Chapter 8

Warning Signs of Identity Theft

What Do Thieves Do With Your Information?

 Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance. An identity thief can file a tax refund in your name and get your refund. In some extreme cases, a thief might even give your name to the police during an arrest.

Here are clues that someone has stolen your information:

  • You see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain.
  • You don’t get your bills or other mail.
  • Merchants refuse your checks.
  • Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours.
  • You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report.
  • Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use.
  • Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit.
  • A health plan won’t cover you because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.
  • The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for.
  • You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they, their family members or friends have been victims of an identity theft. What was their experience and how did they resolve the problem?
  • Ask students if they mail bills from their home mail box, especially if it is out by the street. What might be some dangers of this method of mailing bills?

Discussion Questions

  1. Should you put your Social Security and driver’s license numbers on your checks?   Why or why not?
  2. Why is it important to check your credit report each year? Should you consider credit monitoring, identity monitoring service, or identity theft insurance?  Why or why not?
Categories: Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 8, Credit Scores, Frauds and Scams, Identity Theft | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Beware of scams related to the coronavirus

Scammers are taking advantage of the corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic to con people into giving up their money. Though the reason behind their fraud is new, their tactics are familiar. It can be even harder to prevent scams right now because people aren’t interacting with as many friends, neighbors, and senior service providers due to efforts to slow the spread of disease.

Those who are ill or don’t feel comfortable potentially exposing themselves may need someone to help with errands. Be cautious when accepting offers of help and use trusted delivery services for supplies and food. During this time of uncertainty, knowing about possible scams is a good first step toward preventing them.

  1. Scams offering COVID-19 vaccine, cure, air filters, testing

There is an increasing number of scams related to vaccines, test kits, cures or treatments, and air filter systems designed to remove COVID-19 from the air in your home. At the time of this writing, there is neither a vaccine nor a cure for this virus. If you receive a phone call, email, text message, or letter with claims to sell you any of these items–it’s a scam.

  1. Fake corona virus-related charity scams

A thief poses as a real charity or makes up the name of a charity that sounds real to get money from you. Be careful about any charity calling you asking for donations. If you are able to help financially, visit the website of the organization of your choice to make sure your money is going to the right place. And be wary if you get a call following up on a donation pledge that you don’t remember making–it could be a scam.

  1. “Person in need” scams

Scammers use the circumstances of the corona virus to pose as a grandchild, relative or friend who claims to be ill, stranded in another state or foreign country, or otherwise in trouble, and asks you to send money. The scammer may ask you to send cash by mail or buy gift cards. These scammers often beg you to keep it a secret and act fast before you ask questions. Don’t panic!  Don’t send money unless you’re sure it’s the real person who contacted you. Hang up and call your grandchild or friend’s phone number to see if the story checks out. You could also call a different friend or relative to check the caller’s story.

  1. Scams targeting your Social Security benefits

Local Social Security Administration (SSA) offices are closed to the public due to COVID-19 concerns, SSA will not suspend or decrease  Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security Income payments due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Scammers may mislead people into believing they need to provide personal information or pay by gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, or by mailing cash to maintain regular benefit payments during this period. Any communication that says SSA will suspend or decrease your benefits due to COVID-19 is a scam, whether you receive it by letter, text, email, or phone call. Report Social Security scams to the SSA Inspector General online at oig.ssa.gov .

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they, their friends, or relatives have been victims of coronavirus- related scams? If so, what was their experience?
  • Someone you don’t know contacts you asking for any personally identifiable information by phone, in person, by text message, or email. What will be your response?

Discussion Questions

  1. Someone you don’t know sends you a check, maybe prize-winnings or the sale of goods and asks you to send a portion of the money back. What will you do and why?
  2. Discuss the statement: “The federal. State, and local consumer protection agencies are doing everything possible to protect consumers from fraudsters”.
Categories: Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 8, Frauds and Scams, Identity Theft | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Home Inventory Update

While insurance may be the last thing on your mind during the holidays, the start of a new year is the perfect time to review your insurance coverage and update your home inventory list. When you reflect on the last 12 months, especially with the pandemic, you might realize that some of those changes could greatly affect your home insurance needs.  So, try starting a new tradition: update your home inventory list. Here are four good reasons to add an annual insurance review and home inventory update to your list of holiday traditions.

  1. Your new gifts may not be covered.
    Your homeowners insurance will cover most of your big-ticket gifts like a big screen TV, new electronics and expensive jewelry, but only up to your policy limits. That’s why it’s important to maintain a current record of all your belongings. Update your home inventory this holiday season so your coverage limits meet your insurance needs.
  2. A lot can change in a year.
    Think about the new “normal” we’re living in with COVID-19. With many people spending more time in their homes, it is not surprising that home improvement projects have increased in popularity. According to a recent porch.com survey, 76% of homeowners have completed at least one home improvement project since the start of the pandemic. Take photos or a video of your remodeled kitchen or bathroom, gather receipts and add them to your inventory list. When you review coverage at the start of the year, you can ensure your new assets are safeguarded.
  3. It will make filing an insurance claim easier.
    The information you put into the home inventory list can make an insurance claim settlement faster and easier. This is especially crucial for high-value items. Don’t forget to document your attic, basement, closets and other storage areas. Can you imagine trying to compile all this information after a disaster? Without a record of your belongings, remembering everything you own or what you’ve lost can be challenging.
  4. It’s free and easy.
    With today’s technology, it’s never been easier to keep a detailed catalog of your possessions.  Keep your home inventory list in a safe place outside your home or cloud-based storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive. Also, your insurance agent will be happy to review your insurance coverage with you at no cost.

Creating a home inventory doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as standing in the middle of each room and taking a 360-degree video. Tackle this project with your children and show them family keepsakes and their history.

For more insurance information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they rent or own home. Do they have renters or homeowner’s insurance?  Have they prepared a list of their personal belongings?  If not, why?
  • If students don’t have a household inventory, encourage them to prepare a list of their belongings.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important to annually review your home insurance needs?
  2. Where should you keep your home inventory list?
Categories: Chapter 8, Home Insurance | Tags: | Leave a comment

Do You Need Rental Insurance?

Your landlord’s insurance will cover damage to a building or home you rent, but it will not cover your personal items, and yet only 40 percent of renters purchase renters insurance.  But renters insurance is usually affordable.  For people who rent, renters insurance typically includes three types of coverage—personal property coverage, loss of use, and personal liability.  Keep in mind that flood damage is not covered with renters insurance.  Also remember, if you are a dependent, your parents’ home-owners policy may cover your belongings even if you are not living at home.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they are living on their own and renting an apartment. If so, do they have renters insurance?
  • Ask students to call local insurance agents to get quotes for renters insurance. Do you have to pay extra for expensive items you own?

Discussion Questions

  1. What can you do to cover losses to your personal property due to floods or other acts of God?
  2. What actions can you take to reduce the cost of renters insurance? Should every renter purchase renters insurance?  Why or why not?
Categories: Chapter 8, insurance | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Personal Finance Hacks

Hacks – skills and shortcuts – are used in many life settings.  For personal finance, here are some tips that can help stop money leakages:

  • Only use credit cards with financial advantages, such as cashback; always pay off credit card balances on time.
  • Making weekly payments, instead of monthly, helps to save interest and reduces the amount owed faster.
  • Pay off loans/debts with the highest interest rates first.
  • You might consider paying off a debt with another loan if the new loan has a much lower interest rate.
  • When shopping online, leave the item in the cart for several days or weeks; the price may be lower or you may decide you don’t really need the item.
  • Consider bulk purchases with friends to qualify for free shipping.
  • Take advantage of seasonal sales.
  • Unsubscribe from email offers.
  • Avoid household clutter to save time and money.
  • Cook your own meals; online videos and recipes offer fast, easy meals.
  • Talk to others for investment advice.

For additional information on personal finance hacks, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students tell their personal experience with tech, travel, or personal finance hacks.
  • Have students create a video to dramatize various personal finance hacks.

Discussion Questions 

  1. How would you decide if a personal hack will be of value to you?
  2. Describe actions that might be used to communicate personal finance hacks to others.
Categories: Chapter 1, Chapter 3, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Financial Planning, Wise Shopping | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Car Subscription Services

The opportunity to change cars like you change clothes is now possible.  For a monthly fee, car subscription services are an alternative to motor vehicle buying and leasing.

With an upfront fee is usually involved, the monthly fee covers the car payment, insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance.  Subscribers can manage their plan online with the vehicle delivered to your home.

Car manufacturers that offer this service are Cadillac, Ford, Volvo and Porsche. Other companies specializing in offering a variety of makes and models are Fair, Flexdrive, Clutch and Carma.

Unlike leasing for 24 or 36 months, car subscription can be for as short as a month. However, some programs require a two-year contract, and only allow a trade-in (exchange) after 12 months.

The greatest benefit is the “negotiation-free” way of obtaining a car. And, if you don’t like the car, you can get a different vehicle. Car subscribers are reminded it’s not your car.  Smoking is usually prohibited and pets should be kept in carriers.  Not all cars are brand new but most are low mileage and less than six years old.

For additional information on car subscriptions, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to two or three others to obtain their opinions on the benefits and concerns of car subscription services.
  • Have students compare cost of various car subscription services with buying or leasing a vehicle.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What do you believe are the benefits and drawbacks of using a car subscription service?
  2. Describe life situations that might be most attracted to using a car subscription service.
Categories: Chapter 6, Chapter 8, Wise Shopping | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Could usage-based car insurance save you money?

  1. How does it work?

Most usage-based car insurance policies have you plug a small device into your car’s diagnostic port, which is usually under the dashboard.  Others use cell phone connections or apps.  All of them send information about your driving to your insurer.

  1. Is it a good deal?

It could lower your premium if you drive safely and don’t drive lots of miles.

  1. How about my privacy?

There are many privacy issues to consider related to these types of policies.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  1. Ask students to find out if their car insurer offers usage-based insurance.
  2. Under what circumstance will you consider purchasing usage-based car insurance?

Discussion Questions

  • What might be the purpose of using global positioning systems and other technology in determining the car insurance premiums?
  • Will younger drivers embrace the monitoring devices, especially when car chips allow parents to monitor the speed and braking habits of young drivers?
Categories: Car Insurance, Chapter 8 | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Preparing Your Finances for a Flood, Fire, or other Disaster: Having a Plan

Without warning, a flood, fire or other disaster could leave you with a severely damaged home, destroyed belongings and barriers to managing your finances.  Many people think of disaster preparedness as having a stockpile of water, canned food, and flashlights, but people also need access to cash and financial services.  That’s why it is important to include financial preparedness in your disaster plans.  Here is the latest summary of important preparations.

You should have enough insurance to cover the cost to replace or repair your home, car and other valuable property, as well as temporary housing if you are displaced from your home.  Those who do not own a home should have renters insurance.  Also, make sure that you have the right coverage for the types of disasters likely to occur in your area.  For example, homeowner’s insurance does not typically cover events such as flooding or earthquakes, so you may want to consider whether you need additional coverage.

  • Periodically review your insurance coverage
  • Build and maintain an emergency savings fund
  • Sign up for direct deposit of your paycheck or government benefits
  • Gather and organize important documents

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to prepare a household inventory with a description and the value of belongings.
  • Help students understand that renter’s insurance is important for the protection it provides for their personal property.

Discussion Questions

  1. How can you protect yourself from flood, fire or other natural disasters?
  2. Should you consider purchasing flood-related insurance if you don’t live in a coastal area? Why or why not?
  3. Why is it important to gather and organize important documents before a disaster strikes?
Categories: Chapter 8, Home Insurance, insurance | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Auto Insurance Resources

Having adequate auto insurance and determining what coverages are needed are fundamental for avoiding financial difficulties. Consumer Action (www.consumer-action.org) offers a variety of materials related to shopping for auto insurance, managing auto insurance costs, and obtaining assistance when encountering trouble when filing a claim.

These resources includes downloadable publications on the basics of auto insurance in English, Spanish, Korean, and Vietnamese. Also available are PowerPoint slides and lessons plans.

For additional information on auto insurance resources, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students develop actions that can reduce the cost of auto insurance.
  • Have students create a video that demonstrates financial problems associated with not having adequate auto insurance.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What are information sources that might be used to become better informed on auto insurance?
  2. How might a person reduce the cost of auto insurance?
Categories: Car Insurance, Chapter 8, insurance, Wise Shopping | Tags: | Leave a comment

The One Financial Mistake that Could Cost Homeowners a Bundle

“Interest rates have bounced around historical lows for years, yet a surprising number of homeowners who could benefit from a refinancing still haven’t taken advantage of the potential cost savings.”

In this article, Marine Cole points out some surprising facts about interest rates and the reasons why people don’t refinance their homes.  According to Ms. Cole and other experts, some people are simply unaware of their current rate or don’t have the get-up-and gumption to refinance.  Other factors include procrastination, mistrust, and the inability to understand complex decisions may also be barriers to refinancing.

The article also points out that the decision to refinance could result in thousands of dollars in savings for the homeowner.  For example, refinancing a 30-year, $200,000 mortgage from 6.5 percent to a current rate of 3.35 percent will save approximately $130,000 in interest payments over the life of the loan.

For more information, click here

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Stress the importance of making sound financial decisions not only when buying or refinancing a home, but other aspects of your financial life.
  • Discuss the reasons mentioned in this article that describe why people would not refinance and take advantage of lower interest rates for buying or refinancing a home.

Discussion Questions

  1. How important is comparing interest rates when either purchasing a home or refinancing an existing home mortgage?
  2. According to this article, there are many reasons why people don’t refinance their home. If you were refinancing a home mortgage, what would be your major obstacle to refinancing an existing home mortgage?  How could you overcome this obstacle?
  3. Assuming you had a chance to refinance your home and save $100,000 over the life of the loan, would you refinance? Explain the factors that would influence your decision.
Categories: Chapter 8, Financing a Home, Home Buying | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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