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She took steps to protect herself, but others she knows weren't so fortunate.

By Karen Datko Oct 16, 2009 1:11PM

This guest post comes from Silicon Valley Blogger at The Digerati Life.


Most of us don't know it, but it's pretty likely we've faced down identity theft more often than we've realized. Often, we think that this is the kind of stuff that happens to other people. Advice on how to prevent identity theft is something we don't usually heed, until it hits close to home.

In my case, I've encountered identity fraud a few times, fortunately at a reasonable arm's length (but close enough for me to feel concerned).

The most memorable case was also the most frightening one, as it involved some trespassers who had entered our property in the middle of the night. We heard loud noises by our utility shed and assumed we were hearing a late-night garbage bin raid by an army of hungry raccoons. Instead, we spied furtive shadows carrying off our trash bins to a pickup truck that sped away into the darkness. 

It's National Protect Your Identity Week, sponsored by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and a new partner in this event, the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Here's some related reading that you'll find very informative.

·         Find 'shredding parties' in your state

·         Are you safe? 10 questions to find out

·         Steps to take if you've been victimized

·         Questions on identity theft? Ask an expert

We eventually found our trash cans dumped by the side of the street a block away, without much of anything left inside. 


Plan for a future you can't quite see, then take small steps toward it.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 16, 2009 11:13AM
Last week I found vegetable and flower seeds in a clearance bin for 8 cents per package. I bought a dozen even though I have nowhere to plant them.

Call it radical optimism, since there are no guarantees that I'll be a homeowner any time soon.

Yet I see no reason not to believe that I will be. Thus I am keeping that dream in the forefront for 96 cents plus tax. I could also have bought a key ring for my someday housekeys. I just happened to find seed packets on sale.  

Blogger's real-life nightmare has had lasting consequences.

By Karen Datko Oct 15, 2009 8:17PM

This guest post comes from Ron Haynes at The Wisdom Journal.


Sept. 23, 2004. That was the day I discovered that someone had stolen my identity. (I'll reveal who it was later in this article, but you’ll be surprised, believe me.)


Several nights earlier, we had come home and discovered a message on our answering machine from American Express, asking me to call to discuss my outstanding balance. After a little chuckle, I told my wife they must have loaded the wrong phone number into their automatic dialer because we didn't have an American Express card. "Don't worry about it," I said.


A few nights later, we had yet another message from them and my wife started getting suspicious. I was out of town the next day when she called me and asked if I was sitting down.


It looks like it's from an institution you trust, but it's really not.

By Karen Datko Oct 15, 2009 6:08PM

This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.


I recently received a phishing e-mail intended to trick me into divulging confidential banking information. As a follow-up to my LifeLock review, I thought I'd share the e-mail with you. If you're not familiar with phishing e-mail or how to detect them, I'll cover that in a moment. But first, here's an image of the e-mail I received:


What's so suspicious about this e-mail? Here are three things:

  • I don't have an account with this bank.

  • Financial institutions will never send you an e-mail with a link asking you to confirm any information.

  • Wording such as "obligatory activation" is a bit odd.

In this case the phishing e-mail was not all that sophisticated, but they can be. So let's look at what a phishing e-mail is, how to detect a phishing e-mail, and finally, some resources you can check out for additional information.


IRS crackdown on those who hide funds overseas is just getting started.

By Karen Datko Oct 15, 2009 3:57PM

Those of us who pay our taxes in full and on time might have mixed feelings about this: About 7,500 tax cheats who hid money overseas have applied for an IRS amnesty program that will keep them out of jail and -- here's the most important part -- substantially reduce their penalties.


Mixed feelings as in: Yay, the cheaters will finally have to pay, but, boo, too bad the book isn’t being thrown at them.

Tax cheats with secret overseas accounts normally face stiff penalties in addition to finally paying what they owe. But under the amnesty, the standard fine of 50% of the unpaid tax bill will be reduced to 5% or perhaps 20%. Plus, The New York Times says, "They also will pay that penalty once, based on the highest balance in their offshore accounts over the last six years, rather than for each of those six years."


Pretty cushy deal, no? Yet, many likely didn't step forward before the amnesty offer expired Wednesday night. Here are their hopefully shrinking options, according to the Times and other sources:


Bank of America calls it a 'membership' fee; others expected to follow.

By Karen Datko Oct 15, 2009 1:29PM

This post comes from Mark Huffman of partner site


When Congress passed credit card reform legislation in May, many industry analysts warned that lenders would find new ways to extract the revenue they would soon be losing from consumers.


Among the mentioned new fees is actually an old one -- the annual fee.

When credit cards were first introduced, almost all cards charged an annual fee. But as the industry grew more competitive, with more and more banks and financial services firms offering cards, the annual fee gradually disappeared from major bank cards.

Now, Bank of America says it will begin test marketing a new "membership" fee for some of its customers. In other words, not every customer will be assessed the charge. If those who are charged don't cancel their cards or protest too loudly, presumably all customers will soon be required to pay it.


You won't find that extra customer service in most big-box stores.

By Karen Datko Oct 15, 2009 11:19AM

This post comes from Trent Hamm at partner blog The Simple Dollar.


When I was in college, there was a local independent bookstore not too terribly far from campus. The name completely escapes me now, but I could still almost walk to it blindfolded.


It was a very popular hangout for the heavy-reading crowd and the store did all it could to maximize customer loyalty, both with students and people in the broader community.

They had book clubs, author signings, frequent-buyer programs, and countless other little perks, plus the staff was spectacular at finding books you’d never heard of that were just perfect for your reading tastes.


That store is now out of business.


Will deals be good enough for you to take the bait?

By Teresa Mears Oct 14, 2009 9:13PM

Retailers are trying a new tactic to lure you into stores for this holiday season: gift cards, or gift card promotions. Their goal: get people to spend money without offering the deep discounts offered last year.


We share MSN Money columnist Liz Pulliam Weston’s distaste for gift cards, and were particularly annoyed that our recent rebates from Verizon and Sears came in the form of Visa gift cards rather than checks we could deposit in the bank. We coped as best we could by immediately spending them on groceries.


Normally retailers expect gift cards to be used in the weeks after Christmas and Hanukkah. But this year they are hoping gift cards, or gift card promotions that offer discounts, will lure shoppers before the holidays, The Wall Street Journal reports.



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