Crooks Tap Grandparents for Fast Cash

October 13, 2008

Could you refuse a grandchild in trouble?

Crooks are banking that you can’t say no with a fast cash scheme, dubbed the “Grandparent scam,” sweeping the country.

A Dixie County man fell for the scam last month, sending a $3,100 MoneyGram to help his “Grandson” out of a jam in Canada. His money and the imposter were gone a few minutes later.

The senior citizen, a man in his late 70s, is embarrassed and doesn’t want to talk about it. And, relatives are scrambling to make sure the crook doesn’t access to his bank account.

Here’s what happened:

A man called asking for Grandpa. The elderly Dixie County man identified his real Grandson by name, repeating his name, “Joe.” It was all the imposter needed.  He had his victim hooked.

The caller told “Grandpa” that he was in Canada for a friend’s wedding and after a few drinks had been in a car accident in a rental car. The caller explains a judge said the incident won’t go on his record provided he pays $3,100 in court fees,  adding the charges need to be paid before he can go home.

“Joe” asks Grandpa to send the money right away and not tell his mother. The Dixie County Grandpa withdrew the money from his bank, purchased a MoneyGram at WalMart and wired the money. When “Joe” called back, he gave him the reference number to the MoneyGram.

With the reference number, the money can be picked up anywhere.

His real Grandson wasn’t missing, wasn’t in Canada and wasn’t in a car accident.

“This is just the latest variation. It’s just a little different than so many others because it plays off the harp strings,” said Ed King of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. “By the time the victim learns it’s a scam, the money’s long gone.”

Here are some tips to protect yourself.

Credit Card Companies Cash in on YOU! Common Mistakes to Avoid

October 13, 2008

credit cardsIn today’s troubling times every penny counts, and credit card companies are counting on you NOT to check your monthly statement so they make that extra penny. But it is not just pennies. In fact, cardholder inattention accounts for more than 25% of the profits of credit card industry.

The Three Most Common Mistakes that can be avoided: late fees, incorrect billing, and improper credits.

LATE FEES

In 2007 credit card customers paid $18.1 billion in late fees! A study out of Canada revealed that 6 out of 10 cardholders that incurred a late fee actually had more than enough money in the bank to pay the bill. In other words 60% of all late fees or $10.8 billion are a result of cardholder forgetfulness.

The credit card industry had profits of $40.7 billion in 2007. More than ¼ of all credit card company profit is dependent on customers being either lazy or forgetful! And oh are we late. A whopping 10.3% of all payments are late and incur a late fee.

Unless you are mad at your money and want to give it away there are two simple things you can do to avoid late fees. First, after checking your monthly statement, pay it at once. Remember the due date is the date that payment is received by the card company, not the day you drop the check in the mail.

Second, if the due date is inconvenient call the card company and ask to have it moved to later in the month. It is that simple. If you pay your bills on the first of each month, have the card company move the due date to the middle of the month. But be ever vigilant card companies CAN and DO move the due date, and it may creep back to the first of the month.

INCORRECT BILLING

Billing errors occur all the time. It is important to save your receipts and verify each charge against your monthly statement. Sometimes the merchant will put the same charge through twice, restaurants will make addition errors, and charges will be on your statement that you did not authorize. Billing errors are rarely in your favor. The FAIR CREDIT BILLING ACT requires creditors to correct errors promptly and without damage to your credit.

Other billing errors that are covered by the act include any charge for something that you did not accept delivery, failure to show a payment, and any item on your bill for which you need more information.

In order to be protected you need to notify the credit card company in writing within 60 days of statement. Click here for a sample letter to send to the company. In addition you need to pay the undisputed amount, but do not need to pay the disputed amount until the problem is resolved.

The credit card company must respond within 30 days and has 90 days to deal with the error.

IMPROPER CREDITS

Failure to give you proper credits occurs in two ways. First, the credit card may not have given you credit for a payment you made. More common is that you will not receive credit for merchandise you returned. It is important to keep not only sales receipts but also credit receipts.

If you find a crediting error the same rules as billing errors apply. You must notify the company within 60 days of the statement. The form letter mentioned above also deals with crediting issues.

Every year the credit card industry bets $10 billion dollars that their customers will be lazy and inattentive. And every year the credit card industry puts $10 billion in their pocket.

Don’t Blame Me – Blame the Compensation Committee!

October 8, 2008

Wall Street’s five largest firms paid out $39 billion in bonuses to its executives in 2007. That’s a fine reward for all their good work in getting us into the huge financial mess America and the world are dealing with today. And just in case you wondered whether they deserved it, just read on. They have a perfectly plausible excuse, at least one that all of their CEO buddies understand.

Read more

AIG Exec Defends Spa Treatments after Fed Bailout

October 7, 2008

St. Regis Spa Resort, Monarch Beach, CAApparently things are so bleak at AIG, everyone needs a little vacation. Less than one week after receiving $85 billion in Federal Bailout money, AIG executives headed out for some much needed r and r at California’s plush spa beach resort, the St. Regis. $200,000 for rooms, $150,000 for meals, $14,000 for hair salon and manicure services, and $23,000 in spa charges. The total for the executive retreat? $440,000.

“They’re getting their pedicures and their manicures and the American people are paying for that,” said Cong. Elijah Cummings (D-MD).

“This unbridled greed,” said Cong. Mark Souder (R-IN), “it’s an insensitivity to how people are spending our dollars.”

AIG actually tried to defend this ill-timed junket calling it “standard practice in our industry.” CEO Edward Liddy said it is simply a reward for top performers of the company.  Apparently he forgot that the company failed.

More on this at ABCnews.com

Fight Foreclosure: Buying More Time

October 6, 2008


Here’s the insanity of the mortgage mess created by lenders:  a homeowner gets behind a few payments, gets back on her feet and when she tries to pay, they won’t take her money.  No, apparently lenders would rather have the taxpayers’ money. “How can this be?” you ask.  No lender WANTS to foreclose, right? (see related articles “Mortgage Work-Out Myth” and “Mortgage Servicers Secret”)  Just watch this story from the Tampa NBC affliliate WFLA which highlights the ridiculous brick wall many homeowners run into when they get behind in payments and try to catch up.

Read more

Bailout Bill Passes: Congress Caves to Fear & Panic

October 3, 2008

Cooler heads did not prevail.  The $700 Billion bailout bill for Wall Street is now law.  It passed the house with a vote of 263-171, and President Bush promptly signed it into law.  The Consumer Warning Network’s Terry Smiljanich hoped for a break from the “sky is falling” approach which drove passage of the bailout bill.  Smiljanich appeared on the Tampa FOX affiliates “Your Turn” program and urged lawmakers and citizens to fight the fear and panic.  He hoped they would take time to complete a reasonable review of the bailout package before putting taxpayers on the hook for such an outrageous sum of money.

Read more

The Government Did Something Right!

October 2, 2008

Consumers Win – Toys Will Be Safer:

by John Newcomer

Just in time for the holiday seasons Congress passed and President Bush signed a complete over haul of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).  The clear winners are children and consumers.

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