Thursday, June 17, 2010

$628.65 Check From E*TRADE Class Action Settlement

The other day, I opened up my mail and was surprised to discover a $628.65 check from a class action settlement. This arose out of allegations that E*TRADE recorded telephone calls without notifying the other party that they are being recorded.

For some background, in September of last year, I received an Email asking if received any telephone calls from E*TRADE during the period from September 3, 2003, to May 22, 2009. If I did then E*TRADE illegally recorded my conversation, and I could be eligible for a settlement of up to $5,000 if I filed a claim with the attorneys for the case of Greenberg v. E*TRADE.

I explicitly remember that I did receive at least one call from E*TRADE in 2007 after I asked for information about certain bonds (Principal Protected Notes) that they were offering to sell. These bonds were described in a post I wrote 3 years ago about New E*TRADE Offerings. For the record, I never did buy the bonds, but a broker called me to explain how the offering works.

Getting back to the class action, I was a little bit skeptical, but I completed the online claim form anyway. It only took a few minutes to fill in. I also remember reading some forum posts where several people expressed their skepticism that this was even a legitimate class action. In this forum, one poster even quipped that consumers might receive only $7.46 after waiting 4 years. Several people on the forum believed that this may be a scam that probably wasn't worth the trouble.

To make a long story short, E*TRADE did settle this case, and paid out $7.5 million. Of that, the lawyers took nearly $2 million, and the rest of the money was divided among the claimants. Based on the payment amount, I speculate there were probably around 10,000 completed claims. Anyway, this is an unexpected windfall for me.

I have also read that only people in California were entitled to the full $628.65. People in other states are supposed to receive one-fifth of that amount or $125.73. So, did anybody else receive a check from this settlement?


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Free Flash Drives Received

In the past, I've written about receiving free USB flash drives at various conferences that I've attended. I have been searching the Internet to see if I could also find websites that offer USB flash drives freebies. For reference, a USB (Universal Serial Bus) flash drive is a portable computer memory that plugs into a computer USB port and can be used like a miniature hard disk. Also known as thumb drives, they were once considered a novelty among computer enthusiasts. But nowadays, USB flash drives can often be purchased in many locations, including drug and discount stores.

In my post about fake USB flash drives, I mentioned finding a few websites that claim to offer USB flash drive freebies. But in most cases, the websites were outdated, or that particular offer has expired. I didn't want to send my readers on a wild goose chase, so I haven't published any of those unconfirmed offers.

Now, I am happy to report that I have received a couple of free USB flash drive from legitimate offers. And, I want to share this information with my readers. The first flash drive I received is from MicroCenter. You can get one for signing up for their CENTERewards program. A link to their offer is here:

This offer is for a 4GB Micro Center Flash Drive or a 4GB SD (SDHC) memory card. Although the form is available online, you have to actually go to a Micro Center store to claim the flash drive. So, that might not work out for everybody. I have received the actual drive, and can confirm that it is of good quality.

When I went to Micro Center to pick up my flash drive, they happened to be out of their own brand of 4Gb flash drives. They substituted this Kingston DataTraveler 4 GB USB Flash Drive instead.

I received my second flash drive by requesting program information from Columbia College. This college offers online course and have several campuses throughout the United States. I requested the flash drive through this link:

It took a long while to receive my flash drive; I requested this drive in March 2010, and received it in June. When I first heard about the offer, I noticed that the page above didn't have any mention of the free flash drive. However, I did receive this Email in early March that confirmed a flash drive would be on its way:

Congratulations on taking the first step toward getting more out of your life! Soon you will receive a USB flash drive that is preloaded with a viewbook detailing what Columbia College offers, including testimonials from current students and alumni. So keep an eye on your mailbox for a package from us.

Then in late May, I got another Email saying:

We just wanted to let you know to keep an eye on your mailbox for the information you requested a few weeks ago from Columbia College. As promised, you’ll be receiving a free USB flash drive that is preloaded with the Columbia College viewbook. We apologize for the delay, but there was an overwhelming response — apparently, you are not alone in your desire to get more out of life.

After about three months, I finally received my drive in early June. In my post, about promotional USB flash drives, I mentioned a type of drive that shows up as two different drives when you plug it into a computer. One of the partitions on the Columbia College flash drive is identified by the computer as a CD ROM drive, and it contains an Autorun script that loads the Columbia college viewbook, which is a PDF file that gives an overview of their programs. The second partition looks and behaves like a regular USB flash drive. The total capacity of the the drive is 2GB.

So, these are two legitimate free USB drive offers. Does anybody else know of any other free USB offers? Can anybody report on the successes (or failures) that they've had?


Sunday, June 6, 2010 is Down for Maintenance?

I use a website called both for reading other personal finance (PF) blogs, and for publishing the PFStock site RSS feed, so that more readers can find my posts. Over the past several days, I've noticed the following message when I have tried to go to that site: is down for maintenance.

Has anybody else taken note of the outage? Usually when this happens, the site comes back online within an hour or so. I suspect that it is not really down for maintenance, and that some larger problem exists with the site. I have noticed a less traffic to PFStock these days.

Another larger question that I would like to ask is what other personal finance aggregation sites do people use? I am starting to go into PF Blog withdrawal these days.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Money Market Rates 6/10

Here are the latest money market interest rates of the banks that I've been tracking on my blog. Note that these rates are sorted by APY, and represent institutions that I have accounts at, or have otherwise mentioned in my blog:

1.35% Discover Bank Online Savings
1.29% Ally Bank Online Savings
1.10% HSBCAdvance Online Savings
1.10% ING Direct Orange Savings
1.06% Shorebank Direct Online Savings
0.80% Citibank Ultimate Savings
0.65% Western FCU Money Market
0.50% Chase Plus Savings
0.40% E*TRADE Complete Savings
0.12% PayPal Money Market*

NOTES: *The PayPal Money Market fund is NOT FDIC insured.
Rates are believed to be accurate as of 6/2/10. I did not include banks that had special, or introductory rates in the list because they are not ongoing interest rates. I am also not including non-liquid accounts such as CD's in the list.

Discover Bank Online Savings currently has the highest interest rate of the banks that I'm tracking. Umbrellabank, which was a division of New South Federal Savings Bank was closed by the FDIC in December. The assets were transferred to Beal Bank and I have closed my accounts with them.

So, there is the latest list. Please let me know if you know of any higher interest rates.