Does the Card Act discriminate against stay at home moms and dads?

Credit cards are often regarded as a necessary evil. They can cause personal financial strife, but most agree that everyone should hold at least one credit card, even if only for emergency purposes. Still, there is no doubt thet credit cards were partly responsible for the financial crisis of 2008 that continues to this day and the severity of this crisis prompted the U.S. Congress to pass the CARD Act. Immediately signed into law by President Obama, this act was celebrated as a much- needed protectionary plan that would force credit card companies to treat their customers more fairly and without as much deception.

 The CARD Act was heralded as a victory for the consumer, but regardless of how much praise the act has received, there is one part of the measure that receives little attention but deserves more. According to the new rules, a stay at home mom or dad can no longer claim their spouse’s income to apply for and receive a credit card. They can only claim their own, and that means they will no longer qualify for credit- a fact that has many stay at home mothers and fathers demanding new reforms.

 When the CARD Act and its provisions were originally drafted, it was assumed that limiting credit to one’s own income would not be an important issue. Spouses could still get a credit card issued jointly to both, so a stay at home mom or dad would not be left out in the cold without the security of a credit card. Still, some say this provision of he CARD Act is unfair and even potentially dangerous. What if a woman is in an abusive situation and needs her credit card as a means of escape? Without her own credit card in her own name, the other spouse could quickly cancel the jointly held card and the victim of abuse would have no means to obtain credit. Even in the absence of danger, many argue that it is still important for the stay at home spouse to obtain his/her own credit for independence reasons.

Is the ability to obtain credit really that important or necessary for a stay at home mom or dad? There are certainly those who believe it is and some have already taken action to initiate reform.  Holly McCall, a Virginia stay at home mother of two, has started a petition to reform the CARD Act on the web site change.org and U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D- NY) urges changes in the law to protect stay at home moms and dads who want to maintain their independence. The ability to obtain credit, they argue, is fundamental and to deny this access is to rivert back to the outdated policies of the past. Furthermore, proponents of reform argue that a stay at home spouse should not be penalized for making a personal sacrifice in favor of raising children.

The CARD Act has made life easier for credit card holders in multiple ways. Credit card issuers must now disclose payoff information on every credit card statement, end certain marketing practices to students, mail statements well in advance of due dates, and make other reforms intended to help the consumer. Lost in all of this is the provision on credit access for the stay at home parent, but there are many individuals fighting for reform. Without it, a stay at home mom or dad will be without the ability to obtain individual credit and will remain at the financial mercy of his/her spouse. Considering the high divorce rate and other social concerns, this reform deserves some immediate attention and with the grassroots movement and political support from U.S. Rep Carolyn Maloney, changes to the CARD Act, for better or for worse, may be just around the corner.

 

Guest post courtesy of Bryan Carey, Houston Finance Examiner and co-author at Money Saving Parent.com. 

 

Facebook age limits lowered?

According to the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, 13 is the official “age of consent” for having a Facebook account.   However, we all can probably name at least one child from our friends and family that are on Facebook and under the age of 13.   Some of these accounts are made with their parents’ permission to lie about their age and some are just created with or without permission as pre-teens simply check the “box” and begin LIKING Facebook.    Recently however, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg thinks that the age should be even lower.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was created to protect children online and requires that certain websites that collect information on its users do not allow children under the age of 13 to use the site.   Zuckerberg wants to change that, citing the “educational” benefits of using Facebook.

“That will be a fight we take on at some point,” Zuckerberg said according to CNN. “My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age. Because of the restrictions we haven’t even begun this learning process. If they’re lifted then we’d start to learn what works. We’d take a lot of precautions to make sure that they [younger kids] are safe.”

According to projections based on its yearly State of the Net survey conducted by Consumer Reports there are:

  • 7.5 million of the 20 million minors on Facebook in the past year were younger than 13.
  • More than 5 million were 10-years-old or younger.

To counter the consumer report one a Facebook spokesperson said Continue reading Facebook age limits lowered?

Does the FBI Need to Wiretap Websites to do an Effective Job?

America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation, the crime- busting branch of the federal government, wants to extend its wiretapping authority to the world wide web in an effort to more effectively control crime and prosecute suspects. The FBI claims that the proposed changes are a necessary modification to existing laws and they will help the FBI zero- in on criminal activity by harnessing the World Wide Web and secretly watching online activity.

What is This Proposed Change All About?

Back in 1994, Congress passed the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act. It was a sweeping and controversial law when it passed because it allowed wiretapping on a telecommunications level and required telecom businesses to cooperate fully by modifying their electronic devices, equipment, and services to make them immediately compatible for surveillance.  This law has been in place now for almost two decades and supporters say that it has helped organizations such as the FBI and others in their efforts to track criminals and gather evidence.

Now, the FBI wants to extend the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act to the internet and its proposal is based on the simple fact that the internet is a form of communication and therefore should be subject to the same rules and regulations as the telecommunications industries. The FBI wants to be able to access everything from Yahoo to Facebook and beyond and subject these online businesses to the same requirements as the telecom industry.

What is at Stake?

The FBI claims it only wants to protect the public and that the added ability to track potential criminals online would provide another weapon in its arsenal. Critics of the plan say it is another step toward a government- controlled state and a blantant infringement on privacy rights. If we allow government agencies like the FBI to tap our Facebook account and our instant message conversations, what step will they take next? Surveillance cameras aimed at the front windows of our homes? Listening devices placed on our doorstep? Continue reading Does the FBI Need to Wiretap Websites to do an Effective Job?

More than one bug can be caught while traveling: Hotel wi-fi dangers

Business travelers won’t leave home without it.   Families take it with them like they would a wallet.  What is it?  It’s a laptop (netbook, tablet, or even an iPad.).  There are many reasons for taking it with us when we travel.  For some it’s staying on top of work and being available to at least respond to emergencies.  For many they can’t leave home or work without it.   Carrying our laptop, just like carrying our wallet comes with it’s own set of dangers.

While visiting my father he asked me to take a look at his laptop.  Ever since they went on vacation it just hadn’t “worked right.”   I asked him if he had his antivirus on “high” and did he use the hotel internet.   Finding out he used the free wi-fi at the resort where he and my mother were staying I knew that the search for a nasty little bug (and I don’t mean a bed bug) was going to take some time and possibly even the help of a professional.

The FBI recently released this statement about  hotel Wi-Fi dangers:

Malware Installed on Travelers’ Laptops Through Software Updates on Hotel Internet Connections

The FBI warns that “malicious actors are targeting travelers abroad through pop-up windows while they are establishing an Internet connection in their hotel rooms.”

How does this work?  Simply speaking, you are trying to connect to the wi-fi system in your hotel room.  For many that still means a cord (Ethernet) for others it is simply detecting the network of where you are staying.   The next step usually involves connecting to the hotel’s network by providing a password at a prompt on screen or on the internet browser window.  While you are doing this a screen pops up and says something like “you must update your …. (insert program here) in order to use this system.”   A click or two later and your laptop is going to encounter a “bug” or two.

The most convincing part of this program is, as the FBI warns, “The pop-up window appeared to be offering a routine update to a legitimate software product for which updates are frequently available.”

We’ve talked before about the dangers of internet use while traveling, especially when it pertains to wi-fi services.  Maybe the hotel wi-fi service is “spotty.”  Maybe your USB drive is stolen .  Maybe your restaurant or coffee shop that you are working from, like Starbucks, experiences a security breach.  Avoid putting your computer at risk by using your own hot spot connection.  Make sure to put your anti virus and malware programs on high.  Avoid third party cookies.   Check digital certificates before downloading any software program. Perform updates on your system before you leave and in most cases you shouldn’t have to do one again until after you return home.

If you have been a target of a malware “attack”  the FBI asks that you report it to IC3’s website at www.IC3.gov. The IC3’s complaint database links complaints together to refer them to the appropriate law enforcement agency for case consideration. The complaint information is also used to identify emerging trends and patterns and to help protect us from every emerging tech type scams.

Find out what other steps you can take to keep your computer safe, from Kapersky Labs.

uknowkids . . . and now you can help protect them from identity theft and cyber bullying

We’ve talked a lot here about teen troubles when it comes to identity theft, online security, sexting, and even cyber bullying is a real concern as our children start to use more and more technology for both “work” and play.   Having information is one good way to help protect them, and reading articles like:

Many parents are asking themselves and others what sort of steps that they can take to know what’s going on IRL (in real life) as well as online with their teens and tweens to keep them safe from identity theft and cyber bullying.   One system that not only helps you monitor what is going on in your child’s life, but that also provides you with the tools you need to talk to your children about online and cell phone safety is uknowkids.com.

uknowkids.com allows you to set up a system to monitor whatever you feel is important from texting, images and social networking to even tagging photos and sharing locations.  You control the system, instead of it controlling you or your children.  Many other systems set it up so that your child is “caught” doing something but it doesn’t tell you what that is.  It just keeps, say visiting the wrong website from happening.

With this system, you sync both cell phone and internet use, including cell phones and social networking.  You know when and where your child posts a picture and if it’s tagged with a location.  You can see, all in one place, who their online friends are.  And, but having these tools available to you, you can talk to your child about your concerns and help them achieve a level of responsibility, while you protect them from the dangers that are out there.

Now, here’s the really cool news I have to share with you.   uknowkids.com has offered to sponsor 50 of our readers so that they can use uknowkids.com and see for themselves how it works and if they like it or not.  Here is your special invitation code, A014591.  

Simply visit http://www.uknowkids.com and use your invitation code to take it for a test drive.   Let us know here what you like or didn’t like about uknowkids.com and if it is something that can help you as a parent or guardian keep your children safe from online dangers, from cyber bullying to predators to identity theft.

The Real Deal: PayPal Phishing Scam

Do you ever check you “spam” mail box before deleting it?   I do, if nothing else it’s good for a laugh as I am promised long lasting sexual experiences and beautiful brides from Russia, not to mention the millions of dollars I’ll receive just for helping some poor soul out with a money laundering scheme where there really is no money to be laundered.   I also find some things that never should have made their way in there, so it’s nice to know there is a place where I can check in and judge for myself.

Yesterday I found a message which appeared to be from PayPal.  And, wow it was GOOD!  This was quite possibly the most well done phishing scam message I have ever gotten.   It includes the images from PayPal, the mailing address, the correct grammar and punctuation and even the correct domain name.  It warned me of an impending problem with my account and that I needed to log in to resolve it, while providing a helpful link to use.

I didn’t panic, but I did wonder.   First, why DID this go to my Spam mailbox?  Other PayPal notices came to this email address and I receive them.   Did the email service detect something that I didn’t?  Next, I realized that, I never receive official PayPal notices at this email account. It’s a secondary one set up for things like ebay purchases and sales.  While I may receive notice of a payment, I never receive official statements about my account. Those all go to my primary email address.

I thought, what’s one more day. If there is something wrong with the account, I can fix it tomorrow.  But in the meantime I’m going to report this to PayPal and tell them why.  I sent the message to spoof@paypal.com (I have the address saved in my address book but you can also get questions answered online).

Today here’s my response:

Hello xxxx xxxxx,

Thanks for forwarding that suspicious-looking email. You’re right – it
was a phishing attempt, and we’re working on stopping the fraud. By
reporting the problem, you’ve made a difference!

Identity thieves try to trick you into revealing your password or other
personal information through phishing emails and fake websites. To learn
more about online safety, click “Security Center” on any PayPal webpage.

Every email counts. When you forward suspicious-looking emails to
spoof@paypal.com, you help keep yourself and others safe from identity
theft.

Your account security is very important to us, so we appreciate your
extra effort.

Thanks,

PayPal

This email is sent to you by the contracting entity to your User
Agreement, either PayPal Ince, PayPal Pte. Ltd or PayPal (Europe) S.à
r.l. & Cie, S.C.A. Société en Commandite par Actions, Registered Office:
5th Floor 22-24 Boulevard Royal L-2449, Luxembourg RCS Luxembourg B 118
349.

So if it looks suspicious it probably is.  It doesn’t hurt to think about your emails before you click that link, open that image or pass it along.   I caught it this time.  Hopefully by being aware of what’s out there I will catch any attempts at a phishing scam again.

Former NFL players sacked for identity theft and tax refund fraud

We recently talked about tax refund scams, how they work and what people are doing to steal money from you.  Now, just weeks after the income tax filing deadline we hear about three former NFL players facing identity theft and tax fraud chargers.

William Joseph, Michael Bennett and Louis Gachelin, all former NFL players have allegedly made the wrong play call and as a result may be suffering from more like a 15 year, instead of a 15 yard penalty.   The former players were arrested by the FBI and are accused of working with a group of individuals on a game plan to steal tax refund checks.

The players:

Michael Bennett was a a first-round draft choice out of Wisconsin in 2001.  He played five seasons for the Vikings and went on to play for Kansas City, Tampa Bay, San Diego and Oakland. His team includes William Joseph and Louis Gachelin.

William Joseph ended his career with the Raiders, where he had been teammates with Bennett.  From the University of Miami he went on to be know as “the Haitian Sensations’’after he and his brother Carlos teamed up.   He was then drafted by the New York Giants and after playing five seasons with the Giants; he spent two years with the Oakland Raiders.

Louis Gachelin started his college and professional career at the Syracuse University, then signed as an undrafted free agent with the New England Patriots in 2004. After his waiver he played in the NFL Europe with the Frankfurt Galaxy as defensive tackle in 2005 and is also the half brother of NFL player Elvis Dumervil.

The game plan 

The men, along with their “front line” of five other accused, allegedly filed false income tax returns and received the income tax refunds from those returns.  Using a check cashing store front, they cashed the checks.  In a separate but related issues, one of the players shared their store front operation with Bennett who then attempted to apply for a $200,000 loan providing falsified bank records and other financial information as collateral for the loan.
How were they benched? 
According to PINewswire “During the three-month undercover operation, the defendants negotiated with undercover agents at the store to cash approximately $500,000 in fraudulently obtained tax refund checks. The conversations and transactions between the customers and undercover agents at the store were audio and video recorded by the FBI. The FBI paid the thieves from official FBI funds and none of the tax refund checks were actually cashed.”   They were actually videotaped walking into store and signing the checks right there on the premises.
No honor among thieves . . . 
Joseph, who brought Bennett to the check cashing store made a rookie mistake and trusted the wrong person.  Another defendant Lanny Fried, 34, was caught trying to illegally cash checks and then began cooperating with agents.
In the Miami Herald U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said identity theft is “America’s fastest-growing crime,” claiming countless legitimate consumers and taxpayers as victims.  John V. Gillies, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Miami office states, “Organized criminals are stealing $5 billion and more by fraudulently claiming tax refunds.”
José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-CID, added, “Tax-related identity theft crimes are corrupting our tax system with false information, to the detriment of innocent taxpayers and the United States Treasury. For this reason, IRS is committed, along with our law enforcement partners, to aggressively investigating all parties involved in these crimes, and making sure that no such crime goes undetected.”
If convicted, the numerous charges filed against them could carry a maximum statutory sentence of between five to 15 years in prison.