Beware of Some New Scams This Year

As every new year starts, many of us make New Year’s resolutions to cut down on bad habits and increase good ones. Unfortunately, there’s one thing that you and I will never be able to cut down on, and that’s scams and scammers. In fact, it seems that every year there are more and more of them and they have newer and craftier scams going as they try and steal our money.

Luckily, even as scams have perpetually been a threat to one’s personal security and finances, the average scam is quite easy to avoid. For example, a quick check of any email will usually give some indication that it’s either genuine or fake, including typos, a mismatched identity and/or a company contacting you and asking directly for personal information. (Although, still and all, these scams keep happening because some people keep falling for them.)

In any case, three of the biggest scams of 2015 that you need to be on the lookout for, according to the BBB, are below. Enjoy.

The first is getting a phone call from the IRS and someone representing himself as an IRS employee, demanding money or payments. Here’s a simple, undeniable fact; the IRS will never call you. In fact they won’t email you either. Not only are they understaffed and simply don’t have the manpower to answer all of their phone calls, let alone make them, the only way the IRS contacts American consumers is through the United States Postal Service. Period. If you get a phone call from someone purporting to be an IRS agent or employee, they’re 100% definitely a scammer.

Another scam that’s growing in popularity is getting ‘friend requests’ on Facebook, the popular social media website. There are a number of scams that involve Facebook, including ones that involve an “old friend” suddenly contacting you out of the blue and telling you that you won money. This so-called friend will then tell you that you need to pay a fee in order to get the money, which you can bet you will never see again if you fall for this scam. When it comes to social media, it’s best to be prudent about who you approve as a friend and definitely be wary of anyone asking you to make any type of payment.

We mentioned emails above and said that, in most cases, it’s easy to spot a false one. On the other hand, not all email scams are as easy to spot, and some of them are quite convincing insomuch as the Logos, wording and font they use look genuinely like it came from a specific retailer or company. Many of these fake emails will use a variation of a legitimate domain name that’s so close you might not notice the difference.

Whatever the case may be, the best way to avoid being a victim of scammers is to be ever vigilant with your personal information and check your credit report regularly to make sure that no one has been using it to make illegal purchases. A good rule of thumb is simply this; if something doesn’t look right, report it, but definitely don’t click, call, send or interact with it in any way.

Is your dog one of the “bully breeds”? If so, Pet Liability Insurance is a Must

The image of a dog as a trusted companion and protector goes back for decades. TV shows like Lassie and movies like “Old Yeller” are a testament to the love that Americans, and humans in general, have for canines.

On the other hand, with nearly 5,000,000 dog bites happening every year in the United States, many states are now requiring dog owners to have pet liability insurance, especially if they have one of the so-called “bully breeds” like Pit Bulls. It used to be that a typical homeowner insurance policy would cover medical bills if your dog injured someone, but today many insurance carriers are excluding these bully breeds, leaving you exposed financially should your dog bite or attack someone.

Interestingly, almost 2/3 of dog owners in the United States are unaware that they need to tell their insurance company if they own one of the bully breed of dogs and, even worse, only 1 out of 5 who do own a bully breed have insurance that’s incorrect.

It doesn’t matter if the dog that you own is the most gentle dog anyone has ever seen, and has never had an incidence of anger. As far as the law is concerned that has no bearing whatsoever. For example, let’s say that your dog injures someone accidentally, not even with its teeth but by knocking someone over due to exuberance. One of the 1st questions that your insurance company is going to ask you is the kind of breed that your dog is and, if you haven’t disclosed the exact breed to your insurance company, it’s very possible that they won’t honor any insurance claims that you make.

It’s sort of a Catch-22 because, if you do tell your insurance company that you have a bully breed dog, your premiums might be raised or your insurance company might drop you completely. Withholding that information isn’t a good idea because, in the event that something happens and you do make a claim, your insurance might be invalid and your protection nil.

Which dog breeds are considered Bully Breeds?

In order to make sure that your insurance coverage is correct, and that you are protected should an accident occur, you need to know exactly which of the dog breeds are considered to be bully breeds. They include, in alphabetical order; Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Chows, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Great Danes, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Siberian Huskies, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and wolf hydrids.

If you have one of these dog breeds and haven’t informed your insurance company of that fact, your best bet is to do so at your earliest possible convenience. If you don’t have insurance you might find it difficult to find a company that will ensure you, so be patient. It might be possible to have a rider on your existing homeowners policy but, in some cases, you might have to take out a separate, specific liability policy instead.

Which states have mandatory insurance laws for bully breed dogs?

Some states have actually made it mandatory to get insurance if you have a dog that’s considered a bully breed. Those include, in alphabetical order; Delaware, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

Again, keep in mind that even if your dog is one of the most gentle creatures you’ve ever owned, and would never knowingly harm another person or animal, it’s one of the bully breed of dogs your best bet is to inform your insurance company and do whatever it takes to make sure that, in case of accident, you’ll be covered.

Want Excellent Credit? Follow these Excellent Credit Tips and Advice

Your Credit Score, if you didn’t already know, is extremely important. It can help you to get lower interest rates on everything from credit cards to mortgages, automobile loans, and practically any other loan you might need. Unfortunately, many Americans simply don’t know what to do, and more importantly not to do, in order to make sure that their credit score remains high. In fact, a survey last year by found that, when it comes to credit scores, the average consumer doesn’t understand what actions will help and what actions will hurt their credit. Today’s blog will clear that up for you. Enjoy.

1. Payment History

The top factor for most scoring models is your payment history, making it vitally important that you always pay your bills on time. Even a payment that’s only 30 days late can drop your credit score, and a late payment can drop significantly. It doesn’t matter if you only pay the minimum, as long as you pay on time. One way to avoid paying your bills late is to set up bill payment automatically, which you can do with your bank or credit account.

2. Credit Ratio

A huge factor in determining your credit score is the amount of debt you have in comparison to the available amount of credit that you have. Credit experts will tell you that you should keep the credit to debt ratio or “credit utilization ratio” at about 10% of what your available credit happens to be. For example, if you have $10,000 in available credit, you should only be using about $1000 of it at any given time (or less if possible). Most consumers will notice that, after they pay off the money on their most used credit card, their credit score increases,
showing the importance of the utilization ratio. Now, if your credit cards happen to be maxed out, you definitely should consider taking a personal loan from your bank as the utilization ratio with personal loans is calculated differently and doesn’t have as much weight on your credit score.

3. Credit Balance

if you were to research people with the best credit scores, you’ll find that those with the very highest keep almost no balance on their credit cards from month-to-month because they pay them off and fall at the end of every month. One plus to doing it like this is that you will never pay a dime in interest. for most consumers this would kind of defeat the purpose of having credit but, frankly, if you can’t afford to pay your credit card bill at the end of every month, it’s possible that you shouldn’t be spending your money anyway.

4. Credit History

Consumers with the best credit scores are those with the longest credit history, usually 11 years or more. What that means is that, if you open several new credit accounts at once, your credit score is going to drop. It also means that you shouldn’t close any older and inactive accounts but instead keep them open and keep your history going. (The reason this happens is that your credit utilization ratio, referred to in #2, would increase.)

5. Credit Applications

Following on the heels of #4, try not to apply for every single credit line that you’re offered. Yes, having a healthy mix of credit, including mortgages, personal loans, credit cards and so forth, will show lenders that you can handle credit. On the other hand, multiple inquiries in a short period of time can hurt your score, especially if you have few accounts or a short history of credit.

6. Credit Cards

Lastly, be very careful about which credit cards you actually choose to use. Retailer credit cards, for example, can be the worst because they have incredibly high interest rates and low credit limits. You lose both ways because it hurts your credit utilization ratio and you pay a ton and interest. Also, unless the credit card that you decide to use has plenty of benefits, like cash-back rewards and frequent flyer miles, avoid one that has an annual fee.

Hopefully you now have a better idea of how your credit score works and what affects it the most. If you have questions or need advice, please send us an email or leave a comment and we’ll get back to you with answers and advice.

A Step by Step Guide to Everyday Savings

Most readers of this blog will already be aware of the three tent poles to everyday savings. Store sales are step one, finding discounts is step two and step three amounts to buying in bulk. These three steps may seem self-explanatory to those who are already of the Make Money Make Cents mentality. But to those among you who haven’t got a clue where to start, here are some tips on how to begin your savings journey:

1. Looking for store sales does not have to mean that you physically get yourself to a store. Sure, Topman may offer fantastic seasonal clearance offers but if you want the utmost of style and comfort at the best possible price you don’t have to brave the droves of Uni kids taking advantage of their student discount. Online shopping provides you with the extra bonus of your new threads being delivered straight to your door and good retailers like Forever 21 will offer free shipping along with your youthful new look.

2. Physical discount coupons still exist but let’s be realistic: paper is a thing of the past. The easiest and most expedient way to track down those desired discounts in the here and now is once again the wonder of the modern world: the Internet. There are even sites like Groupon which offer a huge array of promotional and discount coupons. With just a click of your mouse and few key keystrokes you can find coupons that will help you; from getting everyday groceries at Walgreens to treating yourself to specialty buys like making that photo album you’ve wanted, courtesy of Shutterfly.

3. Finally, to buy in bulk you have to be smart about it. If you’re getting perishables make certain that you are not overestimating what you can consume. Focus your bulk purchasing on non-perishable items for which you have the storage space. And once you combine bulk buying with bulk store sales and discount coupons for your bulk purchases you’ll be well on your way.


Australians pull through the credit crunch and start saving in 2015

After a saving slump lasting 20 years that’s been attributed to lending practices which reduced Australian wealth rather than aided it, Aussies have pulled back from the red and started saving. Since 2006 household savings have begun to increase due to compulsory superannuation and putting the financial lending system on a shorter leash.

So where are Aussie families putting these savings? Research suggests that there aren’t secret stashes under the bed, but that money is being invested into property, savings accounts and superannuation. Banks are reporting household savings of 1.8 trillion dollars, while superannuation companies hold a share of the pie with around 95 billion in Australian earnings. 23% of Aussies now hold investment property, which is an impressive figure considering the downturn of recent years.

The figures show that Australians are savings for three things in 2015; holidays, rainy day funds, and expensive items. This could be due to other factors such as economic instability, job insecurity and the high cost of Australian living. However, with the financial crises behind us and 50% of Aussies surveyed now saving regularly, the future is bright for Aussie families. Check out the infographic from MyBudget for more information on how debt is being reduced by sensible spending and serious saving.