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Ask Our Lawyer - January 2007

Mystery Shopper, Mystery Money, Mystery Job

Q: I answered an ad the other day for job as a mystery shopper.  According to the ad, I would be evaluating retail stores by shopping and purchasing goods and services, and I would be paid for each store I would evaluate.  My first job was to evaluate the customer service staff of a local store during a money transfer.  According to my instructions, I was to wire almost $4,000 to a non-existent relative out of state.  I was mailed a cashier’s check for $4,000, which I deposited into my checking account.  I then, again following the instructions, withdrew about $3, 800 (the rest was my pay for the job) and wired it according to my instructions.  A few days later, the bank called to tell me that the check I had deposited was counterfeit, and they wanted their $4,000 back!  I don’t have the money anymore, and I don’t know what to do!

A: Sadly, you have just joined the ranks of the defrauded.  This particular fraud has been going around the internet recently, and it represents a particularly hazardous scam for consumers.  The Federal Trade Commission has these tips.  Consumers should be skeptical of mystery shopping promoters who:
* Advertise for mystery shoppers in a newspaper’s ‘help wanted’ section or by email. While it may appear as if these companies are hiring mystery shoppers, it’s much more likely that they’re pitching unnecessary — and possibly bogus — mystery shopping “services.”
* Sell “certification.” Companies that use mystery shoppers generally do not require certification.
* Guarantee a job as a mystery shopper.
* Charge a fee for access to mystery shopping opportunities.
* Sell directories of companies that provide mystery shoppers.
In addition, be very wary of companies that require send you a check and require that you deposit it and withdraw the money within a short time period. 

This version of the scam is particularly dangerous, because the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) requires banks to make money from cashier's, certified, or teller's checks available in one to five days, instead of the ten days typical for other checks.  Therefore, funds from bogus cashier’s checks are deposited into the victim’s account long before the checks have been honored by their issuing banks.  Really good bogus checks can be in process for weeks before anyone catches on to their being worthless.  Unfortunately, since those funds are now cash, the person depositing them into their account is responsible for returning the money, even if you’ve wired it out already.  So you’re on the hook to your bank for the money you deposited, and your only recourse is against the con artist who sent you the bogus check – if you can find him.  Sadly, the odds of that are between slim and none.

RoadHazard.org gets another one fixed!

Even though a lot of us have put the bikes up for the winter months, that doesn’t mean that the streets are in any better condition.  Also, as we look forward to spring and getting back on two wheels, spring also means that the potholes will be a-bloomin!  With that in mind, I wanted to remind you that RoadHazard.org is still on the job, and will continue to get those hazards fixed.  One fellow wrote about 10th Street and 465 in Indianapolis.  We gave that information to INDoT, and they have reported back to us (within two weeks!) that the hazard had been fixed!  While not every agency we contact lets us know that the problems you report have been corrected, it’s good to see that we are getting attention from the powers-that-be.  Thanks for you submittals to the Road Hazard page, and keep them coming.

Winter Vehicle Storage

The Marvels of Marvel Mystery Oil

George Tinkham sends us some good tips on winterizing your ride for storage, whether it’s a bike or a sports car, from International Auto Parts, www.international-auto.com.

Probably the easiest way to store a vehicle is to not store it at all. If you think you can drive(and by "drive," we don't mean idling it in the garage for a couple of minutes) at least once every 4 weeks for a minimum of 30 minutes at a time, then you and your bike are better off without the deep storage routine. But for those who live in harsh winter climes, those with two homes etc., storage is the only option. What follows is sort of a punch list of tasks to perform:

Warm the vehicle up fully. On your drive, stop by the auto parts store and get a quart can of Marvel Mystery Oil. Pour almost the whole can in the gas tank (save about 4-6 tablespoons for later), and then fill the tank up completely with fuel. The Marvel Mystery Oil will act as an upper cylinder lubricant. (This stuff has been around since the 30s, and I still don’t know how it works.  If you want to unstick some valves or lubricate sticking valves, this stuff works like magic.   Paul Romine, the guy who remanufactures Ford engines for Ford in the midwest, swears by the stuff, and that’s enough for me.  -Rod).
Change the engine oil and the oil filter.

Drain and flush the cooling system (if you have one). Refill the cooling system with a 50/50 mixture of fresh antifreeze and distilled water.

Top off the brake fluid. Braking system should be flushed and bled with new fluid every 2 years. If you’re due, now's a good time to do it.

Wash and wax the paint and brightwork. Don't forget to clean your wheels.  Brake dust is very corrosive.

Remove the battery and clean the battery and battery case with a solution of baking soda and water to neutralize acid. Take the battery inside and place on an automatic trickle charger. Be safe be sure not to place it too close to the furnace or a heater or anything that might spark.

Push (or, temporarily reinstall battery and drive) the vehicle into a storage area - hopefully indoors. If you are storing in an area with an earth or gravel floor, lay a big piece of plastic down first, then drive onto that. The plastic will provide a vapor barrier and help keep the bike car from rusting.

Raise the bike on a stand. Place the stands under the various suspension components so that the suspension is compressed and at normal ride height. We've found that fully extended shocks tend to get stuck in that position.

Remember that 4-6 tablespoon of Marvel Mystery Oil we held in reserve? Now comes the time to use it. Pull the spark plugs out of the engine, pour a tablespoon of Marvel Mystery Oil in each cylinder, and turn the engine over by hand several revolutions in order to spread the Marvel Mystery Oil around the cylinder walls. Reinstall the spark plugs.

Simple steps like these will keep your bike ready for this spring and many more to come!

Making the Most of your Minutes

(We have had a series of questions about minutes of board meetings.  What follows is a discussion of the issues confronted by boards and board secretaries.  Let us have your comments and feedback. -Rod)

Q: Our local A.B.A.T.E. chapter has had some discussion recently over how we should take minutes. Someone told me they had to make verbatim transcripts of the board meetings, but others say they only have to reflect the actions of the board.  What should we do?

A: First, look to your bylaws for guidance.  Often times, the bylaws will specify what type of minutes to use.  If you have a choice, there two choices a board secretary can make regarding minutes.  They can either record every word, or record summaries of the conversations.  Each has its benefits and drawbacks.

Roberts Rules generally favors a show-all, tell-all approach to Board Minutes.  Certainly that makes life easy when all that is done is to record exactly every comment and then show the struck language that is not part of the approved minutes. Only Board members should be privy to the "draft minutes" and then when the "draft minutes are approved"  those minutes are published and made available to the members.  These rules regarding minutes are simple and easy to enforce.  However, these kinds of recordings may chill candid ramblings that would be inappropriate for publication – even if shown as stricken – and may contain legal issues that need to be protected.  For example, what if libel, slander, race or politically sensitive remarks, etc. are recorded with no way to edit or redact the comments?  Those type of comments could come back to haunt the organization in the future or cause divisions within the organizations.

The summary approach also has considerations which recommend it.  It allows brutally honest exchanges between board members, – even inappropriate exchanges – without chilling what some folks really think.  It makes the lawyers for A.B.A.T.E.  sleep better without worrying about libel and slander suits.  It allows A.B.A.T.E.  to put its best foot forward in the final minutes as approved by the Board.  Since we as an organization are somewhat political –  if not mostly political – this may be the best route, unless we want to run the risk of causing divisions within the organization.

However, the summary approach does not record perfectly the words and expressions involved during a board meeting.  Board members can be accused of inappropriate editing.  In other words, the Board is reserving the right to "clean up" irrelevant comments that may or may not be appropriate.  It then becomes important for the secretary to be judicious in deciding how the board discussions are to be summarized.

In general, given the sue-everybody mentality that seems to be running amok these days, it may be that adopting summary minutes may afford the best correction for the A.B.A.T.E. boards and their members, as well as the organization as a whole.

AMA 'Justice for All' Rolls into Indiana

In a recent article, we discussed the AMA effort to enact the “Justice for All” legislation in more states.  A.B.A.T.E. of Indiana is proud to report that the “Justice for All” legislation will be introduced into the Indiana General Assembly in the upcoming session.

The “Justice for All” legislation includes enhanced penalties for right-of-way violations when they result in injury or death.  The AMA recommends that priority be given to incorporating these enhanced penalties with the right-of-way violations most often associated with motorcycle injuries and fatalities, such as those occurring in intersections, while turning left, and at stop signs and yield signs.

The proposed legislation also included enhanced penalties for those who commit a felony offense in which the offender is found to have caused injury or death to another through the use or operation of any type of motor vehicle.

This fight is just beginning in Indiana, and no doubt there will be powerful forces lined up against us.  It’s time for us to stand up and work together to pass this important legislation and to encourage our brothers and sisters in our neighboring states to join the battle, too.

Ride Safe and Free,

Rod Taylor

A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to: Ask Our Lawyer, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206_2850, or email rodtaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2005, A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services