Friday, February 28, 2014

Eastern Bank likes to give me free money

I have a personal checking account with Eastern Bank that I haven’t used in years. It has no fees, unless I let it go more than six months with no activity, which I’ve taken care of by setting up an automatic transfer of a dollar into it every month from the online checking account I use regularly.

About once or twice a year, Eastern Bank e-mails me a promotion that says they’ll give me $20 if I pay two bills using their bill payment service. So I transfer some money into that account and pay whichever two bills are due next, and a month later or so they give me free money. Pretty sweet deal for doing nothing.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Who the hell faxes anything anymore?

I used to ask myself this, and still do from time to time, but the reality is that most of the medical and social services world still thinks it’s 1991 and uses faxes for everything. Many of these places are even using paper fax machines hooked up to phone lines. The reason for much of this is that HIPAA, FERPA, and all those other privacy-related acronyms pretty much say nothing about privacy precautions for faxing (or, say, sending medical records via first-class mail with no signature or tracking!) but require extensive precautions to transmit data via e-mail or cloud storage the way most of us do. Most places don’t have the IT capacity or the funds to revamp their entire system to use encrypted e-mail or cloud systems, so they’re stuck using fax and postal mail.

While I don’t work in community service or a medical setting, I now have to deal with these places several times per week between being a foster parent, having a child with multiple disabilities, and participating in a number of community programs to get services for this child and to make ends meet for my family. This means that at least once a week, I need to fax something because the place doesn’t accept it via e-mail. (Or I could take it there personally, or mail it and hope it gets to the right person, but that ends up being more trouble than it’s worth.)

This means I am now the (proud?) owner of a fax number. Fortunately, I don’t have some yellowing plastic paper-jam-ridden machine attached to my nonexistent landline. I’ve been using sFax, and the $9 a month is totally worth it. It’s actually $7.20 per month with one of these 20% off codes that they keep sending me, and sometimes less if you pass the codes along to friends. Yes, you heard me, I actually found a fax-number pyramid scheme; the internet really does have a sketchy multi-level-marketing deal for everything!

The service however is not at all sketchy, and actually is quite impressive. They have a free iPhone app that lets you fax things from your iPhone (it even works on my ancient crank-operated 1929-model iPhone). It’s been incredibly time-saving to just snap a cameraphone picture of whatever I need to send somewhere and fax it off. No one so far has noticed or cared that I’m sending phone pictures of documents; I mean, really, you’ve seen some of the crooked, mangled faxes that doctor’s offices send, right? That’s the other weird thing about faxes; for whatever reason the medical and social services culture considers a faxed document to be an “original.” Hey, works for me.