Ivan Penn, who writes the Consumers Edge column that appears regularly in the Times, also answers reader questions about consumer issues on our website (www.tampabay.com/news/business; look for Consumer's Edge heading).
Going green on auto repairs
How can I reduce the impact my car repairs have on the environment?
There are several steps suggested by AutoMD.com for green auto repair and maintenance, including:
• Recycle oil, antifreeze and parts. If all the oil from American do-it-yourself oil changers were recycled, it would be enough to supply more than 50 million cars a year. Oil, antifreeze and parts can usually be recycled at your local repair shop.
• Repair, don't replace. Extending the life of your vehicle and its body parts through proper repair and maintenance can help save environmental resources, prevent costly repairs and conserve consumer dollars.
• Reuse parts and supplies. Rebuilt/remanufactured and used parts are easily available and can cost 50 percent less than buying new parts, while also reducing the amount of raw materials consumed and harmful emissions generated.
For more information visit: www.automd.com/About-AutoMD/Press/9-28-2010.
E-mail unlikely to be from IRS
There have been various e-mail messages that appear to be from the Internal Revenue Service. How do I know if an e-mail message is from the IRS?
Recently, consumers have complained of e-mails that appear to be from a government agency. Beware of unsolicited e-mails claiming to be from a government agency, as they often are attempts to steal your identity.
The IRS says:
• Remember, the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers via e-mail, and the IRS does not request detailed personal information through e-mail.
• Confirm the contact you have received is from the IRS by calling toll-free 1-800-829-1040. And forward bogus e-mails to email@example.com.
• Do not open attachments or click on the links found within the bogus e-mail.
For more information, visit www.irs.gov and type in keywords identity theft or phishing.
Billing cycle may split day
I received a Progress Energy bill for July 13 to Aug. 12 and the next bill was Aug. 12 to Sept. 10. Why is it on my bill that I'm being charged for the 12th and on the very next bill I'm being charged for the 12th again?
Progress Energy says the billing cycle is based on the time your meter is read. For example, if your meter is read at 10 a.m., your utility usage will be split on that day between the current bill (up to 10 a.m.) and the next bill (after 10 a.m.), said Cherie Jacobs, a spokeswoman for the utility.
So you aren't double-billed for the same day, but part of a day could be split between two bills.