Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bankruptcy May Not Help Homeowners

Many homeowners believe that filing bankruptcy will help save their home and prevent them from going further into debt. Unfortunately, filing for bankruptcy if you are a homeowner is not as easy as you think. Approval for bankruptcy depends on your salary and the family size. Income limits are based on the state you live in
However, if have a higher income you can still file. You must provide proof that you are unable to pay your bills and have sought additional help in the past. You must provide documentation such as: tax returns, paystubs, bank statements, mortgage statement or rental lease agreements, detailed list of monthly expenses including, a list of all debt, amount owed, interest rates, canceled checks and credit card statements, retirement accounts, business income and debt, and child support. Be honest when providing documentation. If you decline to provide all the requested documentation required by the Trustee your bankruptcy filing may be dismissed. Do not include you SSN on any documentation provided. Mistakes in your documentation can cause delay or a dismissal. If you do meet the income requirements there are additional criteria you have to meet such as:

• You must take a credit counseling class prior to filing for bankruptcy.
• If you have enough income to pay some of the debt you may be considered for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Here are 11 tips to consider before filing for bankruptcy:

• Bankruptcy fees when filing on your own cost approximately $300 when filing for chapter 7 (most debt cleared) or chapter 13 (repayment plan for 3-5 years). Bankruptcy filing fees when using a bankruptcy attorney can range from $1,000 - $4,000.

• Look for real estate investors in your city by doing a search on google “name of your city or state real estate investors”, i.e. “maryland real estate investors”, etc.

• Do not make any large purchases before filing for bankruptcy because this will decrease your chances of being approved.

• Don’t file Chapter 7 bankruptcy if your income exceeds your expenses.

• Don’t transfer credit card balances.

• Don’t make payments on any debt.

• Don’t file your tax return if you expect to get a large refund.

• Don’t cash out any retirement plans or 401k’s because this money is exempt from bankruptcy.

• Don’t take out any loans or open any new credit accounts.

• Disclose any judgments, collection accounts, and tax liens.

• Don’t bank where you owe money. Close the account and open a new at another bank. If you wish to continue doing business with the bank take all the money out of your account as soon as your direct deposit is posted to your account. If not, this will increase your chances of having your bank account garnished.

The following debt is not included in Chapter 7 bankruptcy: taxes and tax liens, student loans, child support and alimony, debts for fines or penalties to governmental agencies, debts for judgments in wrongful death or personal injury lawsuits, and condominium or townhome association fees. The following debt not included in Chapter 13 bankruptcy: some taxes, student loans, child support and alimony, debts for fines or penalties to governmental agencies, debts for judgments in wrongful death or personal injury lawsuits, debts incurred after filing your case.

Items that are exempt from bankruptcy:

• $16,500 in equity in your home

• $2,575 in equity in your car

• $425 per item in any household items up to a total of $8,625

• $1,625 in job-related expenses, books, etc.

• $850 in any property, plus part of the unused exemption in your home, up to $8,075

• Social security, unemployment, VA benefits, welfare, and pensions

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Government's Budget: The Debt Ceiling

What is a debt ceiling? The US debt ceiling is a cap that is set by Congress on the amount of debt the federal government can legally borrow. The cap applies to debt owed to the public or anyone who buys U.S. bonds in addition to debt owed to federal government trust funds such as those used for Social Security and Medicare.
Every day the federal government spends more money than it takes in and makes up the difference by borrowing money. As a result, every day, the government’s debt increases. This is why the government is considering raising the debt ceiling or the government will have to stop spending more than it takes in which requires balancing the budget. Balancing the budget will require reducing spending by approximately 40 – 44%, raising taxes or a combination of reducing spending and raising taxes.
If the debt ceiling is not increased the government has to pay more money to borrow money which adds up very quickly and could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. This can cause taxpayers to lose confidence in the government. If lenders lose confidence in the government that it can’t repay its debts, interest rates will start to increase.

The government generates money by selling debt through Treasury bonds which is the government's IOU. A taxpayer, a foreigner or a hedge fund manager purchases a Treasury bond (bill) and the government promises to pay the bond at a later date, paying the buyer back with a small amount of interest. As of January 2011, foreigners owned $4.45 trillion of the U.S. debt.

As long as Treasury bond buyers are confident that the government will repay them, they accept the lower interest rate of return. However, if bond buyers feel that the government will not be able to repay them, the market will demand a higher interest rate on the bonds which decreases the number of buyers who want to buy them. Taxpayer money is used to pay the bond interest rate so higher interest rates will result in higher taxes. A lack of confidence has already been seen in the stock market decreases over the past week as we approach the current debt ceiling.

If the interest rates on Treasury bonds increases this will have a domino effect and cause the interest rates of other products such as cars, student and mortgage loans and credit cards, business loans or lines of credit to increase. There could also be an increase in personal products such as electronics, clothes, food, household goods and company products and services. This will cause the value of the dollar to decrease causing an increase in costs to purchase foreign imports as well as gasoline for cars.

The less money that is approved for loans or credit will cause taxpayers and business owners to spend less and save more which will hurt the economy.

If Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling, the government will reach the debt ceiling and max out its borrowing power which will prevent the government from paying its debt. This would affect Social Security, Medicare, military salaries, tax refunds, and unemployment insurance, government grants, and other funding.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Money Saving Tips for Journalists

Working as a journalist can involve a lot of travel to do interviews for newspapers, television or radio and can rack up many expenses that can occur at the last minute that may not be covered by your job. These expenses can make it difficult to make ends meet and live day-to-day.

Due to the economy and company cutbacks, many journalists have to cover expenses that were previously covered by their employer. In other instances, journalists have to pay for travel or work related expenses upfront and then get reimbursed later. To save money create a budget and look for ways to reduce expenses. Here are 8 ways for journalists to save money:

1. Travel Discounts. Comparison shop for discounts on parking or air, hotel and rental cars or buy as a package. Some companies that provide discount fares LongTermParking, HotDeals or Kayak. Sign up for online alerts with airlines to learn about their weekly specials. Search for fares early in the morning or on weekends. Check to see if they accept discounts for membership to Diner's Clubs, AAA, AARP, etc. This can save you $30 to $175 per transaction. Check social media sites for discounts.

2. Supplies and Expenses. Shop for office supplies at Costco or online sites such as Amazon, eBay or Craigslist. Consider setting up a home office. You can write off a portion of your mortgage and utility bills. If you do not have space for a home office consider using a telecommuting or telework center at companies such as Regus or the World Environmental Organization or search online for additional telecommuting sites. This can save you $50 to $100 per week in supplies, wear and tear on your car and gas. Check social media sites for discounts.

3. Food. Pack you own drinks such as water and juice along with your favorite snacks. Search online for coupons to your favorite restaurants at site such as Groupon, Living Social or Bloomspot. Sign up for free restaurant newsletters to receive coupons or to find out about specials. This can save you $30 to $200 per month.

4. Car Maintenance. Perform regular maintenance on your car by keeping your tires properly inflated and balanced which improves mileage. Save money on gas by using the lowest octane which is usually 87. Fill up your gas tank before going to work or in the evening when it is cool. Drive the speed limit and keep the trunk weight light. Pay for gas with cash. This can save you $.05 to $.30 per gallon.

5. Insurance. Make sure you have health, life and disability insurance. If you need to see a doctor you won't have to worry about paying medical bills. If you become sick for an extended period of time you won't have to worry about paying medical costs. Contact or Aflac for health insurance quotes. Also consider opening a Health Savings Account. If you need disability insurance contact the Assurity company. This can save you $20 to $200 per month.

6. Use coupons. Use coupons to save money when shopping. Search for online coupons at sites such as,, and This can save you $20 to $250 per month on your grocery bills and other household costs. Check social media sites for coupons.

7. Go green. Try eco-friendly ways to save money. Visit sites such as and and search for ways to save money going green. This can save you $20 to $500 a month.

8. Phone calls. Use your cell phone to make free long distance calls. Contact your cell phone provider to determine the code to interrupt a voicemail greeting. When leaving a message skip the voicemail greeting and go right to the beep to leave a message. Also, if you make a call during peak hours ask the person to call you right back so they pay for the call. This will save minutes and save money on your cell phone bill. Send text messages for short conversations instead of making a phone call to save minutes. You can also use Google talk or Skype to make free phone calls.

These tips will reduce many of your work related expenses and your financial stress, allowing you to focus more on your work assignments and become more productive.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Is Barnes & Noble Next?

On July 21, 2011, at a scheduled hearing Borders is expected to ask the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York to allow it to sell off all of its assets. If the judge approves the move, liquidation sales could start as soon as Friday; the company could go out of business by the end of September. Due to Borders closing all of its stores, 11,000 employees will be losing their jobs. This will have an impact on the economy as well of those families of those employees, more foreclosures, more bankruptcy filings, and more bad credit.

What does this mean for the book industry? The only two major bookstore chains left were Barnes and Noble and Borders. This is good news for Barnes and Noble but what about Borders customers. Will they honor the Borders coupons, Borders gift cards, Borders Bucks, Borders Rewards program, Borders Reward Plus? Will Borders Kobo e-reader owners be allowed to use the Barnes and Noble Nook to read their Kobo books? What happens to vendors who are owed money from Borders? These are some of the many questions that need to be answered.

Barnes and Noble has 717 stores in the United States and has 637 college bookstores. There are approximately 1300 independent bookstores in the United States. In some states there will be miles of neighborhoods without a bookstore. For those who do not have a computer or e-reader, buying books will be difficult. For those who enjoy going to a bookstore to view books before purchasing them, the buying experience will now be different.

For authors, especially self-published authors getting a booksigning will become more difficult since Barnes and Noble does not usually work with self-published authors. I was a fan of the Borders bookstore chain. Borders has more of a friendly family oriented feel. I loved the Borders policy where customers did not have to wait in line more than 20 minutes to make a purchase.

Hopefully Barnes and Noble is reviewing and analyzing Borders customers and using that to ensure former Borders customers enjoy their experience each time they visit at any Barnes and Noble store.
If you are a book lover and enjoy going to a bookstore to purchase books, browse books or attend booksignings or seminars, voice your concerns to Barnes and Noble about the type of customer experience you would like to see at Barnes and Noble. This is a critical time for Barnes and Noble and will determine if they continue to stay in business or go out of business but they need your help.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Warren Buffet's Investing Style

I am a big fan of Warren Buffet. However, being a fan doesn’t mean I agree with everything he does or with all of his beliefs. I do admit that he is knowledgeable about investing. It has been stated that “he invests long-term and understands what he invests in”. It is essential that with anything you do or anything you put your money towards you understand. Many homeowner signed mortgage loans and didn’t understand what they were getting in to. As a result they foreclosed on their homes.

LouAnn Lofton wrote a book entitled, “Warren Buffet Invests Like a Girl”. Well, if he does, then all men need to follow his advice too. I think Warren Buffet is a great investor who doesn’t get emotional about investing. His investing is very strategic which was displayed when he bought shares of Goldman Sachs in 2008 for $5 million which made his company Berkshire Hathaway millions. Here is some background information on Buffet:

1. Carried golf clubs at age 9 for $3 a day

2. Bought his first share at age 11

3. Sold used golf balls from age 11-13 and sold newspapers at age 13

4. Bought a small farm which was 40 acres at age 14 with savings from delivering newspapers

5. Rented out used pinballs machines at age 16 making $50 a week

6. Bought Berkshire Hathaway in 1962

7. Bought stock in Coca-Cola, Disney, McDonalds, Gillette, American Express and Dairy Queen

8. Follows 6 Principles: 1) keep it simple, 2) be an investor not a trader, 3) find outstanding business, 4) make your own decisions, 5) leave a margin of safety, 6) Rule 1: never lose money, Rule 2: never forget rule #1, focus on strengths.

9. Still lives in the same small 3-bedroom house in Omaha that he bought after he got married 50 years ago. He says that he has everything he needs in that house. His house does not have a wall or a fence.

10. Don't buy more than what you "really need" and encourage your children to do and think the same

11. Drives his own car everywhere and does not have a driver or security

12. You are what you are

13. Never travels by private jet, although he owns the world's largest private jet company

14. Always think how you can accomplish things economically

15. His company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns 63 companies.

16. Does not socialize with the high society crowd. After he gets home is to make himself some popcorn and watch television.

17. Don't try to show off, just be yourself and do what you enjoy doing

18. Does not carry a cell phone and does not have a computer on his desk

19. Stay away from credit cards (bank loans) and invest in yourself

20. Money doesn't create man but it is the man who created money

21. Live your life as simple as you are

22. Don't do what others say, just listen them, but do what you feel good

23. Don't go on brand name; just wear those things in which you feel comfortable

24. Don't waste your money on unnecessary things; just spend money on those who are really in need

Do you still think Buffet invests like a girl? Let me know your feedback.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Forbearance Help for the Unemployed

This week President Obama announced adjustments to the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) requirements that will require mortgage loan servicers to extend the forbearance period for unemployed homeowners to 12 months. The previous period was 4 months. The President also has plans for loan servicers who participate in the Making Home Affordable Program (MHA) to extend the minimum forbearance period to 12 months wherever possible.

This is a huge victory for homeowners who wish to remain in their homes during unemployment. This will make it easier for unemployed borrowers to qualify for forbearance. This prevents unemployed homeowners from filing foreclosure or bankruptcy. A bankruptcy or foreclosure greatly lowers your credit score. However, forbearance does not impact your credit score as much as a bankruptcy or foreclosure.

A forbearance is when your mortgage company reduces or suspends your mortgage payments for a specific period of time. When that time period expires, you resume making your regular payments. You will either have to pay a lump sum for the payments missed or additional partial payments for a specific amount of time to bring your loan current. Here are 4 ways to apply for mortgage forbearance:

1. Examine your current situation. Determine which option is right for you. You should not apply for forbearance if you previously were not able to pay your mortgage when you were employed. Contact your loan provider to get more information on how to apply for forbearance and terms. Another option may be better for your situation such as loan modification, short-sale, etc.

2. Contact your lender. Write your lender a hardship letter asking for a forbearance stating the reasons why you need forbearance versus other mortgage assistance options. The letter should include: time period of the forbearance request, whether payments will be made, monthly amount paid, proof of your financial hardship, a plan to overcome your financial hardship before the forbearance period expires, a listing of your current income and monthly expenses, and steps taken to assist with the financial hardship prior to requesting a forbearance. If you cannot come to an agreement on the terms then forbearance might not be the right option for you.

3. Negotiate. Work with your lender to negotiate the best terms you can afford for the forbearance agreement. Filing forbearance prevents your mortgage company from filing foreclosure and helps maintain your relationship with your mortgage company by showing that you are willing to work with them to pay back the money owed. Ensure all of your questions are answered before signing any paperwork.

4. Advice. Consult a lawyer to get legal advice and tax implications regarding filing forbearance. A lawyer can assist with writing the hardship letter and negotiating with the mortgage company on your behalf.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Have You Discussed Your Finances as a Family

Finances and family are important because finances is one of the biggest contributors to couples getting a divorce and is one the main reasons couples and families fight. Good money management habits help you prepare for the future, ends fights, reduces stress, and makes your life more enjoyable. The easiest way is to save money or anything you buy or own, comparison shop to find the best deals. Some ways to have good money management skills are: create a budget, begin saving, reduce debt, and educate yourself.

Every family member has to work together to develop a plan to handle their finances, individually and as a family. Families always think they need more money, but they really only need more discipline. Discipline will help them achieve goals so that when their get more money they manage it well and make it last longer.

Effective money management is solely based on how a family spends their money and lives their lives. Money management should include setting short and long-term financial goals. Families should plan for their future such as retirement, college for the kids, purchasing a home, etc. Many times families are so consumed with living day to day or paycheck to paycheck they can't worry about their future but that is the main reason families stay stuck in the same rut. Here are 5 ways to better manage your family finances.

1. Create a budget - First create a household budget or spending plan that includes involves each family member. A budget will show what you earn, what you spend and what you owe. This will help you see right away what areas you need to reduce expenses and where most of your money is being spent.

Hold family meeting to discuss finances and be honest about your financial situation. Many times parents live above their means just so their children are not aware of their financial situation – this is a "no-no".

If you don't know the exact amount spent on a particular item write down your best estimate. If an item fluctuates and ranges from month to month take the highest amount paid thus far and use that same amount in your budget. Buy items on sale and buy only needs. Buy wants periodically after starting short-term goals.

2. Begin saving - Set financial goals with a specific dollar amount and target date for each goal such as: save $1,000 by December 2012. Take each dollar amount associated with a goal and divide by the number of months to reach the target date. This will show you how much money you need to save each month to reach the goal.

Develop short-term goals that can be achieved in 3 to 12 months. Long-term goals are set and should be achieved over a period of time such as 3 to 5 years. For a family the first goal should be to create an emergency fund.

The emergency fund should be large enough to cover household bills and expenses for 3 to 6 months. This will eliminate fights with your spouse or partner and the children as well as prevent using a credit card for unexpected emergencies. Balance your checkbooks, monthly bank statements and credit card statements with monthly receipts to make sure no errors appear on statements on with your bank accounts.

3. Reduce debt - Create a debt repayment plan to pay off all debts. Set a target date for each debt including interest paid, monthly payment, total amount owed and if any bills are late. Start paying the smallest debt first then work your way up to the largest debt. Use the money paid for one bill and apply towards the second bill and continue this until all debts are paid.

4. Educate yourself - Talk to other families who have been successful in managing their finances or read books on family finances such as Family Finances the Essential Guide for Parents by Ann Douglas, Personal & Family Finance Workbook by Craig Israelsen, America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money by Steve Economides, Your Military Family Network by Military Family Network.

5. Plan for the future – make sure you have health, life and disability insurance. If your job doesn't offer these develop a plan so you can afford to buy them to protect you and your family if a tragic event occurs that affects your finances.

Budgets should be revised often when a specific event occurs such as: promotion, raise, additional recurring expenses, birth of a child, marriage, divorce, etc. Compare your budget with the financial goals set to ensure everyone is on track to meeting the goals.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Should Christians Be in Debt

Did you ever wonder why a negative item has to stay on your credit report for 7 years? No one was able to give an answer other than what is stated in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). I always wondered what the answer was myself but was never satisfied just knowing that someone decided to use the magic number 7. Upon research I found out why creditors, banks and other companies you do business with keep an item on your credit report for 7 years.

Deuteronomy 15:1

[The Year for Canceling Debts] At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts.

Negative items on your credit report are the result of not paying a debt. The recession had a long-lasting effect on Americans. Many Americans still have not changed their spending habits. Many people are allowing fear to cause them to make hasty decisions. Don’t let fear cause you to make a decision you will regret in the future. If something sounds too good to be true or requires you to pay money to receive a service that usually is free - don’t pay for it. You can’t have faith and be fearful.
Isaiah 41:13

For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

If you owe debt you should pay it off. It will maintain your relationship with your creditors, stop harassing creditor calls, increase your credit score and reduce stress. It will also help you to align yourself with God. You can’t focus on the things of God when you are stressed out about your finances and being in debt. To pay back debt and stay out of debt you have to change the way you think about money. Money is a tool that can either be used to generate debt or to generate wealth. Taken from the bible:

Proverbs 13:22

A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children, and the wealth of the sinner is paid up for the just.

Think outside the box and think of creative and unique ways for getting out of debt. Thinking out the box will require great commitment, determination and sacrifice. One way to think about the box to get out of debt and stay out of debt is the follow the Voluntary Simplicity movement which states that you don’t buy anything new other than basic necessities such as food and clothing. Shelter is a basic necessity but doesn’t mean you should buy a home you really can’t afford or a home that has more rooms than you will use. It means examining every aspect of your life to determine what is most important and eliminating everything else.

Many entrepreneurs started their businesses by living below their means or spending less than they earned. They understood the importance of sacrifice which allowed them achieve their goals. Here are 8 ways to get out of debt.

1. Tithe. Once you align yourself financially with God by tithing, you will find it easier to get out of debt and plan for retirement as referenced in Malachi 3:8.

2. Pay in full. Pay the balance in full each month prior to the due date or as soon as you receive the bill which helps to avoid paying finance charges.

3. Pay more than once. You can send in payments multiple times a month. You can pay half of the bill balance with 1st paycheck of the month then pay the remaining balance with 2nd paycheck of the month. Pay weekly instead of monthly. Pay the minimum monthly payment the first week after you get the bill, and then each week pay as much as you can toward the monthly balance and repeat every month. You can also pay as much as you can when you get the bill, and then pay more towards the bill when you get extra money.

4. Avoid late fees. Pay your bills on time. If you are unable to make a payment, contact the creditor right away to setup a payment plan or make other arrangements. Contact your local post office to find out how long it takes your payment to arrive by mail.

5. Negotiate. Contact the company to negotiate a lower interest rate, get fees waived or change terms if your account is in good standing.

6. Pay more than minimum. If pay the minimum monthly payment you will end up paying 2 to 3 times the cost of the item you purchased due to finance charges that accrue on the balance. Send more than the minimum monthly payment each month. If your finance charges are less than your minimum monthly payment your balance will go down faster.

7. Spend less than you earn. Buy needs vs. wants, control your spending, don't buy in excess or more than you need, keep debt (excluding mortgage or rent) at 15% or less of your total monthly income (after taxes). Reduce expenses by bringing your lunch to work, taking public transportation, shopping at wholesale stores and downsizing. Delay buying the things you want until you have the money to purchase them.

8. Pay with cash. Use credit cards for emergencies only. Use cash to pay for purchases.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Do You Have Swipe-itis

Do you use your check card/debit card to make all of your purchases? Have you stopped carrying cash? Do you feel lost without your debit card? You are not alone. There are over 520 million debit cards in use in the United States. Most of them are Visa and MasterCard debit cards.

It can be difficult to resist the temptation of the instant gratification culture of America. Advertisers make it easy for consumers to get everything instantly by creating online shopping, instant cereal, instant coffee, instant meals, instant messaging, and debit card purchases at most stores and businesses. Most Americans who have a debit card buy an item immediately when they see it either in a store or online. This bad habit has caused many Americans to overdraw their account, pay overdraft fees, spend more money than they have, damage their relationship with their bank and may lower their credit score.

No matter what form of payment you use you have to keep track of your spending. You should track your spending weekly if you frequently use a check card. This will help to see where you are spending your money and will help you to recognize errors or identity theft quickly. When you see where you are spending your money it is easier to reduce spending and make better choices when making purchases.

There are advantages and disadvantages to using a check card. Some advantages of using a debit card: it is easier to obtain versus a credit card, can be used in place of checks, accepted everywhere, transactions can be made quicker and can be used to get cash from an ATM or retail store that offers cash-back during a purchase. The disadvantages of using a debit card are: you can spend more than you have in your account; you can incur overdraft fees and can become a victim of identity theft. Here a 9 ways to stop swipeitis:

1. Pay your bills first. Put a portion of any extra money left over in a savings account.
2. Alternate payment. Use other forms of payments such as cash when making a purchase.
3. Get a receipt. Get a receipt each time you make a purchase and keep it.
4. Track spending. Take all of your receipts from your debit card purchases and put them in an envelope. At the end of each week add up the receipts to see how much you spent. Use pen and paper, an Excel spreadsheet or to enter the data. You can import bank account transactions to your account to simplify the process of tracking your spending.
5. Wait. Wait a few days before making a purchase that is more than $100. Go back to the store to see if you still want the item. If you still want the item, comparison shop to see which store offers the best price.
6. Retail therapy. Avoid shopping when you are emotional. This will prevent you from spending more than you have or buying unnecessary items.
7. Create a budget. Create a budget to track your spending daily or weekly. Set aside a specific amount for extra things you want. One reach that amount don’t spend anymore.
8. Leave at home. Leave your debit card at home unless you know you will make a purchase. This helps to reduce the temptation to make an unnecessary purchase.
9. Get cash. Go to the bank and take out the amount of cash you need for the week. Once you spend that amount don’t get out any more money or use your debit card unless it is an emergency.

Monday, July 04, 2011

How to Protect Yourself From GPS Identity Theft

According to Proofpoints’ Top 10 Privacy Issues Predictions to 2011 Protection, some of their top 10 privacy issues include mobile GPS location information, social media and breach notification laws. There are currently 46 states that have some sort of breach notification law either passed or before lawmaking bodies.

According to Proofpoint there will be an increase in attacks on social media sites like Facebook and MySpace. Approximately ¼ of all time online is spent on social networks. Social network sites appeal to identity thieves because it takes advantage of our natural disposition to be nice by clicking on link, accepting friend requests from people we don’t know, clicking on advertisements, etc.

Law enforcement officials have warned against leaving valuables in parked cars due to GPS location information breaches. A wallet left in a car glove compartment can lead to identity theft. Thieves break into vehicles to steal a few credit cards but leave the other cards to hide their crime.

A garage-opening remote control can give car thieves easy access to your home. Thieves can get your address from your car registration and/or insurance documents in your glove compartment or from the GPS device itself. Then drive your car to your house and use the remote to open the garage door to enter your house or steal items in your garage. Thieves take your information and buy social security numbers on the internet to open credit card accounts in your name. Several agencies sell personal information to those who do background checks such as private investigators or credit card companies which in some cases gets into the hands of thieves.

Thieves break into cars and use dashboard-mounted GPS devices to learn the owner’s home address to burglarize the home while the owner is inside a restaurant, store or other building. Thieves can also use the GPS to rob your home while you are not there. GPS devices are stolen and sold online or in pawn shops.

GPS devices allow others to track your location without your knowledge including when using GPS on smartphones such as the Blackberry and iPhone. When you take a picture and post it on your social media profile data is linked to it. GPS devices provide location information or data called geotagging which are embedded in file formats such as .jpg, .mov, pictures, videos, etc. The data is not visible to users.

Browser plug-ins or certain software programs such as Twittervision can reveal the location information to anyone who wants to see it. If you load pictures on your computer this information is also stored on your computer. The location information can review your: home address, who created the file, when, where, work address, places you visit often, the time you visited a place, how often you visit, how far away you are from your home, etc. It can also reveal information about appointments with doctors, salons, etc.

Here are 8 ways to protect yourself from GPS identity theft
1. Labels. Users of GPS devices should label their home address as something unfamiliar instead of using “home”.
2. Announcements. Avoid telling everyone on your Facebook status that you are out of town, at a show, at a restaurant, checking in to a place or are not home. Avoid responding to event invites on social media profiles selecting “I’m attending”. Instead select “Maybe”.
3. Detach GPS. Detach your GPS device from the dashboard with the cord and holder when you park your car and carry it with you or hide it in the car but not the glove compartment. It the GPS device leaves a suction mark wipe it before leaving the car.
4. Hide car documentation. A glove compartment is the first place car thieves look for documents with your address. Hide the somewhere else in the car or carry them with you until you get back in the car.
5. Report Thief. If your car is broken into report the theft to your local police station.
6. Assistance. Ask your neighbors to watch your home for any suspicious activity while you’re gone and to contact police immediately if they notice your car or any other car in your driveway when they know you’re not at home.
7. Use Caution when Uploading. Disable geotagging information or applications before uploading pictures. Check your smart phone manual for instructions or do a search on the internet for your type of smart phone.
8. Privacy Settings. Update your privacy settings on your social media profiles by turning off location sharing features. Adjust

Friday, July 01, 2011

Bring In the Financial Reins on Independence Day

This Independence Day resist the temptation to spend money that you don’t have, buy more than you need, or buy something you probably will not use just because it is on sale. Many times items that are on sale are not really a bargain. Do comparison shopping to see if you can find the item for a cheaper price at another store or online. Here are 5 ways to save money shopping this Independence Day:

1. Plan ahead. Don't wait until the day before the holiday to go shopping. Lines at the register are longer and the selection of items is limited. Try shopping a week in advance or early in the morning.
2. Budget. Create a budget or shopping list and only buy the things you absolutely need.
3. Ask for help. If you are having a picnic or cookout ask friends and family to bring a dish to help cut downs on costs.
4. Local shopping. Visit local vendors to purchase meats, fruits and vegetables which will be much cheaper than the grocery store.
5. Resist temptation. Avoid going to the department stores or malls. I know it will be hard but take time out to enjoy being with family and friends. Try finding some free events to attend instead of going shopping. Your wallet will thank you.