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DEAR HELOISE: Scammers are trying to get your Medicare numbers. How? They'll contact you with an offer of free masks and other covid-19 items by telling you that you are entitled to these items as a Medicare recipient. They want to get their hands on your personal information and Medicare number to use for fraudulent purposes. Hang up on them the moment they start their pitch.

-- Norman, via email

DEAR READER: To report anything suspicious or fraudulent to Medicare, go to or call 800-MEDICARE -- (800) 633-4227. Protect yourself by never giving out personal or financial information over the phone to these scammers.

DEAR READERS: New uses for old wine racks:

• Roll up place mats and store in the slots.

• Use to store small stuffed toys for children.

• Store water bottles.

• Lay flat, with openings facing upward, to store kitchen condiments.

DEAR HELOISE: My parents want me to get renter's insurance now that I live in an apartment. I graduated from college and now have my first job. It doesn't pay as well as I'd like, but it's a start in the field in which I enjoy working. With money being tight, why bother with renter's insurance?

-- Amy H. in California

DEAR READER: Your folks are right. Renter's insurance is usually rather inexpensive, and if you have a fire or are robbed, the insurance company will cover your loss. But beware that a "cash value" policy will pay only what an item is worth after depreciation. A "replacement" policy covers whatever the cost is to replace an item at today's prices. Some insurance companies will offer "off-premises" coverage for items such as a lost cellphone. I recommend checking into renter's insurance with the same company that insures your car for a bundle of coverage.

DEAR HELOISE: I found a really nice cedar chest at a garage sale, but it has a strong mothball odor. Is there anything I can do to remove the smell?

-- Chris via email

DEAR READER: What a great find! The first thing to try is fresh air and sunshine. If you can, open it up and let it sit outside for a few days. If that hasn't completely removed the mothball odor, lightly sand the interior with a fine-grade sandpaper to release the fresh cedar scent. Vacuum with the brush attachment, then wipe with a microfiber cloth to remove any remaining dust.

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

[email protected]

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