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Lenders have tightened the rules, but crooks are finding new ways to steal, including identity theft.

By Teresa Mears Aug 24, 2010 2:02PM

The end of the real estate boom hasn't ended one unpleasant byproduct: mortgage fraud.


Attempts by lenders to tighten standards haven't ended fraud, but just forced crooks to find new schemes.


"There were plenty of opportunities for fraud on the way up and there are plenty on the way down," Clifford Rossi, a former chief credit officer at Citigroup and a teaching fellow at the University of Maryland, told Reuters, which did a special report on mortgage fraud.


Are the new restrictions on card companies worth the tradeoffs we were warned to expect -- less credit and higher interest rates?

By Karen Datko Aug 24, 2010 1:06PM

This should come as no surprise: Credit card interest rates in the second quarter of 2010 were the highest they've been since 2001. Some expect rates to keep rising.


Higher rates were the industry's response to the Credit CARD Act -- which limits some of the card companies's more egregious moneymaking practices -- as well as to high default rates among struggling customers. (As we noted last week, the final provisions of the CARD Act have kicked in.)


The higher rates are all the more notable given that other interest rates -- like those on mortgage loans and the banks' own costs of borrowing money -- are remarkably low, The Wall Street Journal observes.

Here is what has happened in recent months, according to The Wall Street Journal and other news reports:


Retailers slash prices, beef up sales as consumers cut back.

By Karen Datko Aug 24, 2010 11:06AM

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


Cost-conscious shoppers are turning more to their closets than to retail stores for fall wardrobe options this year. Sales at clothing stores slipped in June and July, and because many of this year's fashion trends, including leather motorcycle jackets and gray everything, were popular last year, too, August may not bring an improvement.


"There's just no reason to shop," says Kathryn Finney, the founder of


Apparel retailers will be making a different case when they slash prices to lure shoppers back into their stores this month and into the fall.


How many days do you have to work each month to pay for your fixed obligations?

By Karen Datko Aug 24, 2010 9:01AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


Every year, the Tax Foundation points to a day in April and proclaims it Tax Freedom Day. It's the day after which you have effectively earned enough to cover your tax liabilities for the year.


For 2010, that day was April 9. In 2009, it was April 8. The idea is that, based on what you are projected to owe in taxes, every hour you work until that day goes toward funding that liability.

It's more a gimmick than anything else, but it does underscore an important point: Each month you experience your own "Freedom Day."


Your personal Monthly Freedom Day is the day when you've earned enough that month to cover your fixed monthly obligations like your rent or mortgage, your car loan or your student loans. I'm going to help you calculate your Monthly Freedom Day.


Some are leery of dating people described as 'frugal,' but they like savers. How do you show you're financially smart but not stingy?

By Teresa Mears Aug 23, 2010 3:59PM

You may want a frugal mate, but do you want a frugal date?


Nearly half of you apparently do not. Asked which words came to mind when contemplating a blind date with someone described as "frugal," 27% answered "stingy" and another 15% picked "boring." Only 3.7% found frugal to be the new sexy, Ron Lieber reported in The New York Times, citing a study by ING Direct.


On the bright side, 56% of men and 42% of women did equate frugal with "smart." Women seem to be a bit more leery of the frugal label, with 33% of women equating it with stingy, compared with only 20% of men.


A new FCC study shows that your access is up to 50% slower than advertised.

By Stacy Johnson Aug 23, 2010 1:35PM

This post comes from Michael Koretzky at partner site Money Talks News.


When your Internet service provider boasts about how fast you can access the Web, it turns out they're playing slow and loose with the truth.

A new report by the Federal Communications Commission shows that those advertised speeds are off by roughly 50%.


The period between graduation and your first job can be a challenge.

By Karen Datko Aug 23, 2010 12:22PM

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


Isaac wrote recently with a question about how to make the transition from college to the real world. He has a good degree, but it'll take him time to find a job, especially since the economy is still sluggish. He's worried about how he should handle his finances in the meantime. Here's his question:

I recently graduated from college with a degree in electrical engineering. I'm currently living at home with my family while I search for a job. I'm concerned about my first month or two once I find one, though.
I have no savings, and I'm not sure how I will be able to buy a car (and insurance) to get to and from work, rent an apartment, or even buy necessities for my first few weeks while I wait for a paycheck. I know that some jobs will give a signing bonus or relocation package but I don't want to count on that. My parents are in deep credit card debt and live paycheck to paycheck, so I can't borrow money from them.

New sites let customers pick what's available and what gets discounted.

By Karen Datko Aug 23, 2010 10:45AM

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


Faced with sluggish consumer spending, some online retailers have taken a new approach to "the customer is always right."

They're letting shoppers dictate which items make it into the inventory, and even which go on sale.

Earlier this summer, social shopping site began offering limited-time sales, called "PopPicks," which offer discounts of up to 35% on the users' 10 highest-rated items from a partner retailer. New site The Traveler's Collection lets shoppers submit recommendations for artisan crafts they've seen while traveling, and offers a commission of up to 5% on its sales. And last fall, started a "Be the Buyer" program to let shoppers vote on designs its employee buyers are considering.



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