Archive for April, 2008

Get $20 added to your account scam

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Normally I am not fooled by email scams because of past mistakes, viruses (trojans), and spyware problems.  I have been a victim of password theft to my important email account and lost it for a several earth shattering hours.  Sometimes making a few mistakes helps prevent us from a major theft of our hard earned money.

Today I almost fell prey again to an email that made it through my spam mail to my inbox.  It was asking for a survey that only takes two minutes and I would get twenty bucks added to my bank account at Capital One.  I just happened to have a Capital One bank account so I thought this was legit until I looked over the URL.

Some surveys redirect to third party sites so that is common but the fact that it redirected to a Verizon site that looked to be someones personal site I became weiry.  The URL for a Capital One survey went to a Mysite.Verizon.net.  That seems strange and I would advise anyone stay far away from even clicking on this link.

Dear Customer ,

The Capital One Bank Online department kindly asks you to take part in our quick and easy 5 questions survey. In return we will credit $20.00 to your account – Just for your time!

With the information collected we can decide to direct a number of changes to improve and expand our services. The information you provide us is all non-sensitive and anonymous – No part of it is handed down to any third party.

It will be stored in our secure database for maximum 7 days while we process the results of this nationwide survey. We kindly ask you to spare two minutes of your time and take part in our online survey.

I also noticed something else “phishy” about this email.  The copyright line at the bottom said members instead of member.

Capital One Bank (USA), N.A. and Capital One, N.A., members FDIC.

One more thing noticeable about this email scam is the FROM.  It says capitalsurvey@securenet.com instead of the URL that the link points to.  I would suggest not only looking over the URL that the emails link to before filling out any personal credit information by mousing over the link (not clicking on the link).  Also, check out the reply-to and from email headers.

Lending Tree to Announce Stolen Data?

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Just as I am trying to log-in to my Paypal account that says it may have had some fraudulent activity and going through a zillion steps to put out that fire I read an email with some breaking news.  The article states that a ex employee of the loan company and a current company could have stolen live lead information and sold those leads to other mortgage companies.  I assume to make some money on the side.

The mortgage industry is already in enough hot water and this will just make it worse for companies such as CountryWide, LendingTree, and LowerMyBills. You can expect some big laws to come down harsh on the mortgage industry and extensive employee evaluations when hiring.

If Lending Tree does make this announcement it will be a big issue.  Another reminder that you should regularly obtain a credit report to see who could be selling your identity behind your back.  It is sad that you cannot trust some sites even with a privacy policy such as Lending Tree because their employees could be selling your Social Security Number and private information in the background.

I assume that the problem could be worse if you go in person to apply for a loan since your papers are sitting out for anyone to see going through different offices and filing systems.  I am still a believer in doing things online securely and safely and this will blow over in time.

Drive Faster, Save Gas

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Gas prices are climbing to all time highs right now at over $4 for diesel fuel and regular unleaded. The wholesale has reached new benchmarks at almost $120 a barrel. Possible invasion of Iran, Combat in Iraq, Demand, among hundreds of other reasons that gas prices will only climb from here on out.

The purchase of a 2010 Mitsubishi i MIEV Plug-In Electric is unlikely since that will probably not be around until 2009 for pre-order. You can invest your hard earned money in a hybrid car or SUV but that could also only save you in the long term which is not a bad thing.

My tips on saving money on gas might be different that the ones you normally read:

  1. Drive Faster – Find tollways to drive on and pay the extra toll instead of driving down older roads or highways. You can normally drive faster on highways and avoid wasting gas sitting in several accidents or slower traffic congested areas.
  2. Carry Several Gas Cards – If you have the credit then why not. I have a credit card for each gas station I live near so I can get 5-10% cash back at their stations. Exxon, Shell, and BP all offer great credit cards to maximize the money you spend at the pump. I also use the Chase Free Cash Visa at Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart purchases and the Chase Freedom Card for 7-Eleven and all other gas retailers.
  3. Get Oil Changed Frequently – Make sure you keep up with the regular maintenance of your car.
  4. Tire Pressure – Make sure your tires are in good shape and are aired up to the proper levels recommended in your manual.
  5. Pull Technology From Business to Consumer – Do all you can as a consumer to contact companies to speed up their technology to get more vehicles such as biodiesels on the road. If you own a RV there are ways to convert it. Ask around and find out how you can convert your car, truck, or RV to take biofuels such as restaurant grease. This will speed up the free market process faster than the government tax credits.
  6. Hypermiling – the more aggressive ways for gas savings.  One hypermiling way to drive is to tailgate the car in front of you using wind and resistance to down power your car.  I would not advise this method unless you have a standard shift otherwise you would have to turn off your car.  They also tell you to over inflate your tires which is also sort of risky behavior.

It is said that gas prices related to consumer spending and that many budget less spending when they go higher. There are many things that go into consumer spending besides gas prices but it does make airfare go higher, shipping, goods, and maybe even some service pricing increase.

This is an exciting time for America as we can learn to conserve foreign oil more and learn creative new ways to gain in technology. Using gas rewards cards, upgrading to toll roads, and biodiesels are the best solution to the gas price hikes. You might even see more people walking and riding their bike… a free diet called exercise!

Tax Day Tips

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

My favorite day of the year.  April 15th… only if you are into torture.  You know the day the Uncle Sam a.k.a. grim reaper shows up at your door and takes half of all the money you have worked hard to earn so he can fund things such as the the War in Iraq, bailouts of failing mega-corporations, and many other items of government money well spent.

Whether you are starring at the computer trying to get your Quicken downloaded into your TurboTax or if you are just trying to get yourself to sleep because your taxes are due just think of the fact America does tax less than most other countries.  Even though it does not seem like it.  And know it will be worse next year so enjoy it while it lasts.

I did find some interesting reading on the IRS website today when a friend asked me a question about his medical deduction.  He asked me why the IRS sent him a letter telling him his medical deductions had been reversed from 2006.  We found that TurboTax did not catch an error.  You have to deduct only amount that is more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income or it will be reversed.

If you have a OPEN from American Express Card you can use OfficialPayments.com/OPEN or Pay1040.com/OPEN to make your IRS Payments. This is a convenient way to pay online with your credit card but it can add another “tax” in a fee that can add up to thousands. The best way is just to pay by check and avoid all the surcharges. Discover Card now offers a business credit card with checks with no fees that would be handy for IRS payments to use as an alternative but its too late to apply for that unless you are planning for your quarterly payments.

If you don’t already know about eftps.gov, you set up an account (takes 15 days to get set up and get docs in the mail), but once you are in, you can send the IRS a payment anytime you want to. You can select which form to attach to the payment (1040 ES, etc). I typically send a payment every month and at the end of the year you can see all these credits that the IRS holds. The site is free and no processing charge.

Is Cash still King?

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

Don’t let the recent IPO’s of Visa and MasterCard fool you.  There are a few reasons that some refuse to pay on credit or people that have been ripped off because of retailers who went bankrupted such as Sharper Image.  We may have to rethink the “cash is king” syndrome once more.  This explains about gift cards and the potential pitfalls.

Gift cards are a popular choice, both as gifts and even as rewards points and program redemptions. Unfortunately, sometimes this great idea is not as great as it seems. Gift cards can expire, companies can shut down or declare bankruptcy, or a multitude of other situations can arise that can entirely devalue your gift cards. There are several types of gift cards, and some may come with specific conditions, fees or other problems. Know what you are buying before you buy for the smartest gift card shopping…or simply fork over the cash and let the recipient decide how to spend it.

There are two basic types of gift cards. The first are store specific cards. These are the gift cards that you pick up at the check out on your way out the store. They might work at a single store or possibly at several stores; however, the actual options for these cards are rather limited. Some retailers allow you to use their gift cards online, while others do not. General purpose gift cards from Visa, MasterCard or American Express may be used at most retailers; however, there are some limitations, including airline tickets. While these general purpose gift cards offer great flexibility, they may come with many additional fees.

Some gift cards do come with an expiration date. Be certain to note the date if this is the case. You may be able to request a new gift card from retailers if yours expires, but there will be additional fees for this. Also, a few states have disallowed expiration on gift cards, and if you live in one of these states your gift cards will not expire. Service fees may apply when you buy gift cards, depending upon the state in which you live. You also may find that shipping fees for gift cards can be higher than is reasonable. Shop around to avoid these fees. Keep in mind when giving a gift card that businesses do find themselves in bankruptcy proceedings or simply shutting down. In these instances, gift cards may become totally worthless. General purpose gift cards may charge monthly maintenance fees after a certain period, or may charge additional fees for ATM withdrawals.

Gift cards can be a good option if you need an easy and appealing gift, but you should shop smart, or simply give cash to the recipient. Avoid cards with substantial fees, and choose cards that do not expire whenever possible. Be certain that you choose reliable retailers for store specific gift cards, and try to select cards that allow the recipient to shop online or in person for the most versatility.