Consumer Affairs http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/4809/all en-US How to Protect Your Retirement Account From a Hack http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-protect-your-retirement-account-from-a-hack <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-protect-your-retirement-account-from-a-hack" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/young_man_using_a_laptop.jpg" alt="Young man using a laptop" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Unlike your bank accounts that are protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for losses up to $250,000, there is no such universal protection for your retirement funds. If you get hacked, thieves can gain access to your retirement account and transfer funds into their own pockets.</p> <p>What would happen if your investment account was hacked and funds were stolen? Many brokerages have customer protection guarantees in case of unauthorized account activity, but customers are responsible for taking certain action before and after the hack to qualify for reimbursement of stolen funds.</p> <p>Investment brokerage policies vary on the subject of restoring losses from unauthorized activities. In general, customers are responsible for promptly detecting and notifying the brokerage of unauthorized activity, and for showing that the security lapse was not their fault.</p> <p>Here are steps you can take to protect your retirement account.</p> <h2>Monitor investment accounts</h2> <p>Unlike a checking account or credit card account that is typically monitored fairly closely, a transfer from an investment account can easily go unnoticed for months until a quarterly statement. The first step in getting funds restored to your retirement account after a hack is to notify the brokerage that unauthorized activity has occurred.</p> <p>Instead of waiting for a quarterly account statement in the mail, you can access your account electronically to check for unexpected activity. Some brokers allow you to set up alerts and receive notifications by email if a transaction has processed.</p> <h2>Protect account access credentials</h2> <p>There are several important security measures you can take to prevent a thief from accessing your retirement account.</p> <h3>1. Set up two-step verification</h3> <p>An easy way to boost the security of your access credentials is to sign up for two-step verification with your brokerage. This means that in addition to your password, you&rsquo;ll need a one-time numeric code that is sent to you via text message or email when you try to log in. This adds a layer of security; simply having your login and password is not enough for a thief to gain access to your account.</p> <h3>2. Beware of phishing scams</h3> <p>Criminals often send out emails that appear to be legitimate asking for login information. They may also try to trick you into clicking on a link that leads to a fake website designed to capture your username and password when you try to log in. Some internet security products verify that websites are authentic and post a warning when you try to access unconfirmed sites, in order to provide protection from phishing. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-avoid-phishing-scams?ref=seealso" target="_blank">How to Avoid Phishing Scams</a>)</p> <h3>3. Don't sign in on a public Wi-Fi connection</h3> <p>Avoid using public computers to access your retirement account, and avoid logging in over an unsecured Wi-Fi connection. You should also avoid reusing the same password for multiple accounts.</p> <h3>4. Don't share your login with anyone</h3> <p>Think twice before sharing your access credentials with others, even companies such as Mint or Personal Capital that use your login to help monitor your account. If a company that has your login information gets hacked, and your access credentials are stolen and used to drain your account, this loss may <em>not</em> be covered by the recovery policy of your broker. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/stop-making-these-8-risky-password-mistakes?Ref=seealso" target="_blank">Stop Making These 8 Risky Password Mistakes</a>)</p> <h2>Secure your computer</h2> <p>Hackers can steal retirement account access credentials directly from your computer. Install anti-virus and anti-malware software, including a firewall, to prevent thieves from breaking in. Use a login for your computer to keep others from accessing your files. After a hack, investigators from the brokerage may want to examine your computer to see that you were using reasonable security features when determining whether you were at fault for the hack.</p> <h2>Policies of major brokers for hacked accounts</h2> <p>Account restoration policies in response to unauthorized activity vary by broker. Following are links to policies at major firms so you can check to see what is required to get retirement funds restored after a hack.</p> <ul> <li> <p><a href="https://www.fidelity.com/security/customer-protection-guarantee" target="_blank">Fidelity</a></p> </li> <li> <p><a href="http://www.schwab.com/public/schwab/nn/legal_compliance/schwabsafe/security_guarantee.html" target="_blank">Charles Schwab</a></p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://www.scottrade.com/documents/pdf/osc.pdf" target="_blank">Scottrade</a></p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://personal.vanguard.com/us/help/SecurityOnlineFraudPledgeContent.jsp" target="_blank">Vanguard</a></p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://us.etrade.com/e/t/home/securityguarantee" target="_blank">E*trade</a></p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://www.tdameritrade.com/security/asset-protection-guarantee.page" target="_blank">TD Ameritrade</a></p> </li> </ul> <p>In general, you are responsible for monitoring and protecting your own retirement account by keeping your password secure and taking reasonable security precautions on your computer or other devices. If the hack and resulting loss occurs due to breach of the brokerage's computer system, you'll likely get your funds restored based on the policies of most brokerages.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dr-penny-pincher">Dr Penny Pincher</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-protect-your-retirement-account-from-a-hack">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dont-panic-do-this-if-your-identity-gets-stolen">Don&#039;t Panic: Do This If Your Identity Gets Stolen</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-protect-your-child-from-identity-theft">How to Protect Your Child From Identity Theft</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-protect-elderly-loved-ones-from-financial-scams">How to Protect Elderly Loved Ones From Financial Scams</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-ways-to-keep-your-private-info-private">10 Ways to Keep Your Private Info Private</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/phishing-scams-continue-to-plague-social-media-sites">Phishing Scams Continue to Plague Social Media Sites</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Consumer Affairs Retirement fraud identity theft passwords phishing protections retirement accounts scams security breach stolen funds Wed, 08 Nov 2017 09:00:09 +0000 Dr Penny Pincher 2048695 at http://www.wisebread.com How to Get Your Money Back When You’re Denied a Refund http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-get-your-money-back-when-you-re-denied-a-refund <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-get-your-money-back-when-you-re-denied-a-refund" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/angry_student_talking_on_phone_with_customer_service.jpg" alt="Angry student talking on phone with customer service" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Sometimes a credit card transaction just doesn't go well. You might receive an item that doesn't match the description. The item could arrive broken, or your item might never arrive at all.</p> <p>When there are problems with a transaction, most merchants will work with you to resolve your issue and make you a happy customer. But what can you do if they refuse to give you a refund?</p> <p>I recently called a merchant for help resolving an issue with a purchase I made. The customer service representative said they had done all they could do and they would not be able to resolve my issue. I asked to speak to a supervisor, and was told that there was no supervisor I could speak with. When a merchant denies your request for a refund, it may seem that there's nowhere else to turn. But if you used a credit card to pay, you have a powerful tool that you can use &mdash; the chargeback. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-return-items-through-your-credit-card-if-the-store-refuses?ref=seealso" target="_blank">How to Return Items Through Your Credit Card If the Store Refuses</a>)</p> <h2>What is a chargeback?</h2> <p>Your credit card company can remove a charge from your credit card statement if the charge is fraudulent, was made in error, or if you did not receive the item you were promised. A chargeback can be used to resolve issues with a transaction even if a merchant does not cooperate or respond to your complaint. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-awesome-credit-card-tricks-that-will-save-you-money?ref=seealso" target="_blank">6 Awesome Credit Card Tricks That Will Save You Money</a>)</p> <h2>What are the requirements to pursue a chargeback?</h2> <p>The legal basis for reversing credit card charges in disputed transactions is established by the <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/fcb.pdf" target="_blank">Fair Credit Billing Act</a>. Some of the basic requirements for disputing a credit card charge and getting a chargeback are:</p> <ul> <li> <p>A valid reason to reverse a credit charge such as billing error, fraudulent charge, incorrect item, or damaged item.</p> </li> <li> <p>The customer must dispute the charge within 60 days of when the statement was sent, although some credit card companies have policies that allow customers more time to file a complaint.</p> </li> <li> <p>The credit card company may request that the customer attempt to resolve an issue relating to goods with the merchant first before proceeding to dispute a credit charge.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>How long does it take to get your money back?</h2> <p>After you contact your credit card company to dispute a charge, a conditional refund may appear on your statement immediately while the issue is being investigated. If the investigation does not result in overturning your claim, the refund will stand. The investigation can take several weeks to complete while the merchant has the opportunity to produce documentation to substantiate the credit charge. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-get-a-refund-when-something-is-non-refundable?ref=seealso" target="_blank">How to Get a Refund When Something Is Non-Refundable</a>)</p> <h2>How to get a chargeback</h2> <h3>Step 1. Document it</h3> <p>Collecting documentation of your issue with a transaction will help you resolve it successfully. If you receive an item that is damaged, take pictures as you unbox it. If you receive the wrong item, take pictures of the item and save screen captures of the item description. Save any invoices and packing slips you received with the package or via email, as well.</p> <h3>Step 2. Contact the merchant</h3> <p>Call or email the merchant to describe your issue and state what you want the merchant to do to fix it. Document your communication with the merchant. Save copies of emails, and for phone calls note the date, time, phone number, name of the person you spoke with, and what the representative said.</p> <h3>Step 3. Initiate a credit dispute</h3> <p>If the merchant does not resolve your issue, contact your credit card company to dispute the credit charge and initiate the chargeback process. You may need to initiate the dispute within 60 days of the purchase, depending on your credit card company's policy.</p> <h3>Step 4. Document your complaint</h3> <p>Your credit card company may ask you to complete forms describing the reason you are disputing the credit charge and to provide copies of invoices and other documentation to support your complaint. Keep copies of all forms and documents that you provide.</p> <h2>What if the chargeback is rejected?</h2> <p>If the merchant provides evidence that the credit charge was legitimate, the chargeback may be rejected. At this point, the credit charge will reappear on your statement. If you want to take further measures to resolve your issue, you could request a &quot;Claims and Defenses&quot; chargeback if you have an issue with the quality of goods or services that you received on a credit charge.</p> <p>Depending on the nature of your claim, the next step after attempting a chargeback may be to seek legal advice and contact the merchant again to request resolution. The merchant may be motivated to resolve your issue to avoid a lawsuit if they think you have a strong case.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Fhow-to-get-your-money-back-when-you-re-denied-a-refund&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2FHow%2520to%2520Get%2520Your%2520Money%2520Back%2520When%2520You%25E2%2580%2599re%2520Denied%2520a%2520Refund.jpg&amp;description=How%20to%20Get%20Your%20Money%20Back%20When%20You%E2%80%99re%20Denied%20a%20Refund"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/How%20to%20Get%20Your%20Money%20Back%20When%20You%E2%80%99re%20Denied%20a%20Refund.jpg" alt="How to Get Your Money Back When You&rsquo;re Denied a Refund" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dr-penny-pincher">Dr Penny Pincher</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-get-your-money-back-when-you-re-denied-a-refund">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/cheat-sheet-retail-markup-on-common-items">Cheat Sheet: Retail Markup on Common Items</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-misleading-gadget-marketing-gimmicks">8 Misleading Gadget Marketing Gimmicks</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-classic-impulse-buys-we-need-to-stop-falling-for">10 Classic Impulse Buys We Need to Stop Falling For</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-questions-to-ask-before-buying-refurbished-appliances">4 Questions to Ask Before Buying Refurbished Appliances</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-common-shopping-myths-debunked">6 Common Shopping Myths, Debunked</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Consumer Affairs Shopping chargeback credit dispute getting a refund how to get a refund refund shopping tips transactions Mon, 30 Oct 2017 09:00:06 +0000 Dr Penny Pincher 2041945 at http://www.wisebread.com Watch Out for These 10 Red Flags With Vacation Rentals http://www.wisebread.com/watch-out-for-these-10-red-flags-with-vacation-rentals <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/watch-out-for-these-10-red-flags-with-vacation-rentals" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/this_room_is_amazing.jpg" alt="This room is amazing" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Vacation rentals are being made widely available these days, especially with the advent of rental sites like Airbnb. Almost anyone, anywhere, can rent their home to you, and that means you have many more choices. But it also means you have a lot more people looking to take advantage of you. Make sure you do your research before you book.</p> <h2>1. Photos of unmade beds and untidy rooms</h2> <p>If you're looking through the gallery of a prospective vacation rental, coming across unmade beds, sinks full of dishes, and cluttered surface areas is a massive red flag. These photos are the owner's chance to put their best foot forward. It's their opportunity to show you just how good the property will be to stay in. If they cannot be bothered to make beds, load the dishwasher, and clean up the counters, you've got one lazy owner on your hands. And where there are lazy owners, there are all kinds of other problems. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-about-a-terrible-airbnb-stay?ref=seealso" target="_blank">What to Do About a Terrible Airbnb Stay</a>)</p> <h2>2. Suspiciously-absent photos of some rooms (or no photos at all)</h2> <p>Todd Barry, a fantastic comedian, does a bit about this and living in New York.</p> <p><em>&quot;I had a realtor send me a link of a place to look at&hellip; there were four pictures of the apartment. Three of the exterior of the building, and a picture of the stove. I don't think those guys with the camera were looking at an awesome living room going, 'no, let's not play all our cards&hellip; oohh, nice paper towel rack.'&quot;</em></p> <p>Basically, if there aren't pictures of every room, they don't want you to see them for some reason. If there are no photos at all, you're just asking for trouble.</p> <h2>3. The price is way too good to be true</h2> <p>If it looks too good to be true, it usually is. If you're looking around and see average prices of $1,000 per week in one area, and then out of nowhere a $600 listing shows up, you should ask yourself why. Is it possible that this is an old couple that doesn't really care about profit and just wants to see people happy? Doubtful. More likely, the price is part of a bait-n-switch scam, or some other kind of offer that comes with all kinds of baggage. &quot;Well, yeah, it's $600, unless you were planning on using the bathrooms and the kitchen. Oh, you were? That'll be $1,100 then.&quot; By all means investigate the lower prices, but too low is a warning sign of a nightmare coming your way. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-cities-where-airbnb-is-way-cheaper-than-a-hotel?ref=seealso" target="_blank">5 Cities Where Airbnb Is Way Cheaper Than a Hotel</a>)</p> <h2>4. The listing is filled with inaccuracies</h2> <p>This can come in many forms. First, look for the obvious grammatical errors. One or two in places that make sense are fine (such as autocorrect assuming a different word), but when the text is just filled with awful grammar, sentences that are illogical, and sayings that just sound a bit off, this could be the <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-vile-craigslist-scams-to-watch-out-for?ref=internal" target="_blank">sign of a scam</a>. Also, look for other inaccuracies, such as stating the home has three bedrooms in the title, but lists only two in the main body of the ad.</p> <h2>5. The description of the rental is very &quot;creative&quot;</h2> <p>The camera absolutely lies to you, and with a good fisheye lens or sharp angle, a vacation rental the size of a shoe box can be made to look roomy. On top of that, the owner may get a little tricky with the descriptions, and you should be sure you know what you're getting yourself into. &quot;Minimalist&quot; is often used to describe a place with a lot of bare walls. &quot;Cozy&quot; or &quot;snug&quot; could be a red flag that the place is very small. &quot;Quaint&quot; or &quot;old-world charm&quot; is sometimes a way to describe a house in need of repairs, or very out of date. &quot;Vibrant neighborhood&quot; is code for loud, busy, and chaotic; so expect 1 a.m. revelry outside. If you see a lot of these descriptions, and a lack of clear photographs, steer clear.</p> <h2>6. You are asked to wire the payment</h2> <p>Who wires money anywhere these days, with PayPal, Venmo, and credit cards so readily available? There is usually a good reason the owner has requested a wire transfer, but it's not good for you. Wire transfers cannot be reversed once the recipient has collected the cash, and they are also very difficult to trace. In this case, you may be getting conned by someone trying to rent out a property that either isn't theirs, or doesn't exist. In both cases, you could turn up to a property with all your bags, and have nowhere to stay. Always use a guaranteed, safe, traceable method of payment.</p> <h2>7. There are only a few reviews</h2> <p>We are all different, we all like different things, and we all have different tastes. Go to any kind of review site, like Yelp or TripAdvisor, and you'll see a range of comments and reviews from customers. Usually, you want to see many reviews with an average up in the fours. If your budget dictates something less, threes are OK, if there are plenty of reviews stating why. But if you see only two or three reviews that are short and perfect, with five out of five, take heed. This could be a place that has not been genuinely reviewed yet, and these are left by anonymous reviewers who are probably related to (or are) the owner. Some places will be brand-new on the market, so it's unfair to expect a mass of reviews for those. But if they're honest about it, you're in much better shape. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-vacation-rental-alternatives-to-airbnb?ref=seealso" target="_blank">10 Vacation Rental Alternatives to Airbnb</a>)</p> <h2>8. The owner is not easy to get hold of</h2> <p>Most people who are managing vacation rentals are very responsive. This is, after all, a customer service business. So if you are having trouble calling or emailing the owner, you should find out why. For example, if you're sending out emails in the afternoon, but get replies in the middle of the night, that's a sign the owner is in a different time zone. This could be good if you're renting a place in France and you're in Ohio. But if you're renting a place in Florida, the manager should be able to respond during business hours. Check the email address, too. Is it something normal, like a name or business? Or is it some bizarre collection of letters and numbers? If so, it could be an auto-generated email address belonging to a scammer. And if you call and call and never get an answer, something is very wrong.</p> <h2>9. There's no specific address for the property</h2> <p>Scam artists are everywhere, and vacation rentals are no exception. If you cannot look up the address of the property and do your research, you've got a problem. The owner of a vacation rental may say in the ad that they don't want to publish it due to safety and security reasons, and that's up to them. But if you contact the owner and are still not given an address, something fishy is going on. Google maps makes it easy to scope out almost any place, and if it's not covered by that, there should be other references to it. If you're dealing with a scam of some kind, the scammer will know you'll want to do your research and will therefore not disclose it until you have sent money. After that point, you may never hear from them again, or you'll be given the address to a property that doesn't exist, or was pulled from another listing.</p> <h2>10. The contract has some worrying clauses</h2> <p>If you actually get to the stage of signing some kind of contract, read it carefully. Sometimes you'll come across some language that could leave you out of pocket, or even out of a place to stay. You will no doubt have to put down some kind of refundable security deposit, which protects the owner of the property should you go all metal band and trash the place. But if is says &quot;non-refundable security deposit&quot; or &quot;cleaning services will be deducted from your security deposit,&quot; that's a good enough reason to back out and renegotiate. You may even come across language that states the home must be vacated should the owner wish to return at any time. So, don't sign anything that you have not read thoroughly, or do not agree with.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Fwatch-out-for-these-10-red-flags-with-vacation-rentals&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2FWatch%2520Out%2520for%2520These%252010%2520Red%2520Flags%2520With%2520Vacation%2520Rentals.jpg&amp;description=Watch%20Out%20for%20These%2010%20Red%20Flags%20With%20Vacation%20Rentals"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/Watch%20Out%20for%20These%2010%20Red%20Flags%20With%20Vacation%20Rentals.jpg" alt="Watch Out for These 10 Red Flags With Vacation Rentals" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/paul-michael">Paul Michael</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/watch-out-for-these-10-red-flags-with-vacation-rentals">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-about-a-terrible-airbnb-stay">What to Do About a Terrible Airbnb Stay</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/13-things-i-learned-from-renting-out-my-home-on-airbnb">13 Things I Learned From Renting Out My Home on Airbnb</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-make-sure-youre-getting-a-deal-with-groupon-getaway">How to Make Sure You&#039;re Getting a Deal With Groupon Getaway</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/stay-secure-in-your-hotel-with-this-8-point-safety-check">Stay Secure in Your Hotel With This 8-Point Safety Check</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-should-you-do-when-a-natural-disaster-spoils-your-travel-plans">What Should You Do When a Natural Disaster Spoils Your Travel Plans?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Consumer Affairs Travel AirBnb booking a vacation rental condo timeshare travel tips vacation rentals vacation tips Mon, 23 Oct 2017 09:00:11 +0000 Paul Michael 2039975 at http://www.wisebread.com Stay Secure in Your Hotel With This 8-Point Safety Check http://www.wisebread.com/stay-secure-in-your-hotel-with-this-8-point-safety-check <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/stay-secure-in-your-hotel-with-this-8-point-safety-check" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/young_woman_opens_curtains_to_look_at_the_view_from.jpg" alt="Young woman opens curtains to look at the view from" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>We don't ask for much from hotels &mdash; a clean and comfortable environment, a decent night's sleep, and a basic level of personal security. Sadly, standards for each vary wildly &mdash; even at upscale establishments. Though we can usually cope with a lumpy mattress and lousy water pressure, safety and security are nonnegotiable. So, the next time you're traveling, focus on what's most important. Here are eight things you need to check in your hotel room as soon as you get inside.</p> <h2>1. Are you alone?</h2> <p>Maybe I watch too much late night TV, but the first thing I check in every hotel room is occupancy. Is there someone hiding in the closet? In the shower? On the balcony? Hey, when it comes to staying safe, a little extra vigilance never hurt anyone.</p> <h2>2. Do all door and window locks work?</h2> <p>Though they're sometimes pretty flimsy, locks are the primary barrier between you and an intruder. Check to make sure door and window locks are functional. If there's an adjoining room, secure your side of the entryway with a deadbolt. For added security when traveling, invest in a <a href="http://amzn.to/2xnn9pK" target="_blank">portable door lock</a> or door wedge &mdash; each is designed to prevent doors from opening inward. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/vacation-safe-11-tips-for-hotel-safety?ref=seealso" target="_blank">Vacation Safe: 11 Tips for Hotel Safety</a>).</p> <h2>3. Is the smoke detector functional?</h2> <p>Don't assume that smoke detector in your hotel room is in good working order. First, check to make sure the alarm contains batteries, and then give it a quick test. (Remember, hitting that &quot;test&quot; button can be a noisy affair, so reserve it for daylight hours.)</p> <h2>4. Does the landline phone work?</h2> <p>If there's an issue in the middle of the night, picking up the landline and dialing &quot;0&quot; is a lot quicker than fumbling for your smartphone. Make sure the landline phone is plugged in and functional, as cords often get pulled from the jacks during vacuuming.</p> <h2>5. Is there a clear emergency exit route?</h2> <p>If your mom is anything like mine, you've been trained to mentally map out an emergency escape route no matter where you are. Make Mom proud. Familiarize yourself with the fire escape map on the back of your hotel room door, and then scan the room and the hallways to determine the quickest path to safety in case of emergency.</p> <h2>6. Is the bedding clean and bedbug free?</h2> <p>For its size, no creature strikes more fear in our hearts than the bedbug. And with good reason. Bedbugs are insidious and trying to get rid of them is a total nightmare.</p> <p>Before settling into your room, store your luggage in the bathtub (creepy crawlies are less likely to thrive on solid, frequently cleaned surfaces), and then conduct a thorough, <a href="https://www.epa.gov/bedbugs/how-find-bed-bugs" target="_blank">EPA-endorsed bedbug check</a>. If you spot anything questionable, grab your bags and bug out.</p> <h2>7. What are the exterior spaces like?</h2> <p>Exterior access is the forgotten factor in hotel security. Think like a criminal. How easy would it be for someone to access your room via a deck or connected balcony? What barriers would a person encounter from above, from below, or from each side? Are there deterrents in place such as high railings, security lighting, cameras, or a well-traveled walkway? Make sure you scan for these barriers once you arrive.</p> <h2>8. Is there an in-room safe?</h2> <p>If you're traveling with valuables, make sure your room has a safe. Though there's sometimes a modest daily charge for their use, safes add an extra layer of protection to your belongings by keeping them locked away from prying eyes and sticky fingers. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-avoid-theft-while-traveling?ref=seealso" target="_blank">How to Avoid Theft While Traveling</a>)</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Fstay-secure-in-your-hotel-with-this-8-point-safety-check&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2FStay%2520Secure%2520in%2520Your%2520Hotel%2520With%2520This%25208-Point%2520Safety%2520Check.jpg&amp;description=Stay%20Secure%20in%20Your%20Hotel%20With%20This%208-Point%20Safety%20Check"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/Stay%20Secure%20in%20Your%20Hotel%20With%20This%208-Point%20Safety%20Check.jpg" alt="Stay Secure in Your Hotel With This 8-Point Safety Check" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/kentin-waits">Kentin Waits</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/stay-secure-in-your-hotel-with-this-8-point-safety-check">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-about-a-terrible-airbnb-stay">What to Do About a Terrible Airbnb Stay</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/watch-out-for-these-10-red-flags-with-vacation-rentals">Watch Out for These 10 Red Flags With Vacation Rentals</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-should-you-do-when-a-natural-disaster-spoils-your-travel-plans">What Should You Do When a Natural Disaster Spoils Your Travel Plans?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-if-you-get-bumped-from-a-flight">What to Do If You Get Bumped From a Flight</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-cash-in-on-getting-bumped-from-a-flight">How to Cash In On Getting Bumped From a Flight</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Consumer Affairs Travel accommodations hotel booking hotel room hotel safe travel safety travel tips Thu, 12 Oct 2017 08:00:07 +0000 Kentin Waits 2035052 at http://www.wisebread.com What Should You Do When a Natural Disaster Spoils Your Travel Plans? http://www.wisebread.com/what-should-you-do-when-a-natural-disaster-spoils-your-travel-plans <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/what-should-you-do-when-a-natural-disaster-spoils-your-travel-plans" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/tired_in_the_airport.jpg" alt="Tired in the airport" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>No matter where on the globe you're traveling to, there's a possibility a natural disaster or man-made tragedy could ruin your plans. Maybe you're staring down a hurricane like this year's Harvey, Maria, or Irma &ndash; or a volcanic eruption like the one supposedly brewing in Bali. Acts of terrorism &mdash; shootings, bombings, and the like &mdash; are just as likely to affect your trip, or at least make you think twice about traveling.</p> <p>But, what do you do when one of these tragedies inconveniently falls right in the midst of an upcoming trip? Do you cancel? And if you do cancel, are you deserving of a refund?</p> <p>The answer is complicated. The financials of canceling or rerouting your trip depend a lot on how you booked and the severity of the tragedy. However, a few general rules of thumb can help you understand the process.</p> <h2>The way you booked your trip matters</h2> <p>First things first. The manner in which you booked and paid for your trip matters a great deal when it comes to who you should contact to cancel and how your situation will be handled.</p> <p>If you booked a vacation package with a third-party travel booking service like Expedia or Travelocity, for example, you'll want to contact them right away. If you booked your hotel, flights, and rental car separately, on the other hand, you'll need to call each individual vendor to explore your options.</p> <p>Hotels tend to be the most lenient of all travel vendors, especially if you've booked through the hotel directly. You may also have some leeway with rooms booked through third-party sites &mdash; that is, as long as you didn't book a non-refundable rate. While all hotels and resorts have their own unique terms and conditions, many let you cancel without penalty up to a few weeks or even a few days before your trip.</p> <p>Read through your reservation to find the cancellation terms, then cancel quickly if you can. If you're beyond the cancellation window, calling your hotel's customer service line can help. In the midst of a natural disaster or an impending one, they may be willing to let you cancel without penalty. Or, they might be willing to shift your reservation to another hotel.</p> <p>Flights can be a lot trickier, but it depends on your carrier and the specific disaster at hand. Right before Hurricane Irma this year, my husband and I were scheduled to fly into Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. The hotel told us not to come, but we had trouble canceling our flights. First, American Airlines told us that we wouldn't get a refund unless the flight was actually canceled. The day before the trip &mdash; with a Category 4 hurricane barreling through the Caribbean &mdash; they said to show up at the airport. They also said we had the option of changing our flights after paying a $150 change fee <em>per person</em>.</p> <p>But when I called back the same night, they relented and offered a travel credit good for another trip if we booked within six months. After another call the next day, however, they said they would convert the travel credit into the original form of payment, which was 57,500 American AAdvantage miles for one flight.</p> <p>The bottom line: Airline policies aren't always set in stone, and you're not always entitled to a full refund unless your flight is canceled altogether. So, call your airline early and ask about your options. And if you don't hear what you want, hang up and call back later.</p> <h2>Cruises may offer several options</h2> <p>If your cruise was impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, your options will vary quite a bit based on your cruise itinerary, port of departure, and how you paid. It also depends on your cruise line's individual cancellation policy.</p> <p>With Carnival Cruise Line, for example, canceled cruises qualify for a cash refund or credit for another cruise. Some cruise lines also ran shortened itineraries to avoid hurricanes this year, only to give customers a partial refund for the days they missed.</p> <p>Cruise lines also retain the option to change your itinerary for any reason. So, if you have a cruise scheduled to stop in an area with severe damage, your cruise line may alter your itinerary so you stop elsewhere that day. Instead of stopping in storm-ravaged St. Maarten, for example, you could spend that day at the port in nearby St. Kitts instead.</p> <p>If you have a Caribbean cruise planned for later this year and are worried about going, check your cruise booking to see if you have the option to cancel.</p> <h2>Can travel insurance help?</h2> <p>If you have travel insurance, it can be a real game-changer. While you can buy your own travel insurance policy, you can also get some types of travel insurance through a <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/top-5-travel-reward-credit-cards?ref=internal" target="_blank">travel rewards credit card.</a></p> <p>With trip interruption and cancellation insurance from one credit card issuer, for example, the cardholder and their immediate family qualifies for up to $10,000 per covered trip and a maximum limit of $20,000 per occurrence if their trip is canceled or interrupted for a &quot;covered reason.&quot; Covered reasons include not only illness or injury, but also severe weather and terrorist acts.</p> <p>Keep in mind, however, that in order to be covered by your credit card's policy, you have to use that card to pay for your trip. Just being a cardholder is not enough. And, as always, make sure to read the fine print and terms and conditions to see what's covered.</p> <p>Individual travel insurance policies also offer various forms of coverage for natural disasters or unforeseen travel emergencies, with limits that vary from policy to policy. Make sure to read your policy's terms and conditions to see if canceling your trip is covered &mdash; or if you're better off using the coverage offered by your credit card. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-types-of-travel-insurance-credit-cards-include-that-you-didnt-know-about?ref=seealso" target="_blank">6 Types of Travel Insurance Credit Cards Include</a>)</p> <h2>How do you deal with an act of terrorism?</h2> <p>Acts of terrorism are harder to plan for and plan around, which means travel vendors may be less likely to bend the rules to provide a refund. You may know a hurricane is headed toward your travel destination a week before it hits, but nobody can predict a bombing or a terrorist attack.</p> <p>If an event of this nature takes place, you're at the mercy of your travel vendors in terms of whether they will provide a refund or not. If your flight isn't canceled, it's unlikely you'll have any options other than paying a change fee to switch up your itinerary.</p> <p>If you booked with a hotel that has a generous cancellation policy, on the other hand, you may be able to cancel up until the day before your trip. But, if you don't &mdash; or if you booked a nonrefundable hotel stay &mdash; you may be out of luck.</p> <p>Of course, you may be able to cancel your trip and get a refund via a travel insurance policy, but you have to own the policy before the act of terrorism takes place. You can't wait for something to happen, then purchase a policy. If you paid for your trip with a credit card that offers trip cancellation/interruption coverage, on the other hand, you may already be covered.</p> <h2>The bottom line</h2> <p>Because each event or disaster is different, there are no hard and fast rules that govern how cancellations and refunds are handled. Travel vendors are usually dealing with disasters on a day-by-day basis too, meaning they aren't always sure how things will pan out, either. The best thing you can do when a disaster threatens your plans is keep the lines of communication open. Stay in touch with your airline or travel vendor and make sure you know your options.</p> <p>It also never hurts to have travel interruption/cancellation coverage, whether you purchase it on your own or use the coverage offered through a credit card. That way, you'll have peace of mind no matter what disaster strikes next.</p> <p>Also keep in mind that, if you're flexible, you can just forge ahead with your trip regardless of weather or damage. In hurricane-hit areas in the Caribbean especially, islands that rely heavily on tourism could use your dollars more than anything else. By sticking with your plans, you'll have the opportunity to give help where it's needed most. You can shop in the local markets and dine at local eateries, putting cash directly into the hands of those harmed in the process.</p> <p>You can even turn your trip into a volunteer opportunity. Contact a reputable charity or help organizations like <a href="https://www.hands.org/" target="_blank">All Hands Volunteers</a> to get assistance coordinating your volunteer activities on islands like St. Thomas and Puerto Rico.</p> <p>Trade your beach hat and tropical drink for a hard hat and shovel, and you could end up with a trip you'll never forget.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Fwhat-should-you-do-when-a-natural-disaster-spoils-your-travel-plans&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2FWhat%2520Should%2520You%2520Do%2520When%2520a%2520Natural%2520Disaster%2520Spoils%2520Your%2520Travel%2520Plans-.jpg&amp;description=What%20Should%20You%20Do%20When%20a%20Natural%20Disaster%20Spoils%20Your%20Travel%20Plans%3F"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/What%20Should%20You%20Do%20When%20a%20Natural%20Disaster%20Spoils%20Your%20Travel%20Plans-.jpg" alt="What Should You Do When a Natural Disaster Spoils Your Travel Plans?" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/holly-johnson">Holly Johnson</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-should-you-do-when-a-natural-disaster-spoils-your-travel-plans">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/watch-out-for-these-10-red-flags-with-vacation-rentals">Watch Out for These 10 Red Flags With Vacation Rentals</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/stay-secure-in-your-hotel-with-this-8-point-safety-check">Stay Secure in Your Hotel With This 8-Point Safety Check</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-about-a-terrible-airbnb-stay">What to Do About a Terrible Airbnb Stay</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-cash-in-on-getting-bumped-from-a-flight">How to Cash In On Getting Bumped From a Flight</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-if-you-get-bumped-from-a-flight">What to Do If You Get Bumped From a Flight</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Consumer Affairs Travel flight canceled hurricanes natural disaster travel tips tropical storm vacations Mon, 09 Oct 2017 08:30:08 +0000 Holly Johnson 2032525 at http://www.wisebread.com What Does Your Junk Mail Say About You? http://www.wisebread.com/what-does-your-junk-mail-say-about-you <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/what-does-your-junk-mail-say-about-you" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/businesswoman_reading_a_letter_at_office.jpg" alt="Businesswoman reading a letter at office" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Since it costs money to produce and mail marketing materials, most of the junk mail you receive does not end up in your mailbox by accident. Marketing companies target customers with junk mail based on information that leads them to believe you would be a good candidate for their offers. The companies that send junk mail use information such as credit history, credit card balances, mortgage information, and public records to find targets for their marketing materials. They also buy lists of potential customers that have recently purchased a certain type of item or signed up for a catalog in a product category.</p> <p>What does the type of junk mail you receive say about you?</p> <h2>You have high net worth</h2> <p>If the information available to marketers such as home value in your neighborhood or length of your credit history indicates that you have significant net worth or may be nearing retirement, you may get offers related to investment and retirement planning offers, invitations to free dinner events to learn about investment services, and offers to subscribe to investment newsletters.</p> <h2>You have good credit</h2> <p>People with good credit scores tend to get the best credit offers. If you have a high credit score, you might receive offers for rewards and travel credit cards, preapproved credit card offers with favorable terms, and balance transfer offers with low fees. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-questions-to-ask-before-accepting-a-credit-card-offer?ref=seealso" target="_blank">10 Questions to Ask Before Accepting a Credit Card Offer</a>)</p> <h2>You have poor credit or high debt</h2> <p>Credit offers with the least favorable terms are targeted to those with lower credit scores, since these people are more likely to take an offer with worse terms. Those with poor credit will typically get applications for credit cards with low &quot;teaser&quot; interest rates that go up, debt consolidation offers, and applications for credit cards with high interest rates, and high annual fees, as well.</p> <h2>You shop a lot</h2> <p>Many types of mail order purchases, online purchases, and orders from TV infomercials will get your name on catalog mailing lists that will be used to try to sell you related things, or even unrelated things.</p> <h2>You live in a good neighborhood</h2> <p>Some types of junk mail are sent to all residences in particular neighborhoods that are seen to be a good fit for what they are selling. You'll see lawn care and pest control services, high-end security alarm installation, and house cleaning deals addressed to you.</p> <h2>You're fixing up your house</h2> <p>Once you request information about one home improvement item, you'll likely start to get other offers as well, such as big ticket home improvement installations for doors, windows, siding, roofing, remodeling, and coupons from home improvement stores.</p> <h2>You bought a new car</h2> <p>If you buy a car from a dealer, your name can end up on a variety of mailing lists. Based on the date you purchased your car, you can get junk mail anticipating your next car purchase three or four years later. You'll get extended warranty offers, invitations for test drives, and contests you can enter if you stop by the car dealership.</p> <h2>You're an athlete or sports fan</h2> <p>If you buy sporting equipment by mail order or at a sporting goods store with delivery, your name and address can start to circulate on marketing lists for sporting goods, or fishing, hunting, and camping products.</p> <p>Or if you order tickets to watch your favorite sports team in action or sign up for a fan club, marketing companies will try to sell you other items related to your team, such as fan merchandise or event ticket offers.</p> <h2>You're a globe-trotter</h2> <p>Frequent travelers are a classic target for marketing via junk mail. If you're often seeing the world, once you get home you'll find vacation package offers, hotel club invitations, and frequent flyer program info in your mailbox. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-best-credit-card-perks-beyond-points-and-miles?ref=seealso" target="_blank">The Best Travel Credit Card Perks Beyond Points and Miles</a>)</p> <h2>What are the best junk mail offers?</h2> <p>While most junk mail really is junk &mdash; either promotions for stuff you don't need, or offers that aren't a good deal anyway &mdash; sometimes the market research behind the junk mail works out, and you get an offer for a product you need at a price that makes sense, such as:</p> <ul> <li> <p>Credit card offers</p> </li> <li> <p>Balance transfer offers</p> </li> <li> <p>Loyalty programs</p> </li> <li> <p>Bank bonus offers</p> </li> <li> <p>Coupons for products that you buy regularly</p> </li> </ul> <h2>Can you sell your junk mail?</h2> <p>There is a lot of information that can be gleaned by studying junk mail, so much so that you can actually get paid to send in your junk mail for analysis. A company called Small Business Knowledge Center (<a href="http://www.sbkcenter.com/consumer.html" target="_blank">SBKC</a>) processes junk mail to identify marketing strategies and provide competitive intelligence to their corporate clients. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/heres-how-to-earn-170-a-year-with-your-junk-mail?ref=seealso" target="_blank">Here's How to Earn $170 a Year With Your Junk Mail</a>)</p> <h2>How to get less junk mail</h2> <p>Many people don't find value in getting junk mail and would prefer not to waste the paper used to print it, or the time dealing with it. There are some actions you can take to cut down the amount of junk mail you receive.</p> <h3>OptOutPrescreen</h3> <p><a href="https://www.optoutprescreen.com/?rf=t" target="_blank">OptOutPrescreen</a> allows you to opt out of preapproved credit card offers. You will be asked to provide your social security number, but after you opt out, your name will not be reported in lists provided by the credit reporting companies to credit card marketers.</p> <h3>DMAchoice</h3> <p><a href="https://dmachoice.thedma.org/index.php" target="_blank">DMAchoice</a> is a service run by the Data &amp; Marketing Association (DMA) that allows you to cut down on the amount of direct mailings and catalogs you get. You can use their online tools to select which types of marketing materials you would like to receive &mdash; and which you don't want.</p> <h3>Catalog Choice</h3> <p>If you are plagued by too many catalogs filling your mailbox, <a href="https://www.catalogchoice.org/" target="_blank">Catalog Choice</a> is another resource to opt out of unwanted mailings. They will send opt out requests to merchants on your behalf for specific catalogs that you no longer want to get.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Fwhat-does-your-junk-mail-say-about-you&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2FWhat%2520Does%2520Your%2520Junk%2520Mail%2520Say%2520About%2520You-.jpg&amp;description=What%20Does%20Your%20Junk%20Mail%20Say%20About%20You%3F"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/What%20Does%20Your%20Junk%20Mail%20Say%20About%20You-.jpg" alt="What Does Your Junk Mail Say About You?" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dr-penny-pincher">Dr Penny Pincher</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-does-your-junk-mail-say-about-you">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-after-the-holidays-moves-your-credit-score-will-thank-you-for">5 After the Holidays Moves Your Credit Score Will Thank You For</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-common-budget-mistakes-you-can-fix-right-now">5 Common Budget Mistakes You Can Fix Right Now</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dealing-with-nasty-debt-collectors">Dealing with Nasty Debt Collectors</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/heres-how-too-many-decisions-costs-you-money">Here&#039;s How Too Many Decisions Costs You Money</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/debit-or-credit-which-one-should-you-choose-at-the-checkout">Debit Or Credit? Which One Should You Choose At The Checkout?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Budgeting Consumer Affairs bills credit score junk mail mail paperwork shopping habits spending habits Wed, 04 Oct 2017 08:30:11 +0000 Dr Penny Pincher 2030769 at http://www.wisebread.com How to Select a Charity to Donate to After a Natural Disaster http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-select-a-charity-to-donate-to-after-a-natural-disaster <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-select-a-charity-to-donate-to-after-a-natural-disaster" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/charity_donation_illustration_482378218.jpg" alt="Learning how to select a charity after a natural disaster" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>With the hurricane season we're having, there's no shortage of nonprofit organizations you can support with your dollars and time to aid people in need. But how do you know which organizations have the most impact and do the most good with the resources they have? Here's how to find the most reliable charities of which to donate. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-donating-money-is-the-best-thing-you-can-do-after-a-natural-disaster?ref=seealso" target="_blank">Why Donating Money Is the Best Thing You Can Do After a Natural Disaster</a>)</p> <h2>1. Utilize charity assessment tools</h2> <p>There are a number of sites that evaluate nonprofit programs and provide you with information on their efficiency and efficacy.&nbsp;<a href="https://charitynavigator.org/" target="_blank">Charity Navigator</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.givewell.org/" target="_blank">GiveWell</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="https://guidestar.org/" target="_blank">Guidestar</a> all evaluate nonprofit donations. One of their main metrics tells you the percentage of donations that goes to programs, and the percentage that goes to administration costs. While this metric is important, it's not the whole story, and comes with a very large caveat: for a charity to do its work, it must have administrative costs and overhead. Without talented people, a nonprofit can't do its best work, and like all employers, a nonprofit must compensate its employees for their skills. Use this metric as <em>one </em>input to your donation decision, but don't let it make the whole decision for you.</p> <h2>2. Check news stories</h2> <p>Before donating to a charity, check out the latest news stories on a particular charity with a simple Google search. You will likely find stories that highlight the work the organization is doing through its programs and hopefully you'll also discover some firsthand testimonials about the organization's impact. If there have been any recent scandals or shady activities, you'll find them here, too.</p> <h2>3. Review testimonials</h2> <p>Before making a donation, take a look at the organization's website to get a sense of their programs and staff. There is often a press section that showcases recent news releases with the latest news coming from the organization. It's also a good idea to check out the leadership team to determine if you feel they are good stewards of your gift. It's also worth taking a look at their board, major donors, and supporters, if they highlight them.</p> <p>Have they recently won a large grant or formed a reputable partnership? If so, it's another data point that can show someone has scrutinized their work and deemed it valuable. Like the administrative cost percentage, these grants and partnerships don't tell the whole story, but they are another point of reference to help your decision-making process. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-5-charitable-donations-that-do-the-most-good?ref=seealso" target="_blank">The 5 Charitable Donations That Do the Most Good</a>)</p> <h2>4. Scan through social media channels</h2> <p>One great gift of social media is that it gives individuals and organizations a way to connect with supporters and beneficiaries of their work directly. Poke around on their Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook feeds to see their work in action and find out who supports them.</p> <h2>5. Think local</h2> <p>While the big international nonprofits often get the most attention when disaster strikes, local nonprofits can often be just as effective, if not more so. That's because they have such close relationships with people on the ground. For example, the local food banks in Texas and Florida have been able to mobilize quickly in areas impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. After Harvey, I made a gift to the&nbsp;<a href="https://safoodbank.org/" target="_blank">San Antonio Food Bank</a> because they were the closest food bank to the areas in and around Houston that were hit hard by the storm.</p> <p>This same giving strategy can be applied to international work. After the massive earthquake that struck Haiti, I donated to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.pih.org/" target="_blank">Partners in Health</a> because their dedication to Haiti over many years has allowed them to have a tremendous impact on the health and wellbeing of the Haitian people.</p> <p>If you're more comfortable giving to a large organization such as the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.redcross.org/ns/apology/disaster_homepage.html" target="_blank">Red Cross</a>, and the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.salvationarmy.org/" target="_blank">Salvation Army</a>, make sure they have a chapter in the geographic location where you want to help and tag your gift to go to that specific relief program. Local hospitals and health centers are on the front lines, and are often the first places that local people turn to in the wake of a disaster.</p> <h2>6. Consider who you want to help</h2> <p>Many nonprofits have a mission that designates who they help and the causes that matter most to them. This can be children, animals, environmental protection, or education, to name just a few.</p> <p>In the case of the recent hurricanes in the U.S., local chapters of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.humanesociety.org/" target="_blank">Humane Society</a> and the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.aspca.org/" target="_blank">ASPCA</a> are helping to rehome pets that were left behind by their families.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.savethechildren.org/site/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.6115947/k.B143/Official_USA_Site.htm" target="_blank">Save the Children</a> has expanded its services and started new programs in key Texas locations in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Natural disasters often destroy or damage housing. Charities such as&nbsp;<a href="https://www.habitat.org/" target="_blank">Habitat for Humanity</a> can make use of your financial contributions as part of the rebuilding efforts.</p> <h2>7. Support sustained efforts</h2> <p>Given the speed of our news cycle, there is a swell of concern immediately after a disaster, and then that concern fades over time. One of the best ways to contribute to sustaining support is to consider a gift to an institution that continually works in the area.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bgca.org/" target="_blank">Boys &amp; Girls Club</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ymca.net/" target="_blank">YMCA</a>, and local schools, places of worship, and community centers are key sources for sustained support in impacted communities.</p> <p>When disaster strikes, it takes a large, collective effort to help people reconstruct their lives. Your donation and support is critical, and a thoughtful gift can make all the difference.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" data-pin-save="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Fhow-to-select-a-charity-to-donate-to-after-a-natural-disaster&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2FHow%2520to%2520Select%2520a%2520Charity%2520to%2520Donate%2520to%2520After%2520a%2520Natural%2520Disaster.jpg&amp;description=How%20to%20Select%20a%20Charity%20to%20Donate%20to%20After%20a%20Natural%20Disaster"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/How%20to%20Select%20a%20Charity%20to%20Donate%20to%20After%20a%20Natural%20Disaster.jpg" alt="How to Select a Charity to Donate to After a Natural Disaster" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/christa-avampato">Christa Avampato</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-select-a-charity-to-donate-to-after-a-natural-disaster">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-donating-money-is-the-best-thing-you-can-do-after-a-natural-disaster">Why Donating Money Is the Best Thing You Can Do After a Natural Disaster</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/epipens-and-other-ways-companies-have-profited-from-your-pain">EpiPens and Other Ways Companies Have Profited From Your Pain</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-should-you-do-when-a-natural-disaster-spoils-your-travel-plans">What Should You Do When a Natural Disaster Spoils Your Travel Plans?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/downside-of-the-rolling-jubilee">Downside of the Rolling Jubilee</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/recession-journal-vi-its-over-any-questions">Recession Journal VI: It&#039;s OVER!!!!!!!!!!!! Any Questions?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Consumer Affairs Financial News charitable donations donate give back how to donate how to help hurricane harvey hurricane irma hurricane season natural disaster Thu, 21 Sep 2017 08:31:10 +0000 Christa Avampato 2024299 at http://www.wisebread.com How to Find and Hire a Reliable Contractor http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-find-and-hire-a-reliable-contractor <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-find-and-hire-a-reliable-contractor" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/smiling_construction_worker_at_work.jpg" alt="Smiling construction worker at work" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Hiring a contractor for a home improvement project can be among the biggest financial commitments you will make. Poor project execution by a contractor can result in years of frustration and unplanned expenses. Here are four steps you can take avoid headaches by getting the best contractor to work on your project. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/architect-designer-or-contractor-who-should-you-hire-for-your-project?ref=seealso" target="_blank">Architect, Designer, or Contractor: Who Should You Hire for Your Project?</a>)</p> <h2>Plan your project and your budget</h2> <p>Before you start looking for a contractor, you will need at least a basic plan for the work you want done so you'll know what type of contractor is needed. You may be able to save money by strategically combining projects. For example, I'm having a chimney rebuilt and bathroom roof vent added at the same time I'm having my roof reshingled.</p> <p>Home improvement projects can make your home more enjoyable and more valuable as well. In some cases, the return on investment can be more than the expense of doing the project.</p> <p>However, even if a project will <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/boost-your-homes-value-with-these-5-projects?ref=internal" target="_blank">boost the value of your home</a>, it's important to make sure you can afford it. A home improvement loan or a home-equity loan from your bank or credit union may be less expensive than other forms of financing for a project. A loan officer can quickly give you a range for the line of credit that you could obtain and an idea of the repayment terms. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-home-renovations-that-almost-pay-for-themselves?ref=seealso" target="_blank">10 Home Renovations That Almost Pay for Themselves</a>)</p> <h2>Find contractors to bid on your project</h2> <p>When you have decided the scope of the project you want done, the next step is to contact contractors and get estimates. You will want to do some research and contact only highly-rated contractors who are qualified to do the kind of work that's needed.</p> <p>Here are some reliable places to find contractors:</p> <ul> <li> <p>Recommendations from neighbors who have done projects similar yours.</p> </li> <li> <p>Companies you see working in your neighborhood on projects that impress you.</p> </li> <li> <p>Contractors with good ratings on consumer review sites: Angie's List, the Better Business Bureau, and Yelp.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Keep in mind that it can take a few months from the time you start requesting estimates until work begins on your project. Most contractors schedule jobs in the order that they are signed up, and good contractors are often very busy, so be prepared to be patient.</p> <h2>Evaluate estimates before booking</h2> <p>It's good practice to get <em>three </em>estimates for your project before selecting a contractor. This will give you a good idea of the cost range for your project, and you'll have three expert opinions on what should be included. Some contractors will make verbal promises when they are talking to you about your project, but such statements can easily be forgotten later and you'll see that reflected on the estimate. Make sure to get any special requests and promises in writing &mdash; even if it is handwritten on the estimate as a note.</p> <p>When reviewing estimates, it might seem like choosing the low bidder would automatically be the smart way to go, but if one of the estimates is significantly lower than the others, you should find out why. The lower bidder may be cutting corners to save money by using lower quality materials or inexperienced laborers. Some low bids are &quot;bare-bones&quot; estimates that leave out work that will likely be needed, so the actual cost of completing the project will be higher than the estimate.</p> <p>For some projects, the grade of materials will be specified in the estimate, the type of shingles or siding that is included in the estimate, for example. Materials can make a big difference in the cost, and also to the quality of your project. Look at the labor portion of the estimate separately from the materials to compare costs. You can ask a contractor to update their estimate using different materials if that's what you prefer. This is your house, after all. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/9-home-improvements-you-should-always-negotiate?ref=seealso" target="_blank">9 Home Improvements You Should Always Negotiate</a>)</p> <h2>Ask all the questions you need</h2> <p>With your favorite estimate picked out, there are a few questions to ask before you pull the trigger and sign a contract. You want to make sure you are signing up with a contractor who will be able to complete a project for you without unpleasant surprises after the contract is signed.</p> <p>Questions to ask before signing a contract:</p> <ul> <li> <p>When will the work be scheduled?</p> </li> <li> <p>Can you provide references for similar projects?</p> </li> <li> <p>Can I visit a project in progress?</p> </li> <li> <p>Are you and your subcontractors insured?</p> </li> </ul> <p>Think twice before signing a contract if you discover any of these red flags:</p> <ul> <li> <p>The contract calls for a big payment in advance of any work being done.</p> </li> <li> <p>The contractor doesn't provide references you can contact.</p> </li> <li> <p>You are being asked to get required building permits.</p> </li> <li> <p>The company has not been in business long, or is using a new name.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Spending some time to plan your project, screen potential contractors before getting estimates, compare competitive estimates from several qualified bidders, and check out your contractor's work before signing a contract greatly increases your chances of having a good experience and a result you'll be pleased with.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" data-pin-save="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Fhow-to-find-and-hire-a-reliable-contractor&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2FHow%2520to%2520Find%2520and%2520Hire%2520a%2520Reliable%2520Contractor.jpg&amp;description=How%20to%20Find%20and%20Hire%20a%20Reliable%20Contractor"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/How%20to%20Find%20and%20Hire%20a%20Reliable%20Contractor.jpg" alt="How to Find and Hire a Reliable Contractor" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dr-penny-pincher">Dr Penny Pincher</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-find-and-hire-a-reliable-contractor">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-things-to-know-before-you-start-a-home-improvement-project">10 Things to Know Before You Start a Home Improvement Project</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/14-ways-to-make-your-yard-look-awesome-for-under-100">14 Ways to Make Your Yard Look Awesome for Under $100</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/architect-designer-or-contractor-who-should-you-hire-for-your-project">Architect, Designer, or Contractor: Who Should You Hire for Your Project?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-easy-ways-to-get-rid-of-mold-on-common-household-items">6 Easy Ways to Get Rid of Mold on Common Household Items</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/diy-home-improvement-10-free-options-for-training-and-advice">DIY Home Improvement: 10 Free Options for Training and Advice</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Consumer Affairs Home contractor handyman home improvement home repairs trustworthy contractor Tue, 19 Sep 2017 08:30:10 +0000 Dr Penny Pincher 2022480 at http://www.wisebread.com Why Donating Money Is the Best Thing You Can Do After a Natural Disaster http://www.wisebread.com/why-donating-money-is-the-best-thing-you-can-do-after-a-natural-disaster <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/why-donating-money-is-the-best-thing-you-can-do-after-a-natural-disaster" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/hurricane_harvey_impacts.jpg" alt="Hurricane Harvey Impacts" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>We're watching the news, following the updates on Twitter, and staying in close contact with friends and family members as we march through peak hurricane season. In the wake of Harvey and Irma, we all desperately want to help those who have been and will continue to be impacted. While we might reach for what's in our cupboards and closets, the donation of goods isn't the most effective way to help. In fact, it actually hinders recovery efforts. Here's why the best thing to donate in the wake of natural disasters is cash.</p> <h2>Dollars go further</h2> <p>When we go to the grocery store or shops, we pay retail price. When a food bank or another nonprofit buys goods to help people, they pay wholesale or bulk prices that are lower than retail prices. This means when you donate money directly to these organizations, they can make every dollar go further to help more people.</p> <h2>Most goods will be discarded</h2> <p>Here is a sad fact: Donating goods is more beneficial for the giver than the receiver after the natural disaster. We feel like we've helped when we give old blankets or coats, but truthfully, we're hindering the recovery efforts when we donate goods. The Center for International Disaster Information, a leading authority on recovery efforts, says <a href="https://www.cidi.org/how-disaster-relief-works/guidelines-for-giving/#.WbG_NNOGORt" target="_blank">unsolicited goods are rarely needed</a> in the early stages of response. These unwanted donations compete with much-needed efforts when it comes to people power, transportation services, and storage space. So save the waste and send cash instead.</p> <h2>Text donations are too slow</h2> <p>While it is immensely helpful that we can send a quick and easy text to give money after a disaster, the nonprofits and relief agencies we are funding receive the donations much faster if we go right to their websites to make a donation there.</p> <h2>Stick with the establishment</h2> <p>If you are looking for a place to make a donation, it's best in these situations to go with established organizations. They have the networks, connections, and expertise to make the most of the donations. Religious organizations as well as national and local nonprofits that are registered as 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations are the best stewards for your money. They also allow you to deduct the donation on your taxes, making it possible for you to be even more generous. If you want to research nonprofits before making your gift, local United Way and local Community Foundation chapters have a wealth of information. In the case of Harvey, look to Houston's chapters. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-5-charitable-donations-that-do-the-most-good?ref=seealso" target="_blank">The 5 Charitable Donations That Do the Most Good</a>)</p> <h2>Other donation options</h2> <p>There are two other ways to give that don't involve cash or material items, but are also extremely necessary in the wake of a hurricane or other natural disaster: shelter and skills.</p> <h3>Give your space</h3> <p>Do you have a spare bedroom or couch? Can your business location, community center, or religious organization provide space to shelter people? Can you take in a foster animal or adopt an animal to give them a forever home? The giving of your space is something that many people (and animals) need and appreciate more than we could ever imagine. Mattress Mack in Houston has become a national celebrity for <a href="https://twitter.com/MattressMack/status/901969638694600705?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&amp;ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.npr.org%2F2017%2F08%2F29%2F546953258%2Fhouston-s-matress-mack-opens-his-doors-to-house-flood-victims" target="_blank">opening up his mattress showroom as a shelter</a>.</p> <p>Airbnb is now waiving service fees and the requirement that hosts charge at least $10 per night; free accommodations are now permitted in selected areas that have been affected by natural disasters.</p> <h3>Give your expertise</h3> <p>Are you a doctor, veterinarian, social worker, carpenter, electrician, plumber, or attorney? Do you have extensive knowledge of insurance policies? Do you have strong government experience that you could leverage to help people? These kinds of skills and areas of expertise are often in demand in areas affected by natural disasters. Again, working through local government or relief agencies that are on the ground is the most effective way to give your knowledge and experience to those who need it.</p> <p>The desire to give is necessary and appreciated. Let's help those in the need the best way that we can. Together, we can make a difference.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" data-pin-save="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Fwhy-donating-money-is-the-best-thing-you-can-do-after-a-natural-disaster&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2FWhy%2520Donating%2520Money%2520Is%2520the%2520Best%2520Thing%2520You%2520Can%2520Do%2520After%2520a%2520Natural%2520Disaster.jpg&amp;description=Why%20Donating%20Money%20Is%20the%20Best%20Thing%20You%20Can%20Do%20After%20a%20Natural%20Disaster"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/Why%20Donating%20Money%20Is%20the%20Best%20Thing%20You%20Can%20Do%20After%20a%20Natural%20Disaster.jpg" alt="Why Donating Money Is the Best Thing You Can Do After a Natural Disaster" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/christa-avampato">Christa Avampato</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-donating-money-is-the-best-thing-you-can-do-after-a-natural-disaster">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-select-a-charity-to-donate-to-after-a-natural-disaster">How to Select a Charity to Donate to After a Natural Disaster</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-should-you-do-when-a-natural-disaster-spoils-your-travel-plans">What Should You Do When a Natural Disaster Spoils Your Travel Plans?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/epipens-and-other-ways-companies-have-profited-from-your-pain">EpiPens and Other Ways Companies Have Profited From Your Pain</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/beware-of-the-phrase-we-can-cut-your-debt-in-half">Beware of the Phrase &quot;We Can Cut Your Debt In Half!&quot;</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-life-inc">Book review: Life Inc.</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Consumer Affairs Financial News donating to charity flood victims how to donate hurricane harvey hurricane irma natural disaster Tue, 12 Sep 2017 09:00:05 +0000 Christa Avampato 2019307 at http://www.wisebread.com How to Protect Elderly Loved Ones From Financial Scams http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-protect-elderly-loved-ones-from-financial-scams <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-protect-elderly-loved-ones-from-financial-scams" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/senior_woman_giving_credit_card_details_on_the_phone.jpg" alt="Senior Woman Giving Credit Card Details On The Phone" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When I was a child, my grandmother often watched me while my parents were away. One day, I was sitting at the kitchen table while she made a sandwich for me, and the phone rang.</p> <p>My grandmother answered, and a deep, muffled voice said &quot;Mom? Thank God, I need help.&quot; The man, claiming to be my dad, told her he had been stranded and horribly injured, and needed her to drive to his location with money.</p> <p>My grandmother was shaken, but promised to send help right away. She quickly hung up and tried to get a hold of my mom. Thankfully, my dad was the one to answer the phone, completely healthy and carefree.</p> <p>I look back and still shudder at what could have happened if my grandmother had driven to where the man told her. It was my first introduction to con artists who take advantage of the elderly, but it continues to be a major issue. In fact, losses from elder fraud cases cost more than $36 billion in 2015, according to a True Link Financial report on financial elder abuse.</p> <h2>Preying on the elderly</h2> <p>The elderly are targeted by con artists because they tend to be less familiar with the latest technology and trends. They're less likely to recognize an email from a fraudulent &quot;bank,&quot; for example, asking for personal information. Worse, many seniors are simply lonely and isolated. Scammers prey on that. A kind, friendly voice on the other end of the phone can be convincing. And once a scam is complete, the victims often feel so bad about falling for it in the first place that it prevents them from reporting the crime to the police or even family members. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-when-you-suspect-a-scam?ref=seealso" target="_blank">What to Do When You Suspect a Scam</a>)</p> <h2>How to protect your loved ones</h2> <p>Shielding your elderly parents or relatives from harm can be difficult, especially if they live alone. These four tips can help prevent con artists from successfully targeting them.</p> <h3>1. Have a family code word</h3> <p>Come up with a family code word to use when there's a real emergency. Pick an odd word that has meaning to your family and is easy to remember. That way, if someone calls claiming to be a family member in need of help, your elderly relative can prompt them for the code word to verify their claim.</p> <p>If my family had a code word and my father really needed help, stating our designated word would have shown my grandmother it was a legitimate crisis. A scammer would have no idea, and would be revealed as soon as they couldn't relay the word.</p> <h3>2. Encourage them to ignore the phone</h3> <p>Many scammers will call just to find out if a person lives alone. Program your loved ones' phones with the numbers of family and friends, and encourage them to not answer the phone if they don't recognize the number.</p> <p>If a caller leaves a voicemail saying they're with a particular company &mdash; for example, a bank or credit card issuer &mdash; show your relative how to verify the number by looking up the company online, rather than just blindly returning the phone call. Taking that extra step to check a bank or credit card company's information can save your loved one from falling for a trick.</p> <h3>3. Help monitor accounts</h3> <p>If your relative is comfortable with this, offer to check over credit card or bank statements. Review them periodically for odd purchases. This is not quite the same as <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-things-youll-encounter-when-taking-over-a-loved-ones-finances" target="_blank">taking over your loved one's finances</a>; it's just providing a second set of eyes. If your homebody great-aunt suddenly has charges for a Vegas shopping spree, for example, you'll be able to alert her and help dispute the charges right away.</p> <p>Some banks will let even you monitor the account, but won't give you access to the funds, which can give your loved ones peace of mind.</p> <h3>4. Check AARP's Fraud Watch Network</h3> <p>Some scams are regional, affecting only certain cities or neighborhoods. And the latest iterations of fraud can evolve over time, preying on the unsuspecting.</p> <p><a href="http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/fraud-watch-network/" target="_blank">AARP's Fraud Watch Network</a> reports on fraud trends both nationally and locally. If you sign up for their alerts, you will receive notifications about scams happening in your area. By getting those alerts, you can warn your elderly relatives and friends about potential con artists and how they work.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/How%20to%20Protect%20Elderly%20Loved%20Ones%20From%20Financial%20Scams.jpg" alt="How to Protect Elderly Loved Ones From Financial Scams" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/kat-tretina">Kat Tretina</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-protect-elderly-loved-ones-from-financial-scams">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-protect-your-retirement-account-from-a-hack">How to Protect Your Retirement Account From a Hack</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-when-you-suspect-a-scam">What to Do When You Suspect a Scam</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/9-signs-your-identity-was-stolen">9 Signs Your Identity Was Stolen</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dont-panic-do-this-if-your-identity-gets-stolen">Don&#039;t Panic: Do This If Your Identity Gets Stolen</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-ways-to-keep-your-private-info-private">10 Ways to Keep Your Private Info Private</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance Consumer Affairs con artists elderly family members fraud identity theft phone scams protecting relatives scams technology Mon, 04 Sep 2017 08:30:06 +0000 Kat Tretina 2012632 at http://www.wisebread.com How to Spot a Fake Review http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-spot-a-fake-review <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-spot-a-fake-review" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock-601154706.jpg" alt="how to spot a fake review" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>We depend on product and service reviews to make responsible shopping decisions. But, according to a Cornell University study, consumers are horrible at discerning the difference between actual customer endorsements and fake reviews. And when pitted against Cornell's computer program, that can <a href="http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2011/07/cornell-computers-spot-opinion-spam-online-reviews" target="_blank">detect fake hotel reviews with 90 percent</a> accuracy, human research subjects could only spot the fake reviews 50 percent of the time.</p> <p>Ugh. Really?</p> <p>With 50 percent accuracy, why even bother reading reviews when we could just flip a coin and save ourselves a lot of time?</p> <p>Luckily, we can train ourselves to be better at spotting fake reviews by using the same clues the Cornell software uses to sniff out online deceit. Here are some ways to spot spammy reviews.</p> <h2>1. The reviewer has a tiny internet presence</h2> <p>When it comes to researching a product, it's important to review the reviewer. If you are shopping on Amazon, search for customer reviews marked &quot;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/community-help/amazon-verified-purchase" target="_blank">Amazon Verified Purchase</a>.&quot; Verified buyers are more likely to leave truthful comments. If you are shopping on eBay or Etsy, look at the feedback percentage. If you are using Yelp, is the reviewer a member of the <a href="https://www.yelp-support.com/article/What-is-Yelps-Elite-Squad?l=en_US" target="_blank">Elite Squad</a> that has been vetted by Yelp's community managers? Are you using a site like Hotels.com that only allow reviews from customers who have actually booked rooms?</p> <p>Since there's a first time for everything, even writing reviews, if you want to check on a newbie reviewer's credibility, just do some Google searches to put a face to the review. Many review sites require commenters to sign in through their Facebook or other social network accounts, so you can click on their profile to see that they're a real person.</p> <h2>2. The review lacks detail</h2> <p>The Cornell study used online reviews for Chicago hotels to train their computer program to spot deceptive language. One of the extremely subtle tells of a fake hotel review is that the reviewer spends more time describing his vacation than the details of the hotel room. (Because how can you describe the mattress or the water pressure in the shower if you've never been there?)</p> <p>Are you shopping for vacation accommodation right now? Use Cornell's <a href="http://reviewskeptic.com/" target="_blank">Review Skeptic</a> to test the veracity of the hotel reviews.</p> <h2>3. The reviews vary wildly between websites</h2> <p>Get a second opinion on big-ticket items. If the majority of the reviews are glowing on one website, but a mixed bag on another, assume you are getting astroturfed and do more research before making your purchase.</p> <h2>4. The positive reviews were posted over a short timeframe</h2> <p>Does a new product have numerous five-star reviews that are time stamped to the same day or even the same hour? If so, beware. It's likely that someone has been hired to write fake reviews to artificially boost that product's reputation.</p> <p>The exception to this rule is books. Writers and publishers will send out Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) of books just prior to their release date to professional book reviewers, librarians, book scouts, and popular book bloggers. While publishers and authors have been known to game the system, professional bookworms who regularly read Advance Reader Copies and manuscripts for work only receive a free book as compensation in exchange for their review, so there's not much of an incentive to keep them from being brutally honest.</p> <h2>5. The review includes staged photographs</h2> <p>Are there a lot similar-looking photographs included with the reviews? The editors of Wirecutter.com used fakespot.com &mdash; a lie detector for reviews &mdash; to test the <a href="http://fakespot.com/product/rxvoit-noise-isolating-earbuds-with-smart-built-in-in-line-mic-bass-enhanced-bass-boosted-and-stereo-surround-sound-audio-in-ear-headphones" target="_blank">authenticity of Amazon reviews</a> for a new brand of earbud. The Wirecutter team became suspicious when they noticed that many of the earbud reviews contained suspiciously similar photographs. That product has since been removed from Amazon. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-when-you-suspect-a-scam?ref=seealso" target="_blank">What to Do When You Suspect a Scam</a>)</p> <h2>6. They are short and sloppy</h2> <p>Fake review mills typically pay writers only a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/20/technology/finding-fake-reviews-online.html" target="_blank">few dollars per review</a>, so mill workers tend to write quickly and formulaically. Extreme brevity, typos, and lack of punctuation are all hallmarks of reviews written by someone who has been paid to churn out fake content.</p> <h2>7. The review sounds like an infomercial</h2> <p>In order to improve the SEO visibility of a company, some fake reviews will be weirdly specific about name dropping the product. For example:</p> <p>&quot;The One Acme Do-it Yourself Tornado Kit Seed Your Own Tornados lets you make your own roadrunner-catching tornadoes! Assemble The One Acme Do-it Yourself Tornado Kit Seed Your Own Tornados in the comfort of your own home. Just add water. My hubby loves his One Acme Do-it Yourself Tornado Kit Seed Your Own Tornados so much that we're buying a One Acme Do-it Yourself Tornado Kit Seed Your Own Tornados for our darling daughter as a wedding gift!&quot;</p> <h2>8. The company does not have a website</h2> <p>A company with many positive reviews and no online presence beyond an Amazon storefront is a red flag. If you can't contact customer service, you probably won't be able to get a refund for a product that doesn't work or is never delivered. Ironically, shady companies don't care about your verified one-star review.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" data-pin-save="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Fhow-to-spot-a-fake-review&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2FHow%2520to%2520Spot%2520a%2520Fake%2520Review.jpg&amp;description=How%20to%20Spot%20a%20Fake%20Review"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/How%20to%20Spot%20a%20Fake%20Review.jpg" alt="How to Spot a Fake Review" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/max-wong">Max Wong</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-spot-a-fake-review">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/debit-or-credit-which-one-should-you-choose-at-the-checkout">Debit Or Credit? Which One Should You Choose At The Checkout?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-get-your-money-back-when-you-re-denied-a-refund">How to Get Your Money Back When You’re Denied a Refund</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/cheat-sheet-retail-markup-on-common-items">Cheat Sheet: Retail Markup on Common Items</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-9-everyday-products-with-the-biggest-markups">The 9 Everyday Products With the Biggest Markups</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-things-you-should-never-buy-on-groupon-or-livingsocial">5 Things You Should Never Buy on Groupon or LivingSocial</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Consumer Affairs Shopping ads amazon review fake review honest review online review paid ads product review sponsored content yelp review Fri, 18 Aug 2017 08:30:05 +0000 Max Wong 2005242 at http://www.wisebread.com 3 Things You Should Do Immediately After Losing Your Passport http://www.wisebread.com/3-things-you-should-do-immediately-after-losing-your-passport <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/3-things-you-should-do-immediately-after-losing-your-passport" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/serious_lady_with_luggage.jpg" alt="Serious lady with luggage" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When I was in business school, I went to South Africa as part of an economics class. Seeing South Africa was a dream I had for many years, and it was a nearly perfect trip. In the airport on the way home, I discovered my passport had been stolen right out of my bag. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-if-you-dont-have-your-id-at-the-airport?ref=seealso" target="_blank">What to Do If You Don't Have Your ID at the Airport</a>)</p> <p>Picture this: I was the last person in line at airport security, it was Friday at 6 p.m., and the next day was my birthday. None of my friends could come back through security to stay with me. I was alone and stranded in South Africa for an entire weekend without my main proof of ID, something you need to stay at a hotel or purchase any travel tickets when you are abroad. It was a harrowing journey to get a new passport under these circumstances. On the upside, it taught me about the kindness of strangers and what to do if you lose your passport. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-things-you-should-do-immediately-after-losing-your-wallet?ref=seealso" target="_blank">10 Things You Should Do Immediately After Losing Your Wallet</a>)</p> <h2>Report the loss immediately</h2> <p>Whether at home or abroad, it is important for you to report your lost passport immediately. If, like me, you are traveling when it happens, contact the local police department and file a report. Make sure to keep a copy of the report for your records. Additionally, the United States Department of State must also be notified to prevent fraudulent use of your passport. You can contact them by phone at (877) 487-2778. Once the passport is reported missing, it will be made invalid, so even if you do find it later, you'll no longer be able to use it.</p> <h2>Contact the U.S. embassy</h2> <p>If you are traveling internationally when you lose your passport, you need to contact the local U.S. embassy or consulate to get a replacement. Unfortunately, my passport was stolen after the embassy was closed on a Friday evening so I had to wait until Monday morning to get a replacement.</p> <p>When you go to the embassy or consulate, you will need a recent color headshot facing the camera taken within the last six months. Make sure the photo is two inches tall and two inches wide. Your head must be between one inch and one and three-eighths inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. I know this sounds nitpicky, but passport photos have very specific requirements.</p> <p>Also, be prepared to pay the passport replacement fee, provide proof of your identity and U.S. citizenship, and bring the police report and your travel itinerary. The embassy or consulate will have the forms you need to file to get a replacement passport. The wait at the embassy or consulate can be a few hours and you may need to answer a number of questions. Replacing my passport took the better part of a day from start to finish.</p> <h2>Be prepared to pay</h2> <p>If you are in the U.S. when you lose your passport, you have some additional options depending upon when you next plan to travel abroad. You can put in for a rush order if you are willing to pay an additional fee of $60 and can visit a <a href="https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/information/where-to-apply/agencies.html" target="_blank">regional passport agency office</a> in person. Just as when you are abroad, you will need to bring a photo, proof of your identity and citizenship, the police report, and your travel itinerary. This rush option is for people who are traveling abroad within the next two weeks.</p> <p>If you have more time, you can go to an authorized passport acceptance facility, such as a local post office, to get your replacement passport. The State Department website has a list of <a href="https://iafdb.travel.state.gov/" target="_blank">approved U.S. passport facilities</a> that you can filter by ZIP code. It will take about four to six weeks to receive your new passport through an authorized facility.</p> <p>Replacing a lost or stolen passport is an inconvenience, but don't beat yourself up over it. You are not the first person, nor will you be the last to have this happen. Fortunately, there is a well-detailed process to get a replacement no matter what the circumstances. And, like me, it may just give you an interesting travel story to tell when you do (eventually!) arrive home.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" data-pin-save="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2F3-things-you-should-do-immediately-after-losing-your-passport&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2F3%2520Things%2520You%2520Should%2520Do%2520Immediately%2520After%2520Losing%2520Your%2520Passport.png&amp;description=3%20Things%20You%20Should%20Do%20Immediately%20After%20Losing%20Your%20Passport"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/3%20Things%20You%20Should%20Do%20Immediately%20After%20Losing%20Your%20Passport.png" alt="3 Things You Should Do Immediately After Losing Your Passport" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/christa-avampato">Christa Avampato</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/3-things-you-should-do-immediately-after-losing-your-passport">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/watch-out-for-these-10-red-flags-with-vacation-rentals">Watch Out for These 10 Red Flags With Vacation Rentals</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/9-retirement-hotspots-that-are-cheaper-now-than-ever-before">9 Retirement Hotspots That Are Cheaper Now Than Ever Before</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/stay-secure-in-your-hotel-with-this-8-point-safety-check">Stay Secure in Your Hotel With This 8-Point Safety Check</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-get-the-lowest-price-on-airfare-even-after-you-buy">How to Get the Lowest Price on Airfare, Even After You Buy</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-should-you-do-when-a-natural-disaster-spoils-your-travel-plans">What Should You Do When a Natural Disaster Spoils Your Travel Plans?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Consumer Affairs Travel id identification international travel lost passport Passport travel documents Tue, 15 Aug 2017 08:30:10 +0000 Christa Avampato 2003024 at http://www.wisebread.com What You Actually Get When You Win Free Food for Life http://www.wisebread.com/what-you-actually-get-when-you-win-free-food-for-life <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/what-you-actually-get-when-you-win-free-food-for-life" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock-612641212 (1).jpg" alt="Learning what you get when you win free food" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="142" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Some people say that there's no such thing as a free lunch. However, there are plenty of retailers promising you the chance to score free meals, ranging from pizza to ice cream, for life! Are these contest prizes too good to be true, though? Let's find out what you actually get when you win &quot;free food for life.&quot;</p> <h2>1. McDonald's Free Soft Serve for Life</h2> <p>In honor of National Ice Cream Day, McDonald's offered a <a href="https://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en-us/national-ice-cream-day.html" target="_blank">free vanilla cone</a> and a chance to win free soft serve for life for customers who downloaded and used the Mickey D's app to redeem their vanilla cone on July 16 between the hours of 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. While the promise of a cool treat for every day of your life was quite nice, the actual prize was even better: a $312 McDonald's Arch Card and a check for $4,680. Hey, nothing is as refreshing as <em>cold</em>, hard cash! (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/never-miss-free-ice-cream-again-complete-calendar-of-annual-free-stuff-days?ref=seealso" target="_blank">Never Miss Free Ice Cream Again: Complete Calendar of Annual Free Stuff Days</a>)</p> <h2>2. PizzaRev's Free Pizza for Life</h2> <p>Pizza tastes so good that some wish they could eat it every day. Banking on that idea, the chain PizzaRev ran a #BeRevolutionary contest to win pizza for life. So, what does that mean? According to the contest's official rules, California resident Haley won a maximum of one pizza per week in 2017. That's 52 pizzas a year for the rest of her life!</p> <h2>3. Undz's Free Pizza for Life</h2> <p>The definition of &quot;for life&quot; can vary a lot across retailers. Take for example, underwear online retailer <a href="https://undz.com/pages/win-pizza-for-life" target="_blank">Undz</a>, which offered the chance to score free pizza for life. The catch? It specified one large pizza each week for 20 years. If you do the math that translates to a total 1,040 large pizzas.</p> <h2>4. Circle K's Free Soda for Life</h2> <p>During hot days, a tall cold glass of the fizzy stuff can quench your thirst and hit the spot. Convenience store chain <a href="http://circlekstores.promo.eprize.com/polarpop/public/fulfillment/rules.pdf" target="_blank">Circle K</a> offered U.S. residents one grand prize of free Polar Pop for Life and 35 first prizes of the same soda for one year. The grand prize was actually a $10,950 Circle K gift card, and the 35 first prizes were awarded as $365 Circle K gift cards. With such a gift card, winning &quot;free soda&quot; also meant you could get anything from coffee to hot dogs to snacks at this convenience store.</p> <h2>5. Starbucks' Free Coffee for Life</h2> <p>Caffeine lovers, rejoice! The promise of the bitter, black elixir for free for life is just too titillating and was brought to life by the biggest coffee chain in the world. For the grand prize winner, <a href="https://starbucks.promo.eprize.com/holiday16/public/fulfillment/rules.pdf" target="_blank">Starbucks For Life</a> meant a daily credit for 30 years for one free food or beverage item redeemable at participating stores in the U.S. The daily credit would be delivered through a registered Starbucks smartphone app or registered gift card. Alcoholic beverage menu items were off limits to the grand prize winner.</p> <h2>6. Vehicle City Tacos' Free Tacos for Life</h2> <p>So far, we've reviewed free-food-for-life offers that were subject to luck. Here's one that required you to actually go on a dare. Flint, Michigan-based <a href="http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2015/01/free_tacos_for_life_if_you_tat.html#comments" target="_blank">Vehicle City Tacos</a> grants one free taco every day for life to customers who tattoo a taco saying &quot;VCT&quot; or &quot;Vehicle City Taco&quot; on their bodies. The tattoo must also be at least 3-by-3 inches and be located somewhere that can be shown in public.</p> <h2>7. Burger King's Free Whoppers for Life</h2> <p>In the U.S., the King is very selective about who he selects to hand out the coveted BK Crown Card &mdash; which grants you free Burger King menu items, such as the whopper, for life. There are <a href="http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2008/06/celebrities-get-free-burgers-with-burger-king-crown-gold-card.html" target="_blank">12 famous BK Crown Card holders</a>, including Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Hudson (former Burger King employee), and George Lucas.</p> <p>But instead of limiting itself to well-known celebrities, Burger King chose a different route in Argentina (where it's been for over 60 years) and gave average Janes and Joes with a unique feature a chance to get free food for life. All Argentina residents with last name &quot;Parrilla&quot; (which translates to &quot;grill&quot; in English) would be eligible to get <a href="http://www.infobae.com/espacio-no-editorial/2017/04/03/por-que-las-familias-de-apellido-parrilla-comeran-hamburguesas-gratis-de-por-vida/" target="_blank">free whoppers for life</a> after registering at a local store and providing their government-issued ID number.</p> <p>With about 12,000 Parrillas living in Argentina, that was a bold move for Burger King! In the end, an estimated 300 Parrillas took Burger King up on the offer. &quot;Free Whopper for Life&quot; meant one free Whopper per month at any Burger King store in Argentina for the entire life of the registered Parrilla.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" data-pin-save="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Fwhat-you-actually-get-when-you-win-free-food-for-life&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2FWhat%2520You%2520Actually%2520Get%2520When%2520You%2520Win%2520Free%2520Food%2520for%2520Life.jpg&amp;description=What%20You%20Actually%20Get%20When%20You%20Win%20Free%20Food%20for%20Life"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/What%20You%20Actually%20Get%20When%20You%20Win%20Free%20Food%20for%20Life.jpg" alt="What You Actually Get When You Win Free Food for Life" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/damian-davila">Damian Davila</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-you-actually-get-when-you-win-free-food-for-life">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-ways-to-score-free-food-at-chick-fil-a">6 Ways to Score Free Food at Chick-fil-A</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/avoid-these-fast-food-items-say-fast-food-employees">“Avoid These Fast Food Items,” Say Fast Food Employees</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/14-secret-fast-food-menus-revealed">14 Secret Fast Food Menus Revealed</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-starbucks-savings-hacks-that-actually-work">7 Starbucks Savings Hacks That Actually Work</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/is-health-food-worse-for-you-than-junk-food">Is &quot;Health Food&quot; Worse for You than Junk Food?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Consumer Affairs Food and Drink contest winner contests Fast Food free coffee free food free food for life mcdonald's burger king Starbucks Tue, 08 Aug 2017 08:30:10 +0000 Damian Davila 1998637 at http://www.wisebread.com Who Really Benefits From a Class-Action Settlement? http://www.wisebread.com/who-really-benefits-from-a-class-action-settlement <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/who-really-benefits-from-a-class-action-settlement" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock-481471171.jpg" alt="class action lawsuit" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>A couple years ago I got an unexpected letter in the mail. A company where I had interviewed for a job 10 years prior was accused of using discriminatory hiring practices. My human resources record with the company had been unsealed as a result of the lawsuit and, according to this letter from the lead law firm for the plaintiffs (the people filing the lawsuit), I had been discriminated against during the hiring process. I needed to respond with a phone call and letter confirming that I had indeed interviewed during that specific time frame.</p> <p>The letter struck a chord. I had indeed gone through a harrowing interview process with that company and I was devastated when I didn't get an offer because they were my dream company to work for at the time. Their reasons for not hiring me were very hurtful (they were actually honest about their discrimination when it happened), and it left a scar on me that persisted for a long time.</p> <p>About a year after the law firm contacted me, I received a sizable check in the mail for a settlement. This incident prompted my interest in class-action lawsuits and who benefits from them. You see stories about class-action settlements all the time in the news, and you may even get contacted if you purchased a certain product within a period of time, with a message saying you could be entitled to a settlement. Many of these settlements will only yield a few dollars per person, so the effort put forth may not be worth it, but how can you tell?</p> <p>Here's what I learned from this experience.</p> <h2>Settlements vary widely</h2> <p>Depending upon the damage done to plaintiffs and the number of plaintiffs in a case, the amount of a settlement varies widely from a handful of dollars to thousands of dollars per plaintiff. Almost all class-action suits that resolve favorably for plaintiffs result in a monetary settlement. As a plaintiff, you don't have much, if any, say in how the case is argued, the way the firm representing the plaintiffs presents the evidence, the amount of the settlement, or even when to take a settlement rather than continuing to litigate. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-smart-things-to-do-with-your-settlement-money?ref=seealso" target="_blank">8 Smart Things to Do With Your Settlement Money</a>)</p> <h2>How to track them down</h2> <p>In my case, I was fortunate that the law firm directly contacted me at my home address. I didn't even know the lawsuit was underway. I thought it was odd that I wasn't aware of this, but actually, it's not that uncommon.</p> <p>Many people don't realize a lawsuit is underway unless it makes headline news. Fortunately, you can keep tabs on some class-action suits by checking <a href="http://www.consumer-action.org/lawsuits" target="_blank">Consumer Action</a>. If you suspect you may be entitled to money from a class-action lawsuit, type in the name of the company being sued, for example, and see what pops up. If you do find something, this website provides instructions on how to file your claim as part of the lawsuit.</p> <h2>Who cashes in?</h2> <p>The law firm of Mayer Brown LLP did an empirical <a href="http://www.instituteforlegalreform.com/uploads/sites/1/Class_Action_Study.pdf" target="_blank">study of 148 consumer or employee class action suits</a> that were filed in or removed to federal court in 2009. This kind of study is very rare and it turned up some disappointing data.</p> <ul> <li>It turns out, 14 percent of cases during that period had not reached a resolution.</li> <li>Of the 86 percent that did have a resolution, less than a third involved any kind of settlement for the plaintiffs. So most of the time, there was absolutely no benefit to those who were suing the company.</li> <li>Also, of the 86 percent that did have a resolution, not a single one went to trial. This means that the merits of the plaintiff complaints were never fully considered by a judge or jury in any of the cases.</li> </ul> <h2>Given the data, should you participate?</h2> <p>Should you even participate in a class-action suit? That's a very personal question and despite the data, I would say &quot;maybe.&quot; If, like my class-action participation, there is a high amount of potential payout versus time involved to participate, then it can be worth it.</p> <p>For 10 years, I felt badly about what had happened to me with that potential employer, so the emotional stakes were high. But the time investment needed to participate was small. It took me just 15 minutes to make the phone call to the law firm, confirm my details, and send them a short letter. I didn't have to do anything else. I didn't have to pay anyone any money to participate or to collect my settlement. Through my research, I found out that my case was the very best case scenario of a class-action suit. The vast majority don't resolve nearly as favorably as mine did.</p> <p>Even if my class-action suit hadn't resulted in any kind of settlement for me, I would still consider my participation worthwhile. I had felt wronged by this company for a very long time. For me, just the fact that the case had enough merit to be brought to the company's attention was a form of vindication that relieved a lot of sadness and shame for me. In my book, that's a victory.</p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" data-pin-save="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Fwho-really-benefits-from-a-class-action-settlement&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2FWho%2520Really%2520Benefits%2520From%2520a%2520Class-Action%2520Settlement-.jpg&amp;description=Who%20Really%20Benefits%20From%20a%20Class-Action%20Settlement%3F"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/Who%20Really%20Benefits%20From%20a%20Class-Action%20Settlement-.jpg" alt="Who Really Benefits From a Class-Action Settlement?" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/christa-avampato">Christa Avampato</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/who-really-benefits-from-a-class-action-settlement">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-strange-ways-online-shopping-has-changed-the-world">6 Strange Ways Online Shopping Has Changed the World</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/can-your-spending-patterns-affect-your-credit">Can Your Spending Patterns Affect Your Credit?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-classic-impulse-buys-we-need-to-stop-falling-for">10 Classic Impulse Buys We Need to Stop Falling For</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-questions-to-ask-before-buying-refurbished-appliances">4 Questions to Ask Before Buying Refurbished Appliances</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-7-dumbest-big-purchases-people-make">The 7 Dumbest Big Purchases People Make</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Consumer Affairs cash in cash settlement class-action settlement extra income lawsuit legal settlement shopping Mon, 31 Jul 2017 08:30:09 +0000 Christa Avampato 1992968 at http://www.wisebread.com Here's How Debt Settlement Can Make Your Debt Worse http://www.wisebread.com/heres-how-debt-settlement-can-make-your-debt-worse <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/heres-how-debt-settlement-can-make-your-debt-worse" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/financial_problems.jpg" alt="Financial problems" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>The commercials, usually played on AM radio or late-night TV, promise an easy solution to your debt woes: Debt settlement companies say they can eliminate your debts in as little as two months or reduce the amount you owe by 65 percent, 75 percent, or 85 percent.</p> <p>That sounds pretty great. But debt settlement isn't quite as simple as those commercials promise.</p> <p>Working with debt settlement companies &mdash; firms that negotiate lower debt amounts with your creditors &mdash; comes with serious financial repercussions. And plenty can go wrong. Before you sign up for debt settlement, make sure you explore your other options.</p> <h2>A dangerous gamble</h2> <p>The biggest problem with debt settlement is that it's a gamble. You're gambling that the process will work and that your debts will either be eliminated or lowered. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that this will actually happen.</p> <p>And because of how debt settlement companies operate, you can cause severe damage to your credit while taking this bet. Say you are struggling to afford your monthly credit card payments and a host of large medical bills. You call a company specializing in debt settlement. That company will then tell you to stop making your payments to this creditor.</p> <p>That sounds like terrible advice (because it is). The debt settlement company's goal here is to convince your creditors that there is no way you can afford to pay off your debt in full. But it often takes months for the settlement company to convince your creditors to lower your debt. Defaulting for that long ruins your credit.</p> <p>At the same time, the debt settlement company will ask you to make regular payments to it, which the company will deposit in a savings account. During the time that you're not making payments to your creditors but you are making them to the debt settlement service, the company will negotiate with your creditors, hoping to reduce the amount you owe to each of them.</p> <p>Once your creditors and your debt settlement company reach an agreement, the company will use the funds you've deposited to pay off the remainder of your debt, taking a cut as its own fee.</p> <h2>It doesn't always work</h2> <p>Unfortunately, debt settlement doesn't always work. A report by the Association of Debt Settlement Companies made to the Federal Trade Commission in 2007 reported that on average, only 45 percent to 50 percent of consumers complete a debt settlement program once they've started it. Many customers take actions that will hurt their credit scores only to gain no financial relief by doing so.</p> <p>In 2010, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported even lower rates, saying that less than 10 percent of consumers successfully complete a debt settlement program.</p> <h2>You could be charged high monthly fees</h2> <p>The National Foundation for Credit Counseling says that many debt settlement companies charge monthly fees for their services that can run as high as $89 a month. That's a lot of money for a service that might not reduce your debt significantly anyway.</p> <h2>You'll pay a lot even if your debts are reduced</h2> <p>Debt settlement companies typically charge their clients in one of two ways: They'll either charge a percentage of your total debt for their fee, or a percentage of the final debt amount that they negotiate.</p> <p>Say you owe $70,000. If the company charges you 20 percent of your total debt, you'll pay $14,000 for their services. Maybe the debt settlement company reduces that $70,000 debt to $35,000. If the company charges, say, 20 percent of your final negotiated debt, you'd pay $7,000.</p> <p>Obviously, it's better to work with a company that charges you a percentage of your settled debt. But even then, you'll be paying plenty for debt settlement.</p> <h2>Your credit score might crash</h2> <p>Debt settlement can devastate your credit score. Any time you pay a credit card bill more than 30 days late, for example, your credit score will fall by 100 points or more. If you deliberately do this while working with a debt settlement company, you will see your score plummet.</p> <p>Your credit report will also list any debts that were settled. This is considered a negative on your report because your creditors were forced to accept less than what they were owed. This, understandably, might make creditors less excited to work with you in the future.</p> <p>Often, debt settlement companies negotiate a debt that has already been charged off, meaning that the original creditor has given up on collecting it and has sold the debt to another creditor that then tries to get at least some money from you. Such debt will be listed as charged off on your report. This negative mark will remain on your credit report for seven years, and won't disappear just because you eventually settled the debt.</p> <h2>Alternatives</h2> <p>Fortunately, there are alternatives to debt settlement.</p> <ul> <li> <p>If you have a high enough credit score, you can apply for a <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-best-0-balance-transfer-credit-cards" target="_blank">balance transfer credit card</a>. Many of these cards have low or no interest for periods of at least a year &mdash; often longer. You will have to pay a balance transfer fee (usually 3 percent of your balance) and be very careful about finishing paying your balance before the introductory period ends and a new, much higher rate kicks in. But for some people, this option works. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-hidden-dangers-of-credit-card-balance-transfers?ref=seealso" target="_blank">6 Hidden Dangers of Balance Transfers</a>)</p> </li> </ul> <ul> <li> <p>You can also check with your bank or <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/should-you-use-peer-to-peer-lending-to-pay-down-credit-card-debt" target="_blank">peer-to-peer lenders</a> to get a <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-times-personal-loans-may-be-better-than-credit-cards" target="_blank">debt consolidation loan</a> at a lower interest rate than you're paying now. But with these types of loans you'll also need a good credit score.</p> </li> </ul> <ul> <li> <p>If you don't have good credit, consider contacting your creditors directly to work out a repayment plan that fits your budget. Creditors are under no obligation to work with you, but many will as a way to eventually get the money that you owe them.</p> </li> <li> <p>You can also work with a nonprofit consumer credit counseling agency to craft a debt management plan (DMP). The counseling agency will negotiate with your creditors on your behalf, typically resulting in a 20 percent lower interest rate and a 50 percent lower monthly payment.</p> <p>You will usually have to close all of your credit card accounts while you're under the DMP, but the upside is that you will only have one payment to make and that's to the credit counseling agency. Closing your accounts will cause a temporary dip in your credit score, but a DMP is much less harmful overall to your credit than debt resettlement. You can find nonprofit credit counselors in your area through one of two associations: the <a href="https://www.nfcc.org/locator/" target="_blank">National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC)</a> or the <a href="http://fcaa.org/" target="_blank">Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA)</a>.</p> </li> <li> <p>As a last resort, you may consider bankruptcy. This is sometimes less damaging to your credit report than a debt settlement, though certain types of bankruptcy stay on your credit report for longer. Be sure you thoroughly assess the <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/3-times-bankruptcy-is-the-right-move" target="_blank">pros and cons of bankruptcy</a> before taking this step.</p> </li> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" data-pin-save="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Fheres-how-debt-settlement-can-make-your-debt-worse&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2FHeres%2520How%2520Debt%2520Settlement%2520Can%2520Make%2520Your%2520Debt%2520Worse.jpg&amp;description=Heres%20How%20Debt%20Settlement%20Can%20Make%20Your%20Debt%20Worse"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/Heres%20How%20Debt%20Settlement%20Can%20Make%20Your%20Debt%20Worse.jpg" alt="Here's How Debt Settlement Can Make Your Debt Worse" width="250" height="374" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> </ul> <p>&nbsp;</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dan-rafter">Dan Rafter</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/heres-how-debt-settlement-can-make-your-debt-worse">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/pay-these-6-bills-first-when-money-is-tight">Pay These 6 Bills First When Money Is Tight</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-deal-with-collection-agencies">How to Deal With Collection Agencies</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-things-you-need-to-know-before-taking-out-a-personal-loan">10 Things You Need to Know Before Taking Out a Personal Loan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-use-a-credit-card-for-an-emergency-without-drowning-in-debt">How to Use a Credit Card for an Emergency Without Drowning In Debt</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-overdraft-protection-racket-why-banks-want-you-to-overdraw-and-how-you-can-get-your-money-back">The Overdraft Protection Racket: Why Banks Want You To Overdraw, And How You Can Get Your Money Back.</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance Consumer Affairs Debt Management bad advice credit score Creditors debt settlement fees hidden dangers repayment plans Thu, 20 Jul 2017 08:00:12 +0000 Dan Rafter 1985925 at http://www.wisebread.com