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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.


New study shows that a surprising number of tanning booth frequenters have tried to cut back but can't.

By Karen Datko Apr 23, 2010 2:32PM

OK. I’m not addicted to tanning, but it seems that a surprising number of people are.


A new study featured in the Archives of Dermatology found that of 421 college students who were interviewed, 229 had used a tanning bed/booth -- on average, 23 times -- in the last year, and 31% to 39% of those students met criteria for addiction, depending on which addiction measure was used. Those students tanned on average 40 times in the last year, but some visited the salon 100 times.


“How in the world could someone be addicted to UV rays?” asked Lynn O'Shaughnessy, who wrote about the study for CBS MoneyWatch.


Just in time for Earth Day: A garbage strike and a garbage-stuffed whale.

By Donna_Freedman Apr 23, 2010 12:06PM
A gray whale found dead on a West Seattle beach had ingested “a surprising amount of human debris,” according to an Associated Press story. Among other things nestled in the cetacean’s innards: more than 20 plastic bags, a pair of sweatpants, small towels, surgical gloves, duct tape, pieces of plastic and a golf ball.

In other news: Union garbage haulers agreed to return to work after a two-day strike. There’s still no contract but at least the two sides are talking again. Or will be, come Monday.

I sure am glad those trucks are rolling once more.  The apartment building’s Dumpster is right under my window.

As for the whale’s stomach contents, all I can say is it doesn’t surprise me. We humans are a trashy bunch.  

Free ice cream and pretzels plus BOGO tickets to minor league baseball games.

By Teresa Mears Apr 23, 2010 11:45AM

Where did the week go? Here it is Friday again and time for Friday food deals and freebies, with a few inedible offers added just for fun.


This is the last weekend for free admission to all U.S. national parks, though some are always free.


Some of last week’s deals and coupons are still valid. Kelli

B. Grant from partner SmartMoney has some store coupons at the end of her post.


You’ve got three chances for free or cheap ice cream.


Tactfully pointing out sales to the bride; plus, valuable weekend coupons.

By Karen Datko Apr 23, 2010 10:44AM

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


Serving as a member of the bridal party on a friend’s special day may be a priceless experience, but it’s one that doesn’t come cheap.


In 2009, the average bridesmaid spent $1,009, including her dress, airfare and bridal shower, bachelorette party and wedding gifts, according to The Wedding Report, a market researcher. (Last year was the first year the group collected data on bridesmaid costs.) By 2014, that average is expected to creep up 2%, to $1,029.


Balancing an attendant’s budget is the responsibility of both that person and the bride and groom, says Alan Fields, author of “Bridal Bargains.”



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