Floating through the Internet via e-mail is a warning titled "Area Code '809' Phone Scam" warning that you shouldn't respond to e-mail messages, phone calls, pages, or Web pages instructing you to call a number in the 809 area code. The e-mail details how you could pay up to $2,425 per minute and end up with a phone bill of more than $24,000. But according to Internet ScamBusters, this message is simply the re-emergence of a warning originally posted in 1996. The group also points out that it's unlikely a phone charge of more than $100 would ever be incurred by dialing a number in the area code. Such forwarded messages themselves most often are simply spam and often contain warnings that don't measure up under scrutiny. As an example, one e-mail said that this information had been forwarded by the National Information Center - an organization so generically named that it would be impossible to verify. Another variation pointed to the National Fraud Information Center, which - while a very interesting organization - has absolutely no information on this scam. This so-called scam warning might be legitimate: There are reports of toll-call-like charges from some numbers in the offshore area code. But the code itself does not necessarily mean you'll incur charges above normal international rates; it is not similar to a 900 number. Common sense says that you should be cautious about calling numbers in area codes you aren't familiar with, and that you should scrutinize your monthly phone bill. For what seems to be the most logical word on this particular scam and many other Internet-spawned scams, look at Internet ScamBusters at (http://www.scambusters.com/).

The 2000 Student Hunger Drive announced the results of its annual food drive, with students from 15 area high schools collecting 879,249 pounds of food. Corporate sponsors contributed 20,466 pounds, bringing the total up to 899,715 pounds with a value of $1,799,430. Since 1986, the Student Hunger Drive has collected 4,405,341 pounds of food valued at $8,810,682. The food is distributed by the River Bend Foodbank to 102 pantries and shelters located in Scott, Rock Island, and Henry Counties.

You can do your bit to help the fight against breast cancer next time you shop at an Eagle Food Center. Whenever you purchase a Lady Lee, Top Crest, Home Best, Food Club, or World Classics product with an Eagle Savers card, the grocery-store chain will donate two cents to the fight against breast cancer. "Two Cents for Breast Cancer" has already raised $25,000 for the American Cancer Society's breast-cancer research and education programs. For more information about the American Cancer Society or cancer and local efforts to fight it, call the office of the American Cancer Society at (800)322-4337, or look on the Web at (http://www2.cancer.org/state/mw/).

Winter weather is now upon us, and it would be great to know what the road and weather conditions throughout the state of Iowa will be. The Iowa Department of Transportation has established "Weatherview," a Web site that includes real-time weather data from 33 Iowa airports and 58 weather stations along Iowa's major roads. Over the next few years, Web-accessible video cameras will be installed at key points along highways. Plans are also in place to pinpoint on the Web where DOT snowplows are clearing roads. You can see for yourself at (http://www.weatherview.dot.state.ia.us). The Illinois Department of Transportation Web site includes a map showing road conditions on highways throughout the state at (http://dot.state.il.us/operations/mo_state.html).

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission contends that the Iowa Legislature has been taking money from gambling-treatment programs and has voted for the practice to stop. For the fiscal year that began July 1, lottery and casino taxes are expected to raise $3.9 million for gambling treatment. Only $2.1 million has been authorized by lawmakers for gambling-treatment programs, however. The remaining $1.8 million will be used for elderly wellness and a children's health program, as well as for other addictive disorders. During the past fiscal year, calls to the state gambling hotline increased more than 5 percent, and more than 1,000 people received state-sponsored counseling for gambling problems. Iowa legislators haven't made any promises about the commission's request.

For the first time, the Quad Cities area contributed more than $8 million to the United Way campaign - $8,211,985. It's also the fourth year in a row that the area has surpassed its campaign goal. Money raised in the area remains in the Quad Cities. Current United Way funds support 115 programs in 49 local agencies.

Languishing in the Illinois House is SB 1397, which would require University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University to study "the feasibility and desirability of industrial hemp production" in Illinois. A report to the General Assembly, including recommendations, would be required by January 1, 2002, under the legislation. The bill, sponsored by 79-year-old state Senator Evelyn Bowles, D-Edwardsville, passed in the Senate earlier this year. Critics of the bill -including retiring White House Drug Policy Director Barry McCaffrey - wrote legislators in February to say that hemp contains hallucinogens and is similar enough to marijuana to confuse police and make drug enforcement difficult.

Tax time is coming, and with it is a nice letter from the Internal Revenue Service warning millions of women that the married names on their tax returns do not match up with their Social Security numbers. If the numbers do not match, married couples filing their returns could be denied the Earned Income Tax Credit or the personal exemption a spouse gets when a couple files jointly. When some women got married and took their husbands' names, the new names were entered incorrectly into the Social Security system or weren't entered at all. In some cases, couples who have been married for decades now need to go to Social Security offices with their marriage licenses and other documentation to straighten out the mess. The IRS explains the move as a way to reduce fraud.

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