Remember When Sidewalk.com Was Microsoft Sidewalk? It Meant $1,500 To Me

Do you remember a website from some years ago called Microsoft Sidewalk? It was located at sidewalk.com and aimed at competing with local newsweeklies. The site hoped to gain a foothold in the local search market, providing details about local events in cities around the United States.

Microsoft acquired the name in 1996, and by all accounts the company had high hopes for the success of the project.

I’m just wonder if you remember it because it meant a lot to me. In fact it meant $1,500 to me. Here’s the thing though: None of my work ever appeared on the site.

My brief association with Microsoft Sidewalk worked out fine for me, however, because it gave me a reason to snoop around quite a few libraries, movie theatres and other locations around Fort Worth. And they paid me the $1,500 despite never using my work.

How did I get involved?

The woman who was in charge of assigning Fort Worth community venue blurbs lived in Dallas, and she saw some of my work in The Texas Triangle, a now-defunct gay and lesbian newspaper founded by the late Kay Longcope. (Kay was important to me because she gave me my first freelance writing gig, then she and her editors as well as the man who bought the paper from her all continued to use my work for years.)

Since I had a website even then, the editor for Microsoft Sidewalk looked me up, contacted me and asked me to cover some things for her. She actually wanted me to cover some gay bars, I think, but I don’t go to bars, so I turned those assignments down. Instead, I took all the miscellaneous, boring locations around town that no one else wanted to bother with.

Microsoft was offering more money per piece for these quick blurbs than I was getting for thoroughly researched journalistic pieces at the time. In fact, for making several stops around a town I love exploring anyway, I thought $1,500 was a good deal.

I gladly accepted the offer, wrote the pieces, got my check and then saw the announcement that Microsoft Sidewalk was being sold to Citysearch. The 1999 sale of the project meant the site was completely redeveloped and my content never saw the light of day.

Oh well.

I can’t remember what I wrote about any of the places I reviewed, but I can’t imagine that I said anything very stimulating about the little library across the street from the old Seminary South mall or the dollar move theater on Granbury Road where a church now holds its services.

I got my $1,500 though, and I wish I could get some gigs like that again. It’s fun to get paid for exploring.

By the way, if you stop by sidewalk.com today, you’ll find something there. It’s not my content, and its not anything Citysearch put there either. The site has remained mostly dormant for a decade or so, and the content that’s there now isn’t likely to get anyone’s attention.

How much, I wonder, is the current owner is paying for interesting content about uninteresting places?

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Political Vandalism At The Bookstore

Since visiting used bookstores is part of one of my job, I don’t like to be bothered, interrupted or detained when I’m at a bookstore. And I certainly don’t like a middle-aged woman stopping me from entering a store so she can gleefully confessing a crime to me.

This is the story of an ordinary-looking woman who is either so politically motivated that she has lost her common sense or more likely so generally lacking in sense that she didn’t know that committing a crime is usually something people don’t admit.

On Monday, March 26, 2012 — a day perfect for walking in a park with someone you love — a frizzy-haired woman who looked like she could have been an elementary school teacher vandalized a car in the parking lot of a Half Price Books store and then confessed to me.

It’s a shame for her that I was the one person there who was least interested in what she had to say.

The Story

“You wanna know something mean I just did,” the woman said.

I didn’t answer.

“One of the people from the store,” she started, gesturing to the far part of the parking lot where the employees park. Then she paused.

She was holding the door into the bookstore open for me, but she was blocking the entry with her body.

“One of the people from the store,” she continued very slowly, “has a Barack Obama sticker on their car.”

She paused again, still blocking the door. I still didn’t say anything.

“I covered it over with a ‘Vote Republican

sticker.”

That’s vandalism, I thought, but she moved inside the store and I continued inside too. I didn’t say a word, and she didn’t approach me again.

Why would someone admit to committing an act of vandalism to a person who might not approve of vandalism and might not even approve of her political statement?

The Silliness Of It

I’m completely apolitical. I don’t care about politics in the least.

I have identified as a Democrat at some times in the past, but I don’t participate in the political process at all anymore. My turn away from anything related to politics is part of my effort to simplify my life and make it more intelligent. Politics are just silliness, so I don’t participate.

If I had to form an opinion about President Obama, I suppose I think that he doesn’t live up to anyone’s expectations. But I don’t think I could bring myself to vote for a Republican. I don’t think I could bring myself to vote at all.

And I certainly couldn’t bring myself to vandalize someone else’s property to make a statement of any kind.

But why did the woman think I would approve of her act of vandalism against a store employee? She must have thought I was either a criminal or a Republican. Which was it? Is there a difference?

I didn’t report her to the police or to the store employees. I didn’t see which car she meant, and the incident may have happened only in her mind.

In my mind, I wonder why she was out alone. I know that Republicans are allowed to travel unescorted and vandals often work alone, but the woman who blocked the door to admit a crime to me seemed to have other issues as well.

Still Here: One Key To Online Success Is Realizing Potential

When Ari Herzog mentioned on his blog that he was accepting guest posts, I typed this up right away. It was the first thing that came to mind. Ari’s commenters seem to like it, and I hope you do too. I intended it to promote my simple living blog So Much More Life.

I don’t know Ari very well, but I know we have something in common: We’re still here.

No matter whether your reason for participating online is to make money from website ads, promote your products and services, satisfy your own need for expression or simply keep your name in front of people who could be useful one day, one of the keys to success online is establishing a presence and nurturing it.

That means staying with the blog you start, showing up on social media when you have something to say and taking steps every day to expand the size, reach and value of your message and online properties.

A Few Steps From Massive Success

For most of my life, I’ve been only a few steps removed from massive success. My first true love was freelance journalism, and I quickly reached the top of my niche, but I didn’t really capitalize on what I achieved.

Then, I tried working in an office for a couple of years, and I was able to jump from a dead-end department to a position working with a well-respected departmental director. But I quit because I didn’t think office work was for me.

I first placed websites online to promote myself and my services so many years ago that they were designed in Micro

soft FrontPage. WordPress didn’t exist then, and neither did blogging. Those sites had Google Adsense ads on them, and the ads made a little money. Why didn’t I see then that by expanding my online presence and the reach of my message, I could increase my income too? I was only a few steps from realizing some potential then.

Are you only a few steps from realizing your built-in potential for massive success?

Taking A Few Steps

I’ve been blogging seriously at So Much More Life since December 2009, and people come there every day to read about simple, deliberate living. I’m not exactly a minimalist, but I explore the minimalist lifestyle from both an outsider and an insider point of view. People seem to like what I write.

What’s even better, people click on the ads there, and I make a little money. A couple of people have even been impressed enough with my writing at So Much More Life that they now pay me to write their blog posts for them.

Even better than that, my modest success with my blog has encouraged me to place other websites online aimed specifically at making money, and they’re starting to bring in a little cash too.

To put things more simply, I’m starting to realize some of my potential rather than letting it build up and then escape as I have all my life. Still better than all of that, I like the way my life is going now. I’m not a massive success, but I’m not turning my back on good opportunities anymore either.

But This Is Really About You

This post tells a little about my story. It says something about how I’m not missing as many opportunities as I once did, and it tells how I’m benefiting from staying put, showing up and taking the next step.

You might benefit more from a post about you, however. What should you do? What steps should you take?

I think the answer is simple: Do the work that’s in front of you today, and take every opportunity to take steps that move you toward your goals. Soon, you’ll be making more money, increasing your presence and expanding your reach.

You may soon find that you’re a massive success.

Of course, all of this talk about massive success is a bit grandiose considering I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be regarding income or personal potential.

Still, I’m closer than I was yesterday. Are you?

Gip Plaster blogs at So Much More Life about simple, minimalist living. More importantly, he’s taking steps every day to realize his potential — something he hasn’t always done. Visit his blog to see what he’s talking about this week, then consider hiring him for your next writing project. If you reach out to him, he’ll take the next step.

Is “Rototiller” A Trademark? And Why I Care

Is the term “Rototiller” trademarked? It’s the kind of question a writer like me finds myself asking. I’ll tell you why I needed to know — then I’ll tell you the answer.

The Weirdness Of A Writer’s Life

One of the writing agencies for which I sometimes work allows writers to pick up open orders, join writing teams and also accept direct orders from clients. I almost never manage to snag any of the orders that are offered to one of the four teams that have accepted me, but earlier this week, I caught a few quick and simple orders from one of the teams.

One of the requests was simple enough: a few hundred words about rototilling.

But I can’t do that, can I? If Rototiller is a trademarked term, then rototilling isn’t a real word. This agency requires Associated Press style (which I studied in journalism school), but no stylebook approves of repeatedly using a fake verb based on the improper use of trademarked noun.

So I’ll skip the assignment, I thought. But I need the work, and there was nothing else to do at that moment.

I took the job after I discovered that my concerns were unfounded.

You see, writers are concerned with little details like whether a word is the right one to use. It matters to us. Using a trademark as a generic noun isn’t acceptable. Neither is making fake verbs from them. Words like aspirin and escalator were one trademarks, but their owners didn’t protect them and they fell into general usage.

The writing magazines that I read as a teenager contained ads from Kimberly-Clark Corp., a company that makes paper products. The most frequent ad went like this: “To all the writers, editors, copyeditors and proofreaders who use the trademark Kleenex followed by the words ‘facial tissue’, Kimberly-Clark says bless you.”

The company ran those ads to prove, if they ever needed to, that they tried to protect their trademark. The word Kleenex was and is in danger of falling into general usage, canceling out the rights of its trademark holder. And that’s fine with me actually. I’m long past any interest in intellectual property rights.

No novelist will ever write: “She cried so long she went through an entire box of Kleenex brand facial tissue.” But lawyers would like those hypothetical novelists better if they would.

In any case, using trademarks in writing is a no-no I know.

But Is Rototiller A Trademark?

The answer is no.

As it turns out, Rototiller doesn’t deserve the capital letter I’m placing at it’s beginning. The word rototiller is a perfectly acceptable term for any brand of rotary cultivator.

Truthfully, I’d rather write “rotary cultivator” or “rotary tiller”, but I can legally, ethically and confidently write about rototillers and rototilling (and watch my word processing software place a squiggly red line under every occurrence) if that’s what’s needed.

So why isn’t it a trademark? Was it ever?

The idea of rotary cultivation started to get attention in the United States in the 1920s. By the early 1930s, C.W. Kelsey had established The Rototiller Co., a New York enterprise aimed at importing European cultivators and selling them to Americans. Originally called “earth grinders” by some people, Kelsey trademarked the name Rototiller to refer to the rotary tilling machines he imported.

Rocky American soils damaged the sensitive European machines, and Kelsey soon started making his own rotary tillers. Several models were available, and other companies started making similar products.

Eventually, the trademark on the term Rototiller expired, leaving other makers free to call their machines by the name Kelsey established.

And they did.

That’s the short version of the story about how rototillers lost their trademark and their capital letter at the front.

Rotary cultivation may forever be known as rototilling. You may not care one way or the other what the process is called, and you may not even think much about the topic. That’s okay.

There is a subsection of humanity known by the term “writer”, and we worry about words so you need not bother with them yourself.

The Christmas Birthday Bloggers Club

Rejoice! For today is born in a rural area outside Fort Worth, Texas a blog post that collects Christmas-birthday bloggers in one location for the benefit of the world.

It may not matter much to you, but I always think it’s interesting when I find a person whose birthday is on Christmas day. As you may or may not know, that’s my birthday.

I tell people I was born on the same day as Jesus and Barbara Mandrell, but we’re not the only ones who claim December 25th as our birthday. The scientist Isaac Newton shares the same birth date as me, although his was in 1642 and mine was in 1972.

Other names you might recognize that belong to Christmas babies include Red Cross founder Clara Barton, singer Dido (just one year before me), actresses CCH Pounder and Sissy Spacek, singer Jimmy Buffett and science fiction pioneer Rod Serling.

Humphrey Bogart shares the same birthday too, kid.

In my vast search of the Internet’s many compelling blogs, however, I’ve only located two other bloggers who were born on Christmas. I’ve always known I was special, but I can’t believe that there aren’t more people who belong in this Christmas Birthday Bloggers Club that I’m officially starting right now.

I admit that locating other bloggers with Christmas birthdays hasn’t exactly been my life’s passion, but I think this topic is worth at least this one blog post, don’t you?

Here’s a little information about the two bloggers I’ve located so far who were born on Christmas day:

Matt Madeiro
www.threenewleaves.com

I’ve followed Matt’s blog for a long time. I suppose I found him because he came to comment on my blog after one of my guest posts on someone else’s blog, but I don’t really remember. That may not be right at all.

In any case, Matt writes about three leaves of his life: losing weight, moving more and being happier — things he rightly believes we can achieve through living simple lives.

Dia Thabet
www.2achieveyourgoals.com

I’ve followed Dia’s blog for a long time too. In fact, he must have been one of the first bloggers I discovered when I started blogging, but I can’t remember for sure how I located him either.

Dia is a personal development coach and consultant who helps people achieve whatever they want. He has more than a decade of involvement in personal development topics including the law of attraction, positive thinking, time management and relationships.

And, then, of course, there’s me:
Gip Plaster
www.somuchmorelife.com

I write here at Gip’s Front Yard, but I also write at So Much More Life about simple, minimalist living.

I suggest that living a simple, deliberate life means eliminate the things from your life that separate you from the best possible version of yourself. Once you’ve done that, add in things only if they bring you closer to your ideal. Living a simple, deliberate life really is that simple.

Do you know other bloggers who were born on Christmas day? If you do, please share them with me and I’ll add them to this page.

Behold…

Oh, never mind.

Clenched Teeth Cause Problems, So Live With Your Jaws Dropped

At times, I have a problem with clenching my teeth when I sleep, causing sore gums, grinding away of the tooth surface, pain in my jaws, pain in my face and even a stiff neck.

It’s a bit unpleasant.

My bad pillow could be to blame — or it could just be an inherited condition. It might be something else entirely.

A doctor or dentist might not agree with me, but I believe my tight jaws are at least partially a symptom of spiritual rather than physical problems. Clenched teeth perhaps signify an unsettled life.

Here are a few things I’ve found that helps me live a life that doesn’t need to be chewed over during the night. Would they help you with whatever symptoms complicate your life?

1. Breathing more than I have to. Breathing is necessary for life, but deep breathing is a rarely practiced exercise that releases tensions of all sorts.

2. Going outside more than I have to. I don’t do it enough, but there’s always something amazing outside that takes my mind away from my problems.

3. Working less than I have to. I’m often motivated to keep moving, but in most cases, stopping early, quitting sooner and working better is the best course of action.

4. Walking whether I’m going somewhere or not. It’s the best exercise for body and mind, I think, and I’m not interested in being convinced otherwise.

5. Living better than I should be. I never seem to have enough money despite being abundant and resourceful, but many of life’s finer things — like parks, the best museums and downtown sidewalks — are available free for public use.

Maybe my list is a bit too complicated, however.

So let me say this another way: I try to live my life with my jaw dropped in awe rather than clinched in despair.

When I remember to do that, I don’t have a care in the world.

Is The High Maltose Corn Syrup In Fiber One Bars Just As Bad As HFCS?

The question is simple enough, and although the answer involves some complex science, so is the answer: Is the high maltose corn syrup found in many candies, bars (including Fiber One bars), baked good and beer as bad for you as the high fructose corn syrup found in soft drinks and a huge variety of processed foods?

Yes.

Corn syrups are used in processed food because they act as preservatives and are cheaper than using real sugar to sweeten a product. Consumption of HFCS has increased rapidly since the 1980s as it has been included in more foods.

The Problem With High Fructose Corn Syrup

There are three big problems with HFCS, one of the most commonly used corn syrups.

First, this additive has been attacked by health advocates for being a major contributor to the obesity problem, particularly in the United States. That’s largely because it so common that it’s hard to avoid. Whether this particular syrup is worse for you than another is a debatable point, however, since all sugars contribute equally to weigh gain.

Second, the body metabolizes this sweetener in a way that makes it enter the bloodstream quicker than regular sugar, and that makes it potentially harmful for diabetics and others with difficulty tolerating sugars.

Third, high fructose corn syrup is actually sweeter, according to some people, and repeatedly consuming it supposedly increasing consumers’ appetites for sweetness. In other words, HFCS is so sweet that it may make those who eat it want even more sweets.

But What About High Maltose Corn Syrup?

People are particularly concerned about the use of high maltose corn syrup in Fiber One bars because these bars are sometimes viewed as health foods. That’s a mistaken judgment, however. While the fiber in Fiber One products has obvious beneficial effects, these bars are otherwise the same as candy.

The corn syrup in Fiber One bars is a sugar that contributes to weight gain and should therefore be avoided by those trying to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

High maltose corn syrup is made when an enzyme or acid breaks cornstarch down into a syrup that contains at least 35 percent maltose. The exact formula varies by maker.

Some believe this syrup is being used more frequently because it confuses consumers. When they see a label that shows HMCS instead of HFCS, they may assume a company has switched sweeteners to make the product healthier.

HMCS is actually a better manufacturing choice for some baked goods and bars, however, because it has different characteristics that HFCS.

High maltose corn syrup is a good choice for hard candy and is less likely to become sticky that its better known cousin. It also freezes at a lower point, making it a frequent additive in frozen desserts.

While there are fewer studies of this syrup than of HFCS, there is no evidence to suggest that it a better choice than any other sugar.

The Bottom Line

High fructose corn syrup has been discussed so much in the media that many consumers now have a negative reaction to it. High maltose corn syrup does not yet elicit an unfavorable response from consumers, so some manufacturers may use it instead of HFCS to confuse consumers. Others may simply use it because it is a better choice for their products.

Many fiber products contain sugar because fiber is difficult to stomach without it. Consumers have to choose if they are willing to accept consuming large quantities of processed sugar to make their fiber more palatable or if they prefer to get fiber from fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and other healthy sources.

For people trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy lifestyle, one processed sugar is essential the same as another, no matter the name. While there are complicated differences in how some processed sugars are digested, none belong in a healthy diet.

Reflections On Life From A Walmart Parking Lot

As I sat in a Walmart parking lot waiting for someone several months ago — perhaps even a year or more ago — I scribbled on the back of a window envelope in which some kind of bill had been delivered some notes on what I saw.

If I had gone completely paperless at the point, I might have had nothing on which to write these observations. Then again, they might not be very important anyway.

I’ve finally gotten around to typing up these comments as a part of my project in December 2011 to clear the little pieces of paper off my desk. Of course, the observations here are skewed because they only represent what I could see in my rearview mirror.

Here they are:

  • We’re always on the phone. And it seems from what I can see that walking while celling is a dangerous thing to do in a Walmart parking lot.
  • We’re disconnected from the present moment and situation. People who were almost walking beside each other or who passed within inches never acknowledged the other person as fellow participants in life. I wouldn’t have either.
  • We’re sometimes mindless automatons. Since buying from Walmart doesn’t require all of our minds’ skills, we turn off most of them.
  • We’re consumers even when we can’t afford to be. People who can’t afford to wash themselves or their cars or repair the things that have gone wrong with their current possessions would perhaps do best not to buy more.
  • We’re fat.
  • We don’t like our jobs, and we’re still stewing about them when we get to Walmart after work. If we work at Walmart retrieving carts, we stew while we’re outside.
  • We’re segregated when we want to be. I didn’t see anyone who was black and very few of the shoppers at this location were Hispanic. At other Walmarts, few of the shoppers are white, I suspect.
  • We think bigger is better and we express that through our cars. If we’re tiny men, we are especially likely to drive big cars. An SUV with a single occupant doesn’t make sense in any way, but I saw lots of them.
  • We’re all going to be just fine. It’s all just silliness that I see in the Walmart parking lot. My life is still hopeful, and I hope others have hope too.

In fact, I wrote on the back of that envelope that my life and the world in general is getting better in many ways despite what I saw.

My life is better today than it was then, and it’s still getting better.

Being Gay Is Not A Moral Issue, The Baptist Pastor Told Me

According to one of the pastors at a huge Baptist church on a hill above Austin, being gay is not a moral issue.

The pastor is right, of course, but I like the statement and the way I received it for several important reasons.

First, the backstory.

More than a decade ago, David and I were both enamored with the message and the style of a Baptist preacher we heard about who was different from the rest. He talked about second chances and compassion. He seemed to take a simple, no-nonsense approach to his faith. His age and the ups and downs of his life had taught him that thinking you have all the answers is a sure sign that you have none of them.

There was a problem, though. Since I’m gay, I’ve always had an understandably negative impression of Southern Baptist churches and their condemnation of the things they don’t understand. I couldn’t continue to listen to his messages if he and his church were anti-gay.

Not especially caring if I reached him directly, I sent an email to the church. The pastor who answered did a very good job. Here’s why:

1. I got an answer to my question.

Most people who deal with the public are trained to avoid answering questions directly. That lessens the chance that the organization they represent can be held liable for their mistakes.

This attitude was best represented by an old man who worked in the RadioShack store in Fort Worth Outlet Square when I worked in the advertising department upstairs. I noticed he answered every customer’s question the same way: “We’ve found that in some cases it works and in some cases it doesn’t, but you’re welcome to bring it back if it doesn’t.”

The pastor at the big Austin church answered my question though: What is the church’s position on homosexuality?

“We don’t have a position on homosexuality because it isn’t a moral issue.”

There was no hedging or hiding. There was just an answer.

2. It was a good answer.

It was a simple, well-stated answer that the pastor offered to me. It didn’t need explanation or expansion.

Rape, murder, incest and sexual abuse are moral issues about which the big church had a position, but being gay just is. It just happens. It’s a neutral state of being.

Being left-handed was once chastised and rebuked, but it’s really just a quirk. It’s less common than being right-handed, but it isn’t a moral issue. It isn’t an issue at all.

Hazel-colored eyes are more common than blue ones, and brown hair is more common than ginger. But the less common situation isn’t inferior to the more common one.

3. It was a consistent answer.

I already knew what the church’s position on being gay should be since I’d heard a number of the pastor’s sermons.

I knew that he believed God was accessible to everyone, so I knew he couldn’t disapprove of gay and lesbian people if he was really a person of integrity. It’s nice when someone turns out to be true to his or her own convictions on every topic.

It was also nice to see that someone else on his staff was willing to speak as truthfully as he always seemed to speak.

A Few More Thoughts

We visited that church a couple of times. We didn’t see many gay people, but we saw lots of young families and lots of singles — many of whom where probably damaged by divorce and family strife since the pastor had a particular affinity for people who had been deserted by the people they cared about.

Our interest in the church on the hill in Austin was only a passing fancy. If you want to know more of my always-developing thoughts on religion and spirituality, please visit So Much More Life and read Atheism And Spirituality Are The Same Thing and Religion Is Like The Letter People.

I’ve moved past the point of caring about any particular church’s position on any particular state of affairs, but I haven’t forgotten how the pastor answered my question.

I didn’t want the church’s approval; I wanted to know if I could approve of them. I did.

The senior pastor there was long ago silenced by illness and a lot has happened to the big church over Austin, I’ve heard. Still, there was a time more than a decade ago when someone there did something right by answering directly, truthfully and in a way that was consistent with their overall message.

I won’t soon forget that.

PayPal Calling: Call From 800-830-8574 Could Really Be PayPal

When an automated voice left a message a few weeks ago wanting me to call them back and confirm some transactions on my PayPal debit card account, it sounded suspicious to me.

Calling under the guise of confirming information is a classic scammer technique. For that reason, reputable companies don’t leave voicemails asking for personal information. Do they?

PayPal, a reputable company that boasts about having more than 100 million users, apparently does.

The call was from 800-830-8574 according to my cell phone’s caller ID, so I did an online search for the number and found some references to it actually being associated with PayPal. I also found warnings, however, indicating that such a thing must surely be a scam.

It certainly seemed like a scam.

After weighing my options, I decided to call back and see what happened. As long as I didn’t provide much information, there’s no way it could cause me a problem, and calling back would satisfy my journalistic curiosity.

Calling from the same number at which I was called, I got an automated system that asked only for the last four digits of my PayPal debit card. There’s nothing a criminal could do with only that piece of information — found on receipts and routinely sent in email purchase confirmations anyway — so I entered it.

I was relieved to find that the automated voice then told me who I was. I didn’t need to provide any personal information.

It wasn’t a scam. The number 800-830-8574 belonged to a bank acting on behalf of PayPal, calling to verify recent transactions on my debit card as a protection against fraud.

The automated voice read me my five most recent transactions, I confirmed each of them and the call ended.

That’s all it was.

Fortunately, I had recently read a blog post from a writer who warned that PayPal will suspend the debit card of users who don’t call back when asked to verify transactions, so I knew they sometimes ask for this kind of verification.

And since much of my writing income arrives by PayPal, I knew an immediate response was necessary if it really was PayPal calling so I wouldn’t lose access to my money.

It is important to point out that faking a phone number on caller ID is a simple thing to do, so seeing 800-830-8574 is not an indication that it’s actually someone calling on behalf of PayPal. PayPal or someone operating on their behalf could also call from another number, and they could discontinue use of this number at any time.

It’s also never a good idea to provide personal information by telephone. But if a caller can tell you who you are with only something as simple as the last four digits of your card number, it’s probably okay.

Whether it’s a good idea for PayPal and its debit card issuer to alarm their clients by asking them to discuss their debit cards by telephone is another matter entirely.

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