New account-rules; blocking telemarketers; foreign stocks
The next time you open a bank account or sign up for a mutual fund, make sure you have a government-issued ID. As of Oct. 1, banks and savings associations, credit unions, securities brokers, mutual funds, and futures dealers must comply with new customer identification rules as part of the USA Patriot Act of 2001. The law is designed to keep criminals and terrorists from using US financial institutions to launder money or fund illegal activities.
Customers will have to present banks and other companies with an ID, such as a driver's license or passport, along with their date of birth and social security number every time they open a new account, even if they already have long-standing accounts with the institution.
The murky legal status of the national Do-Not-Call registry doesn't necessarily mean that you'll keep receiving telemarketers' calls. Telemarketers are still banned from blocking their phone numbers on caller ID displays, and they're required to limit the use of the computerized dialers responsible for those annoying "dead" calls.
The FCC says it will still enforce company-specific do-not-call lists, so if you don't want a telemarketer to call you again, tell the caller to put your name on his company's do-not-call list. Consumers who registered but continue to get unwanted calls can file complaints by e-mail at email@example.com or call 888-225-5322. In addition, The Direct Marketing Association has asked its members to voluntarily honor the national Do-Not-Call registry.
Six out of 10 parents responding to a survey by Hilton Hotels & Resorts say their kids love to travel. But only two out of five youngsters surveyed agree. In fact, more than half say they'd just as soon spend their time playing with other kids. Maybe next time, they should stay with Grandma.
Morningstar now divides mutual funds that invest in foreign companies into five new categories to clarify their investment styles and portfolio size, rather than lumping them together. The new categories are similar to those used to distinguish domestic stock funds: large value, large blend, large growth, small/mid-cap value and small/mid-cap growth.
Online sales pitches that promise to donate part of your payment to charity are becoming more common, but they're tough to monitor, says Consumer WebWatch, a project of Consumers Union. Unless marketers clearly state a minimum amount that will be donated to the charity, consumers should be skeptical. Call the charity involved in the pitch to make sure it's participating in the program. Or you can contact the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org . You can also see whether the organization is listed in a database of nonprofit organizations registered with the IRS; it's available at GuideStar (www.guidestar.org).
Yvonne Wollenberg. UPDATE: Focus on finance. Medical Economics Nov. 21, 2003;80:11.