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People are being inundated with robocalls from scammers who claim they can get you a lower interest rate.

By Karen Datko Apr 27, 2010 12:03PM

This post comes from partner site


You pick up the phone on the second ring and wait for what seems like several seconds before someone responds to your greeting. But you find you aren't talking to a human, but a recorded sales pitch promising to lower your credit card interest rate.


The best advice, says the Federal Trade Commission, is to just hang up because most of these offers are scams. And consumers are being inundated with them. 


Some people believe that online banks are inherently less safe and less accessible.

By Karen Datko Apr 27, 2010 10:09AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


In the last few years, I’ve reviewed several online banks, from the gray beard ING Direct to the more recent Ally Bank and Sallie Mae. With each review, there invariably are commenters who are totally against online banks and bring up reasons why it’s a mistake to put your money with an online bank.


They cite reason after reason that brick-and-mortar is better, failing to recognize that the last online bank to fail was NetBank in 2007 (hundreds of brick-and-mortar banks have failed since) and that despite all their concerns, online banks are FDIC-insured. Well, today I’m going to tackle many of these myths head on and show why they are either wrong or grossly exaggerated.


Bundle tackles awkward money situations and suggests how to best respond.

By Karen Datko Apr 26, 2010 6:21PM

Consider this scenario: Someone is making a coffee run and gathers orders from everyone else. You ask for tea and hand over your only available cash -- a $5 bill. When the Good Samaritan returns, he delivers your tea but has no change for you. "Oh, I just put what was left in the tip jar,” he says. Say what?


Perhaps it’s OK if you’d ordered a $4 latte, but you made the frugal choice of tea. What is the proper response/solution?

That’s one of the situations described at a regular feature of, an MSN Money partner that chronicles how and how much we spend. Here are examples of “more awkwardness, resolved gracefully” at “The Awkward Dollar” (and you’re encouraged to e-mail your questions to Bundle):


The public-TV show could teach kids to avoid adult money mistakes with just a few plot twists.

By Karen Datko Apr 26, 2010 4:15PM

Teaching kids money basics is considered a fine idea, and many personal-finance bloggers have offered some great advice (see here, here and here, for example).


But what if we used a favorite kids TV show to educate children about financial mistakes within the context of recent events? One of our favorite PF humorists had that novel (tongue-in-cheek) idea for "Sesame Street."

“All we have to do is teach the next generation about money matters using the same tool that we use to teach them how to read and write,” says “rutgerskevin” of The Red Stapler Chronicles, who offers several twists to the normal plots of "Sesame Street." Each proposed episode cleverly incorporates one or more favorite topics of the PF world.


For instance:


GAO investigation finds litany of abuses by companies that claim they can settle your debt for pennies on the dollar.

By Teresa Mears Apr 26, 2010 2:11PM

You’d have to be living on Mars not to have seen or heard the ads: Settle your debt for pennies on the dollar. Get out from under credit card bills you can’t pay.


It sounds too good to be true.


It is, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported last week, saying an investigation found rampant fraud, abuse and misrepresentation in debt settlement. In a report to a Senate committee, the GAO wrote:

While we determined that some companies gave consumers sound advice, most of those we contacted provided information that was deceptive, abusive, or, in some cases, fraudulent. Representatives of several companies claimed that their programs had unusually high success rates, made guarantees about the extent to which they could reduce our debts, or offered other information that we found to be fraudulent, deceptive, or otherwise questionable.

Lawsuit seeks compensation for consumers who were 'duped into buying virtual land and items under the false promise of ownership.'

By Karen Datko Apr 26, 2010 11:42AM

This post comes from Jon Hood at partner site


A group of gamers has filed a class-action lawsuit against the creator of Second Life, accusing the company of taking away the plaintiffs' ownership rights to virtual “land” without just compensation.


The suit, filed in federal court in Pennsylvania, says Linden Labs repeatedly told potential Second Life players that the game would allow them to hold an indefinite ownership interest in virtual property.


Carriers offer more options, but savings may not add up.

By Karen Datko Apr 26, 2010 10:30AM

This Deal of the Day comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.


As carrier competition for cell phone subscribers heats up, switching to prepaid service is the most obvious -- although not always the best -- cost-saving strategy for consumers looking to cut their bills.


Prepaid plans, which let users pay for service as needed without a contract, are attractive for their low costs (as little as $10 a month, compared with $40 for a contract plan) and flexibility to chase better deals. The slow economy has made them even more appealing. “No one wants to be stuck paying big bills [under contract],” says Schwark Satyavolu, the president of cell phone comparison site


New prepaid subscribers outnumbered those signing contracts for the first time ever in the fourth quarter of 2009, accounting for 65% of carriers’ 4.2 million new accounts, reports the New Millennium Research Council, a telecommunications think tank.


Maybe my financial discipline has become ingrained. Or am I fooling myself?

By Karen Datko Apr 26, 2010 9:07AM

This post comes from J.D. Roth at partner blog Get Rich Slowly.


When I struggled with money during the 1990s, I had no clue what I was spending each month. I made my financial decisions based on my checkbook balance: If there were a few bucks left, I’d find ways to spend the money; if my balance was close to zero (as in $10 or $20), I’d turn to my credit cards. Where did this money go? If you’d have asked me, I wouldn’t have known.


As part of my financial turnaround, I learned to track my spending. In fact, this was one of the most effective tools in getting me to change my spending habits. Every week, I’d sit down at the computer to enter my receipts into Quicken. Once or twice a month, I’d play with the graphs and reports, keeping an eye on the problem spots. By tracking every penny that I earned and spent, I became more aware of my habits.


But something’s happened lately.



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