C! So what do the locals do to keep cool…? Well, let’s follow my charming wife as she finds her way to a local ‘ice’ store. What will she buy?

100 1884

Well, here it is. It’s a kind of ice block that is very finely shaved, called ‘shaved ice’. It was late at night, so the seller was out of most flavors, we ordered the following dish, which included a syrup, caramel pudding layer and lots of wonderfully cool ice. Now both of us have tried the shaved ice in Hawaii, but this is so much better: the ice is finer, and the flavors are stronger!

100 1885 100 1888As you can see, my wife is enjoying this very much! And the price is just right. It’s about US$1.10 for each dish, and you can choose upto four different flavors. Tonight we went back for their other choice: “Snow Ice” which is made with ice and milk for a much finer texture even than the shaved ice.

Both of these dishes are very cooling on a warm summer evening! And quite tasty. Pity that I can’t buy this in the UK… Still, could be a good business idea if anyone wants to try this!