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Keep an eye on this number

Dear Heloise: Most people know enough not to give out their Social Security number to just anyone, but we all freely hand out our cell numbers. Your cell number is unique to you and is a gateway to your identity. It provides entrance to all the data contained on your phone, and can connect your other information to you, such as your email address and physical address.

Most Americans are unaware of "smishing," which is the act of sending a text message containing questionable links to websites that might not be in your best interests to visit. Last year, approximately 161,000 consumers had their mobile phones taken over by smishing. Be very careful about who has your phone number, and ask why they need it. -- David J., Suwanee, Ga.

Send a great hint to:

Heloise

P.O. Box 795000

San Antonio, TX 78279-5000

Fax: 1-210-HELOISE

Email: Heloise@Heloise.com

Towel troubles

Dear Heloise: What is the best way to make thick Egyptian towels more absorbent? -- Frances W., via internet

Frances, here is a tried-and-true method I've used, and so did my mother:

• First, wash towels in warm water with only half of the normal amount of detergent and a cup of white vinegar.

• Do not use fabric softener, because that will make towels even less absorbent.

• To make towels even fluffier, add 1/2 cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, but no detergent, in warm water for colors and hot for whites.

• Dry in medium heat, not hot.

-- Heloise

Identifying medicine

Dear Heloise: I carry a few headache pills and other meds in a pretty pillbox in my purse.

If I ever forget what the medicine is, I can type the number etched or printed on the pill into the search engine on my phone -- it will tell me what the medicine is, and what it's used for. -- Dana C. in Illinois

Clever shipping idea

Dear Heloise: In the past, I saved all the packing peanuts that came in packages, but now everyone seems to use air-filled packaging of one kind or another.

Unfortunately, many of those "bubbles" are already popped when the package arrives. Wadded-up newspaper goes flat and offers no protection for items in transit.

My solution is simple: I save all my empty water bottles with a tight-fitting cap. I make sure they are washed and dried and never have liquid in them. This is an economical idea, and the water bottles can be stored in a box and kept in the garage.

Make sure they are empty. After all, you wouldn't want to spring a leak. -- A Woodsman, via email

A use for pill bottles

Dear Heloise: Regarding use of prescription pill bottles: My neighbors and I collect empty pill bottles, remove the labels and donate them to no-kill shelters. The shelters clean and reuse them, thus saving the expense of purchasing them. All you have to do is call and ask the shelter if it would like to have the empty pill containers. -- Barb C., via email