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THOMPSON: Online bill pay could save you from a scam
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Do you still write checks by hand each month? If so, you're not alone. It was recently reported that more than 90 percent of Americans still write checks by hand.

I was actually shocked by this percentage. I personally love online bill pay. It has made a chore I used to hate into something that's a breeze. If you're afraid to try it, go to your bank's local office and have them show you how it works. It's very secure.

OK, if you're still going to write checks regardless of what I say, then I have a very important tip for you. "Check washing" has become a big problem. What is check washing? It's where a scammer takes a check you've written and washes off all of the information except for your signature. They then deposit the check into their account and steal your money. As a scam, this is big business.

There is something you can do, though. Whenever you write a check, use only the "Uni-Ball 207" pen. This pen, which is available at most stores, uses a special ink that actually penetrates the paper's fibers. Scammers hate it because they can't wash it off.


If you're working on a project and don't have any saw horses with you, I've got a great substitute. Open a step ladder and lay it on its side.


If you've read this column for any amount of time, you know that I love the iRobot company. IRobot has taken its knowledge of building military robots and applied it to the home. You're probably familiar with their Roomba vacuum cleaning robot. It works great and I highly recommend it. (In fact I have one cleaning my house as I write this column).

Irobot has just come out with two new robots for the home. The first one is called the Looj. This little robot actually cleans your gutters. On their Web site,, they show a video of it in action. You have to check it out. The price tag is $99 plus shipping. The second robot is called the ConnectR. It's a virtual visiting robot. By this I mean you can get on the Internet anywhere in the world, access the robot via a password, and you control where it goes, what it sees and you can actually speak through it. With this robot you can say hello to Fido a thousand miles away. You can also check on your house and your family while you're on a business trip.


Have you ever seen those cool looking pumpkins that have a carving of a celebrity on them? Well, if you want to see your face on a pumpkin, go to the Web site All you need to do is send them a picture and they'll create a custom pattern for you. The price of a pattern can run from $30 to $70.

Tim Thompson lives in Gainesville. Have some tips, tools or tricks you'd like to share? E-mail Tim at

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