Credit card fraud is a type of identity fraud, and between skimmers and scammers, is becoming more prevalent. Just what is credit card fraud, and how can you detect and identify it? Read on to learn more.
Access and monitor your credit reports
Too many people wait until there’s a suspected problem before they try to obtain a copy of their credit report. Plan ahead to monitor your credit, don’t just order a report when you need to investigate. In the U.S., there are three agencies that monitor consumer credit: Equifax , Experian and TransUnion. All of these firms produce distinct reports, and you can access one free copy per year from each of them. If you set up a rolling schedule to get a report from one agency every four months, you can monitor your credit reports all year without having to pay for them. You also have the option of signing up for a credit monitoring service. Either way, comparing information from report to report should help give you a full picture of your credit, and over time you will easily spot errors.
When you review these reports, verify your personal information. Start with your name, birthdate, Social Security number and address. Misspellings and typos can be fairly common, especially if you have a family member with a similar name, but if the data is wildly off, it may be an indication that someone has tapped your credit using fraudulent information. Mistakes and red flags should be reported by contacting each agency directly.
Confirm accounts associated with your name
Your credit report contains a listing of every credit card and loan you have ever had. Comb through every account, flagging anything suspicious or out of character. If you see an account you don’t recall creating, and can’t find supporting documentation for, contact the credit agencies to let them know. You should be familiar with your reports, and they should reflect your past. There’s a chance that anything out of the ordinary wasn’t done by you. Keep track of cards that have been closed or dormant for years, and those with a history of late payments or delinquencies. If you’re meticulous about paying your bills, but your credit report shows you getting dinged for being late on payments, that’s a red flag.
Follow up on credit inquiries
Read your credit reports on a regular basis and you will find that most of the new activity will be inquiries from lenders trying to check your credit. You initiate these inquiries when you apply for a new card or loan, or even when you apply for a new job. Keep track of the inquiries you make. Any that did not originate from an action you took can be a clear sign of fraud.
Once you identify credit card fraud, don’t hesitate to take action
If you think you have been a victim of fraud, you can place an alert on your credit report at any of the three credit monitoring agencies. This will help creditors accurately verify the identification of anyone trying to open a new line of credit in your name. You can even leave a phone number and have them call you directly. If one agency finds fraud, it will report it to the others.
The initial fraud alert lasts 90 days. Those who have had their identities stolen can place an extended seven-year alert that requires a personal phone call to you before any credit is offered in your name. Or you could freeze access to your credit report so creditors can’t even check it. This should stop new accounts from being opened, but it’s still important to keep your eye on existing credit accounts, which can be just as vulnerable.
Hosting a party is a great way to celebrate special occasions like birthdays, holidays and promotions. However, it can get expensive if you don’t set a budget and stick to it. With a thoughtful plan, you can throw a memorable party on a budget. Use these tips to know how to plan a party without overspending.
Plan your party
Choosing the time
Planning the time of your party can play a role in determining the cost. Not every party requires a full meal. Hosting a party in between mealtimes can lower your food budget. A party from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. might include light snacks, while a party beginning at 8 p.m. might be a perfect setting for easy desserts.
Money isn’t necessarily what makes a party successful. “It’s the people,” says Cristina Verger, who runs an event planning company in New York City. “Who are you inviting and how will you make them feel welcome?”
Offer plenty of comfortable seating for older guests. If smaller children are coming, create a supervised play area for them and perhaps a separate buffet table with foods they enjoy, like mac and cheese or hot dogs. If your friends often get together, try co-hosting to cut down on the costs. Multiple people can share the costs of food, decorations and event-space rental, if needed. Or, each person can volunteer to cover a specific cost, with one person handling food and another doing the decorating. This typically works better — and is more equitable — if the budgets are around the same amount.
To save on invitations, use an online service that delivers information via email. Most people rely heavily on emails, and these services allow you to easily see who can make it. Email-invitation services can also send RSVP reminders. This not only saves on the cost of invitations and postage, but it also provides a more accurate head count. Using the reminders, guests can adjust their attendance if anything changes. You have attendee information compiled digitally, which makes planning easier.
Set the scene with simple party decorations
When decorating, less can be more. It’s simple to create a visually impactful setting with just a few well-placed candles and flowers. One small bouquet of cut flowers in your entryway or on the mantel is enough to denote this is a special event. If your party is outdoors, gather flowers from your garden and put them into simple glass jars on each table. Twinkle lights over the buffet or beverage station bring a festive feel.
Chicago-based event planner Debi Lilly, whose clients have included Oprah Winfrey and jewelers Harry Winston and Cartier, suggests a “visual, exciting theme you can bring alive through a few large pops of decor – like covering your living room ceiling with dozens of affordable helium balloons in one single bright, fun color to surprise guests as they arrive.”
Table settings can follow the same suit. Streamline and save by adding in accents that wow your guests without adding to the cost. Colorful tablecloths or runners, simple centerpieces and a sprig of greenery in each napkin roll add just enough detail to elevate the experience. Andrew Zill, design director of the award-winning Baltimore event-planning firm Feats, Inc, uses fabric and wallpaper remnants as tablecloths or table runners.
Party food ideas on a budget
From cocktail parties to formal dinner parties, the food is often a focal point. When planning your menu, consider options that are filling but lower in cost. Think a tapas-style party with kabobs mixed with cheese trays and a variety of crudités and dips.
A dinner party is traditionally more formal than a standard get-together. You can still serve an elegant sit-down meal on a budget by focusing on a lower-cost protein or a simple yet impressive pasta dish.
Offering a buffet at your party is an easy way to stretch your budget. Buffets allow you to offer a few options, and you can add in more economical dishes that help to stretch the budget. Serve expensive foods — such as barbecue meatballs or chicken cordon bleu bites in smaller portion sizes to encourage guests to try a little bit of everything. The time-honored potluck is gold standard for stretching a budget, too. Provide the main dish and ask your guests to round out the meal with their favorite sides and desserts.
Toasting on a budget
When thinking about drinks at your party, keeping it simple helps. For non-alcoholic options, set up attractive dispensers or pitchers filled with iced water with fruit slices, freshly-brewed iced tea and homemade lemonade. This is a cheaper option than bottles of water and sodas. It also cuts down on waste.
Adult beverages typically include beer and wine. Depending on the number of guests, a party keg can keep costs down. Making a sangria for the wine lovers stretches a bottle a bit further, too. Consider making a signature drink; it’s a way to incorporate something that feels unique to the event without adding the expenses of many different liquors and mixers.
Start the party
While natural conversation is a main source of entertainment at any party, there are a few things you can do to liven it up. Create a music playlist that enhances the party theme – ask friends to bring their selection, as well. Stream songs from your computer through a wireless speaker. From background music for cocktail hour to dance-worthy beats, a playlist allows you to set it and forget it.
Card and board games are always favorites to get people talking and laughing. Create your own conversation starters by placing notecards throughout the party rooms that have fun questions for guests to ask one another. Or, create a scavenger hunt for groups to do together before dinner. These ideas are a little playful, but they’ll have guests laughing and relaxing in no time.
Hosting parties doesn’t have to be expensive, no matter the theme or time of year. If you’re planning a party during the holidays, check out these holiday party ideas to start prepping. Want to see what else you can save on? Learn more about budgeting and saving money.
Thanksgiving is a day to remember only the things that are important in life: family, friends and good food. Excess can seem like it’s the theme of the day, but it doesn’t have to be (except for when it comes to that extra slice of pumpkin pie). Use these cheap Thanksgiving dinner ideas and give thanks for full bellies and a full wallet throughout the holiday season.
Plan your Thanksgiving menu early
Serious shoppers begin thinking about Thanksgiving dinner as soon as the Halloween costumes are put away. Creating a list that far in advance will help in two ways: it gives you time to find great recipes for simple dishes with minimal ingredients, and it allows you to look around for the best prices on anything that can be stored.
If you’ve been shopping with a grocery membership card, consider downloading their app. The stores often provide extra incentives to app users, and you can get customized coupons. Also, pay attention to circulars and coupons on groceries—there are plenty of deals during the weeks leading up to the holiday. You may even be able to score a free turkey if you spend a certain amount at your grocery store between now and mid-November.
Choose generic brands
With some dishes, there are no substitutes for the best ingredients. But there are instances when generic will serve you just as well as gourmet. Don’t worry about going with the least expensive canned items like pumpkin, olives, peas and water chestnuts. Canned chicken broth is relatively inexpensive.
DIY the basics
If you plan to make a chicken dinner in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, you can use the bones to create homemade stock for just pennies (the cost of an onion, a carrot, a stalk of celery and some seasonings). It often tastes better than store bought broth. If you have the skills, you can also find savings by making your own dinner rolls and pie crusts.
Go to the local farmers’ market
Building a menu around seasonal produce will not only save you money on your Thanksgiving meal, it will result in more flavorful and colorful food. If you’re in an area that’s still warm enough for harvesting produce, your local farmer’s market is likely to have great deals on fresh seasonal vegetables like green beans, yams and Brussels sprouts. It’s also a great place to stock up on inexpensive staples like white potatoes, onions and fresh herbs.
You can also use ingredients from your garden, if you have them. Canning is a good way to store summer surplus, and Thanksgiving is the perfect time to use what you’ve saved.
Brine the turkey
Your turkey is likely to be the costliest item on your menu, but how much you pay for the bird will vary greatly. You don’t have to choose an organic, free-range turkey to get the best flavor. In fact, how the bird is processed is just as important—if not more—than how it is raised. All you need is a good brine.
There are countless brine recipes to choose from online, but they all center around a simple ratio of one cup of kosher salt per gallon of water, using enough water to submerge the turkey. To make storage easier: seal the bird, salt and water in an extra-large locking plastic bag and set it in a covered pan in the fridge for at least 24 hours.
Have a Thanksgiving potluck
If you are having guests, encourage them to contribute things like appetizers, desserts and wine. It will save you money and time, and it helps to make your visitors feel more involved. Ask them each to bring a dish with a story behind it or that is special to them. It will make for great dinner table conversation.
Get crafty with the decor
Thanksgiving is the kind of homespun holiday that allows for inexpensive decoration. Whether you make a casual centerpiece out of gourds from the farmers market or make festive turkey-shaped napkin holders out of construction paper, you can get away with a lot on a lean decorating budget.
Save more with Thanksgiving leftovers
Your Thanksgiving guests have gone home, doggie bags in hand. Yet you’re still looking at a mountain of leftovers, mostly made of turkey. Consider these 7 Thanksgiving leftover ideas:
Who doesn’t get a little edgy driving near a semi on the highway? More than 250,000 accidents between passenger cars and 18-wheelers happen each year – with auto drivers contributing to over 70% of the crashes.
Many of these collisions could be avoided – and fears reduced – if car drivers knew how to share the road with trucks safely.
Rules of the road
Driving near and passing an 18-wheeler is different than sharing the road with a standard-sized vehicle. Since the truck is bigger:
Passing a truck
When passing a truck, maintain a safe and steady speed, keeping the cab of the truck in your rear-view mirror before pulling in front of it. Pass on the left to maximize visibility and ensure there’s enough space between your car and the truck when you merge back over.
Getting passed by a Truck
If a truck attempts to pass you, reduce your speed slightly to make it easier for the truck to get around your vehicle.
When a truck is backing up
Never pass behind a truck preparing to back up or is backing up. Otherwise, you may enter a blind spot for you and the trucker.
When a truck is making a wide turn
When turning right, some trucks must first swing left to negotiate the turn. As a result, they can’t see cars directly behind or beside them, so cutting to the right of the turning truck can cause an accident.
When you’re driving near a truck
When driving near a truck, don’t use your bright headlights. The truck’s large side mirrors reflect brights into the driver’s eyes causing temporary blindness.
Top unsafe driving habits
The U.S. Department of Transportation ranked the most unsafe driving acts for car drivers to engage in when trucks are nearby:
With the recent increase of public exposure, there has been great confusion surrounding cannabidiol. The Patient’s Guide to CBD is an Americans for Safe Access resource aimed to provide education on a wide range of CBD-related topics. These topics include, but are not limited to:
When you’re buying a car, it’s important to do your research. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever thanks to online resources like car reviews and consumer forums.
However, all that information does little good if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. Shopping for a car, whether it’s new or used, means digging a little bit deeper to make sure that you know as much as possible about the car to make an informed choice. Once you’ve found a car you’re interested in, follow this checklist of items to make sure you’re getting a safe vehicle.
1. Go beyond the standard test drive
A quick drive around the block won’t tell you everything you need to know about a car. Spend more time in a vehicle to see if it’s truly going to suit your daily driving needs. Things like a cupholder that’s hard to reach or a sun visor that doesn’t quite suit your sight line can irritate you over time or even keep you from driving comfortably, which may compromise your safety. Here are some tips on how you can make the most of a test drive.
2. Don’t let the vehicle history report fool you
Getting a vehicle history report should be a priority when you’re considering buying a used car. This document gives you the service history and other important facts about the car. But be aware that it may not tell the whole story. Often times, accidents or damage to a vehicle are not reported and therefore will likely not be disclosed.
For example, some unscrupulous sellers might resell flooded or damaged vehicles that they’ve failed to report, and if the work was done by the owner that won’t be included on the report. Look for things like stained carpet and debris in between the seats that could indicate flooding.
Another way to spot possible past damage, is to stand in front of the car and ensure the paint on the hood matches that on the sides. If it’s mismatched, it may mean the car has been in an accident.
Of course, you should always consider taking a used car to a reputable mechanic for an inspection to ensure there is no hidden or major damage.
3. Find out what IIHS and NHTA say about the car
Both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration oversee automobile safety in the country. Review reports from both organizations; they conduct different types of crash tests and use different criteria to rate vehicles. Then, look for a car that has the approval of both.
4. Let Edmunds and Kelley be your guides
Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds guides can provide you with a broad range of information, from reviews and safety ratings to the cars’ actual values. This can help you get the right car both in terms of safety and your budget.
5. Know what safety equipment is standard
Older cars don’t have the same safety equipment as newer ones. Research when certain features, such as airbags, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control, became standard. Certain safety features will not only protect you on the road, but they can also lower your car insurance costs.
6. Check for open recalls
Unfortunately, neither car dealers nor private sellers are legally required to tell you is a car is subject to recall. In this situation, it’s definitely “buyer beware,” and you should always check to see if the particular car you’re looking at has any open recalls. Use the NHTSA website to check.
7. Don’t forget the tires
Always check the tires before you buy; even though they should be in good enough condition to drive, that’s not always the case. In addition to looking for standard wear, look for tread wear on one edge of a tire, which can mean the wheels are out of alignment. If the tires have erratic tire wear, have the car’s shock absorbers or suspension checked.
8. Look closely at older and foreign cars
Because safety standards have changed over the years, look carefully at older cars and any vehicles built outside of North America. They may not meet certain EPA standards or may lack safety features that are currently required by law.
9. Consider how it fits your life
It’s easy to fall in love at first sight, but it’s also important to be realistic. Look at things like fuel consumption, required maintenance (which may be higher on an older car as parts start to wear out) and how you plan to drive it. A classic 1975 VW Beetle may be cool, but is it going to be reliable as a daily driver or on a road trip?
10. Trust your instincts
After you’ve reviewed everything else on this checklist, do a “gut check.” If you feel something isn’t right with the car, it’s okay to walk away.
Making safe decisions when you’re purchasing a car is an important way to ensure you get a vehicle that keeps you secure for years to come. Learn more about other essential safety features that your new car should have.
Painting your home can be inconvenient and time consuming, but it’s easier than it seems. It’s a good investment that extends the integrity and good looks of what, for most people, is their single greatest asset.
Paint is your house’s first defense against the elements and the first impression guests and potential buyers receive. Here are 8 signs it’s time to paint a house.
1. Flaking, bubbling or cracking paint
These signs often signal dry rot, wet rot or mold caused by failed weatherproofing. Strong sunlight, harsh winters, extreme humidity, storms, blowing sand and ocean breezes can contribute to the damage.
2. Hardened caulk
Most caulks are designed to expand and contract along with your house. As your home is exposed to more extreme weather cycles (think sunny days and freezing nights) caulking will lose its elasticity. If the beads are hard and resistant when you press down, it’s probably time to call an expert to re-caulk and check for damage.
3. Fading paint
Sun bleaching is common, and dark hues tend to fade faster than paler shades. Fading on shady sides of the house, however, indicates problems with the vapor barrier or with water intrusion. Look for seemingly mysterious stains dripping downward on the paint. If water-soluble materials designed for home interiors end up outside the house, it’s a sign of water leaks. If you can’t pinpoint the source, call an expert.
4. Patching stucco
To minimize costs without re-stuccoing the entire house, patch stucco cracks and repaint the whole house. Otherwise, homeowners will be left with streaks or a patchwork from paint that doesn’t quite match.
5. Because the paint color morphed
UV rays cause the paint to fade and, sometimes, transform to an undesired shade after painting. Beige can transform to pink in a matter of weeks. To prevent that, make sure the paint is an exterior grade that can withstand UV effects.
6. To boost curb appeal
If the house looks faded, the trim no longer stands out or there is nothing to make the house ‘pop’ against its surroundings, a fresh coat of paint usually will do the trick, making it look fresh and allowing the value of the home to increase.
7. If your house is new
Typically, contractors spray one coat of paint over pre-primed wood. That primer minimizes warpage at the lumber yard but generally is insufficient to prevent swelling or shrinkage. If possible, prime the wood before it is installed. Then plan on painting a new home within five years to ensure a good layer of protective paint, before much damage has occurred.
8. Before paint chips or peels
Don’t wait until paint chips are visible from the street to repaint. Painting your house early minimizes damage to the exterior of the home and also minimizes the need for preparatory work, like scraping flaking paint, caulking seals or replacing wood. Minimizing the need for prep work lowers painting costs.
Most homes need to be painted every 7 to 10 years, but the actual timeframe varies by material and region. For example, cement fiberboard siding needs repainting every 10 to 15 years, but more traditional cladding needs painting more often. In areas with intense sunlight, stucco, vinyl or aluminum siding should be painted about every five years. Wood siding may need to be painted every three to seven years. In regions where sunlight is less intense, paint should last four to 10 years on wood and 20 years on vinyl or aluminum siding.
If you’re interested in other home renovation projects, find out what you can do yourself and what you need a contractor for with this helpful guide.
When you’re looking for extra space in your home, garages are logical places to turn. Whether you need an extra room, a bit of rental income, or just want to spread out, chances are, with some modifications, your home has the space you need.
Before you convert your garage to livable space, you must attend to a few issues. Here are a few suggestions to help ensure converting a garage to a living space goes smoothly:
1. Meet building codes
“To get a building permit, you may need a plot plan, a floor plan of the house and an elevation plan showing setbacks,” says Andy Baker, residential land use attorney from Calabasas, Calif. Before finalizing those plans, he advises getting feedback from the city or county planning office to be sure they meet the current building codes. Then go back to your contractor or architect for the final versions you will submit for a building permit.
“If you can’t meet the requirements, you may apply for a variance,” Baker says. Applying for a variance is a better option than renovating without a building permit, where penalties can exceed $1,000 plus the cost of reconverting the space.
2. Comply with zoning ordinances
Converting a garage to a room means you lose parking space. In many jurisdictions, “zoning ordinances require covered, off-street parking.” Baker says. “If you take parking from the garage, you must provide it elsewhere.”
In dense subdivisions, that may be impossible, requiring you to rethink your garage conversion. If your goal is to gain rental income, check local zoning to find out if there are any related restrictions, such as those on the number of rental spaces allowed per lot. The objective is to avoid any changes that affect the neighborhood.
If the garage conversion changes the footprint of the residence, check the zoning laws to determine the mandated setbacks for the side, back and front yards.
3. Consult your CC&Rs
If you’re part of a homeowners’ association, your garage conversion project must also meet the requirements of its Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). While the details will vary among communities, homeowners who do not meet these requirements may find themselves in mediation or being sued by their association.
Some CC&Rs do not allow garage conversions, while others consult the board of directors for discussion. Other conversions, such as to the attic or basement, may gain easier approval because they don’t effect on-street parking. However, be aware of neighbors’ privacy concerns, as attic conversions may provide new views into their homes or yards.
4. Work with the right professionals
Even if you plan to do the work yourself , involve professionals who are active in the field. For example, practicing architects should know the current building codes. The building and safety division of your city or county’s public works department can help too.
If you hire a contractor, choose someone who routinely performs the type of work you want done. A handyman may have the necessary skills, but be unaware of recent building codes.
Depending on the conversion, you may also need to hire an engineer. This is more common for attic or basement conversions as they “need a structural engineer to determine whether they can support habitation,” Baker explains. This includes ensuring that attic structures can support the extra weight and that trusses can open properly, in addition to adding or modifying the windows.
5. Start and end construction on time
Converting a space may take three to six months, including the time required to gain the necessary permits. “Planning departments typically allow six months for renovations, but you may buy an extension,” Baker says. If you don’t start within the allotted time, you will need a new building permit. Projects that exceed the allotted time frame may incur fines.
These aspects of garage conversions are often overlooked. Attending to them initially makes your project proceed much more smoothly, rather than getting caught up in a legal predicament. Be sure to contact your Nationwide agent before work begins to ensure that you are protected during the remodeling and, afterward, to ensure that your insurance policy is updated to reflect the additional square footage of your new living space.
Before you put that recreational vehicle in gear, it’s best to prepare thoroughly.
That will ensure your next trip is a joy, not a drag. It also means looking beyond the basics, such as a full gas tank and stocked refrigerator. Before you start your next journey, you might assemble a to-do list. Here are the essential things you’ll want to double-check before you pull out of the driveway.
Certain things are optional for travel, but in today’s world there are a few things that you just don’t want to leave home without. They include:
The Simple Things
Even though space can be limited, here are a few everyday items you don’t want to leave home without:
Working from home is the next big thing. According to the State of the Remote Job Marketplace report, in 2018, nearly 4 million people, or 2.9% of the population, worked from home. That’s a 115% increase since 2005, and that number is projected to grow even faster in the coming decade. Upwork’s Future Workforce Report predicts that as many as 38% of full-time staffs will work from home by the end of the next decade, and nearly 60% of hiring managers are using remote and freelance workers — that’s 24% more than were using freelancers the year before.
As more employers and hiring managers recognize the benefits of remote workers, employees have more opportunities to find jobs and enjoy careers with a commute from the bedroom to the home office. Even better, these legitimate jobs may pay comparable wages to what in-office workers are earning.
Finding great opportunities
Certain fields lend themselves to remote jobs; knowing what types of businesses and industries are more likely to have work from home opportunities can help guide your search. According to FlexJobs, the top five fields for working from home are:
Of course, these aren’t the only industries that offer telecommuting jobs. Define what kind of work you’re interested in and have good skills in. Then, you can start looking for jobs that are a good fit. If you want to figure out how to work from home, start by looking at what’s available in the area where you live.
Identify work from home job scams
The Internet has made it fairly easy to find work from home jobs, but it has also made it easier for scammers to take advantage of people looking for those jobs. Because of that, you’ll want to choose your search options carefully.
Using search terms like “work from home” or “work at home jobs” is more likely to lead to scam sites. Instead, use keywords like “remote jobs,” “telecommuting jobs,” “home-based positions” and “virtual jobs.” When you find a company you’re interested in applying with, conduct a quick search for reviews of the company to see what experiences others have had with it.
According to the FlexJobs report, there are about 60 to 70 scam listings for every one legitimate work from home job opportunity. Always conduct your due diligence to make sure you’re working with a reputable company. Look for red flags, including:
If you’re working from home, your company may require you to have a homeowner’s insurance policy that covers part of your house as a home office. Contact Sterling Peaks Insurance to make sure your coverage meets your needs. This is particularly important if you have a significant amount of business property or conduct business in person with customers in your home.
 “The State of the Remote Job Marketplace,” FlexJobs
 “How to Find a Real Online Job (and Avoid the Scams!),” FlexJobs
 “Got Remote Workers? 8 Key Points to Include in Your Remote Work Policy,” Business Insider
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