DEAR HELOISE: Debt collection fraud has become popular with the scammers, but here are some things to look out for:
• If you are contacted by a "debt collection agency," get the name of the person calling, the phone number, address and anything else you can. Ask them to give you their license number to do business in your state, and then verify that number by contacting the secretary of state for your state.
• Do not give in to threats of arrest or violence. They cannot call your employer, report you to immigration or take away your driver's license. They cannot garnishee your wages or call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. They should never use profanity or shout at you over the phone.
• Report the call to the Federal Trade Commission at www.reportfraud.ftc.gov.
• Many states have a time limit on debts. If there has been no activity for a certain period of time, the debt must be written off. But check with a lawyer to make sure your state has such a law and what that time limit happens to be.
• But, most of all, do not send them any money, gift cards or money wire transfers. If you want additional information, you can go to www.usa.gov/stop-scams-frauds.
-- Josh H., Boston
DEAR HELOISE: While dusting my china cabinet, I decided to let my four daughters, who are all married, have some of my lead crystal collection. They would have inherited these items after I pass away, so rather than wait, I've started to give them to my girls at birthdays and Christmas. From time to time, they have expressed a desire to have a certain piece, and I usually give it to them. This way there will be less to go through when I'm gone and no fighting over who gets what.
-- Joan B., Rutland, Vt.
DEAR HELOISE: What do you recommend for homemade remedies for insect bites and poison ivy?
-- Diana V., Rockingham, N.C.
DEAR READER: For insect bites, poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak, you can fill a bathtub with water and add a generous amount of baking soda. If the spot itches terribly, you can make a paste of baking soda and water (or baking soda and witch hazel) and apply it to the area to help lessen the irritation.
Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5000; fax to (210) 435-6473; or email