Online UPDATES

June 16, 2006



(Not so) hot stock tips, on your cell phone

Spammers are turning to cell phone text messaging to lure in stock-scam victims, who might even have to pay to receive the bogus tips, says the NASD. The number of spam text messages more than doubled from 18 percent of traffic in 2003 to 43 percent in 2004. Many of those hype a stock in a wireless-age version of "pump and dump" schemes. If you get a text message hawking a stock, efile a tip with the NASD at www.nasd.com. Click on Regulatory Enforcement, then File A Tip. Then contact your cell phone carrier.

Will your homeowners insurer come through for you?

Worried that your insurance company won't pay your claims if your house gets demolished by a natural disaster? Check out the company's complaint records with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which lets consumers view reports at its website (www.naic.org/cis/index.do). You can see the total number of complaints filed against selected companies by state or type of complaint. Other helpful information about the companies, such as total assets and liabilities, is also available.

Fewer companies are the targets of suits

The number of securities-fraud lawsuits dropped by more than 17 percent in 2005, thanks at least in part to a quieter stock market, says the Stanford Law School Securities Class Action Clearinghouse and Cornerstone Research. A total of 176 class-action lawsuits were filed last year, down from 213 a year earlier. The total losses alleged in the suits also declined by a third, to $99 billion from $147 billion. Besides a flatter stock market, the drop is probably due to improved governance and the resolution of litigation spawned by the stock boom and bust of the late 1990s.

Make purchases with a card-less credit plan

You can shop online without using a credit card if you sign up with Bill Me Later, which can authorize your purchase based on a credit check and send you a bill in the mail. The credit plan, offered through Chase Bank USA, is offered at more than 135 online merchants, including Walmart.com and Hotels.com. You can sign up during checkout, but you'll need to supply your date of birth and the last four digits of your Social Security number. You'll get a statement with your purchases, and you can make a minimum payment.

While there's no annual fee, the annual percentage rate is 18 percent, so be aware that you'll get hit hard if you carry a balance.