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On finance and practice

Hurricane tax relief for the helpful

Take a treasure hunt for unclaimed bonds

The Treasury cautions that the database isn't complete, because data on older bonds is stored on microfilm instead of computers.

Best gas-saving tool? Your foot

Even an SUV owner can significantly increase gas mileage by taking it easy when braking and accelerating, says Edmunds.com, an online auto information company. During test drives, a Land Rover got 35 percent better gas mileage with light braking and easy acceleration as opposed to lead-foot driving, while gas performance for a Ford Mustang went up by 27 percent. Using the cruise control can also cut down on gas pump pain. Mileage in the Land Rover and Mustang improved 14 percent and 5 percent, respectively, when drivers turned on the cruise control at 70 miles per hour.

Did you pay for a "free" credit report?

Two websites that promised free credit reports, but whacked consumers with an $80 annual fee, have to refund the money. Consumerinfo.com and free creditreport.com, which are owned by Experian, a national credit reporting company, didn't adequately disclose that consumers would automatically be signed up for a credit report monitoring service, says the FTC. Consumers who ordered a credit report between Nov. 1, 2000 and Sept. 15, 2003 are eligible for a refund.

To avoid other look-alike websites that tangle up consumers in hidden strings, order a free credit report only from http://www.annualcreditreport.com. Better yet, follow the link at http://www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 877-322-8228.

Are you being robbed wirelessly?

If you use a wireless Internet connection to keep tabs on your finances, make sure you don't get "sniffed" or "evil twinned" by identity thieves, warns NASD. Sniffing uses a program that can nab your passwords and credit card numbers, while an evil twin is a rogue wireless network that lures in unsuspecting users and steals their account information. NASD offers the following tips:

1. Before accessing personal financial information online, make sure the web address starts with https://, which signifies a secure connection, instead of http:// and look for a symbol such as a closed padlock or key on the status bar in the lower right corner of your browser screen.

2. End each online session by logging out of your accounts, instead of just typing in another web address or closing the web browser.

3. Don't let your computer "remember" your username or password.

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