Articles Posted in Other Consumer Issues

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has announced its list for the safest vehicles of 2007. Not surprisingly, its “Top Safety Picks” did not include a single small car. Four cars, seven SUVs and two minivans made the list which, sadly, also did not include a single domestic brand vehicle.

Here are the winners:

1. Audi A6, large car 2. Audi A4, midsized car 3. Saab 9-3, midsized car 4. Subaru Legacy (equipped with optional ESC), midsized car 5. Hyundai Entourage, minivan 6. Kia Sedona, minivan 7. Mercedes M-Class, luxury SUV 8. Volvo, XC90, luxury SUV 9. Acura RDX, midsized SUV 10. Honda Pilot, midsized SUV 11. Subaru B9 Tribeca (equipped with optional ESC), midsized SUV 12. Honda CR-V, small SUV 13. Subaru Forester, small SUV

Many Hoosiers don’t know that forgiven, or canceled, debt is considered income by the IRS and must be reported as such on an individual or business tax return. Let’s say, for example, that you have $80,000 of credit card debt and are able to negotiate the payment of these accounts for fifty cents on the dollar. You refinance your home, take out $40,000 and pay off the credit cards. You have received $40,000 of income from the forgiveness of half the debt, and must report this income on your tax return.

You should receive a Form 1099-C Cancellation of Debt from the creditor. The creditor is also required to provide a copy of the 1099-C to the IRS.

There are a few limited exceptions. If the forgiveness was intended as a gift, the debt was canceled because of Hurricane Katrina, the student loan debt was canceled because of work you performed, or the price of property you purchased was reduced after the purchase, the forgiveness may not be considered income. There are a few other limited exceptions. For more information, consult IRS Publication 17, Chapter 12.

If you watch much Court TV, you know that it’s not uncommon anymore for police to seize an accused’s computer and use information obtained from the hard drive against the accused. But the hard drive is not the only repository of information concerning the computer user’s activities. I just read this excerpt written by Greg Beck in the Consumer Law & Policy Blog:

Although there is no indication in the court’s opinion about how prosecutors in this case obtained the search data, Google has acknowledged that it can trace searches back to a particular computer or, in some cases, to a particular user. What exactly does Google know about you? Its privacy policy states that it automatically records information that your browser sends whenever you visit a website. This can include your search terms, IP address, date and time of your search request, and, if you have cookies enabled, possibly your personal identity. Google also acknowledges that it can track which links you click from its search results. In short, Google may have several years’ worth of your search activity stored in its databases, and it may be able to connect much or all of this activity back to you.

Now, I consider myself the epitome of the law-abiding citizen. But this information makes me go “Hmmmmm?” Even if I do some searches on my computer that I wouldn’t want at least certain other people to know about, I suppose I probably don’t have anything to worry about as long as I don’t become a criminal defendant.