Shopping Online During the Holidays? Part 2

Protect Your Money from Scams 

Part two of this short series provides additional information about the many common scams designed to steal your money as you do your online shopping during the holiday season. 1

Package Delivery Confirmation Scams

This scam is especially popular during the holidays when people receive gifts through the mail that they may not be expecting.

The scammers call or email claiming to be from the U.S. Postal Service or a major shipping company and state that you have a package waiting for delivery. To ensure the package is meant for you, you are asked to provide personal information, which the scammers steal to use to open credit accounts in your name.

The US Postal Service Response

The U.S. Postal Service does not call or email people and ask for personal information if there is a problem with a delivery. 2

Don’t let these scams dampen your holiday spirits

Instead, take the following precautions to protect your money while shopping online:

 • Always use difficult-to-guess,   unique passwords on every account.

 • If you’re using shopping apps, focus only on official retailer apps found   on the retailer’s website or are putable app marketplace, which offer   stronger security.

• Never provide your credit card    information unless you are on a secure   site, showing “https” at the beginning   of the URL and the lock symbol.

 • Use two-factor authentications on your accounts. Two-factor authentications require you to provide two pieces of evidence when logging into an account. It presents an extra layer of security to make it more difficult for someone who isn’t you to log into your account.  3

• Monitor credit card bills and bank statements as well as app and other online transactions for unauthorized purchases or withdrawals. Immediately contact your bank if you see anything suspicious. Also, you may want to consider signing up for alert services.   Many credit card issuers, banks, and mobile app providers offer services that notify you about certain account activities, such as recent logins from unrecognized devices.

###Larry Marvin
LifeCrafter – Money $ense

Sources:

For more help or information, go to www.fdic.gov or call the FDIC toll-free at 1-877-ASK-FDIC(1-877-275-3342).  2

  1. ©2018 Larry Marvin, Image Credit: Shopping-online 27903971268_4aaacda0d3_b.jpg
  2.   https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/radDocs/ consumer/CrimeAlert-DoNotTaketheBait.pdf for more information
  3.   https: //www.nist.gov/itl/tig/back-basics-multi-factor-authentication

Shopping Online During the Holidays? Part 1

Protect Your Money From Scams

During the holiday season, we tend to make a lot more purchases online for travel and gifts.  It is especially important to be vigilant about protecting your money. Here are some of the most common scams to watch for:  [1. ©2018 Larry Marvin, Image Credit: Paying-or-Shopping- online8716835510_8ba11c7b30_o.jpg 

Fake Websites and Apps

Scammers often create fake websites that are so similar to the sites of popular retailers; it easily tricks consumers into providing payment information. The scammers take your information and your money, but you never receive the products.

Scammers have also developed fake apps that contain malware. When you download the app, the malware steals personal information from your device or locks it, holding it for ransom until you pay the scammers.

Be careful of apps or websites that ask for suspicious permissions, such as granting access to your contacts, text messages, stored passwords, or credit card information. Also, poor grammar or misspelled words in an apps’description or on a website is a red flag that it is not legitimate.

Other types of fraudulent apps ask you to log in using your social media or email accounts that could expose your personal information for the scammers to steal.

Email Links

Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails or emails from unfamiliar sources. The links may lead to an illegitimate website attempting to get you to enter your credit card or other personal information.

Some links may download malware (malicious software, such as computer viruses) to your computer when you click on them that can steal your banking information, including login identification, passwords, and credit or debit card numbers. These emails typically look very similar to ones sent by well-known retailers, banks, and other entities.

Be on the lookout for emails that have typos or other obvious mistakes. In addition, be skeptical of email attachments described as coupons, rebates, or payment forms – they could include malware. And avoid email offers that seem “too good to be true.” If an email promises popular items for free or a surprisingly low price, it is probably a scam.

Making Payments on Unsecured Sites

Before paying for a purchase online, make sure the website you’re on has “https” at the beginning of its URL with a lock symbol:

This means the site has a protected network connection. Websites with “https” at the beginning of the URL with no “s” are more vulnerable to attacks by scammers who steal credit card information by monitoring network traffic.

Also be aware of pop-up windows that appear while you are on a website asking for your credit card information to receive coupons or to win free items. Legitimate companies do not ask for your personal information for those purposes.

Using Public Wi-Fi to Shop or Access Sensitive Information

Wi-Fi allows your laptop, PC, or mobile device to connect to the internet without a physical wire connection. Many restaurants, hotels, libraries, and other places offer free public Wi-Fi, which is convenient when you’re on the go.

Many of these networks may not be secure and may expose your personal  and banking information toscammers looking to steal names, social security numbers, and bank account numbers.

Avoid using public Wi-Fi to make purchases online, log in to your financial accounts, or access other sites that have sensitive information about you. It’s also a good idea to stick with websites that have “https” encryption(discussed above) when in public places.

See part 2 of this series for additional information.

###Larry Marvin
LifeCrafter – Money $ense

Source:

For more help or information, go to www.fdic.gov or call the FDIC toll-free at 1-877-ASK-FDIC (1-877-275-3342).

What to Do If You Can’t Afford Your Student Loan Payments

Student loans are a debt you have to pay back, even if you don’t finish your degree. However, depending on your situation and what kind of loans you have, you might be eligible for a different repayment plan or to get your loans forgiven. Moreover, when it comes to qualifying for these programs, there’s nothing a private company can do for you that you can’t do yourself for free. 1 

Do not ignore your loans if you’re having trouble making payments. The government offers several options that can help keep your loans in good standing, even if your finances are tight.

3 Ways You Can Keep on Track With Loan Payments

  • Change your payment due date. Do you get paid after your student loan payment is due each month? If so, contact your loan servicer and ask whether you’d be able to switch the date your student loan payment is due.
  • Change your repayment plan. What you ultimately pay depends on the plan you choose and when you borrowed the money. If you need lower monthly payments, an income-driven repayment plan is based on how much money you make.
  • Consolidate your loans. If you have multiple student loans, simplify the repayment process with a Direct Consolidation Loan—allowing you to combine all your federal student loans into one loan for one monthly payment.

If the options above don’t work for you and you simply can’t make any payments right now, you might be eligible to postpone your payments through a deferment or forbearance. However, depending on the type of loan you have, interest may still accrue (accumulate) on your loan during the time you’re not making payments.

How to Manage Your Student Loans” Video

Check out this video to learn more about changing repayment plans, postponing or reducing your payments, or combining your federal student loans. 2.

https://youtu.be/flG4gFIiZzU

 View accessible version (WMV)

 

###Larry Marvin

LifeCrafter- Money $ense

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Beware: Private companies may contact you with offers to help you with your student loans for a fee. Remember, you never have to pay for help with your student loans. The U.S. Department of Education and their loan servicers for free help. Learn more about avoiding paying for help with your student loans.
  1. ©2018 Larry Marvin, Image Credit:32671790441_dbc0255096_o.jpg
  2. https://www.StudentAid.ed.gov

Government Going Mobile With Financial Aid Form

On August 16, 2018, the government introduced two new ways to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form: a mobile-friendly version of the fafsa.gov website and a mobile app.12

These two improvements will make it easier for students and parents to access and complete the FAFSA form on the device that works best for them, with a particular focus on improving the experience on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Redesigned, Mobile-friendly FAFSA® Website

The fafsa.gov website has an updated look with new colors and has been redesigned so that the site pages will fit the screen size and shape of any device, including desktop or laptop computers and mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. You can now complete the FAFSA form on a mobile device with the same ease as on a desktop or laptop computer.

The new design of fafsa.gov also offers the following features:

  • The “Help and Hints” display box has been replaced by “tool tips” that provide information about each FAFSA question.
  • While the number of questions on the FAFSA form remains the same, the questions are displayed in a more user-friendly way, with some now grouped in a different order to ease navigation through the site.

Now Available: FAFSA® Completion on myStudentAid Mobile App

Federal Student Aid announced that students and parents may now download the myStudentAid app from both the Apple App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android). The myStudentAid mobile app will provide the following functionality:

  • myFAFSA: complete the FAFSA safely and securely from your mobile device
  • Profile: edit/manage an FSA ID
  • myFederalLoans: view federal student loan and aid history
  • gov: access FSA’s signature source of information on student financial aid products, processes, and services
  • Contact information for FSA’s contact centers

Making the FAFSA form accessible through a mobile device provides students and their parents with improved options for completing the form. myFAFSA’s ability to customize the experience based on a specific role also makes it easier for students and parents to understand and complete the form. Also, students and parents will have the ability to complete the FAFSA form on any device that they prefer.

Note: This beta version of myFAFSA does not offer all of the same features as fafsa.gov. An enhanced version of myFAFSA will be released this fall and will include additional functionality.

###Larry W. Marvin

LifeCrafter- Money $ense

shadow-ornament

Resources

In the future, Federal Student Aid will post an announcement including a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation containing information and screenshots about myFAFSA.

To download the app, visit Google Play or the Apple App store at the links provided below.

Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fsa.mystudentaid

Apple App Store:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mystudentaid/id1414539145

Attachment:

https://ifap.ed.gov/eannouncements/attachments/Updated1819FOTWPreviewPresentation.pptx

Source:

Federal Student Aid, a department of the U.S. Department of Education:   https://ifap.ed.gov/eannouncements/072418TheFAFSAFormisGoingMobile.html

 

 

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  1. ©2018 Larry Marvin, Image Credit:screen capture-play-google-store-apps-details-2018-09-13-14_23_29
  2. https://ifap.ed.gov/eannouncements/072418TheFAFSAFormisGoingMobile.html

Paying for College

One of the most significant challenges facing parents today is paying for college. Jacob Gold, in an article he wrote for HuffPost, said: “We constantly see headlines about the increasing cost of education and the strain it puts on family finances.” He went on to say “There is no question that funding a child’s college education is one of life’s most significant investments. So how can you keep junior’s undergrad years from undermining your own retirement savings?”  1 2

The Best Way to Pay for College

The best way to pay for college is to use money from brokerage accounts,  40l(K) or other retirement accounts, 529 state-sponsored education accounts, and other traditional savings accounts. All of these methods of saving require time and planning during the younger years of the future college students in your household. If you do not have the cash set aside, then you will have to investigate the numerous types of financial programs that are available.

Several Types of Aid

There are several types of aid available to help you pay for your education beyond high school, including grants and scholarships, federal work-study jobs and student loans. The first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form at fafsa.gov. We will discuss the important details of FAFSA in another blog post. 3

Grants and scholarships

Grants and scholarships are free money. They should be your first choice to finance your education. Why? Because you don’t have to pay them back. An excellent way to apply for a grant is through your FAFSA form. You also can check your financial aid office at the college you want to attend, U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool, federal and state agencies, your parent’s employer or even with your current employer, to name a few possible sources to find grant and scholarship opportunities.

Federal work-study jobs

Federal work-study jobs are another way to help pay for college. Work-study is a need-based grant that requires you to work part-time while you’re in school. To qualify for work-study, you’ll need to fill out the FASFA form and meet the needs-based criteria of the program. You are only paid for the hours that you work.

Student Loans

Student loans fall into two categories: federal loans and private loans.
Federal student loans come from the Department of Education. These include:
Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, Direct Consolidation Loans, and Perkins Loans. The specifics of the Department of Education loans will be discussed in a future post.

Private loans sometimes called “alternative loans,” are offered by private lenders, like banks and credit unions, and do not include the benefits and protections that come with federal loans. 4

Seek Professional Advice

Get help to make informed financial decisions about how to pay for college. Start by comparing financial aid offers or understanding student loan repayment options.


###Larry W. Marvin
LifeCrafter- Money $ense

  1. ©2018 Larry Marvin, Image Credit: Piggy-Bank-with-graduation-hat-tassel-and-money-sticking-out-of-slot-e1534873438869.jpg.
  2. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jacob-gold/paying-for-college-101-5-tips-parents-need-to-know_b_8330184.html
  3. Student Loans | Consumer Information. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/1028-student-loans
  4. Student Loans | Consumer Information. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/1028-student-loans

So You Want to go to College?

The cost of a college education is higher than ever, and there is no relief in sight.  College expenses range from tuition, room, and board, to books, supplies, fees and travel expenses.  The bottom line is that the sooner you start planning for college, whether for your children or yourself, the better prepared you should be to handle the “sticker shock” associated with getting a college education. 1 

There is no doubt that the sooner you start the conversation about college and how it will be paid for, the more realistic the family’s expectations will be about what the family can afford to pay.  In the real world, many families do not start these discussions soon enough. So in the end, the challenge of going to college, to even the least expensive local college, results in great disappointment and even embarrassment for family members.  In fact, it may be impossible for anyone in the family to attend college at all.

Average Cost at Public Colleges

The College Board recently reported that “a moderate college budget for an in-state public college for the 2017–2018 academic year averaged $25,290. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $50,900.” 2  Keep in mind that the $25,290 average cost reported by the Board is for resident students at public colleges.  However, most public colleges charge almost double of out-of-state residents.

Don’t “Plan to Fail”

There is an old adage that says, “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.”  Establishing a plan for the aspiring college students in the family early on is essential to help reduce the challenges, anxiety, and the expenses that the family will incur in obtaining the desired college education for family members.

The Longer You Wait

So don’t give up on the desire to go to college just because of its seemingly unaffordable cost. The longer you wait to make a plan the fewer the options you’ll have when the time comes.

Numerous Aid Options Available

There are several types of aid available to help you pay for your education beyond high school, including grants and scholarships, federal work-study jobs and student loans.  Don’t wait until tomorrow to establish a plan for your college education.  Do it today!3

###Larry W. Marvin

LifeCrafter Money $ense

 

 

  1.  ©2016 Larry Marvin,College-Campus-Pic-2.jpg, August 16, 2018, 1 MB 2048 × 1536
  2. © 2018 1st Financial Bank USA, “What’s the Price Tag for a College Education?”
  3. Additional sources include the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-FDIC and The US Department of Education

The 1.5 Trillion Dollar Crisis- Student Loan Debt

According to the latest report from the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, consumer credit outstanding grew about 4.5% in the second quarter of 2018 to another record. Total consumer debt now sits at $3.91 trillion, which is nearly 50% higher than the previous credit-cycle peak of $2.67 trillion in the summer of 2008.  Second, only to mortgage debt, student loan debt is now $1.53 trillion and is higher than both auto loans and credit cards. 1

Student loans jumped to a new all-time high

Student loans surged to a new all-time high of $1.53 trillion. This level of debt is a new record for the second quarter, and second only to the fourth quarter of last year – which tends to see a seasonal spike due to holiday spending.

According to Make Lemonade, “there are more than 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. alone. The average student in the Class of 2016 has $37,172 in student loan debt.”2

The Student Loan Reaches Across Age Groups

The latest student loan debt statistics for 2018 show how serious the student loan debt crisis has become – for borrowers across all demographics and age groups. This trend can’t go on forever. Sooner or later, this boom will turn to bust, as they always do. A considerable amount of this debt will go bad, and another crisis will likely follow.

Borrowers Need to be Cautious

Of course, what is far less sure is when. It’s incredibly difficult to predict the timing of these events. And while there are plenty of reasons to be cautious today, most measures of credit-market stress remain relatively low to date.

If you are a student loan borrower, my future blog posts will provide you with the information that can help you make more informed decisions regarding student loan refinance, student loan consolidation, student loan repayment, and student loan forgiveness.

Contact LifeCrafter for More Information

For more information and educational materials on Crafting Wealth and Self, return to the home page for details.


 

###Larry Marvin
LifeCrafter – Money $ense

  1. ©2018 Larry Marvin, Image Credit:Student-Debt-picture-for-blog-e1533946727827.jpg
  2. © MakeLemonade.co

Making the Most of Your Money Part 6- Spend

There are five principles, which we will call building blocks, you need to know to make the most of your money.  The blocks represent the key principles to keep in mind as you make day-to-day decisions and plan your financial goals.  In this post, I will review the fifth block, Spend.  1  2

Spend

The fundamental concept of Spend is: make a budget or a plan for using your money wisely. It is helpful to set short and long-term financial goals and manage your money to meet them.

Actions You Can Take

  • Live within your means.
  • Be a smart shopper, and compare prices and quality.
  • Track your spending habits and develop a budget or spending plan.
  • Plan for short-term and long-term financial goals.

Hints and Tips

  • A good way to take control of your spending is to set the maximum amounts you plan to spend each week or each month. Once you have set the maximum, stick with your plan.
  • It is helpful to track your spending over a few weeks or months to get a handle on how you are using your dollars and cents. Look into using online systems or phone apps for keeping track of your spending – you will be amazed at what you will learn about your habits!
  • Be careful not to let a sale or discount coupon persuade you to purchase something you do not need, and that is not in your spending plan.
  • When planning a big purchase, take the time to comparison shop and check prices at a few different stores, by phone or online.

Summary

This blog post ends the series entitled Making the Most of Your Money. The five building blocks (principles) can give you the ability to gain control over day-to-day, month-to-month finances and ultimately leads to your financial well-being. These principles will help you make well-informed financial decisions and achieve your financial goals.  LifeCrafter strives to increase the understanding of the day-to-day money management challenges that all consumers face every single day.

For more information and educational materials on Crafting Wealth and Self, return to the home page for details.


Spotlight Resources

 

###Larry Marvin
LifeCrafter – Money $ense

  1. ©2017 Larry Marvin, Image Credit:9677861633_e8819dd5d5_o.jpg
  2. My Money Five, https://www.mymoney.gov/mymoneyfive/Pages/mymoneyfive.aspxThe Five Principles

Making the Most of Your Money Part 5- Borrow

There are five principles, which we will call building blocks, you need to know to make the most of your money.  The blocks represent the key principles to keep in mind as you make day-to-day decisions and plan your financial goals.  In this post, I will review the fourth block, Borrow.  1  2

Borrow

Sometimes it is necessary to borrow for major purchases like an education, a car, a house, or maybe even to meet unexpected expenses. Your ability to get a loan depends on your credit history, and that depends largely on your track record at repaying what you have borrowed in the past and paying your bills on time.  So, be careful to keep your credit history strong.

Actions You Can Take

  • Track your borrowing habits.
  • Pay your bills on time.
  • When you need to borrow, be sure to plan, understand and shop around for a loan with a low Annual Percentage Rate (APR).
  • Learn about credit and how to use it effectively.
  • Pay attention to your credit history, as reflected by your credit score and on your credit report.

Hints and Tips

  • Borrowing money is a way to purchase something now and pay for it over time. However, you usually pay “interest” when you borrow money. The longer you take to pay back the money you borrowed, the more you will pay in interest.
  • It pays to shop around to get the best deal on a loan. Compare loan terms from several lenders, and it is okay to negotiate the terms.
  • When repaying a loan, it may be better to pay more than the minimum amount due each month, so you will have to pay less in interest over the life of the loan.
  • One of your most important aids when shopping for a loan is the APR – the Annual Percentage Rate. This is the total cost, including interest charges and fees, described as a yearly rate.
  • Paying your bills on time will help increase your credit score. Even if you fell into trouble with borrowing in the past, you can get on solid footing and rebuild your credit history by making regular payments as agreed.
  • You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com or call toll-free 1-877-322-8228 to order the free reports. Beware of imposter sites.

The next building block is “Spend.”  Don’t wait, go to the blog post now.


Spotlight Resources

Consumer Information: Credit and Loans

Free Credit Reports

Consumer’s Guide to Credit Cards

 

 

###Larry Marvin
LifeCrafter – Money $ense

  1. ©2017 Larry Marvin, Image Credit:15948082584_c91d1c8d13_k.jpg
  2. My Money Five, https://www.mymoney.gov/mymoneyfive/Pages/mymoneyfive.aspxThe Five Principles

Making the Most of Your Money Part 4- Protect

There are five principles, which we will call building blocks, you need to know to make the most of your money.  The blocks represent the key principles to keep in mind as you make day-to-day decisions and plan your financial goals.  In this post, I will review the third block, Protect.  1  2

Protect

The Protect principle means taking precautions about your financial situation. It stresses the importance of accumulating savings in case of an emergency and buying insurance. Be vigilant about identity theft, and keep aware of your credit record and the credit score.

Actions You Can Take

  • Keep your financial records in order.
  • Establish an emergency savings fund as soon as possible.
  • Watch out for fraud and scams, and protect your identity.
  • Choose insurance to meet your needs, including health care insurance.

Hints and Tips

  • Open an emergency fund savings account at your bank and strive to build it up to $1,000 as soon as possible.
  • A good system for keeping personal money records will include copies of important documents like your will, property ownership documents, information about savings and insurance, and other important personal records. It should include an overview of what happens to property after a major life event occurs.
  • Assume that any offer that “sounds too good to be true” – especially one from a stranger or an unfamiliar company — is probably a fraud.
  • Look at your bank statements and bills as soon as they arrive and report any discrepancy or anything suspicious, such as an unauthorized withdrawal or charge.
  • Be wary of request to “update” or “confirm” personal information, especially your Social Security number, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, personal identification numbers, your date of birth or your mother’s maiden name in response to an unsolicited call, letter or email.

For more Federal information, guides and helpful tools about the Save and Invest principle, go to  https://www.mymoney.gov/fast/Pages/results.aspx?k=save%20and%20invest&s=General%20Information&r=principle%3D%22AQdQcm90ZWN0CXByaW5jaXBsZQEBXgEk%22%20AND%20principle%3D%22AQ1TYXZlICYgSW52ZXN0CXByaW5jaXBsZQECXiICIiQ%3D%22.

The information you will find at this site includes Managing Household Records; Detering, Detecting and Defending Against Identity Theft;  Get Help Finding and Using Health Insurance; and Tips on other kinds of insurance including homeowner and renter’s insurance.

The next building block is “Borrow.”  Don’t wait, go to the blog post now.

###Larry Marvin
LifeCrafter – Money $ense

  1. ©2017 Larry Marvin, Image Credit:13618692665_b524af0c59_o.jpg
  2. My Money Five, https://www.mymoney.gov/mymoneyfive/Pages/mymoneyfive.aspxThe Five Principles