Lately we have seen too many tragedies. These events bring out the best in a community, but unfortunately it can also bring about the worst in some people. Shortly after the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion, a link indicating “CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Fertilizer Plant Explosion Near Waco, Texas,” began circulating the web. Clicking the link would take you to a video of the disaster, but another video window link would appear over the video. If clicked, the subsequent link would download malicious malware on to your computer.  Not long after the word of the Boston Marathon bombings, a charity scam popped up under a fake Twitter account asking account users to retweet information in exchange for a donation. – just another scam.

Did you know that federal law prohibits a debt collector from calling you at work? That’s right but this applies only after he knows your employer prohibits such calls. If a debt collector calls you at work, let him know that your employer does not allow such calls and that you assume he will never call again. If the debt collector calls back, he has violated federal law and you could be entitled to a penalty of up to $1,000. There are many other federal laws controlling debt collector practices including when they can call and prohibitions against threats and lies, etc. Note though that these federal debt collection laws ONLY apply to professional debt collectors. It does not apply to those who are trying to collect a debt that someone owes them.

Like clockwork, as the weather improves, so does the influx of various contractors who go door-to-door offering low cost home improvement services. One service we anticipate seeing very soon is asphalt paving. The salesmen claim to be able to offer their services at a low cost because they have material left over from a larger paving job. These scams result in less-than-satisfied consumers who end up paying for inferior work that often must be replaced. Sometimes the schemers even use used crank case oil. The scam artists are typically in the area one day and gone the next. If you really need the work done, contact a local company with a good reputation. How can you tell if they have a good reputation? By going to for a business report.

We cannot end our column without a new tech related story. Do you hate the lines at checkout? Well, technology is on the way to help.  Wal-Mart Stores is expanding a test of a new checkout program that allows shoppers to scan items with their smartphones while they're in the aisles and then pay at self-checkout terminals. The world's largest retailer launched what it calls its "Scan & Go" program late last year in about 70 stores. It is now testing the program in more than 200 stores in markets including Dallas, Houston, Austin, Denver, Portland, Seattle, and Phoenix.