Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The high cost of bad credit. Also in the news: 5 tips to finding a cheaper flight, auto-paying bills by credit card, and United States workers are losing out on billions of dollars in pay.

How Costly Is Bad Credit? Many Don’t Know, Survey Shows
Ignorance isn’t bliss.

5 Tips to Find a Cheap Flight
Saving a little extra.

Auto-Paying Bills by Credit Card: Help or Hassle? Yes.
It can be both.

Every year, U.S. workers lose out on billions in pay
Getting what you deserve.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How credit card bonuses got so big and hard to grab. Also in the news: VA Loan eligibility and requirements for 2017, how to detect scams that could ruin your retirement, and 10 numbers that may make or break your retirement.

How Credit Card Bonuses Got So Big and Hard to Grab
And you thought blackout dates were bad.

VA Loan Eligibility and Requirements for 2017
What you need to know.

How to Detect Scams That Could Ruin Your Retirement
Don’t put your savings at risk.

10 numbers that can make or break your retirement
Focus on the important ones.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to dodge scams and time-wasters in the online job market. Also in the news: Credit card bonuses are drifting further away, how job hopping can hurt Millennials in retirement, and how to fraud-proof your retirement savings.

Online Jobs: How to Dodge Scams and Time-Wasters
Don’t get taken for a ride.

As Credit Card Bonuses Balloon, They Drift Further Away
Bigger isn’t necessarily better in this case.

Job Hopping Can Hurt Millennials in Retirement
The 401(k) game.

6 ways to fraud-proof your retirement savings
Protecting your savings.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Only 1 in 10 Americans are at Peak Financial Health. Also in the news: How to dodge stock market scams, when a tax refund means bankruptcy, and millennial parents face the reality of baby costs.

Only 1 in 10 Americans at Peak Financial Health
Where Americans are falling short.

How to Dodge Stock Market Scams
Protecting your investments.

When a Tax Refund Means Bankruptcy
Using a refund as a budget tool or a chance at a fresh start.

Millennial parents face the reality of baby costs
Babies are both adorable and expensive.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Don’t skip life insurance because of cost when having a baby. Also in the news: Wells Fargo could owe you money, crooks are targeting ATMs, and what you need to know about special needs financial planning.

Having a Baby? Don’t Skip Life Insurance Because of Cost
The sooner the better.

$110 Million Wells Fargo Payout Could Put Money in Your Pocket
If you got caught up in the fake fees scam, it’s time to get your money back.

Better Check Your Balance: Crooks Targeting ATMs
The return of the skimmers.

What to Know About Special Needs Financial Planning
Preparing for the unknown.

Q&A: The old magazine scam is alive and well. Here’s how to fight back

Dear Liz: I got scammed by a magazine company a year ago. I thought the call was about two magazines I wanted to stop as I was moving. The woman talked fast and took me through the steps with my bank card (which was stupid of me, I now know) as if she was helping and at the end she said, “Oh, those are not our magazines.” Two weeks later I was receiving about eight magazines I do not want. I changed my bank card so the withdrawals would stop, but I get so many collection calls. I hang up and block that number, but then I get more. My bank manager said consumers don’t have to pay for what they don’t want. I have told the collectors that, but they still send bills for $1,200 for three years of magazines.

Answer: Don’t expect collectors for scam artists to help you out. Amy Nofziger, regional director for the AARP Foundation, recommends you contact your state’s attorney general to file a complaint.

“Magazine subscriptions like this are still a huge complaint and the AGs need to know about it, so they [can] file enforcement against the company if needed,” Nofziger said.

You must follow certain procedures to request that the debt collection agency stop contacting you. The AG’s office may be able to help or there may be a separate collection agency board you need to contact. The Federal Trade Commission also has guidance at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0149-debt-collection.

You also can call and speak to a trained volunteer at the AARP Fraud Watch Network who can help you through the steps. Its number is (877) 908-3360 and you can learn more at www.aarp.org/FraudWatchNetwork.

Tax refund predators are waiting

People who don’t have much money during the rest of the year can become big targets during tax refund season.

For those living paycheck to paycheck, tax refunds — which average around $3,000 — may be the largest chunk of unobligated cash they see all year. Retailers hope to get some of that money, but so do debt collectors, buy-here-pay-here car lots, and purveyors of interest-free loans that come with fat fees. People flush with cash need to proceed with caution.

In my latest for the Associated Press, how to protect yourself from tax refund predators.

How to help your parents protect their money

Our financial decision-making abilities peak in our 50s and can decline pretty rapidly after age 70, researchers tell us. That’s how otherwise smart older people fall for sweepstakes frauds, Nigerian investment schemes and the grandparent scam, where con artists pretend to be grandchildren in a financial jam.

But few people want to hear that they’re not as sharp as they used to be. Many won’t recognize the rising risk of losing hard-earned life savings as they age, says financial literacy expert Lewis Mandell, author of “What to Do When I Get Stupid: A Radically Safe Approach to a Difficult Financial Era.”

“As our ability to make sound financial decisions decreases with age, our self-confidence in this area actually increases,” Mandell says.

In my latest for the Associated Press, what adult children can do to protect the finances of their parents.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: IRS changes you should know about before filing taxes. Also in the news: How to avoid your parents’ money mistakes, how to avoid tax scammers, and what to do when you’re struggling with student debt.

IRS Changes You Should Know About Before Filing Your Taxes
New rules for the new year.

How Can I Avoid My Parents’ Money Mistakes?
Charting your own financial path.

As Tax Season Approaches, So Do Scammers
Be on the lookout.

Struggling with student debt? Here are 6 things you should know
Don’t ignore the problem.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

phone-scammerToday’s top story: How to tell if that IRS tax collection call is fake. Also in the news: Strategies to maximize your child’s financial aid eligibility, how to lower your cell phone bill, and how to prevent a divorce from ruining your finances.

7 Ways to Tell If That IRS Tax Collections Call Is Fake
Don’t get duped.

Strategies to Maximize Your Child’s Financial Aid Eligibility
Increasing your odds.

4 Ways to Lower Your Cell Phone Bill
The telecoms are rich enough.

10 Ways to Prevent a Divorce From Ruining Your Finances
Protecting what’s yours.