News worth celebrating: the Economic Stimulus Payments are in the process of being distributed – four whole days early!
The checks are being mailed to more than 130 million taxpayers as part of the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, an effort by President Bush to boost the economy.
Here’s the bad news: unfortunately, scammers are already trying to capitalize on the checks. NCL’s Fraud Center has already received such complaints from consumers. For a sample tax scam email that claims to be from the government, click on the image.
So, while we’re all thinking of things to do with our checks: pay the bills, put it in the bank, splurge on a new outfit, buy something special for the kids, be aware of con artists’ ploys.
Remember, to be suspicious of:
- any emails or calls received from someone claiming to be from the IRS or any other government agency.
- con artists claiming to be government representatives calling to initiate payment transfer of impending government tax “rebates”.
Have you received any of these types of fraudulent pitches? Report them here!
Turns out there are a few perks of working at a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization!
Just this week, a staffer at our Fraud Center was able to identify a scam that a friend of his was about to fall for and stop her from losing a bunch of money.
We track complaints on a number of scams: investment seminars, Fake Check Scams, and Phishing are just a few. Here’s what happened: “Rachel” saw an ad in a magazine from a company that claimed it would lower your credit score for only $500. She’s trying to remove some debt from her credit report, in order to buy a car, so this offer was especially appealing. “Rachel” called her friend, our colleague at the Fraud Center, to tell him about the offer. Good thing she did, because “Rachel” was able to save $500, and avoid further financial heartache.
Our staffer explained to Rachel that the only way to repair your credit is to get a copy of your report and review it for any errors. There are tons of scenarios in which mistakes can pop up on your credit report:
- A creditor reports inaccurate information to the credit bureau
- A case of mistaken identity leaves you paying for John C. Smith’s debt, when your name is John G. Smith.
- A credit bureau employee accidentally types the wrong Social Security number when inputting data.
You get the picture.
Consumers are entitled to one free copy a year of their report through any major credit bureau. You can request your copy here. The moral is: as tempting as a company’s promise to “fix” your credit report may be, it’s not true!
You can report complaints of credit repair scams to NCL’s Fraud Center. Feel free to drop us a comment about how you avoided being scammed. Or, consider supporting our efforts in educating consumers on avoiding being scammed!
It’s turning out that American consumers aren’t the only ones grappling with mortgage and credit crunches, according to international news reports. In Britain, Channel 4 News reports that March saw the fewest number of new home loan approvals in a decade. In Sydney, news reports predict that up to 80,000 Australians may lose their home by September!
It’s a tough time to be a homeowner, that’s for sure. If you are a homeowner worried about losing your nest — or if you’re a prospective buyer hoping to take advantage of dropping house prices — you might want to check out our new Mortgage Town site.
At a news conference today at the National Press Club, NCL is joining several other groups to call on the federal government to get with it and make a final decision on whether or not manufacturers of beverages that contain alcohol will be required to include a standardized “Alcohol Facts” label on the products. It’s something that consumer and other health groups have been calling on for years – 30, actually – the kind of standardized labeling information on beer, wine, and distilled spirits products that is now required for conventional foods, dietary supplements, and nonprescription drugs.
Over the years, there have been times where we thought we were close; back in 2005, the federal agency that handles this – the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) – received more than 18,000 letters from consumers and groups supporting the standardized label. But more recently, the TTB seems to be regressing; in 2007 its proposed “Serving Facts” label would have left out information about alcohol content.
So, back to square one. Today’s press conference should be interesting. NCL will be joined by the Consumer Federation of America, Shape Up America!, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the Past President of the National Medical Association. Stay tuned for more on this.
Arizona’s team from Flagstaff Home Educators has beaten the Illinois State Champs from West Community High School. More at our blog here.
We are busy running LifeSmarts over here.
Prices at the pump getting you down? Here are a few tips on getting your money’s worth when buying auto insurance:
- Compare policies according to price, coverage, customer service, and company’s reputation.
- Ask for higher deductibles. The deductibles represent the amount of money you pay before your insurance policy kicks in when you have a claim.
- Consider buying your homeowners and auto coverage from the same insurer. Insurers often offer a discount if you buy two or more types of insurance from them.
- Check out the Insurance Information Institute’s Web site for more tips on getting the most for your auto insurance dollar!
The excitement is building at NCL as we finish the last-minute preparations for the 2008 National LifeSmarts Championship. This year we’re heading to Minneapolis, MN where teens from 29 states will compete. These state champs are sharp, emerging from more than 20,000 other students who answered more than 2.6 million questions in order to make it to Nationals.
Do you think you’re up to the challenge? Test your LifeSmarts skills.
What kind of personal information is not covered by any federal privacy law? (Answer will appear in a blog later this week.)
a. Titles of videos you rent
b. Items you buy at a supermarket
c. What you watch on cable television
By Reid Maki, NCL staff
As you bite into that juicy piece of fruit, you might want to think about the hidden cost of inexpensive American produce: the extensive use of chemical pesticides, some of which cause grievous harm to the workers who pick the fruit.
The potential dangers of pesticides were highlighted on March 24, when Ag-Mart, a Florida-based produce company, announced it was settling a civil suit brought by the parents of Carlos (“Carlitos”) Candelario Herrera, who was born in December 2004 without arms and legs. Continue reading
Unless you’ve been asleep the last couple of years, you’ve probably heard that we’re in the midst of a foreclosure crisis, people are abandoning homes they can no longer afford, and the rest of the economy isn’t looking so good either.
Prices for food, gas and healthcare – the most basic items – have increased by more than nine percent since 2006, according to The Washington Post.
With cities experiencing the highest number of foreclosures these days (Detroit, Stockton, and Las Vegas, you’re at the top of a sad list) offering foreclosure bus tours, things are actually looking better in some ways for people interested in buying a home.
But how can new homebuyers avoid the mistakes that are costing millions of Americans their dream homes? NCL has created a step-by-step guide, www.mortgagetown.org, which we’re launching today, to walk new homebuyers through the complicated process of making their dream of owning a home come true.