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Dear Liz: We’ve had three cases of credit card fraud. Each time, the credit card company issued new cards with new numbers and canceled the old ones (along with the fraudulent charges). We had nine monthly auto-payment authorizations set up, and we seethed at the fact that the card company would not offer to authorize our auto-payments via the new numbers. We eventually received late-payment notices and charges, since the old numbers were still on the record with payees. Are there companies that offer updates to payees when cards are canceled, and new ones issued, in such fraud situations?

Answer: Given all the database breaches lately, automatic updates to auto-payments might come in handy.

But it seems you’re on your own. Your agreements with your billers typically state that you’re required to update them whenever a card expires or its number changes. Many billers will alert you when an expiration date is near or if a charge doesn’t go through, but ultimately it’s your responsibility to keep track.

It’s a good idea to keep a list of your auto-payments so you don’t forget to update them all when this happens again. If you don’t have a list, simply checking your past statements should remind you which accounts are on auto-pay.

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Dear Liz: My brother is a Vietnam veteran. Every month since his separation from the Navy in 1969, he has had a monthly premium deducted from his pay and sent to the Veterans Administration for his medical insurance coverage. Last month he received a notice from his employer stating that if he doesn’t sign up and pay premiums under the Affordable Care Act, he will be fined for not having medical insurance. How can this be? He goes to the VA for all of his medical needs. Can this truly be correct?

Answer: People enrolled in VA healthcare don’t have to sign up for additional health insurance or pay additional premiums. Their VA coverage meets the Affordable Care Act’s requirements for coverage.
Your brother’s employer may have sent out a general notice to all employees about the law, rather than one that reflects his individual situation. If the employer believes that VA coverage doesn’t qualify, it should be alerted to this page on the VA site: http://www.va.gov/health/aca/.

Categories : Insurance, Q&A
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Dear Liz: As a faculty member who was only recently allowed to participate in our state’s public employees’ retirement system, I will have a very small pension. I’m told that Social Security will then reduce my benefit by up to 50% as a result of the so-called windfall elimination provision. Can you tell me how this is legal?

Answer: Many people affected by Social Security’s windfall elimination provision are outraged that their benefits will be reduced. Before the provision was enacted in 1983, though, people who paid less into the Social Security system wound up getting an outsized benefit.

Here’s why. Social Security is designed to replace more of a worker’s income the less he or she makes, with the understanding that saving for retirement is harder the lower your income.

When you get a pension from an employer who doesn’t pay into the Social Security system, but you also qualify for Social Security benefits from other jobs, your Social Security earnings record can look as if you were a long-term, low-wage worker even when you’re not. Without the windfall elimination provision, you could wind up with a Social Security check that replaces more of your income than you would have received had you only worked in jobs covered by Social Security.

How much your benefit will be reduced depends in part on how many years you worked in those other jobs — the ones that were covered by Social Security. The longer you worked at jobs covered by Social Security, the less the windfall elimination provision affects you, as long as you had “substantial earnings” from those jobs. The amount that’s considered substantial varies by year, ranging from $3,300 in 1974 to $21,750 this year. You’ll experience the maximum 50% reduction if you have 20 or fewer years of substantial earnings. If you have 30 years of such earnings, the provision doesn’t affect you at all.

Categories : Q&A, Retirement
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AirfaresToday’s top story: How to find the best airfare deals. Also in the news: Financially preparing for a job search, how “reason codes” can help improve your credit, and ten money moves to make before the end of the year.

3 Insider Tips for Getting the Best Airfare Deal
How to get the best possible deal on flights.

Preparing Financially for a Job Search
Three tips to help you survive the hunt.

Pay Attention to Credit Report “Reason Codes” to Improve Your Score
These codes can help you improve your credit.

10 Smart Money Moves to Make Before the Year Ends
Don’t put off your finances until the new year.

Want to Pay Off Your Mortgage Early? Not So Fast
Why you should carefully consider where your money should go.

Categories : Liz's Blog
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Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailHundreds of flights have already been cancelled on this busy travel day, with more cancellations and delays likely to come as a winter storm rolls through the East Coast. If you used the right credit card to book your trip, though, you may be entitled to some compensation.

Most cards offer some kind of travel protection, but some of the policies are pretty weak, even for high-end cards. Some only offer compensation for lost baggage, while others offer hundreds of dollars in compensation for trip delays–and thousands for trip cancellations.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card, for example, is justifiably famous among savvy travelers for its generous delay and cancellation protection: If your trip is canceled or cut short by illness, severe weather and “other covered situations,” can can be reimbursed up to $10,000 for prepaid, nonrefundable expenses. You can get up to $500 for trip delays and a whopping $3,000 for lost luggage. (Many other cards limit lost luggage reimbursement to $500.) Other high-end Chase cards, along with The United Explorer Visa Platinum Card, offer similar top-drawer benefits.

Citi recently stepped up its game, and now offers card members refunds for trip expenses if unforeseen events like severe weather, jury duty or even previously unannounced strikes cause trip cancellations. The coverage is limited to $1,500 for most cardholders, though some get up to $5,000. Those with ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige can get up to $500 to buy clothes and toiletries if their bags are delayed. If a trip is delayed, these travel rewards card members also can get up to $500 for unplanned expenses such as hotel rooms, ground transportation and meals.

Travel cards that you think would have pretty good protection–such as American Express or Capital One Venture–unfortunately don’t. Amex offers travel protection for an extra cost and CapOne covers just lost or stolen luggage (although the limit is $3,000).

If you’re affected this weekend by travel hassles, call and ask the credit card company that you used to book the trip what your options might be. If you don’t like what you hear, start looking for a better alternative for your next trip.

 

 

Categories : Liz's Blog
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air-miles-cardToday’s top story: The best airline miles credit cards. Also in the news: Behind the scenes of a student loan deal, how to prioritize your bills when you’re low on cash, and five items to donate for a charitable tax deduction.

The Best Airline Miles Credit Cards in America
Getting the most mileage bang for your buck.

How a Little Student Loan Deal Could Spell Big Trouble for Borrowers
The ghosts of FFEL loans.

How to Prioritize Bills When You’re Low on Cash
Paying in the right order could save you time and money.

5 Items to Donate for a Charitable Tax Deduction
Every little bit healps.

Categories : Liz's Blog
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Customer Support liarHere’s the voicemail he left me (in a rather heavy Indian accent):

“I am Jonathan Knight and I am calling you from the federal investigation department of IRS. My badge number is 46719. The matter at the hand is extremely time sensitive and urgent as after audit we found that there was a fraud and misconduct on your taxes which you are hiding from the federal government. This needs to be rectified immediately so do return the call as soon as you receive the message on my direct line number. And this is Jonathan Knight again federal investigation department of IRS.”

I was really rather bummed that I’d let this particular gem go to voice mail. Oh, the fun I could have had with this idiot! Here’s me, pretending to be all scared and upset…drawing him in, getting him all excited about the money he was going to scam from me…and then Boom! Telling him exactly what I thought of his morals, his conduct, his parentage and what bug he’ll be incarnated into the next go-round.

I did call the number back and got a different gentleman with an Indian accent on the line (with the noise of a call center in the background). He called himself “Chief Ray Parker” and told me that “complete audits” of my tax returns from 2002 to 2012 had turned up “errors and miscalculations” and that the government was going to the courthouse to file a lawsuit against me within two hours. When he demanded to know if I had a lawyer and I said yes, though, he didn’t seem to know what to say next, and hung up on me. So I didn’t get to unleash at all.

The IRS says this a pervasive, aggressive scam that’s hitting taxpayers all over the country. The scammers alter their caller ID to make it look like it’s coming from a Washington D.C. number and may know a lot about the people they’re calling. Unfortunately, too many people take the bait and give up sensitive personal information or even money to these scoundrels.

Just as a refresher: the IRS typically contacts taxpayers by letter, not by phone, particularly if an audit is involved. If the IRS thinks you owe money, it will let you know and give you some time to make payment arrangements. Oh, and by the way, the IRS is one of the few creditors that doesn’t need to go to court to get a wage garnishment.

If you get one of these calls, report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484 or at www.tigta.gov. Even if you don’t, tell your parents and grandparents about this since older people may be more vulnerable to these kinds of scams.

Categories : Liz's Blog
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Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How to prepare for a credit check. Also in the news: What you should include in your long term care plan, how to avoid holiday shopping scams, and why you should purchase renters insurance before the holidays.

How to Get Ready for a Credit Check
Three steps to help you prepare.

4 Things to Include in Your Long-Term Care Plan
Planning for a long life.

Consider Buying Renters Insurance Before the Holidays
Accidents are more common around the holidays.

Beware of Holiday Shopping Scams, FBI Warns Consumers
Beware of too good to be true deals.

Top 10 Reasons to Give Thanks to Your Financial Advisor
In the spirit of Thanksgiving.

Categories : Liz's Blog
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business girl with shopping bagsAmerican shoppers seem to fall into two groups: those who are planning their early-morning raids on major retailers (starting as early as Thanksgiving morning!) and those who sneer at people who head out into the cold in search of bargains.

I used to belong to the latter group, until a friend pointed out I was being a snob. Here’s how Los Angeles Times reporter Shan Li puts it in today’s article “Black Friday highlights the contrast between rich and poor.”

“Increasingly, the seasonal shopping surge has become a window into America’s class divide, in which high earners have benefited from a booming stock market and rising home prices as many others still grapple with stagnant incomes and lingering financial anxiety.

“You have people who really need a bargain — they will sit out for two days to get that deal because that may be the only big thing they can afford for the whole family,” said Britt Beemer, founder of America’s Research Group. “Luxury retailers don’t do very well on Black Friday because their customers are not going to fight the crowds.”

Li quotes a PricewaterhouseCoopers report that says the ranks of strapped shoppers who earn less than $50,000 a year are growing from 63 percent of American shoppers two years ago to 67 percent today.

There are alternatives to fighting the crowds, of course. Check out this interesting post at the Nonconsumer Advocate: “10 ways for a zero-dollar Christmas.” Online retailers are offering plenty of good deals as well. Then there’s the whole Shop Small thing, although you need an American Express credit or Bluebird prepaid card to get money back.

If you are planning to venture out in search of deals, consider a good price comparison app such as RedLaser or PriceGrabber on your smart phone, if you have one. They’re good tools to help you figure out which Black Friday bargains are the real deal. A site to track is DealNews, which not only alerts you to deals but which keeps track of previous low prices. If you can’t check prices on the go, at least hang on to your receipts so you can exchange anything for which you find a better buy.

Those of us who will be sitting snug at home shouldn’t feel too self-satisfied, particularly if–like me–you order a lot from a certain online retailer. Read this Motley Fool article about which retailer treats its employees worse: WalMart or Amazon.

Categories : Liz's Blog
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22856641_SAToday’s top story: The three things you should do before tackling your student loan debt. Also in the news: Three tax changes for 2015, how to protect your finances during a late-in-life divorce, and how changing the order in which you deduct from your paycheck could save you more money.

3 Things to Do Before Tackling Your Student Loan Debt
There’s a lot to do before you start making payments.

3 Tax Changes for 2015 You Need To Know About
Tax time is right around the corner.

Protect finances in later-in-life divorce
Divorce after 50 can come with a special set of financial issues.

Subtract Savings from Your Salary Before Expenses to Save Better
Subtracting your savings first could help keep your expenses in check.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score This Month
Just in time for the holidays.

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