Wednesday, September 28, 2016

25 Sure Fire Ways to Avoid a Scam During a Natural Disaster

... Tips on Donating After a Natural Disaster and How to Avoid Scammers 

When a natural disaster occurs, many criminals take advantage of victims by defrauding them for money during a time when many are experiencing hardships and loss. There are hundreds of scams but the most common as identified by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) such as social media, job, charity, sweepstakes and lottery, home improvement, check cashing, phishing, identity theft, penny actions, and BBB scam.  

The Department of Labor provides resource information on how to recover from a hurricane. FTC has a list of 21 ways that criminals steal money on its Hurricane Recovery website at Unfortunately, no one is immune to scams but there are some warning signs. Here are 25 ways to avoid being a victim of a scam during a natural disaster.

  1. Do not provide financial information before work is performed.
  2. If you need to apply for a loan for repairs, the person recommends a lender.
  3. Ask for identification and carefully examine it if someone knocks on your door.
  4. Ask for an office number and call the office to verify the person’s identity.
  5. Look to see if the vehicle the person is driving is a company vehicle and write down the drivers’ license number, make, model, color, and license plate of the vehicle.
  6. Ask questions about why they are knocking on your door, why they feel you need their services and why you should do business with them.
  7. Avoid answering personal questions or respond no to personal questions such as How long have you lived here? Whom do you live with? Can I see the inside of your home? or Can I walk around your property? Can I use the restroom or can I use your phone?
  8. Do not let a stranger into your home.
  9. Avoid giving your personal and financial information online or over the phone.
  10. If you are a woman and live alone, tell the person you will get back to them.
  11. Look at any documentation provided and tell the person you will review it and get back to them. If the person pressures you into signing the document or agreeing to do business that day tell them you will report them to the BBB for harassment.
  12. Do business with reputable companies who are licensed and bonded. Request a copy of their certificate of liability insurance. Get referrals from family members or friends.
  13. Get at least three price quotes for repairs and loans and compare them. If there are huge differences in price, schedule, terms, and conditions ask questions.
  14. Ask for three references of past customers.
  15. Check the BBB website to see if there are any complaints against the person or perform an internet search to look for any negative information on the company.
  16. Get the contact information of the person who will be inspecting the work.
  17. Get a lien waver from the person or company performing the work.
  18. Do not pay the person in full until the work is completed to your satisfaction.
  19. Do not sign any contract or documentation that has blank fields. The person should complete the necessary information before providing the documentation to you to complete.
  20. Discuss the proposed work with your insurer adjuster prior to signing any documentation. 
  21. Businesses do not contact you by email or use pop-ups to ask for your personal information or account number online. Call the company and ask them to verify if they sent you an email. 
  22. Know the status of your account such as personal information you provided to the company, status of your account (open, closed, etc.), balances and outstanding charges. 
  23. Use spam filters on your email accounts. If you click a link by accident, close the browser immediately and go to the valid website to access your account. Change your password and notify the company that you received a phishing email. Create PINs and passwords that cannot easily be guessed. 
  24. Beware of fraudulent checks. Ask the company to send you a money order instead of a check. This reduces your chances of cashing a fraudulent check and allowing the company access to your bank account information. 
  25. If you feel you were a victim of a scam report the incident to the Better Business Bureau, FBI, US Postal Service or FTC at

Saturday, September 24, 2016

50 Dynamic Ways to Stretch Your Paycheck

 Stretch Your Dollar

Many Americans have been forced to or have voluntarily adjusted their lifestyle due to loss of income, unemployment, reduced hours, reduced benefits, illness, stagnant salaries, increased healthcare costs and economic events.  However, many others struggle trying to make changes to their lifestyle.  Many Americans are stubborn and refuse to make the necessary sacrifices required to survive. 

I have talked to thousands of people across the country and many times when I talk some who is 50 and older they are not experiencing a financial crisis, they have one credit card or no credit cards, are not in debt or have small amounts of debt, have a savings account and a retirement account and are puzzled as to why so many Americans who are employed are struggling to pay their bills. 

If you little to no money left over after you receive your paycheck you may need to reduce expenses and spending. Everyone should reduce spending no matter what your financial situation to ensure you live well below your means so that if a financial crisis occurs you can overcome it without having to make drastic changes.

It is better to reduce spending because it is much easier to scale back by making small adjustments to your life than to make drastic changes such as filing for bankruptcy or foreclosure or having legal action taken against you. You do not have to sacrifice quality just because you reduced spending and you can still enjoy the same quality of life.  Here are 50 ways to stretch your paycheck and live a balanced financial life.


  1. Freeze food. Freeze leftover food for future use. You can freeze almost anything.
  2. Kitchen.  Use everything in your kitchen and pantry to make meals and use all items until nothing is left then go shopping.
  3. Meatless. Cook meatless meals by substituting meat for pasta, vegetables or tofu. Buy foods that are filling, inexpensive, and easy to make such as pasta, rice, beans, lentils soups, stews, casseroles. Mix beans with ham hocks, turkey necks or potatoes.
4.      Make your own food. Grow your own fruits and vegetables. Make you own bread, yogurt, pasta, soda, jelly, preservatives, canned fruits, etc.
  1. Bulk. Use coupons or shop at a wholesale store such as Sam’s Club or Costco. Buy whole foods, such as vegetables, grains, beans and fruits, instead of processed foods. This way you are not paying for the processing costs.
6.      Meat.  Get fresh meats from farmers such as chicken, beef, pork, lamb, milk and eggs. Buy lower grade cuts of meats and use to cook in soups and stews.
7.      Eating out. Lunch. Cook at home and reduce eating out. Eat breakfast at home and take your lunch to work.
8.      Water. Drink water instead of soda. Use filters on faucets and drink tap water instead of bottled water to save money and help the environment.
9.      Prepared foods. Buy canned foods or frozen vegetables which as sometimes cheaper than fresh vegetables.

  1. Public transportation. Catch public transportation. If the subway is too expensive, catch the bus, which is much cheaper.
  2. Walk.  Walk instead of driving to go places. It is good exercise and saves money.
  3. Gas. Buy the cheapest gas possible for your car. Get regularly scheduled maintenance on your car perform longer. Keep your car for at least 5-10 years to save money on maintenance costs.
4.      Carpool. Carpool with friends, neighbors or colleagues.
5.      Bike. Ride your bicycle to work or to run errands. It is good exercise and saves money on gas.
  1. Share. Use car-sharing services such as Lyft or Uber.

General Shopping
  1. Coupons. Use your coupons when buying items on sale. Shop at stores that double manufacturer coupons or honor competitor coupons. 
  2. Dollar stores.  Buy spices, toiletries, condiments, paper products and other household items at the dollar store.
  3. Prescriptions. Buy a 3-month supply of prescriptions, buy generic or buy online. Ask about discounts, specials and less inexpensive versions of the same prescription.
  4. Rewards Cards. Sign up for loyalty cards at all stores where you shop including grocery stores, hotels, rental cars, drug stores and airlines. 
  5. Negotiate. Learn how to negotiate prices and consider shopping at local stores to save money.
  6. Compare. Comparison shop before making a purchase to get the best deal.  Use sites like,,
  1. Gifts. Buy gifts and holiday gifts during store sales in October or November. Use discount sites like eBay, Amazon or Overstock. Shop at auction sites like

  1. Exercise.  Exercise at home instead of at the gym.  Run, walk or do Pilates or yoga. Rent DVDs from the library or watch workout shows online for free. 
  2. Gym. Cancel gym memberships or do not renew them.  
  3. Health Insurance. Buy at least basic medical insurance for you and your family and get a prescription card. 
  4. Insurance. Buy at adequate life, homeowners, renters and disability insurance. 
  5. Barter. Consider using companies that barter services, offer free or low-cost services or use a sliding scale payment method.

1.      Heat. Turn heat down to 60 degrees at night and keep heat at 68 degrees or lower during winter. Open blinds or curtains during the day to warm your home.
  1. Electricity. Reduce home expenses by buying energy efficient appliances, ceiling fans, programmable thermostats, fluorescent light bulbs and lamps, or hot water insulator jackets. Turn the lights out when you are not in a room.
  2. Downsize.  Move to a cheaper apartment, condominium or home.  Trade in your car for a used car with a cheaper note. Trade in designer clothes for cheaper brands like Gap or Old Navy.
  3. Get a roommate.  Rent out a room in your home or apartment.  Sleep in the basement or on a couch to rent out a room if you only have one bedroom.  Use the extra money to pay down debt or contribute to a savings account.
  4. Cooling. Set the air conditioner at a low energy saving temperature, which can be found, be calling your local utility company.
  5. Dollar stores.  Buy spices, toiletries, condiments, paper products and other household items at the dollar store.

  1. Gentle cycle. Wash clothes that need dry cleaning on the gentle cycle with Woolite and hang dry.
  2. Clothing. Shop at discounts stores, outlets, online, at thrift stores or consignment shops. Buy items off the clearance rack and buy out of season – buy summer clothes in winter and winter clothes in the summer.
  3. Wear the same clothes.  You can wear the same pants or skirt and a different shirt either daily or weekly.  
  4. Discount. Shop at discount stores, buy clothes in off-season or check out discount racks. Buy a few jackets and mix and match pieces to stretch your wardrobe.
  5. Sew. Sew clothes for yourself and your family.  Crochet pillows, quilts, blankets, sweaters, socks and other items to stay warm.

Budget and Savings
  1. Track Spending. Write a list of your entire total monthly expenses including monthly debt and write down your total monthly income after taxes. If you do not have at least 10% of your monthly income leftover look at the areas where you can reduce spending.
  2. Cash. Pay for items with cash or a debit card to save money on finance charges. 
  3. Services. Go to a training school for services such as a beauty school, barber school, dental school or veterinary school to save money on hair care, dental care and pet care costs.
  4. Auctions. Buy from online auctions such as
  5. Cancel.  Cancel any memberships and subscriptions you currently have and request a full or partial refund.

Creditors and Service Providers
  1. Negotiate. Contact your creditors and negotiate with them to setup payment plans to pay past due accounts.  Pay judgments, liens and collection accounts first because they weigh more heavily on your credit score. Negotiate for lower credit card interest rates. 
  2. Limit Credit Card Usage. Use your credit card for emergencies only and avoid using your credit card regular purchases such as groceries and gas.  Keep credit card balances at 20% or less of the credit limit. Pay balances off at the end of each month.
  3. Refinance. Refinance your mortgage or auto loan to get a cheaper payment and/or interest rate.
  4. Cable/cell phone. Cancel your cable service or cell phone service or get the cheapest plan possible. Consider buying a prepaid cell phone.
  5. Banking. Shop around to find a checking account with no monthly fees. Avoid overdraft and ATM fees.
  6. Auto. Buy a midsize or compact car because this results in a cheaper monthly payment and saves you money over the life of the loan. 
  7. Bundle. Bundle products to save money such as purchasing insurance, internet or cable service with the same company.