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Insiders -- loan originators, appraisers, accountants, attorneys, real-estate and mortgage brokers -- are behind a growing wave of crime.

By Karen Datko Apr 28, 2010 11:57AM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis of MSN Money.

 

These are hard times for a lot of us, but there’s at least one growth industry: mortgage fraud. For mortgage scammers, life is good and getting better, according to a report by the LexisNexis Mortgage Asset Research Institute.

 

Fraud and misrepresentation in the mortgage industry rose 7% in 2009, the report says. (LexisNexis sells products to lenders that analyze databases -- credit histories, records of assets and residential profiles, for example -- to spot and prevent fraud.)

That’s on top of a 26% increase the year before. The FBI says there were 822 indictments and 494 convictions in 2009. It sounds like a lot but that’s supposedly only the tip of the iceberg:

 

Budget Your Trip shows how much you're likely to spend in a given location.

By Karen Datko Apr 28, 2010 8:55AM

This post comes from Nora Dunn at partner blog Wise Bread.

 

I recently discovered a neat -- and free -- online tool that will help you estimate, budget and track your expenses for your next vacation. It’s aptly named Budget Your Trip.

 

Travel is one of those luxuries that, even on a budget, can be costly. It’s difficult to estimate what you’ll spend before you get there, tricky to monitor your expenditures midstream, and excruciating to curb your spending if you realize the budget is going off the rails. “I’m on vacation,” you justify, as you order that extra beer with dinner, figuring it will all come out in the wash (or at least you’ll be too drunk by the end of the night to care).

 

Instead of leaving your next vacation up to chance (and coming back broke and bitter about it), you can add some science to the exercise with the help of Budget Your Trip.

 

Keeping your lawn green doesn't require spending a lot of green.

By Stacy Johnson Apr 27, 2010 5:35PM

This post comes from partner site Money Talks News.

 

When I was a kid, my first job was cutting grass. At the age of 10, I was doing quarter-acre lawns all over the neighborhood for $5 to $7 each.

 

Fast-forward 40 years, and suddenly I’m paying some guy 40 bucks a week to mow a yard so small I could cut it in half an hour with a pair of scissors.

 

Bloggers add doughnuts, peanut butter and fish. We decided to do a healthier version.

By Teresa Mears Apr 27, 2010 3:17PM

It was bound to happen: People have created their own versions of KFC’s new Double Down sandwich.

 

The latest we found was at Top Cultured, which suggests using a Krispy Kreme doughnut as the bread. This raises the calorie count to more than 900 with extra sauce. Heesa Phadie wrote:

What you end up with is over 900 calories of tongue-flipping delight. This thing will not only supply you with enough calories, sodium, sugar and fat for a good part of your day, it will keep you up and running for a bit. The inevitable afternoon crash was not the best, though … as there is now a brick in the belly. I do highly recommend you give this a shot, though. I know it sounds far-fetched but it’s actually quite delicious.

We don’t plan to try it. It seems a terrible waste of a perfectly good doughnut. Top Cultured also came up with an Elvis version, adding toast, peanut butter and banana to the Double Down. Heesa liked that, too. Crystal at Snackin’ in the City did a “pescatarian” version with fish and fake bacon.

 

“Mamacita” at Midtown Lunch thought the Double Down was delicious on KFC buttermilk biscuits.

 

It’s amazing how much attention KFC has received for, basically, taking the bread off a sandwich. Where was the Double Down during the Atkins diet craze?

 

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 ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

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 Bundle.com, 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:

 

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