Financial Advice

Battling Ticket Bots

You’re online, ready to buy concert tickets the second they go on sale, and then … they’re sold out. Were you beaten by a ticket bot? Here’s what you need to know.

What are ticket bots?

They’re computer programs that quickly buy up the best seats so the tickets can be resold elsewhere for more money.

The Better Online Ticket Sales Act of 2016 makes it illegal to use computer software like ticket bots to game the ticket system for public concerts, theater performances, sporting events, and similar events at venues that seat over 200.

Are ticket bots the only reason I can’t get tickets?

No. Some tickets might have already been sold in pre-sales or held for industry insiders. It also might just be that demand was high, and tickets sold out quickly.

So how do I increase my chances of getting tickets to a big event?

  • Get in on a pre-sale. Join the fan club for your favorite artists, look into season ticket opportunities, and check with your credit card company about promotions. Also sign up for newsletters or alerts from ticket sellers, artists, or venues, or follow them on social media. Just keep in mind that clubs and memberships might involve extra costs.
  • Look for tips on the ticket seller’s site. For example, Ticketmaster warns that using multiple browser windows or refreshing your screen at lightning speed could get you flagged as a bot so you can’t buy tickets. But using multiple devices or refreshing every two to three seconds is usually fine and might help you get tickets.
  • Set up an account and get familiar with a ticket seller’s site ahead of time. That way your information is already loaded and ready to go as soon as tickets go on sale, and you know what to expect in the process.
  • Check back. Shows might be added, or more tickets might be made available after the initial release.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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Financial Advice

Looking for a Caregiver Job? Watch this Video

Are you looking for a nanny or caregiver job? Do you search for these jobs on websites such as care.com or sittercity.com? If so, then you should look out for nanny or caregiver scams.

Here’s what they look like. Scammers send messages pretending to be interested in hiring you for a job as a nanny, caregiver, or pet sitter. But first, your new “employer” asks you — with a heartfelt plea — to accept and cash a check. The scammer tells you to keep part of the money, for you (and your labor), and send the rest to a supplier to pay for medical equipment and other special items required for the job. What really happens? The check is fake (and will bounce), the money you send will go to the scammers, and you will owe the bank for the money you withdrew. Oh and there’s no job.

People who are legitimately looking for help will never ask you to pay for the promise of a job. They’ll also never ask you to deposit a check and send the money to someone else. So, if you get this kind of offer, stop — and then tell the FTC.

For more on how this scam works, check out our new video below.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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Financial Advice

FTC Charges Online Marketing Scheme with Deceiving Shoppers

One-time “trial” offer for tooth whitener led to recurring $200 monthly charges

The Federal Trade Commission has charged an online marketing operation with deceptively luring people into an expensive negative option scam using an initial low-cost ($1.03, plus shipping and handling) “trial” offer for tooth whiteners and other products.

A federal court temporarily halted the operation and froze its assets at the request of the FTC, which seeks to end the practices.

According to the FTC, the defendants used a network of 78 companies, at least 87 websites, and dozens of bank accounts to hide their ownership and launder the profits from the scheme. They also drove people to their websites via affiliate networks that generate web traffic with blog posts, banner ads and surveys. For example, some consumers got emails inviting them to fill out surveys falsely claiming to be for well-known merchants such as Kohl’s and Amazon, and were directed to the defendants’ websites to claim a “reward” for completing the survey.

The FTC alleges that, using deceptive claims, hidden fine-print disclosures and confusing terms, the defendants tricked consumers into providing their billing information, and then started charging them about $100 a month unless consumers canceled within 8 days. They also used an order confirmation page to trick consumers into signing up for a second monthly subscription, which cost an additional $100, for an identical product. Because of this double-deception, the defendants charged consumers, who reasonably believed they had agreed to a single shipment for $1.03 plus shipping costs, about $200 a month until they canceled both unauthorized subscriptions.

The defendants are charged with violating the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act.

The defendants are Blair McNea, Danielle Foss, Jennifer Johnson, Boulder Creek Internet Solutions Inc., Walnut Street Marketing Inc., and these LLCs: Anasazi Management Partners, RevMountain, Wave Rock, Juniper Solutions, Jasper Woods, Wheeler Peak Marketing, ROIRunner, Cherry Blitz, Flat Iron Avenue, Absolutely Working, Three Lakes, Bridge Ford, How and Why, Spruce River, TrimXT, Elation White, IvoryPro, Doing What’s Possible, RevGuard, RevLive!, Blue Rocket Brands, Convertis, Convertis Marketing, Turtle Mountains, Boulder Black Diamond, Mint House, Thunder Avenue, University & Folsom, Snow Sale, Brand Force, Wild Farms, Salamonie River, Indigo Systems, Night Watch Group, Newport Crossing, Greenville Creek, Brookville Lane, Honey Lake, Condor Canyon, Brass Triangle, Solid Ice, Sandstone Beach, Desert Gecko, Blizzardwhite, Action Pro White, First Class Whitening, Spark Whitening, Titanwhite, Dental Pro At Home, Smile Pro Direct, Circle of Youth Skincare, DermaGlam, Sedona Beauty Secrets, Bella at Home, SkinnyIQ, Body Tropical, and RoadRunner B2C LLC, also doing business as RevGo.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 2-0. The U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada entered a temporary restraining order against the defendants on July 25, 2017.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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Financial Advice

FTC Files Charges Against Independent Sales Organization and Sales Agents

Defendants Laundered Transactions for ‘Money Now Funding’ Scheme

The Federal Trade Commission has charged 12 defendants with laundering millions of dollars in credit card charges through fraudulent merchant accounts. According to the complaint filed by the FTC, the defendants arranged for a deceptive operation known as Money Now Funding (MNF) to obtain and maintain merchant accounts that allowed it to process almost $6 million through the credit card networks.

In September 2013, the FTC charged MNF with running a deceptive business opportunity scheme that promised consumers they would make thousands of dollars helping small businesses get loans. The court in the MNF matter determined that MNF’s promises were false.

Today’s case alleges that the defendants – an Independent Sales Organization (ISO), sales agents, and their principals – provided the MNF scheme access to the credit card networks  by submitting and approving fraudulent applications in the names of more than 40 fictitious MNF companies. According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants did so despite obvious signs that the companies were likely fictitious and being used to conceal the true identity of the underlying merchant. By processing the fraudulent MNF scheme’s transactions through merchant accounts opened in the names of fictitious companies, the ISO defendants allegedly also evaded the anti-fraud monitoring efforts of the credit card networks.

In the case announced today, the defendants are charged with violating the FTC Act and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule.

The ISO defendants are Electronic Payment Systems LLC, Electronic Payment Transfer LLC, John Dorsey, Thomas McCann and Michael Peterson. The sales agent defendants are Electronic Payment Solutions of America Inc., Electronic Payment Services Inc., KMA Merchant Services LLC, Dynasty Merchants LLC, Jay Wigdore, Michael Abdelmesseh, also known as Michael Stewart, and Nikolas Mihilli.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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Financial Advice

Behind on bills: Three steps to help you make tough choices in tight moments

When bills are piling up, it’s important to remember that you’re still in control. While you are ultimately responsible for paying all of your bills on time, there are things you can do if you fall short one month and don’t have enough money to cover everything. 

Follow our three easy tips that can help you plan and make the best decisions for your situation.

1. Make a plan

When you’re facing a cash flow emergency, make a list of all of your bills and when they’re due. This step will help you assess your financial obligations. 

Consider organizing bills into categories:

  • Job or education related expenses, such as transportation to and from work, tools, uniforms, or work-related courses and trainings
  • Insurance, such as car insurance, health insurance, or home or renters’ insurance
  • Housing related, such as rent, mortgage payments, or utilities
  • Other obligations such as credit card bills, loans, medical bills, child support, or childcare

You can also use our bill calendar to help you get a total picture of your monthly bills and identify the weeks you have the most money due.

If you can’t pay all of your bills at once, think about the order you pay them in. Weigh the risks of falling behind on one or more bill. While not ideal, this may prevent you from losing your car or house, having utilities shut off, or getting into serious default on a loan.  

2. Call your creditors

If you have to miss a payment, try calling your creditors first to tell them why. Depending on your situation, ignoring your bills could lead to higher interest rates, damage to your credit score, repossession of your car, or foreclosure. Instead, talk to your creditors and explain your situation. They may be willing to forgive a late fee and to make short-term arrangements. For example, if you are in good standing with your creditors, they may be willing to enter into an affordable repayment plan.

If you find you’re often late with a particular bill, negotiate a due date that better lines up with when you get paid or receive income or benefits. Many creditors may be willing to shift the due date if you ask.

3. Track your spending

We also recommend tracking your spending for a short amount of time, like a month. This practice will help you figure out how you’re spending your money and identify where you might be able to adjust your spending to get ahead of upcoming expenses.  

According to consumer marketing research, nine out of ten shoppers report that they frequently buy items not on their shopping lists. When people overspend, they may have to dip into savings or borrow money, sometimes at a high cost, to make up for the difference between what they earn and what they spend. Our budget worksheet and spending tracker tool can help you get started. 

This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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Financial Advice

I’ve Got a Low Income But Keep Getting Credit and Wonder How to Best Use It

Question:

Dear Steve,

I have an unusual situation, I guess. I have relatively low income due to some health issues, but my brain works. Despite my low income, credit card companies and banks seem to be dying to loan me money. I was even able to get a mortgage and pay it off. Now I have credit cards with up to $15,000 credit limit. I always hear about people who can’t get credit. That’s not me. I am very responsible, but I wish I could figure out how to take advantage of all this credit available to me. Unfortunately, I can’t think of anything smart. I considered investing in education, but found online classes for free. I have a (very) small business going, but it does not require any investment… just my brain. And if I ever need anything, I save for it.

Is there anything I can do to use profitably all this credit that is available to me? I’m very cautious and would not do anything risky like trying to trade stocks. I’m also not very mobile.

I’m a subscriber to your email newsletter and greatly appreciate your work.

Thank you.

Yana

Answer:

Dear Yana,

The reason credit is available to you is because creditors have identified you as someone they can make money from. Low income people are often targeted because lenders view this group as subprime or higher risk and charge them a much higher interest rate on money borrowed when they fall for the bait.

I realize it makes you feel good that lenders are willing to extend you credit like that but it is not a personal reflection about you or how you manage money. It’s all about trying to dangle the carrot out there far enough that people will want to take a bite of it.

Sounds to me like you’ve got a good head on your shoulders and not falling for the debt trap. Rather than be concerned I think you should commend yourself.

The access to credit is a great tool if you need to pay for something now and have or will have the money to payoff the balance in a month or two. Sometimes unexpected financial issues arise when we least expect them to.

The other reason to use and payoff credit each month is to avoid the debit card trap. A credit card is a much safer financial tool to use than a debit card. There is nothing that prevents you from paying your credit card bill in full every month and get the additional consumer protections of not letting people reach into your bank account with a debit card.

Actually I think you discovered the best smart thing to do with this easy credit and that’s to contemplate how you would use it. Now that’s brilliant.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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Financial Advice

Judge Calls BS On Navient in Suit by Government Watchdog to Protect Student Loan Borrowers

The behemoth student loan originator and servicer Navient was sued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for basically providing bad service and advice to six million student loan debtors it is contracted to serve for the Department of Education.

This horrible advice extended the time in debt and cost of repayment. Navient’s defense is the contract they signed with the Department of Education was about collecting money and they did not have to provide competent advice. So Navient wanted the lawsuit tossed out of court.

The Judge in the case wrote a 60 page Opinion on the issue and didn’t find the position taken by Navient to be persuading.

Judge Mariani noted that although Navient says they have no duty to provide fiduciary assistance to consumers they service, Navient itself publishes information and statement for the general public, encouraging them to contact Navient for advice and assistance with their loans. On the Navient website they say “If you’re experiencing problems making your loans payments, please contact us. Our representatives can help you by identifying options and solutions, so you can make the right decision for your situation.”

One issue Navient has been accused of is pushing debtors into forbearance plans which only inflate the balance owed rather than into income driven repayment plans. This appears to be a factual statement and it is created more because of an internal Navient policy than following their own public facing advice to debtors.

The Judge wrote, “Nevertheless, entering a borrower into an income-driven repayment plan is more time-intensive and expensive for Navient Solutions then putting a borrower’s loan into forbearance. While a Navient Solutions customer service representative can put a borrower’s loan into forbearance quickly over the phone, generally without filling out any paperwork, entering a borrower into an income-driven repayment plan involves lengthy conversations about different plans, helping a borrower fill out the initial application, and possessing both the initial and annual renewal paperwork.”

One motivation for the “easy way out” might be the least work option but Navient customer service representatives are allegedly also “compensated, in part, based on how short they can keep the average call.”

Navient alleged shortcuts continued year-after-year when the debtors who were actually enrolled in an income driven repayment plan had to recertify their beneficial repayment plan. Borrowers who failed to recertify “would automatically be removed from the income-driven repayment plan. Even temporary removal from the plan would result in one or more of the following negative consequences for borrowers: (1) an immediate increase in his or her monthly payment; (2) the addition of any unpaid, accrued interest onto the principal; and (3) the loss of an interest subsidy.”

The Navient recertification process was weak. The emails sent to borrowers contained vague subject lines like “Your Sallie Mae Account Information” or “New Document Ready to
View.” Debtors missed the importance and time sensitivity of these notices and those that did were dropped and penalized.

Even when things went right on those front, Navient often “either misallocated or misapplied by Navient Solutions.” These failures in payment processing “resulted in a range of negative consequences for borrowers including the assessment of improper late fees and interest, the loss of certain benefits, and having inaccurate negative information about them shared with consumer reporting agencies.”

In a seemingly mind boggling line of argument Navient continues to stand by its claim “they had no duty to provide individualized financial counseling to borrowers.” It seems mutually exclusive for Navient to encourage debtors to contact them for help and assistance and also say they have no duty to provide that very counseling or advice.

In the lengthy Opinion issued by Judge Mariani, Navient was not able to persuade the judge on that point. The Judge said, “Navient’s alleged practice is abusive under the CFP [Consumer Financial Protection] Act if Navient took unreasonable advantage of a borrower’s reasonable reliance that Navient would act in the borrower’s interest.”

The Court stated Navient might not have had a contractual responsibility to provide the advice they proclaimed but they did not have a right to “take unreasonable advantage of “the reasonable reliance by the consumer” that the loan servicer will “act in the interests of the consumer.”

Moreover, the Court found the act of Navient communicating statements to consumer they would provide advice, help, assistance, and options for borrowers did in fact create a duty for Navient to actually do that and act in accordance with their own statements.

In the end Judge Robert Mariani denied Navient’s claim to dismiss the lawsuit so it pushes forward.

You can read the entire Opinion here.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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