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How many "official" notices and sweepstakes entries did you receive in the mail last week? Read this to find out what is allowed and what to do about lawbreakers.

By MSN Money Partner Mon 3:21 PM

This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at partner site Money Talks News. 

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyI don't know about you, but I have a 79-year-old mom who seems to be on every political and religious mailing list known to man. Every day, she gets a new batch of letters emblazoned with words like "special notice," "official survey due" and "final attempt: invoice enclosed."

User name field on computer screen © William Andrew, PhotographerOf course, the special notice is simply an appeal for money, the official survey asks a few questions from a partisan group (and by the way, can you send a donation to support the cause?) and the invoice is actually a sales pitch. Other mail may have sticky notes, fonts that look handwritten or return addresses that fail to disclose the business. Check out this inventive junk mail sent to a Maine woman in 2012.

Today's seniors can be vulnerable to all sorts of confusing direct mail. Marketers are counting on them not to realize that the survey didn't come from the Census Bureau and the invoice isn't for something they agreed to purchase.

Even those of us in a younger generation can be a target. Anyone who's purchased a vehicle can attest to the onslaught of official-looking mail that arrives trying to sell extended warranties. It has become so bad that we no longer trust legitimate notices  when they do arrive.


The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will investigate claims of mail fraud, but first you need to know what's allowed. While the information below doesn't cover all of the different types of mail you may receive, here are three of the major categories:


The perks and protections of using plastic come in handy when you're buying tickets to the game.

By Mon 2:21 PM
This post comes from Jason Steele at partner site on MSN MoneyThis is an exciting time of year for sports fans. Football season has just begun, hockey season is around the corner and the baseball playoffs begin next month. At the same time, busy sports fans have scheduling conflicts, and there will always be frugal fans on the sidelines hoping to get a good deal on the tickets on the secondary market, or just find any seat to a sold-out game.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) drops back to pass against the Tennessee Titans, Sep 14, 2014 © Don McPeak/Newscom/Reuters
Yet this secondary market for sports tickets can be a very dangerous place. Last year, the AARP estimated that nearly 5 million people paid for fake tickets to concerts, sporting events and theme parks. It's as if thieves have found a way to print money.

Since it can be nearly impossible to distinguish these fake tickets from the real ones, how can fans protect themselves when buying on the secondary market. The key lies with their credit cards.


A new way of dealing with extension cords won't bring about world peace. But it'll make your life a little easier.

By MSN Money Partner Mon 1:27 PM

This post comes from Donna Freedman at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyA video by Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson clued me in to a life hack about aluminum foil. Apparently each end of the Reynolds Wrap box has a tab you can push in. Together the twin tabs keep the roll of foil in place while you pull out the amount you need.

Now they tell me! After decades of dealing with unruly aluminum!


Medical-related debt can submarine your budget.

By Mon 12:41 PM

This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site on MSN MoneyWhen police came to John Albers' door one night in June, he could not have been more surprised.

Insurance Money © Comstock Images/JupiterimagesWhen they told him that they were taking him to a nearby psychiatric facility because they had been told he was in danger of hurting himself, he was irritated and said he was fine, but they insisted he go with them.

When he got there, he explained again that he was not in any sort of danger or crisis, and that he did not need any assistance. He was admitted anyway.

The next morning, he was seen by a staff psychiatrist who approved his discharge.

Albers was at the facility for a total of seven hours, objecting at every turn. And now the facility wants him to pay $2,007.75 for that care. Should he have to?'s annual survey of people's credit-worthiness show that residents of states that were least affected by the recession are faring the best still.

By QuinStreet Sep 12, 2014 2:14PM

This post comes from Richard Barrington at partner site on MSN MoneyHow is the economy doing? It depends on where you look.

In some states, people are practically choking on credit problems, while in others, serious financial difficulties are relatively rare.

Credit card © Fancy, Veer, Corbis

For example, more than one out of every 500 homes in Florida is in foreclosure, while foreclosures are virtually unheard of in North Dakota. Similar differences exist for credit ratings, bankruptcies, unemployment rates and credit card delinquencies.

To factor all this in and determine the best and worst states for credit conditions, looked at the following:

  • Average credit scores from Equifax
  • Foreclosure rates from RealtyTrac
  • Credit card delinquency rates from TransUnion
  • Unemployment rates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Bankruptcy rates from the American Bankruptcy Institute

Based on a combination of all these factors, the following are the best and worst states for credit conditions.


Markets are signaling that more relief at the pump may be on the way.

By Money Staff Sep 12, 2014 1:23PM

This post comes from Nicole Friedman at partner site The Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal on MSN MoneyGasoline prices have tumbled from highs hit in June. And markets are signaling that consumers will get even more relief at the pump.

Oil drilling platform © Scott Gibson/CorbisA global glut of crude oil is the main driver behind the decline in gasoline. Relatively cheap oil has made it more profitable for refiners to produce gasoline and other fuels, and they have ramped up production to record levels.

This boom in supplies has sent gasoline prices tumbling. Traders and other market observers expect the flow of both crude oil and gasoline to keep rising, likely exerting more downward pressure on prices.

The average retail price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.42 on Thursday, down 3.8 percent from the same period in 2013, according to motor club AAA. For this time of year, gasoline prices are at their lowest level in four years.


Hundreds of readers have shared how they live well while spending less than $5,000 a month. Now it's time to hear from those who feel they're falling behind despite having a much larger income.

By MSN Money Partner Sep 12, 2014 12:57PM

This post comes from Bob Sullivan at partner site Money Talks News. 


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyDo you struggle to live on $60,000 per year? Or $80,000? Or even $100,000? Well, I know a lot of people who can't understand how that's possible.

Measuring Finances © CorbisAs part of my Restless Project, I've been talking about what it costs to live a "normal" life in America today. Last week, I asked folks who spend less than $60,000 per year, $5,000 per month, how they do it. Many of them had already written to me about my initial $100,000 budget, saying I was off my rocker.

Generous with both their time, their personal financial snapshots, and their opinions, I've heard from nearly 1,000 people so far. Hundreds of them broke down for me how they live well by spending less than $5,000 per month. While many of them are lucky enough to live in our nation's less-expensive haunts, like Texas, or live without the expenses of raising children, I heard from some families in expensive places, too.

I will share their stories in the near future.

But now, I want to hear from the other half of this equation.


Flashing your plastic safely and wisely can earn you valuable rewards in the long run.

By Sep 12, 2014 12:46PM
This post comes from Jason Steele at partner site on MSN MoneyWe all know the dumb ways to use a credit card, such as getting into debt and racking up fees by missing payments. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of smart ways to use a credit card.

Used wisely, credit cards can be a secure and convenient method of payment that offers valuable rewards. Here are five of the best ways to use a credit card.

Shopping online © Creatas, SuperStock1. As a method of payment

When you pay your statement balance in full and on time, you will avoid interest charges. When used in this way, the credit card becomes simply a method of payment, not a means of finance. That allows cardholders to enjoy several benefits at no cost. For example, customers receive what amounts to a free loan when they make purchases that are paid off 25 to 55 days later. In addition, cardholders are afforded the protections against fraud that are guaranteed by the Fair Credit Billing Act. 



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