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"Free credit reports" and Other Common Rip-offs.

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As someone facing serious financial difficulty, learning how much money is made by the huge banks to which you owe money can be frustrating. While we understand that we need to be accountable for our decisions, it stings to realize that profit models are often based on customers going into debt. Therefore, we can't help but a feel a bit had, like the rube who just bought a cure-all tonic from the traveling pitchman selling from a horse and buggy.

CNN.com published an article recently that described what it deemed the "biggest rip-offs" in today's society. We thought it relevant because knowing how some of these products are sold may encourage you to quit buying, using or subscribing to them and in the process, start saving more money to pay down debt or keep rebuilding after bankruptcy. We've summarized a few here:

Text messages
Wow. Rapidly replacing e-mail as the communication tool of choice for everyone under 25, text messaging has seen nothing short of a meteoric rise in usage in just the last 24 months. It's an entirely new communication vertical, spawning marketing strategies and literally changing the way cell phones are developed and sold.

No doubt you have seen teenagers, maybe even your own, thumbing madly away on their mobile device, ignorant to the world around them. Well, with every OMG and TTYL the cell phone companies are LOL. Really loudly.

Text messages, which are causing cell phone bills nationwide to climb to record amounts, cost wireless phone companies roughly one-third of a cent to deliver. However, they cost you on average up to 20 cents to send and 10 cents to accept. That's a 6,500 percent mark-up. :(

"Free" Credit Reports
Here's one that stings. In a time when the nation is collectively reeling from a historic recession, when foreclosures are rampant, bankruptcies booming and no one's credit rating is safe, several organizations are profiting off of selling you your own personal financial data.

You know the biggest name, Freecreditreport.com. The cheesy songs and redundant commercials sure do hit their target. But what they don't do is sing honesty. At this site, and others like it, your credit report is not free, it's simply provided for you in return for a monthly credit monitoring service. It's like the cable company telling you HD programming is free.

Chances are, if you are worried about your credit report, you can't afford another $15.00/month. The company is owned by Experian, a credit reporting agency, which means it costs them nothing to give that report to you. Let this sink in: a representative for the company had this to say: "We do realize there are a very small percentage of consumers who genuinely do not understand they have signed up for a credit monitoring service. We work to resolve issues with these consumers on a case by case basis."

For a truly free report, as provided by law, go to: annualcreditreport.com

Movie popcorn
On the lighter side, it's no surprise that movie food is expensive. Heck, they don't even hide it. However, the movie industry is set up so theaters see a very small cut of the ticket proceeds. Therefore, concessions are their true money maker. Popcorn, for example, has a 900 percent mark-up, costing about $.06 to make and around $6.00 to eat. Many theater owners consider themselves to be in the concession business, not the film industry. As the recession continues its grip on the country, watch for more theaters to start offering beer and wine.

If you reserve a night out at the movies for the occasional reward for good financial behavior, skip the concession stand. Sneak in a bottle of water and some gum. Your cholesterol level will thank you.

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