Equifax isn’t calling

Ring, ring. “This is Equifax calling to verify your account information.” Stop. Don’t tell them anything. They’re not from Equifax. It’s a scam. Equifax will not call you out of the blue.

That’s just one scam you might see after Equifax’s recent data breach. Other calls might try to trick you into giving your personal information. Here are some tips for recognizing and preventing phone scams and imposter scams:

  • Don’t give personal information. Don’t provide any personal or financial information unless you’ve initiated the call and it’s to a phone number you know is correct.
  • Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers can spoof their numbers so it looks like they are calling from a particular company, even when they’re not.
  • If you get a robocall, hang up. Don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator or any other key to take your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.

For more information about the Equifax breach, go to Equifax’s website.

 Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they know someone who has received such a call. If so, how the victim responded to the imposter?
  • What advice can you provide to a victim of a scam?

Discussion Questions

  1. What should you do, if you have already received a call that you think is fake?
  2. What must you do if you gave personal information to an imposter?
  3. What can you do to protect yourself from such scams?
Categories: Chapter 5, Consumer Complaints, Credit Scores, Frauds and Scams | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Know your debt collection rights

Know someone who’s behind on their bills? Maybe debt collectors are calling for payment? The Federal Trade Commission’s new debt collection video can help you understand your legal rights – and may lower your stress level.  In the video, you’ll see how bad debt collectors try to get you to pay up. Bad debt collectors will say anything to get you to pay – and they’ll make it feel urgent to get you to pay immediately. But there are laws to protect you. Debt collectors:

  • Can’t call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • Can’t use profanity, threaten violence or harass you to pay
  • May not lie or pretend to be someone they’re not
  • Cannot ask you to pay a debt that doesn’t even exist
  • Can’t threaten you with arrest or deportation
  • Cannot tell anyone – except your spouse or attorney – about your debt

If a debt collector calls and uses any of these tactics, hang up and report it to the FTC. Remember: you have the right to be treated fairly – no matter what.

For more information go to: consumer.gov/debt.

To view the video, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  1. Ask students to summarize the steps they may take if a debt collector calls.
  2. Let students make a list of danger signals of potential debt problems.

 Discussion Questions 

  1. Which federal law regulates debt collection activities and protects consumers from abusive collection practices?
  2. Does the law erase the legitimate debts consumers owe?
Categories: Chapter 5, Consumer Complaints, Debt | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Those Pesky Robocalls

Every day American consumers report tens of thousands of illegal robocalls to the Federal Trade Commission, and now the FTC is helping put that information to work boosting industry efforts to stop unwanted calls before they reach consumers.

Under a new initiative announced by the FTC, when consumers report Do Not Call or robocall violations to the agency, the robocaller phone numbers consumers provide will be released each day to telecommunications carriers and other industry partners that are implementing call-blocking solutions.

Unwanted and illegal robocalls are the FTC’s number-one complaint category, with more than 1.9 million complaints filed in the first five months of 2017 alone. By reporting illegal robocalls, consumers help law enforcement efforts to stop the violators behind these calls. In addition, under the initiative announced today, the FTC is now taking steps to provide more data, more often to help power the industry solutions that block illegal calls.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they have received robocalls and what was their response to such illegal calls?
  • Let students debate the issue of whether robocalls should be outlawed.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is the consumer complaint data so crucial for the FTC to call-blocking solutions?
  2. How will the FTC attempt to stop unwanted robocalls before they reach consumers?
Categories: Chapter 6, Consumer Complaints | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Free credit freezes from Equifax

Many people have had very sensitive personal information exposed in the Equifax breach — Social Security numbers, account numbers, even drivers’ license numbers. Equifax is offering free credit freezes until November 21, 2017.

If you’re thinking of placing a freeze, consider the following:

  • A freeze means that no one (including you) can access your credit file until you unfreeze it, using a PIN or passphrase. That makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.
  • To be effective, you must place a freeze with all three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
  • A freeze can cost you money every time you freeze and unfreeze your file- at a cost of $5 to $10 per agency each time, depending on your state’s law.

Fraud alerts are free.  With a fraud alert, creditors must try to verify your identity before extending new credit.  The alert lasts for 90 days, You can renew it but you will need to remind yourself or it will expire automatically.  Identity theft victims, however, are entitled to an extended fraud alert which lasts seven years.  To place an alert, contact any one of the three major credit reporting agencies, either by phone or online.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they are willing to pay about $5 to $10 each time they freeze or unfreeze their accounts with each credit agency.
  • Let students debate the issue: “A fraud alert is better than a credit freeze.”

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the differences between a fraud alert and a credit freeze?
  2. Should you consider a fraud alert or credit freeze if you become a victim of an identity theft? Why or why not?
Categories: Chapter 5, Identity Theft | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Instant Pay for Millennials

Can you imagine getting paid each day that you work? That’s the idea behind Instant Financial’s app, which puts cash in the hands of workers on the same day they work. This program attempts to reduce absenteeism and employee turnover for restaurant chains.

At the end of each workday, employees may take 50 per cent of their pay for that day and transfer it to an instant account; the other half is paid at the end of the regular pay period. Funds in the Instant account may be accessed with a debit card or transferred to a bank account.

The app can reduce the use of payday loans, with exorbitant borrowing rates, as workers have access to funds between pay periods. Instant Financial makes money from fees charged employers and merchants when debit cards are used; although employees may pay ATM fees.

A major concern of the app is that it might discourage long-term financial planning. Poor budgeting habits could result in increased use of debt due to a lack of funds at the end of the month. Employees who use the app are encouraged to practice wise money management, including creating and building an emergency fund and other savings.

For additional information on instant pay, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk with others about the benefits and drawbacks of an instant account.
  • Have students describe two situations: (1) a person who used the instant account wisely, and (2) someone who mismanaged their money as a result of using the instant account.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What factors might be considered when deciding whether or not to use an instant account?
  2. Describe how an instant account might result in improved money management and in weakened money management activities.
Categories: Bank Fees, Chapter 2, Chapter 4, Financial Planning | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Hurricane Financial Toolkit

Natural disasters create a need for unique actions.  After physical safety is assured, some of the activities related to finances include:

  • contacting your insurance company – request a copy of your policy, take photos and videos to document your claim.
  • registering for assistance at DisasterAssistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362.
  • talking with your mortgage lender and credit card companies since you may not be able to make upcoming payments on time.
  • contacting utility companies to suspend service if you will not be living in your home due to damage.

Beware of various scams that surface after natural disasters.  These frauds can include phony repairs, deceptive contractors, requiring up-front fees, fake charities, and misrepresenting oneself as an insurance company agent or government representative to obtain personal information.

Assistance for the personal and financial chaos created by a hurricane or other natural disaster may be obtained from these organizations:

For additional information on financial actions for disasters, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students role play situations that might require actions such as those described in this article.
  • Have students create a video with suggestions to take when encountering a natural disaster.

Discussion Questions 

  1. How might the advice offered in this article be communicated to people who are victims of a natural disaster?
  2. Describe common mistakes people might make when encountering a natural disaster.
Categories: Chapter 1, Chapter 3, Financial Planning, Frauds and Scams, insurance | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Phantom Debt Collectors

Consumers across the country report that they’re getting telephone calls from people trying to collect loans the consumers never received or on loans they did receive for amounts they do not owe.  Others are receiving calls from people seeking to recover on loans consumers received but where the creditors never authorized the callers to collect them.

The FTC is warning consumers to be alert for scam artists posing as debt collectors.  It may be hard to tell the difference between a legitimate debt collector and a fake one.

A caller may be a fake debt collector if he/she:

  • is seeking payment on a debt for a loan you do not recognize;
  • refuses to give you a mailing address or phone number;
  • asks for personal financial or sensitive information; or
  • exerts high pressure to try to scare you into paying, such as threatening to have you arrested or to report you to a law enforcement agency.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  1. Ask students to make a list of protections provided by the Fair Collection Practices Act.
  2. Ask students to prepare a list of steps they should take if the harassment continues.

Discussion Questions

  • If you think that a caller may be a fake debt collector, why is it important to ask the caller for his name, company, street address, or telephone number?
  • If you think that a caller may be a fake debt collector, should you stop speaking with the caller? Why or why not?
Categories: Chapter 5, Debt, Frauds and Scams | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Vending Machines for Cars?

Believe it or not, you can buy a car from a vending machine.  Carvana has created an eight-story high glass structure holding 30 cars. The online auto retailer opened its first vehicle vending machine in Nashville, Tennessee, and also has locations in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio, Texas. Payment, financing, and trade-ins are arranged online.  Free delivery is offered in the areas served.  However, buyers have the option of receiving an oversized Carvana coin to drop in a slot to automatically move the car to the delivery bay ready to drive.

For additional information on Carvana, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students search for a website or app related to car buying services that was not available a few years ago.
  • Have students talk with others about their car buying experiences. Ask students to propose an app or website that would improve car buying activities.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What benefits are associated with this type of motor vehicle buying process?
  2. Describe common mistakes people might make when buying a motor vehicle?
Categories: Chapter 6, Purchasing Strategies | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Investing in Collectible Coins

Collectible coins have some historic or aesthetic value to collectors.  The value of many collector coins exceeds their melt value because the precious metal content is so small.  Coin collectors refer to this collectible value as numismatic value, and it is determined by factors such as the type of coin, the year it was minted, the place it was minted, and its condition—or “grade.”

Dealers who sell collectible coins often have valuable coins graded by professional services.  A grader examines the coin’s condition based on a set of criteria.  Then the grader assigns it a numerical grade from one to 70, and places it in a plastic cover for protection.  But factors like “overall appearance” and “eye appeal” are subjective, and the grade assigned to a particular coin can vary among dealers.

Expect to hold your investment for at least 10 years before possibly realizing a profit.  That’s because dealers usually sell collectible coins at a markup.  In addition, the market for numismatic coins may not be the same as the market for precious metals or bullion coins.  It’s possible that the price of gold can increase while the value of a gold numismatic coin decreases.

For more information click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  1. Ask Students to make a list of the risks and rewards of investing in collectible coins.
  2. Ask students how they can protect themselves from fraudulent practices in the collectibles market.

Discussion Questions

  • What are some important questions to ask before you invest in collectible coins?
  • Is it possible to make a practical decision about buying a particular coin based on a photo or conversation with the seller?
  • Why is it important to get a second opinion about the grade and value of the coin you are considering to buy?
Categories: Investments | Tags: | Leave a comment

Tiny House Living-Is it for you?

Tiny houses (usually 400 square feet or less) have become popular with many people, as they offer these benefits:

  • quick access to a comfortable home with probably no mortgage payments.
  • you can learn from your home-building mistakes if you decide to build a larger home.
  • lower home ownership costs with the possibility of living off-grid.
  • an environmentally-friendly design with little or no toxins.
  • a simpler, less cluttered life with creative ideas to effectively use space.
  • potential for better communication with family members as a result of close quarters.

However, common drawbacks of buying and living in a tiny house include:

  • limited privacy, no place for solitude.
  • limited living space; little room for entertaining guests and family.
  • limited kitchen and storage space.
  • more trips to the store-no buying in bulk, and usually driving further to stores.
  • tiny houses may be on wheels or on a foundation, restrictions may exist as to where you may park or build.

For additional information on tiny houses:

Link #1

Link #2

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students search for online videos about tiny house living to obtain additional information on benefits and drawbacks.
  • Have students design a tiny house that would fit their life situation.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What personal factors should be considered when building a tiny house?
  2. Describe life situations of people who might be appropriate for tiny house living.
Categories: Chapter 7, Home Buying | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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