Keep up with the latest trends and warnings in consumer fraud, identity theft and other issues that affect your wallet with this consumer blog. Our bloggers cover fraud, ID theft, credit, cell phones, used cars and other every other topic that affects consumers in today's world. Your comments and questions are welcome.
If you filed your taxes you may already have your tax rebate in your bank account.
The IRS started depositing stimulus payments earlier than expected. Rebates will be sent out based on the last two digits of your social security number.
The announced schedule for depositing is listed below. To determine how much you can expect, have your copy of your return and visit the IRS Economic Stimulus Payment Calculator website.
|IF YOU CHOSE YOUR REBATE TO BE DIRECTLY DEPOSITED:|
|Last 2 digits of your SS#||Date of rebate deposit|
|IF YOU CHOSE TO RECEIVE A PAPER CHECK:|
|Last 2 digits of your SS#||Date of rebate mailing|
Shopping for the perfect Mother's day gift online? Don't get scammed. If you want to be safe while shopping around the best way to visit local stores. But if you choose to shop online, I recommend that you read this article first, as it offers some guidelines to keep your personal information safe.
If you are looking for a last minute gift idea, you can always teach your mom how to be a savvy consumer. Be sure to explore our list of consumer publications.
Thanks to Katie's post from Thursday, we have several questions about when and how these tax rebate (or stimulus) payments will arrive.
One important note: if you got a tax refund from the IRS this year, your stimulus payment will arrive that same way. So if your tax refund was a paper check, your stimulus payment will be also. If it was directed deposited, so will be your stimulus payment.
If you owed money this year, your rebate will come as a paper check.
Now, onto your questions:
My husband and I file jointly. Will our rebate check come jointly or will each of us get a separate check?
You will get one payment. When you get it is determined by the Social Security number of the first person listed on your return. (See schedule in Katie's post, above)
When will we expect our rebate? We filed jointly and by the date that is on the computer and news we should have already received our rebate but we haven't.
Did you get a tax refund via direct deposit? If not, you will be getting it via paper, and those don't even start coming until May 16. (again, see schedule)
When they say direct deposit do they mean those who got their refund on a emerald card? If I got it on an emerald card will I receive a check or will it be on my card?
I assume you are talking about the Emerald Card prepaid debit card available to customers of H&R Block. The IRS will treat this kind of stored value card just like a bank account. If it's still active, you'll get your money direct deposited on the card. If not, the IRS' attempt at direct deposit will bounce back, and they'll send you a paper check. Unless that account number has been assigned to someone else - in that case, they will get your stimulus payment!
The IRS has a personalized page called "Where's my economic stimulus payment?" You can enter your Social Security number (safe to do) and find out what info is available about the status of your payment. The only tricky part is you have to know how many exemptions you claimed on your 2007 tax return - and I can't remember.
The Truston ID theft blog has some good info on this question I often hear from consumers. A lot of people prefer to write "Ask for I.D." rather than signing it. But that can get you in trouble. Your credit cards need to be signed.
Read on for the explanation.
AG Nixon's consumer alert today warns that a lot of consumers with mortgages are getting offers in the mail that look like they're from the bank or lender that holds your mortgage. But they're not - they're from a third party, addressed to you and mentioning the name of your lender in big letters.
The point is, these companies are trying to play on the trust you may have with your lender, to get you to think this is an important service you need. They mailings are offering either mortgage insurance or refinancing. Just know that these are from somebody else, and file a complaint with us if you see something deceptive or fraudulent.
BTW, these remind me of those car extended warranty offers. Some company goes through public records, finds that you've made a major purchase, and sends you mailings that look like they're from the company you're already in business with. You may know that AG Nixon sued several of these extended warranty companies recently.
Good column today in the Columbia Tribune on how to save money when using your cell phone in another country. Best suggestion: take out your SIM card and replace it with one from that country. On average, rates will be 80% lower than if you're using your U.S. SIM card.
One of the biggest annoyances in the life of a small business (or anyone with a fax machine) is the unsolicited fax. These are more than a nuisance - they cost you money: paper, toner, wear and tear on the fax machine and they may tie up your machine when you're expecting something important.
They are also illegal, under federal and state law.
We have sued and won against junk faxers. Here's one example, and here's another. That's because we get consumer complaints about them. Businesses or individuals can file a complaint and send their junk faxes into our office.
Recommendation: Do not opt out of receiving further faxes. This is like opting out of spam e-mail. All it does is confirm to the sender that they've hit a working fax number.
"The Fed" is looking at some possible new rules that would change a lot of the unpopular practices of credit card companies. They would affect the fees and interest rates the companies charge, among other things. They are fairly complex, but our friend Paul Wenske at the KC Star this weekend did a nice job of breaking them down into understanble terms.
Here is the Fed's summary of the proposed rules.
We have written in the past that your credit card is safer to use in most transactions than your debit card because you have protection against unauthorized charges. Under federal law, your liability for these charges is capped at $50 if someone steals your credit card and uses it. Even better in today's online world: if someone just gets your card number and uses it, your liability is zero.
With debit and ATM cards, it's very different - and confusing. These fall under different regulations, since they are electronic funds transfers, rather than credit transactions.
As this FDIC summary explains:
If your card is stolen and used, your maximum liability is $50 if you report it within two days.
If you don't report it within two days, your max liability is $500.
If your card number (but not your card) is used, you will not be held responsible for any of it, provided you report it within 60 days. And most people will report it as soon as they see it on their statement.
By the way, these debit and ATM card rules also apply to any electronic transaction. So if someone just has your checking account number and uses it for an fraudulent transaction, that is covered by these rules.
As you would expect, more and more Americans are getting rid of their landline phones and relying completely on cell phones. USA Today has some statistics from around the country. The most dramatic are from New York, where the number of landlines is down 55% since 2000.
One in six Americans now has no landline. Under age 30, it's about one in three Americans.
I have friends who fall into this category, and you probably do too. Husband and wife each has a cell phone, no home phone.
Related statistic, also summarized in USA Today: one in three households now receives all their calls on a cell phone, even though they still have a landline. I have friends that fall into this category also. They have a home phone, but don't bother trying to reach them on it. They don't answer it and don't check their messages on it.
The Federal Reserve Bank, which regulates the banking industry, is taking aim at the fees you pay when your bank lets you overdraw your account. A lot of consumers object to this system - they would rather have their ATM or debit card rejected instead deal with an overdraft fee.
Here's how it works: Let's say you have $50 in your bank account. You go to the ATM and request $60. Instead of rejecting your request, the ATM gives you the $60. But since you're now overdrawn, you get a $30 fee on your statement at the end of the month. Same scenario could happen with the debit card.
Some consumers ask: why doesn't the ATM just tell me I don't have that much money and refuse my transaction?
The rules proposed by the Fed (look toward the bottom of this page) would allow consumers to opt out of overdraft coverage. That way if they want it they can have it, but they're not required to.
As we've discussed at length, credit bureaus are now allowing us to put a security freeze on our credit reports for $10 per bureau. 3 bureaus total, so for a one-time cost of $30, you can lock down all your credit files, giving you the best protection against identity theft.
But until now, that was just credit bureau policy. The Missouri legislature last week passed a bill to give us this right under state law. In addition, it would also save us money, taking the fee down to $5 per bureau.
Other than that, the process would work about the same as what's currently available. Next step is for the governor to sign the bill, which usually happens in June or July.
About 80% of the states have security freeze laws, giving consumers the right to do this. Missouri is among the 20% that doesn't. But the three credit bureaus last fall announced they would offer this service to consumers in all states to prevent ID theft.
UPDATE: The governor has signed this bill, so it takes effect August 28.
Technorati Tags: credit bureau, credit freeze, credit report, equifax, experian, finance, id theft, missouri legislature, security freeze, transunion, identity theft, moagoconsumer, consumer protection
Many of you have contacted us with questions and comments about the status of your stimulus check. According to this article, the government recently reported it will, "issue paper checks to all taxpayers who had their tax-preparation service or e-filing provider fees deducted from their refunds, even if the refunds arrived by direct deposit."
Additionally, paper checks will be sent to those who requested their refunds in more than one bank account.
Finally, if you waited until the last minute to file or you filed late, your payment will be delayed.
If you fall under any of the categories mentioned above, use the paper check rebate schedule as a guideline of when to expect your payment. If you still have questions, contact the IRS.
The Federal Trade Commission today announced its biggest ever bust of telemarketing scammers, called Operation Tele-PHONEY. The FTC worked with 30 different law enforcement agencies across the country, including AG Nixon, to announce legal action against almost 200 bogus operations.
Three of AG Nixon's cases were included in this sweep. They were:
- Operation Helping our Heroes - a bogus charity that used telemarketing calls to raise money supposedly for homeless veterans. Contrary to its claims, it's not tax exempt and the money is not going to help veterans. AG Nixon got a restraining order to shut them down.
- National Dealers Warranty - one of those car extended warranty companies we targeted in Operation Taken for a Ride.
- National Auto Warranty Services, Inc. - another car extended warranty company
The FTC has released tw two videos with education about avoiding telemarketing fraud.
We get the question all the time, "Do you ever catch these guys" who commit Internet fraud? The answer is yes. Just this week the feds announced they've busted a massive global phishing operation that affected banks here in the U.S.
We hear about new phishing scams all the time - like the one that hit Mazuma credit union in Kansas City this week. This is when someone contacts you, claiming to be with your bank or some other important organization and asks for your account number or other sensitive info. It's always a scam, but consumers bite, give out their info and then find their account has been cleaned out.
Many, if not most, of these crooks are in other countries. But they send e-mail, phone calls and text messages into this country to target bank accounts. Many times, they are in Canada. Once they get account numbers, they create ATM cards, hop across the border into New York and make withdrawals at American bank ATMs.
As always, the advice is to never give personal information to people who contact you, whether it's by phone, e-mail, text or some other way. Only when you have inititated the contact should you give your info.
Consumers are starting to post comments that their tax rebate checks are for an incorrect amount - most commonly, they don't include the payment for dependents. The IRS answers this question as the last FAQ on this page. You can also call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.
The upshot: your observations are correct. In some cases, taxpayers didn't get payment for their dependents, so the IRS will be mailing out additional stimulus payments in early July.
A recent blog post described an adoption scam involving a crook in Africa putting an ad on Craigslist offering a "free baby." The ad was discovered by our friend Jacqueline Lapine of KMIZ-TV in Columbia, who ran a story about it.
Around the time the story aired, a Columbia woman was just about to fall for a similar scam. After she saw Jacqueline's story, she knew she'd been fooled. She confronted the scammer in an e-mail. And the scammer came clean in this rant. Moral of the story, as always: don't do business with strangers on the Internet.
i am so sorry,i do not enjoy doing what i am doing but i am in the gloom ''prompt to do it ''please find a place in your heart to forgive me, please i am truly sorry for the hurts.it is because of my predicaments that iam doing all these, i got no choice even though i cannot justify myself and no worthy of any either,i feel so remorse and know i have really hurts you and your kids, please have mercy iam sorry, iam not a girl , i am a young boy and really sorry for what i have done,from day one i have been lying , the only truth i have ever told you was '' i cannot hurt you because i no what it meant to be hurt''but in the context that i told you so i was lying but in real life i have been hurts and just struggling to get up to no avail, i am a high school drop out and struggling to get back to school for four years now to no avail,i know it is not by this means that i can get back but i have tried so many times to but all failed me and i made up my mind to get back no matter what, i did not go to church today and last night i did not sleep, only thinking because truly i no how devastated your family is ant this point in time.please i do not want anything from you but just for you and your family to forgive me in the depth of your hearts. i know you're full of resentments for me and nothing less than that,because i have lied to you so much and everthing i said will seem to be fake, i know i will get through life someday, through my sufferings , i don't really enjoy this, i really feel bad insight , please forgive me, just try to forgive me, is all i ask of you , i have face a bitter peal of life and still face it but things at times that if i do this it can help me get back to what i love most , please forgive me and pray for God to show me his ways, iam really really sorry,if you put yourself in my shoe, you at least discover my predicaments and plight .i do not have a computer i only manage to have some few penny to pay at the cyber cafe to do all what i have been doing and hurting you.i am sorry
Ah, those long-term wireless contracts and their big cancellation fees. One of the biggest consumer complaints we get when it comes to mobile phones. It's not unusual for contracts with the big companies to have a $175 fee for getting out of your contract early. Consumers are irate, Congress and FCC are thinking about regulation, and cell phone companies are starting to make some changes.
Verizon started prorating its termination fees in 2006, and now AT&T has followed suit. That means the less time you have on your contract, the less your fee will be. For example, AT&T will deduct $5 for every month you've paid on your contract. So if you're six months into your contract, they'll subtract $30 from that termination fee.
T-Mobile and Sprint say they'll start prorating by the end of the year.
A reporter recently asked if we get many complaints against computer repair companies. While we get a pretty heavy volume of complaints against computer manufacturers for not honoring their warranties, we don't get many against local repair shops. But we decided to come up with some consumer pointers nonetheless.
So when your computer needs work and you are looking for a local repair service, think of this much like an auto mechanic:
Do business with companies that are known or recommended by someone you trust
Get estimates in writing. Get more than one estimate if the cost is significant. (Meaning, if it's a $70 repair, you may be comfortable accepting just that one estimate.)
Require your authorization before any further repairs are made. i.e., you approve the $70. Tell them if it's going to be more than that, they need your approval before doing the work.
Don't pay full price up front.
If you have problems with computer repair or other issues, you can file a consumer complaint with our office.