Tag Archives: Money

Dirty Money: Is Money Making You Sick?

Do you think the interest rates on your credit card are crappy? Well, there may be even more crap lingering on your credit card. A recent study actually showed that one in seven banknotes and credit cards in Birmingham, UK had feces and e.coli bacteria on the surface. While poo-covered credit cards are certainly disgusting, credit cards are also likely to carry the rhinovirus. In fact, 78% of banknotes and 80% of credit cards contain traces of the bacteria. But, what does all this mean to the average spender?

Think about the times when you’ve been struggling with several bags and your debit card. There’s probably at least one time you’ve placed the card between your lips to free up your hands. This means you’re exposed yourself to some pretty nasty germs. Even if you’re not apt to place your card in your mouth, think about the times you’ve paid for a meal and then sat down and started eating. Yep, you’re moving that food to your mouth with hands that are possibly covered in poo. Talk about a major ick-factor.

Not only is dirty money gross, it can make your horribly ill. E.coli can cause severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and  nausea. The symptoms can last up to two weeks, but usually subside after one week. However, there are those that don’t experience any symptoms, but may pass the bacteria on to others. As for the rhinovirus, this is what’s know as the common cold. You’ll experience sneezing, runny nose, headaches, a sore throat, and other typical cold symptoms. With the average adult having 2-4 colds per year, you have to wonder how many of those colds were the result of dirty money.

The good news is there are a number of ways to protect yourself from dirty money. First of all, always wash your hands before eating. You should also avoid touching your face when handling money. This means that if you work in a job where you handle money throughout the day, you will want to keep hand sanitizer nearby and use it frequently.

Put simply, dirty money isn’t just obtained through criminal acts. There’s actually a good chance that most of the money you come in contact with is dirty. With up to 17% of money and credit cards carrying traces of feces and 78-80% carrying the rhinovirus, you need to practice good hygiene and wash your hands whenever handling money.

Fighting Identity Fraud: Government Steps up Battle against Medicare Fraud

The effort in preventing identity fraud has many components, and recently the government went more high-tech and stepped their battle up a notch in preventing Medicare fraud. They recently opened a $3.6 million command center that is said to potentially be a turning point in winning the war against Medicare fraud which is estimated to cost more than $60 billion annually.

Medicare fraud is something everyone should be concerned about. It doesn’t just hurt the government, but ultimately hurts all of us through higher taxes. Medicare fraud basically entails an intentional falsification or deception of information that involves Medicare. Just a few examples include false medical insurance claims, using another person’s Medicare information to obtain care or medical equipment, or billing for services that were not actually received by the patient.

Preventing identity fraud involving Medicare

Avoid becoming a victim of this type of identity fraud through the following:

  • Never give anyone your Medicare number other than your physician or Medicare provider. Think of your Medicare number in the same way you would your PIN numbers attached to a personal bank account.
  • Secure your medical records. Your records reveal the pertinent information a potential scam artist can use to perpetrate a crime. Keep medical records in a locked cabinet, and if they are on your computer make sure they are password protected.
  • If anyone comes to your door, or calls, in attempt to sell medical supplies or medications, never accept the offer no matter how legitimate it may seem.
  • If any medical practitioner or supplier offers items or services that you know are not usually covered by Medicare but claim that they can bill the expenses elsewhere, do not accept as this is most likely Medicare fraud.
  • Review your Medicare summaries or explanation of benefits carefully. Compare your services to what has been billed, and if you notice any discrepancies call Medicare.

Medicare fraud can lead to identity theft and potentially endanger lives Continue reading Fighting Identity Fraud: Government Steps up Battle against Medicare Fraud

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. 

 

Payday loan telephone collections could strike it rich: What to watch for

A recent press release issued by the FBI warns us of a “payday loan” collection scam that is gaining in popularity.

Here’s how the scam works:
You are contacted by telephone by someone claiming to be collecting on a payday loan or even from what may sound like a legitimate company, or agency, even the non-existent “Federal Legislative Department.”

The callers will continually call you demanding payment. They call your home, cell phone and even place of employment.

The calls become aggressively threatening in nature and even seem to contain private information, that no one really should have access too.

You may even be threatened with arrest, and advised that there are outstanding warrants for your arrest as they try to convince you to pay up on the so called debt and your legal troubles will disappear.

The phone is not the only way that this type of fraud can occur. The FBI also advises of instances where a phony process server appeared at home or work and then tried to obtain payment to make the “summons” disappear.

If you are contacted by someone who is trying to collect on a debt that you do not owe the FBI recommends that you:

  • Contact your local law enforcement agencies if you feel you are in immediate danger;
  • Contact your bank(s) and credit card companies;
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus and request an alert be put on your file;
  • If you have received a legitimate loan and want to verify that you do not have any outstanding obligation, contact the loan company directly;
  • File a complaint at www.IC3.gov.

The Better Business Bureau has issued this report regarding telephone collection fraud. They also advise that you:

  • Do not respond to personal information stated during the call including your social security number or place of employment – do not confirm or deny – it just provides them with more opportunities to harass you.
  • Contact your local law enforcement, especially if you are physically threatened.

If you have any doubt about the validity of the debt request it in writing. Debt collectors are obligated by law to provide you with this information including what is owed and what payments are missing.

Sources:
http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams?utm_campaign=email-Immediate&utm_content=72961
Better Business Bureau

Inheritance Fraud: Did you inherit from John Paul Getty Jr.?

Well who wouldn’t love to inherit millions?  The scammers that sent this fraudulent inheritance email to one of our savvy readers were hoping she’d throw caution to the wind but she knew this wind was just a bunch of hot air.  This John Paul Getty Jr.  inheritance scam isn’t new but as of this morning, it is still arriving in e-mail boxes.

“On behalf of the Trustees and Executors of the WILL of late British Philanthropist, Sir John Paul Getty Jr., I once again try to notify you as our first email to you was returned as a failure delivery (undelivered), hence I hereby attempt to reach you again.

I wish to notify you that the late Sir J. Paul Getty Jr. made you one of the beneficiaries to his (WILL). He bequeathed the sum of Nine Million Seven Hundred and Eight Thousand Six Hundred and Ninety Two Great British Pounds Sterling Only (GBЈ9,708,692.7) to you in the codicil and last testament to his (WILL) which is eleven (11%) of his total funds of GBЈ88,260,443.00 (Eighty-Eight Million Two Hundred and Sixty Thousand Four Hundred and Forty Three Great British Pounds Sterling) deposited with one of UK’s biggest financial institutions.

This may sound very strange and unbelievable to you, but it is real and true. Being a widely popular traveled man, he must have been in contact with you in the past or simply you were nominated to him by one of his numerous friends here or abroad who wished you well. Sir J. Paul Getty Jr., a reclusive American-born philanthropist was the third son of the first American oil billionaire, billionaire American oilman Jean, Paul Getty.

According to him this money is to support religious and humanitarian activities and to help the poor and the needy in our society. Please if I reach you as I am hopeful to, endeavor to get back to me as soon as possible to enable me conclude my job. Please forward your response to gw@frontrunnerchambers.org for immediate attention.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours in services,

Barrister George Winston”

This is “very strange and unbelievable” indeed.  Unfortunately, our reader is not the only one of who received this e-mail scam, which is called an inheritance scam.  Thousands of other people have received it too over the past two years and it is usually the same fraudulent offer letter but interestingly the name of “barrister” keeps changing.  Sometimes the letter is from Giggs Moore LLP and at other times it is from Charles Russell LLP .

The truth behind the fiction

John Paul Getty, Jr. was a real person, born in America, who lived in London since the 1970’s and died there in 2003. He was a wealthy man and a philanthropist who set up a trust in 1986 that has awarded over 58 million (pounds) to over 3,000 charities in the U.K.  The JP Getty Jr. Charitable Trust has this warning on their website:

“Important: Occasionally fraudulent emails are circulated to organisations and individuals, claiming to be from the J Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust, and advising that a sum of money is available to the email recipient. We do not send unsolicited emails of this nature and will never ask for bank account details from any organisation or individual. We strongly advise that you do not reply to any such email.”

We concur.  How do inheritance scams work?

Whether the deceased is a wealthy philanthropist, a prince of Nigeria or one of your never heard of before wealthy relatives, the idea is always the same.  Victims won’t get any money but they’ll spend plenty trying.  If you make contact, the thieves will string you along with e-mails and phone calls and have a great story for why and how you should send them some money so they can help you get your millions.  Our advice?  Save your own inheritance and hit delete.

 

How much credit card security is too much?

Fox Business recently published an article on “How to avoid credit card security overkill.”  And I started wondering how much security was too much?  This article mentions:

“Refusing to give your credit card to a waiter.”

Is this security or silly?  I admit that in our household we prefer to operate on a cash basis when it comes to going out to dinner, but that is a personal finance decision not a security issue.  The fear that some credit card users may have is that a waiter could “skim” the credit card number and create clones.   However, the Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association director of media relations for Annika Stensson,  says to relax. “Like every other merchant, they must comply with standards, and those requirements have double and triple security,” says Stensson. Restaurants “don’t store PIN data, the point-of-sale (POS) systems are customized, and they don’t use passwords.” Bad eggs are weeded out, too. “It’s in the best interest of restaurants to keep transactions safe since they rely on repeat customers,” says Stensson, stressing that owners and managers aren’t afraid to press criminal charges against thieves.”

I was wondering how many of you think twice about giving your credit card to a waiter.

Next it discusses “Not purchasing anything online.”

Does this really happen?  I admit my mother doesn’t like to, but I think it’s because she hates computers, and yes does distrust most places security measures.  But oddly enough, she pays her bills online.  There are many benefits to shopping online, as long as you do it safely.  Use reputable stores, like the brick and mortar ones that have gone into the virtual world and look for the “S” or TRUSTe symbol to indicate security on the site.  As identitytheftsecrets has warned before, never give out your credit card information in an email.

(What’s in your email? Could it be your credit card number?) Continue reading How much credit card security is too much?

New IRS reporting system affects PayPal accounts

Businesses that process payments through credit cards, debit cards or payment merchants like PayPal beware.  The IRS has a new reporting system and surprise, surprise, according to a Treasury Department audit released July 26, 2011 the system that includes “a revised form” that may be flawed. Imagine that?

In 2008 the enacted Housing and Economic Recovery Act legislated requirements for banks and other merchant services like PayPal to report annual gross payments processed by credit or debit cards or accounts to the IRS and to merchants.

So where’s the beef?

The TIGTA audit found that a newly revised form may not facilitate matches between what merchants report and what payment processors report.  To make matters worse, there’s mandatory back up withholding involved and the fear is that with the great volume of reporting this new system requires, mismatches may be unresolved when mandatory withholding kicks in. Continue reading New IRS reporting system affects PayPal accounts

Debt Settlement Vs Bankruptcy: Choose The Right Option

Choosing between debt settlement and bankruptcy is a hard nut to crack when your debts are skyrocketing. However, it is significant to know that though both debt settlement and bankruptcy are there to help you get out of debt, they work in their own way and obviously have separate consequences. Therefore, it is very important to consider your options and the outcomes carefully before choosing one to get relief from your debt burden.

Know the Purposes of Debt Settlement and Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy and debt settlement more or less do the same thing. They help you get rid of your unsecured debts, such as personal loan or credit card debt. Both in bankruptcy and in debt settlement, you pay your creditors an amount less than you primarily owed.

Debt Settlement
In a debt settlement procedure, you come to an understanding with your creditors and pay an amount lower than the initial debt. The creditor, however, forgives the remaining amount. You either can hire a debt settlement company to do this for you or can also attempt to settle yourself. However, before choosing a debt settlement company, make sure it is legitimate by checking with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Personal Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy filing is a court procedure that you undertake in order to shed off your debts. In a personal bankruptcy, the court determines how you will pay off your creditors. If you file a chapter 7 bankruptcy, your all non-exempt property is sold and the liquid cash is distributed to the creditors. While in a chapter 13, the court designs a repayment plan. A debtor, having a steady source of income must repay the debts within 5 years.

Effects on your Credit Score
Engaging with a debt settlement program may or may not affect your credit score. If you make some late payments and/ or carrying high balances in your credit cards, you credit score may spoil. A successful debt settlement, however, can help you save thousands of dollars, avoid bankruptcy and become debt free within one or two years.

On the contrary, filing a bankruptcy stays on your credit report for up to 10 years from the date of discharge. During that time, if you reach out to a lender for a personal loan, he/ she may decline or charge higher interest rates because of the bankruptcy on your credit report.

In Conclusion

Considering all of these factors, it’s up to you decide which is right for you.

However, generally speaking, unless you are in serious debt with no way out, it is better to try debt restructuring before filing bankruptcy.

Summer time travel: Credit cards are one hot commodity

It is expected that this year there will be an increase in travel throughout the summer months. As people are feeling better about spending money again, the amount of people taking vacations is expected to rise. Unfortunately, travel is not the only thing on the rise. Credit card theft, and credit card fraud is also expected to rise, and those who are vacationing are the primary targets.

There are scams everywhere

As a traveler it can be hard to know what to look for when it comes to credit card fraud. Traveling to a new place can be exciting. Imagine that you arrive at your hotel and check-in, you hand the clerk your credit card, and you then get your keys, your whole family is excited about what lies ahead.

Later that night you are in your room, your phone rings and the person on the other end says they are the clerk at the front desk. The clerk explains that there was a problem processing your credit card and that they need you to verify your card number and address, they even offer a discounted rate due to the inconvenience. Without thinking you give the credit card information and settle down for the night. What you don’t understand is that you just had your credit card information stolen from someone pretending to be a hotel employee.

Continue reading Summer time travel: Credit cards are one hot commodity

How to Spot a Fake: Gold, Silver, and Dealers

With prices of gold and silver on the rise, it’s important to remember basic strategies in spotting fakes to prevent getting swindled.  Even good dealers can mistakes, so it’s up to you, the receiving party, to verify the coin or bar’s authenticity.

Here is how to spot fake gold and silver.

Real Gold

The easiest (though not always the most accurate) way to tell real gold from fakes is by its color.  Gold has a dull golden sheen while those alloyed with copper and silver tend to have a reddish tint.

Gold is also surprisingly heavy.  It is in fact much heavier than silver, lead, and tungsten (which are some of the metals used in making counterfeits).  After gaining some experience, you’ll find that fake gold coins will often weigh as little as half the amount of real gold.

Just because a piece of gold looks right doesn’t mean it is pure gold.  Oftentimes, fakes will have a coating of gold to fool the buyer.  Because destructive methods in which you scratch the gold is undesirable, you may consider investing in a tool called a Fisch.  A Fisch has the standard coin shape, thickness, and diameter built into its plastic body and uses a simple balancing mechanism to see if there is enough weight within the physical parameters to be authentic gold.  It works on many types of coins, including American Eagle, Maple Leaf, and British Sovereign. Continue reading How to Spot a Fake: Gold, Silver, and Dealers