Saturday, November 29, 2008

Trying to write funny songs for an end of the year show. Any ideas?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Trying new affiliate marketing product.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Five Ways to Prosper During The Obama Administration

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How To Get Out Of A Car Lease Before Your Contract Expires

How To Get Out Of A Car Lease Before Your Contract Expires

When your lease is up, you can simply turn in the keys and lease another car or buy a new one. But how about getting out before the lease ends? Perhaps you can’t afford the sky-high payments on that Lexus RX-7 anymore or need a more fuel efficient car. There is good news and bad news. First, the bad news. A car lease contract is difficult and expensive to terminate early. Simply turning in the keys and walking away from a lease will result in stiff penalties. You credit could be ruined and you could even get sued for breach of contract.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Actually, there is a number of options available to you. You can sell the car yourself and pay off the balance of the lease. This can be cost effective if the market value of the car is close to the buy-out number. Do not hesitate to exercise this option even at a loss if it happens to be lower than the termination fee. Your best option, though, is to transfer your lease for someone who would buy your lease and take it off your hands. many potential buyers are looking for short-term leases without all the hassle and extra costs. Check with family and friends or use the services of lease- assumption websites, such as to list your car.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

11 Charged in Nation's Largest Credit Card Fraud and Identity Theft Case

11 people were charged with stealing over 41 million credit and debit card numbers. This case is the largest identity theft case ever brought by the Department of Justice. It involves people from Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus and China who apparently hacked into retailer's computer networks including Office Max, Barnes and Noble, Boston Market and others. The theives used a technique known as "wardriving" in which they drove around looking for accessible wireless Internet signals. Once they found a signal they installed "sniffer programs" that captured credit and debit card information that passed through the retailer's processing networks. They stored the information on two servers in Latvia. The ringleader was working as an United States Secret Service informant at the time of the thefts.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Sunday, May 18, 2008

IRS Has Answers to Questions People Are Asking About Economic Stimulus Payments; IRS Urges People to Visit

WASHINGTON — As millions of Americans begin receiving their economic stimulus payments, the Internal Revenue Service released a list of the most-frequently-asked questions –– and answers –– that people now are asking.

“Many people have questions about the stimulus payments, and the IRS has the answers available on the Web site,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. “The stimulus payments are automatic for eligible taxpayers who filed a 2007 tax return, and taxpayers do not need to take any additional action to receive the payment.”

Stimulus payments started going out last week, and the initial round of payments will continue on a weekly basis through mid-July. In all, nearly 130 million payments will go out this year. Last week, 7.7 million payments were direct deposited, and the first mass production of paper checks begins Thursday.

Since last week millions of Americans have visited and called the IRS toll-free lines. The IRS reminded taxpayers the fastest way to get answers is to visit, which has payment schedules and other information.

Since the payments began, the IRS has been fielding a variety of questions centered on the payment schedule, factors affecting direct deposit of payments, eligibility requirements and questions about the payment amounts. The IRS today released an updated set of Frequently Asked Questions covering everything from when someone can expect the payment to whether it will be delivered electronically or on paper. A link to these Frequently Asked Questions can be found at the bottom of this page.

The most common question has been when people can expect their payments. Economic stimulus payments will be issued according to the last two-digits of the taxpayer’s Social Security number. For joint filers the payments will go out based on the last two digits of the Social Security number of the person listed first on the return. Payments will be made by either direct deposit or paper check, based generally on the option people chose when they filed their 2007 tax returns.

The payment schedule below is for people who filed early enough to have their tax returns processed by April 15.

Most Frequently Asked Questions

Friday, May 9, 2008

Be Careful When Using Bluetooth

Bluetooth gives spies a window into your lifeWorried about your civil liberties and privacy? Then it may come as a shock to discover that you have unwittingly been allowing your phone to signal your every move.

Bluetooth, a wireless link built into many cellphones, makes our movements trackable by anyone equipped with a PC and an appropriate receiver. Vassilis Kostakos at the University of Bath in the UK placed four Bluetooth receivers in the city's centre. Over four months, his team tracked 10,000 Bluetooth phones and was able to "capture and analyse people's encounters" in pubs, streets and shops.

Bluetooth is now more of a privacy threat than the more frequently publicised RFID chips, Kostakos says. "If people are worried, they should turn off the Bluetooth function on their mobile phones."

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Five Ways to Spend Your Economic Stimulus Check

1. File Bankruptcy and Help The Economy

Since the purpose of the economic stimulus plan was to help Americans who were overburdened by high interest rates, credit card balances and sub-prime mortgages pay their bills, why not make this your last credit card payment. If you filed bankruptcy yourself, you could do it for less than $600. If you are married, you could hire an attorney to do it for you with your $1200 payment.

2. Buy a Wii Fit

According to their Website : “The active-play phenomenon started by Wii Sports now spreads to your whole body thanks to the pressure-sensitive Wii Balance Board (name not final), which comes packed with Wii Fit. The board is used for an extensive array of fun and dynamic activities, including aerobics, yoga, muscle stretches and games. Many of these activities focus towards providing a “core” workout, a popular exercise method that emphasizes slower, controlled motions. Family members will have fun staying active and talking about and comparing their results and progress on a new channel on the Wii Menu.”

3. Let The Government Buy Your Next Gun and Ammo

Citizens Committee For The Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) Chairman Alan Gottlieb thinks it would be a boon to America's firearms industry for that money to be spent on pursuits guaranteed by the Second Amendment, while also providing jobs and paychecks, and creating new jobs for people in the industry. "This is our money, anyway," Gottlieb said ofthe stimulus checks. "If we weren't paying it in taxes to begin with, it would still be in our bank accounts and wallets, and we would already be spending that cash on a new rifle or shotgun, perhaps a new handgun and ammunition, shooting accessories and other equipment. "Set some cash aside to buy gasoline for a trip to the range," he added, "and don't forget that with every firearm and ammunition purchase, Americans contribute to the Pittman-Robertson federal excise tax program that supportsstate wildlife agency programs, including hunter education. Not only will these purchases provide a much-needed boost to the gun industry, they allow gun owners an opportunity to take more than just a symbolic swipe at anti-gunners and anti-hunting groups."

4. Buy Fine Wine and Spirits

You can get a bottle of 1908 Bual Madeira for $534.00. Everyone should try a 100 year old wine at least once in their life. Or you could buy a 40 year old bottle of Old Fettercairn single malt scotch for around $700.

5. Go to The Ball-Park or Playoffs

Even though it is the regular season, you can easily spend $600 on baseball tickets. At Yankee Stadium, $600 buys one seat behind home plate. In Colorado, you could get a 25 game package for $625. If baseball is not your game check out the NHL or NBA Playoffs. According to, two nosebleed seats for the Lakers' next series cost about $600. The NHL is a better value, you can get 3 seats to the Red Wings' next series for $575.00.

The Economic Stimulus Check – When Will You Receive It?

According to, the economic stimulus checks, for tax returns filed by April 15, will be mailed according to the last two digits of your social security number. Here is the schedule:

Direct deposit payments
If the last two digits of your Social Security number are: Your stimulus payment should be sent to your bank account by:
00 - 20 May 2
21 - 75 May 9
76 - 99 May 16
Paper check
If the last two digits of your Social Security number are: Your check should be in the mail by:
00 - 09 May 16
10 - 18 May 23
19 - 25 May 30
26 - 38 June 6
39 - 51 June 13
52 - 63 June 20
64 - 75 June 27
76 - 87 July 4
88 - 99 July 11

Friday, April 25, 2008

US Treasury Department Identity Theft Video

Anatomy of a “Nigerian Letter” Scam Part

Here is a letter I received by email today. It is a variety of the “Nigerian Letter” or 419 Scam whereby identity thieves attempt to obtain information in order to commit identity theft or other crimes. I receive at least ten of these letters per week this is one of the better ones. The writer claims to be from Togo and at least names a real city in that country. I have reprinted the letter in full and the reasons why it is an obvious scam. When I receive their reply letter I will post it as well.

Dear Friend,

May the peace of our Lord be upon you and your family.

I crave your indulgence at this mail coming from somebody you have not know before. I decided to do this after praying over the situation. You should please consider the transaction on its content and not the fact that you have not known me before. I need not dwell on how I came by your contact information because there are many such possibilities these days.

I would like to introduce myself as Mrs. Charite Habibi, of Repulic of Togo, widow to Late Mr. Usman Habibi (former Consular of the Togo Embassy in Madrid - Spain ) .I have been recently been diagnosed of Cancer of the Pelvics.

I am writing from my sick bed. There is this US$10.5Million my husband deposited with my name in a bank, here in
Lome, Republic of Togo. With my health condition and because my husband and I have no children, I am looking for a credible person to whom I will pass the right of next of kin.This person will apply to the bank and request from them, the procedure towards retrieving the fund from them.This is on the condition that you will take 25% of the fund for yourself, 5% used for expenses, while you will use the remaining 70% for the less previlege people in the society. This is in fulfilment of the last request of my husband: that a substantial part of the fund be used to carter for the less previleged.

If this condition is acceptable to you, you should contact me immediately with your full names and contact information so that I will send you the document that the bank issued on my name when the funds was deposited. So that you will contact the bank directly, and demand from them the procedure towards the release of the fund to you from their bank. I cannot predict what will be my fate by the time you wll recieve the fund, but you should please ensure that the fund is used as I have described above.

I will be most grateful if you can come forward and help me so that I will give you more details and the contact details of an attorney I have told about the matter.

Please think about this project and give it a second thought before you Consider this and get back to me as soon as possible. Finally, it is my humble prayer that the information as contained herein be accorded the necessary attention, urgency as well as the secrecy it deserves.

I Expect your urgent response if you can handle this project. Email me back for more details.

Respectfully yours,

Mrs. Charite Habibi .

How do we know that this is a scam:

1. It is too good to be true. Wealthy people do not contact strangers offering to give them large sums of money for free. If a deal is too good to be true, rest assured that it is.

2. This email came from Why would a widow in Togo have an American Yahoo Account?

3. A Google search for “Usman Habibi” produced another copy of the same letter on a bulletin board on a French language website as a comment to an article about drinking bottled or tap water.

4. The same letter was posted on March 15, 2008 at by Mrs. Faith Ali. Who also clamed to be the widow of Usman Habibi. It is quite a coincidence that Mr. Habibi had two wives, left $10.5 Million to each, and that both of them developed “cancer of the pelvics”.

5. A search of the telephone directory in Madrid showed no listings for a Togo embassy in Madrid. In fact, Togo only has embassies in Brussels, Paris, Ottawa, and Washington DC.

It is important to note that these scammers use made up names when sending these letters. If Usman Habibi, Faith Ali or Charite Habibi even exist in all likelihood, they are also innocent victims of these con artists.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Highlights of the Proposed Credit Card Holders' Bill of Rights

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) have proposed sweeping legislation called “The Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights” aimed at reforming credit card industry abuses and improving consumer protections.

Senator Menendez’ legislation is set forth in two bills, The Protection of Young Consumers Act and The Credit Card Reform Act. According to Senator Menendez’ website:

“The Protection of Young Consumers Act will protect people, especially college students and other young people, against skyrocketing consumer debt and the barrage of credit card solicitations that lead to it. The proposal will: 1) build on the current “opt-out” provision regarding pre-approved credit card offers by prohibiting credit card solicitations to consumers under 21 unless they proactively “opt-in” to receive such solicitations; and 2) establish a financial literacy and education program in elementary and secondary schools to help prepare young people to be financially responsible consumers.

The Credit Card Reform Act will also protect consumers against excessive fees and interest rates. It will: 1) prohibit “universal defaults” in which a credit card company imposes excessive increases in interest rates for events completely unrelated to the payment history on that account; 2) restrict excessive late fees; and 3) tighten regulations on credit card companies to ensure that they are not offering credit to high-risk cardholders without verifying their ability to pay.”

Representative Maloney’s Bill goes farther. It requires credit card issuers to provide 45 days notice of interest rate increases and allows them to cancel their accounts and pay the balances off at the prior interest rate for three billing cycles. It bans credit card company’s policies of “any-time, any reason” re-pricing of interest rates; prohibits “two-cycle billing”; and prohibits credit card companies from charging late fees whenever a card holder provides proof of having mailed their payment within 7 days of the due date.

Yesterday, representatives for credit card companies had a chance to testify, and said by basing rates on an individual's risk profile, they've been able to extend credit to more consumers. The proposed bill, they said, would jeopardize that. " You will indeed see two things happen -- an increased cost of credit and reduced access to credit to those people who need it most," said Carter Franke, marketing executive with JP Morgan Chase.

The Federal Reserve is also looking at industry practices and reviewing regulations that govern the credit card issuers. The fed is expected to impose new rules later this year.

Monday, April 14, 2008

New E-Book Explains IRS Settlement Procedures

Having tax problems can be a trying experience. I have just written a new e-book The Insider's Guide to Settling Your IRS Tax Debt. It explains the various ways that you can settle your debt to the Internal Revenue Service. It includes detailed step-by-step instructions and links to the correct IRS forms. Lots of companies, such as J.K. Harris and Company and American Tax Relief charge high fees for preparing these documents. You can do it yourself and save thousands of dollars in the process.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

1000 Real Millionaires Reveal Their Top 13 Success Secrets

Lessons we all need to learn from and take to heart: 13 lessons from millionaires on how to achieve wealth. Like having a supportive spouse, finding good mentors and living below your means (huh?)

read more | digg story

Settling IRS Debts and your Home

QUESTION: Is it possible to settle tax debt to the IRS without giving up your home?ANSWER: You may establish various payment arrangements to pay your tax debt with the IRS. Regarding your residence, the IRS may not seize any real property used by you as a residence to satisfy a tax liability (including penalties and interest) of $5,000 or less

read more | digg story

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What To Do if You Can't Pay Your Taxes -- Part 1

Here is information from Wikipedia concerning the IRS Offer In Compromise Program which lets people settle their past tax debt, sometimes for even less than the amount owed. In future posts, I will discuss other strategies for dealing with the IRS when you can't pay your taxes. I hope that you find it helpful.

The Offer in Compromise (or OIC) program, is an IRS program under 26 USC 7122 which allows qualified individuals with an unpaid taxdebt to negotiate a settled amount that is less than the total owed to clear the debt. A taxpayer uses the checklist in the Form 656, Offer in Compromise, package to determine if the taxpayer is eligible for the offer in compromise program. The objective of the OIC program is to accept a compromise when acceptance is in the best interests of both the taxpayer and the government and promotes voluntary compliance with all future payment and filing requirements.

Qualifying conditions

At least one of three conditions must be met to qualify a taxpayer for consideration of an OIC settlement:
• Doubt as to Liability — Debtor can show reason for doubt that the assessed tax liability is correct
• Doubt as to Collectibility — Debtor can show that the debt is likely uncollectable in full by the IRS under any circumstances
• Effective Tax Administration — Debtor does not contest liability or collectibility but can demonstrate extenuating or special circumstances that the collection of the debt would "create an economic hardship or would be unfair and inequitable." This Offer in Compromise program is mainly for elderly or disabled Taxpayers.

Doubt as to collectibility

Doubt as to collectibility means that the taxpayer will never be able to fully pay the tax bill. The IRS will accept a settlement based on the following formula:
Settlement Amount = 60 months of disposable income + the equity in all the taxpayer's assets. (48 in the case of offers paid within five months of acceptance.)
If a taxpayer believes he or she qualifies, the taxpayer completes a financial statement on a form provided by the Internal Revenue Service. An individual not engaged in business may use Form 433-A, and Form 433-B if engaged in business. These financial statements will allow the taxpayer to outline everything owned, and to create a monthly income and expense table.
Disposable income is monthly income minus monthly expenses. For the example given, assume that disposable income is $100. That amount is multiplied by 48 or 60 months, resulting in a product of $4,800 or $6,000. That is the tentative minimum offer.
Now the taxpayer must add the taxpayer's equity in assets. Assume that the taxpayer owns a house that is worth $200,000 and owes only owe $180,000. In this case the taxpayer has $20,000 in equity. This must also be added to your Offer. (This needs correcting. It should be 80% of value less liabilities.)
The total offer in this simplified situation would be $20,000 + $6,000, or $26,000. What's that you say? You don't owe that much? Then you are not a candidate for the Offer in Compromise program. But if you owe, say, $100,000 then this is a great deal.
However, as is usually the case, things are not this simple. If you can make a cash offer, that is pay what you offer in 90 days or less, than you use a factor of 48, not 60 months as indicated above. Therefore, the minimum amount of your offer based on your income would be $100 time 48, or $4,800.
Let's say that you also convince the IRS that your house could not be sold on the market that quickly or that there are other problems with a potential market sale. Then, you could ask for a discount to "Quick Sale Value," or QSV, instead of Fair Market Value, FMV. Your house in now valued at a discount to 80% of FMV, or $160,000. In the above example. Because your QSV is less than what you owe on the house, and assuming you have no other assets, your actual potentially acceptable offer is $4,800 plus $0, or just $4,800.

Now let's say that you cannot pay the $4,800 within 90 days. You could offer to pay the original $6,000 listed above within 24 months: for example, at the rate of $250 per month for 24 months.

If you cannot even do that, there is yet a third way to pay. You can offer to pay your monthly net income after allowable expenses (as determined by the IRS) over the life of the remaining statute on collection (originally 10 years). Lets say, you can pay $100 per month and there is 7 years (84 months) remaining on the statute. Then you will pay $100 per month for 7 years or $8,400.
If you owe more than $8,400 in tax, penalty and interest, and your offer is accepted, then you have a good deal. If you owe less, its not a good deal; in fact, it will not be an offer that the IRS will accept. You would be better off asking for an installment agreement at $100 a month until your account is satisfied.

Lowest acceptable offer

The above formula may be applicable in cases where you owe a very large sum and you have a significant amount of disposable income. However, "doubt as to collectibility" implies the inability to pay. The IRS has been known to accept offers in compromise as low as 10%, 1%, and $1 (One Dollar), but this is, as you can imagine, very rare.
If your disposable income is $0, you do not expect to have disposable income for some years, you have special circumstances, you have zero assets and if paying this debt would cause a hardship, the IRS has been known to accept ONE DOLLAR to settle your tax liability through the Offer In Compromise. Said provision takes effect 60 days after the signing.

In a recently accepted "Offer in Compromise" filed in 2006, a family experienced the disability of the primary wage-earner. The tax liability was incurred in 1994, and had been accruing interest and penalties (leading to thousands of dollars in tax liability.) The OIC form filed by the family included the required Form 433 Collection Information Statement and expense information (less than the accepted standard expense allowances for OIC formulation), as well as the fee waiver form that is applicable in low-income cases (this waives the otherwise required $150 OIC processing fee.) Because the family's expenses exceeded their income, the disability of the wage-earner and the lack of saleable assets, the IRS accepted their original offer of $1.

Recent tax legislation requires a taxpayer to make a 20% good faith payment with the offer-in-compromise. If the offer is rejected, the IRS can keep the 20% deposit.

Partial payment

Effective July 15, 2006 the IRS made changes to the Offer in Compromise program requiring that an up-front twenty percent, non-refundable payment plus $150 be submitted along with the Offer of Compromise. An Offer submitted without the fees is subject to rejections without appeal. After the IRS receives the Offer, the IRS has two years to make a decision. If the decision is not reached by that time, then the Offer is automatically accepted.

Under the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 (TIPRA 2005) if a taxpayer chooses to make payments over time, i.e. monthly, the taxpayer must include with the offer the first month's payment. The taxpayer is not required to submit the 20%, which applies only to the lump sum payment option. Then during the time that the offer is being considered by the IRS, the taxpayer must keep making the monthly payments to keep the offer current. If the taxpayer fails to make the payments, the offer will be returned to the taxpayer.

In the case of both the $150 application fee and either the 20% down payment or the monthly payments, a low income taxpayer may be exempt from both. The taxpayer should review the Form 656A to determine whether these fees and payments apply to them.
Effect of an Offer in Compromise on IRS levy or lien

An Offer in Compromise will have no effect upon a tax lien. The lien will remain in effect until the offer is accepted by the IRS and the full amount of the offer has been paid in full. Once the offered amount has been paid, the taxpayer should request that the IRS remove the lien. An offer in compromise will stop tax levies under section 301.7122(g)(1) of the US Federal Tax Regulations. That regulation states that the IRS will not levy upon a taxpayer's property while a valid offer in compromise is pending and, if rejected, for thirty days after the rejection. If the taxpayer appeals the rejection, the IRS cannot levy while the appeals process is ongoing.


The IRS issued a consumer alert for consumers to beware of promoters' claims to settle debts for "pennies on the dollar" through the OIC program. The warning addresses companies charging high fees to consumers who may not be eligible for the program; all other payment means would have to be exhausted, including installment payments. A recommendation is to check with the Better Business Bureau before contracting any firm to resolve your tax problems.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

ATTORNEY'S ADVICE – 10 Things You Must Do If Your Wallet Is Lost or Stolen

Not A Joke!! If you dislike attorneys..... You will love them
for these tips. Read this and make a copy for your files in case you need to refer to it someday. Maybe we should all take some of his advice! A corporate attorney sent the following out to the employees in his company.

1. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put

2. When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the 'For' line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check processing channels won't have access to

3. Put your work phone # on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a PO Box, use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO Box, use your work address. Never have your SS# printed on your checks. (DUH!) You can add it if it is necessary. But if you have It printed, anyone can get it.

4. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place.

I also carry a photocopy of my passport when I travel either here or abroad. We've all heard horror stories about fraud that's committed on us in stealing a Name, address, Social Security number, credit cards.

Unfortunately, I, an attorney, have first hand knowledge because my wallet was stolen last month. Within a week, the thieve( s ) ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, had a credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer, received a PIN number from DMV to change my driving record information online, and more.

But here's some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know:

5. We have been told we should cancel our credit cards immediately. But the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them.

6. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).

But here's what is perhaps most important of all: (I never even thought to do this.)

7. Call the 3 national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and also call the Social Security fraud line number. I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me an application for credit was made over the internet in my name.

The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

By the time I was advised to do this, almost two weeks after the theft, all the damage had been done. There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves' purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert. Since then, no additional damage has been done, and the thieves threw my wallet away this weekend (someone turned it in). It seems to have stopped them dead in their

Now, here are the numbers you always need to contact about your wallet, if it has been stolen:

1.) Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
2.) Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
3.) Trans
Union : 1-800-680 7289
4.) Social Security Administration (fraud line):

Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Lifelock’s service stops identity thieves in their tracks. It can stop the damage caused by an identity thief before it happens by locking your information so that it cannot be used. Their service is backed by a $1,000,000 guarantee. It costs less than $10 per month. Click here for a free one month trial

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Guide to UK Home Ownership

Now, more than ever, your home is the single largest purchase you are likely to make during your lifetime. Taking that first (or second or third) step(s) up the property ladder can be confusing and daunting.

Here is:

THE GUIDE – A quick reference guide to the steps involved in the purchase of your first or subsequent home. It covers everything from budgeting, finding the right mortgage and solicitors, and even exchanging contracts. It is full of simple, easy to follow, advice to ease your first steps onto the property ladder.

Step 1. Are You Financially Ready to Own a Home

Home ownership can be a blessing or a curse. If you have established a proper financial foundation, it can be a springboard for a successful and prosperous future. If not, it can be the first step down the path towards insolvency or bankruptcy. Here are some steps to building your foundation.

Establish an emergency savings account of at least £1000. Remember, unexpected expenses happen. You want to have some reserves set aside so that you will be able to pay those expenses and still be able to pay your other obligations. You also do not want to be forced into paying those expenses using high interest rate credit cards. In the United States, many families were forced into foreclosure and bankruptcy due to the lack of even a modest savings account. Learn from their unfortunate example.

Save 10% of each and every paycheck. As soon as you receive your pay, pay yourself first. Set aside 10% of each check in a separate savings account. Once you have four to six months of income saved you can start saving for your down payment. The reason for having this much money in savings is so that things such as a brief period of unemployment or illness will not force you into foreclosure or bankruptcy. Many families have so little in savings that they are always one or two missed paychecks away from bankruptcy.

After completing the first two steps, start saving for the deposit. Some experts recommend paying anywhere from 10% to 30% of the purchase price as a deposit. By making a higher deposit, you will borrow less money, have a lower monthly payment and will pay less interest. If you don’t make a large deposit, some lenders will charge a “High Lending Charge” which could add as much as £2000 to the cost of buying your new home.

Step 2. Calculating Your Budget

How much can you pay for your home? How much will it really cost you? Set your sights realistically and never borrow more than you can comfortably pay back.

First, work out how much you could afford to pay for your monthly mortgage payment. To help you, here is a monthly budget planner. Simply list your monthly outgoings and subtract it from your monthly income.

Monthly Budget Planner


Your take home pay after taxes £

Spouse / partner’s take home pay after taxes £

Other Regular Income £

Total Monthly Income £


Hire purchase / other loan repayments £

Credit Card / store card repayments £

Council tax payments £

Food / clothing £

Gas/ Electricity / Water/ Telephone £

House buildings / contents insurance £

Endowment / life assurance premiums £

Mortgage Payment Protection Insurance £

Travel / car (fuel / maintenance / insurance / tax) £

Savings £

Other £

Total Outgoings £

Amount Available for Mortgage Payments £

Step 3. Other Costs to Remember

When developing your budget, remember there are other costs associated with a home purchase including: Solicitor’s Fees, Land Registry, Valuation / Survey, Searches, Stamp Duty and Home Insurance. These costs could add as much as £4,825 on a £100,000 purchase.

Also, you will no doubt want to make your home, your own. You may want to make repairs, redecorate, paint or even remodel your new home. You may also want to buy new furniture or appliances. Remember to consider these costs as well.

Step 4. Choosing the Right Mortgage

There are many lenders offering many different types of mortgages. Two things to consider are:

How will you pay back your mortgage?

With a repayment mortgage you will pay back interest and a portion of the capital with each monthly payment according to an amortization schedule. After you make the last scheduled payment, you will own your house free and clear of all liens. On an interest only mortgage, you will pay back only the interest portion of the loan. You will need to make provisions to repay the capital.

What type of mortgage best suits your needs?

A fixed mortgage provides you the security of knowing what your monthly payments will be for the duration of the loan, while with a variable rate mortgage you take the risk that your payments will move up and down with changes in the interest rates. A variable rate mortgage may initially offer lower payments in the beginning, but the payments will increase if interest rates increase after the initial period.

What length of mortgage best suits your needs?

Mortgages also come in varying terms such as a 2 year, 3 year, 5 year, 10 year 25 or 30 year term. As the length of the term increases, the payments decrease. However, with a longer term loan, you will pay much more interest over the duration of the loan. How much more? Here is a simple rule called the Rule of 72. It says that to calculate how long an amount of money will double at a given rate of interest, simply divide the interest rate into the number 72.

For example, if you invested £100 at 8% interest, at the end of nine years you would have £200. It works the same way for mortgage payments. Suppose you borrow £100,000 at 8.00%

Loan, Term, & Interest Rate

Monthly Payment

Capital Paid

Interest Paid

Total Paid

£100,000, 10 year term @ 8.00%





£100,000, 20 year term @ 8.00%





Step 5. Agreement in Principle

Your real estate agent may ask you to provide evidence showing how much money you can borrow. You can do this by getting an agreement in principle with your mortgage lender which is based upon your income, employment status, and the type of property you are looking to buy. It shows that a lender is willing to give you a mortgage and how much you could borrow from them.

Step 6. Making an Offer

Once you have found a property that you want to buy, you need to make an offer to the owners through your real estate agent. Negotiate. Your broker can help you make the right offer. Remember, sellers set their initial price with the expectation that they will have to negotiate downwards. Never offer more than you are willing or able to pay. Also, if the seller won’t negotiate an agreeable price, do not be afraid to walk away. Sooner or later, you will find the right house at the right price.

Step 7. Full Mortgage Application

Once you have found the right property and your offer has been accepted, you need to make your full mortgage application with your lender. The lender will want to see proof of your identity, income, and current address. They will also run credit checks and arrange for a valuation of the property. After they are fully satisfied, they will make a formal offer to you.

Step 8. Finding the Right Solicitor

You will need to hire a Solicitor or Licensed Conveyancer. How do you find one? Word of mouth is a common way to find a solicitor. You may also ask your real estate agent or lender for a referral. Finally, you can search the following websites: or

Step 9. Getting a Survey Done

Your lender will have a valuation performed on the property to ensure that it is worth the asking price.

You should also have a “Home Buyers Report” prepared. That is a detailed inspection of the property to make sure that it is structurally sound and highlight potential maintenance and repair problems of which you might not be aware.

Step 10. Exchanging Contracts

Since your home may be the biggest purchase that you make, it is obvious that the legal paperwork is critical. When you and your solicitor are satisfied, and your mortgage offer is in place, you are ready to exchange contracts. After you sign the contract and pay the deposit, your contract is legally binding. If you then choose to pull out, you may forfeit your deposit. Make sure that you discuss everything with your solicitor, and if you do not understand something then ask.

Remember, you also need to purchase Buildings and Contents Insurance to protect your home and belongings. You also want Mortgage Payment Protection Insurance to pay your mortgage in the event that you become unemployed or unable to work because of illness or disability. Finally, you should consider Life Cover which pays off your home in the event of your death.

Step 11. Moving In

On exchange of contracts, a completion date is agreed. On that date, your solicitor arranges for the money to be transferred and your real estate agent gives you the keys to your new home!

Moving is always stressful; however there are some things you should do to make it as pleasant as possible:

§ Organize a Removals Van

§ Get packed, also label each box with its contents by room

§ Have your post redirected

§ Change the address on your drivers’ license and passport

§ Arrange for the utility meters to be read

§ Cancel direct debits

Enjoy your new home.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Removing Civil Judgments From Your Credit Report

If you have judgments against you on your credit report, you have two choices. Pay and get a satisfaction of judgment or dispute them with the credit bureaus.

A civil judgment is a court order for a person who owes money (judgment debtor) to pay it to another (judgment creditor). The court does not make the debtor pay the creditor. The creditor has to take action, on their own to collect the debt. They have several options.

First, if the debtor owns real-estate, they can have the judgment recorded in the counties where the real-estate is located. If the debtor tries to sell or refinance the property, a title search will show the judgment. The judgment is a lien on the real estate, just like a mortgage, and must be paid off before the property can be sold.

If the judgment is large enough, and the debtor has non-exempt equity in the property then the creditor can foreclose their lien and have the property sold to pay off the judgment. If the property is the debtor’s residence, there are special rules that apply. For instance, in the United States, a portion of the equity in the real estate is exempt from creditor’s claims. In Colorado, the first $60,000 in home equity is exempt. That means the debtor can keep the first $60,000 in equity from the sale. It works like this. If the creditor had a $100,000 judgment and the debtor owned a $425,000 house with $90,000 in equity and the house was sold at a foreclosure sale for $425,000, the creditor would get $30,000 from the sale.

Judgments can also be collected against bank accounts, and wages through garnishment.

Finally, a creditor can elect to have the county sheriff seize non-exempt personal property from the debtor and have it sold at a Sheriff’s Sale.

Unsatisfied civil judgments ( that means unpaid ones) also damage your credit score. The credit bureaus find out about judgments by searching real estate and court records. If you have paid off or settled a judgment, you must have the creditor file a Satisfaction of Judgment with both the court, and in any counties where the judgment was recorded. That way it shows that the judgment was paid, and it will not hinder any of your real-estate transactions.

If the judgment continues to appear on your credit report, after the satisfaction of judgment form(s) has/have been filed, then you can dispute the matter with the credit bureaus. Send a letter to each of the credit bureaus informing them that the judgment has been paid. Include a copy of the satisfaction of judgment from the court. The credit bureau will then have 30 days to verify this with the court, and then will have update their information to show that the judgment has been paid.

In some states, a judgment debtor’s social security number is not included in the court file. When this happens, and a judgment is recorded, a credit bureau may list the judgment as being against all debtors with the same or similar name. If the judgment is not yours, you need to follow the dispute procedure listed above and request that it be deleted from your report. In the short term, for a real-estate closing for example, you may be able to provide an affidavit stating under oath that the judgment is not against you.

If you have a common name, like “Johnson”, “Smith”, or “Martinez”, chances are that you will have judgments erroneously placed on your credit report. When I bought my first house, there were over 30 judgments listed on my report. Some were from states that I had never even visited, and others dated from before I was born. I had to supply my title insurance company and mortgage lender with an affidavit swearing that they were not my judgments.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My New Website Just Went Live

My new website just went live. Check it out.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Identity Theft: What to Do if It Happens to You Part 2

Here is Another Common Scenario

An identity thief uses your personal information to obtain credit. They don’t pay the bills so a debt collector demands payment and places negative information on your credit reports. As a result, your credit score is lowered, making it difficult or impossible to obtain new credit yourself.

This guide provides victims of identity theft with instructions on how to regain your reputation and financial health and who to contact for more help. You must act quickly and assertively to minimize the damage.

1. Notify credit bureaus and establish fraud alerts. Immediately report the situation to the fraud department of the three credit reporting companies -- Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Placing the fraud alert means that your file will be flagged and that creditors will be required to call you before extending credit.

Here is their contact information:

Equifax P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374- 0241.
Report fraud: Call (888) 766-0008 and write to address above.
TDD: (800) 255-0056

Experian: PO Box 9532
Allen TX, 75013
Report fraud: Call (888) EXPERIAN (888-397-3742) and write to address above.
TDD: Use relay to fraud number above.

TransUnion: P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790.
Report fraud: (800) 680-7289 and write to address above.
TDD: (877) 553-7803
E-mail (fraud victims only):

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA, §605A) you can place an initial fraud alert for only 90 days. The credit bureaus will each mail you a notice of your rights as an identity theft victim. Once you receive them, request the following:

  • a free copy of your credit report
  • an extension of the fraud alert to seven years. You must have evidence of attempts to open fraudulent credit accounts and an identity theft report to get the seven year alert.
  • that only the last four digits of your social security number appear on the credit report

In all communications with the credit bureaus, you will want to refer to the unique number assigned to your credit report and use certified, return receipt mail. Certified Return Receipt Mail shows proof that you mailed the letter as well as its receipt. Be sure to save all credit reports and other correspondence, along with the proof of mailing and delivery as part of your files.

Examine your credit reports carefully. Report fraudulent accounts and erroneous information in writing to both the credit bureaus and the credit issuers following the instructions provided with the credit reports. The FTC’s identity theft guide provides a sample letter to send to the credit bureaus requesting that fraudulent accounts be blocked.

After you notify the credit bureaus about the fraudulent accounts, the bureau must block that information from future reports. The bureau must also notify the credit grantor of the fraudulent account. (FCRA, §605B) Ask the credit bureaus for names and phone numbers of credit grantors with whom fraudulent accounts have been opened if this information is not included on the credit report. In addition, instruct the credit bureaus in writing to remove inquiries that have been generated due to the fraudulent access.

1a. Monitor your credit reports .

Under FACTA, The credit bureaus must provide you with free copies of your credit reports once per year. This is in addition to the free reports you can order when you place fraud alerts on your three credit reports. Once you have received your free credit reports as a part of the fraud-alert process, follow up in a few months by taking advantage of your free FACTA copy.

For more on free credit reports, see and

In Colorado, Georgia , Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont, whether a victim or not, you can receive one free credit report each year under state law, over and above the free FACTA report you can receive yearly under federal law.

1b. Security freeze. You can request that the credit bureaus "freeze" your credit reports. That way, credit issuers may only access your reports with your permission.. This stops thieves from opening up new credit in your name. In most states, security freezes are available at no charge to identity theft victims and for a relatively small fee for non-victims.

2. Law enforcement. Report the crime to your local police or sheriff's department right away. You might also need to report it to police department(s) where the crime occurred if it's somewhere other than where you live. Give them as much documented evidence as possible. Make sure the police report lists the fraudulent accounts . Get a copy of the report, which is called an "identity theft report" under the FCRA. Keep the phone number of your investigator handy and give it to creditors and others who require verification of your case. Credit card companies and banks may require you to show the report in order to verify the crime.

FTC regulations define an "identity theft report" to include a report made to a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency. If your local police department refuses to file a report and your situation involves fraudulent use of the U.S. mail, you can obtain an identity theft report from the U.S. Postal Inspector. If your case involves fraudulent use of a driver's license in your name, you might be able to obtain a report from your state's Department of Motor Vehicles. The FTC has more information on identity theft reports at

3. Federal Trade Commission. Report the crime to the FTC. Include your police report number. Although the FTC does not itself investigate identity theft cases, they share such information with investigators nationwide who are fighting identity theft.

4. What to do with new credit accounts opened by the imposter. If your credit report shows that the imposter has opened new accounts in your name, contact those creditors immediately by telephone and in writing. Recent amendments to the FCRA (§623(6)(B)) allow you to prevent businesses from reporting fraudulent accounts to the credit bureaus. The FTC provides a sample dispute letter at (scroll down).

Creditors will likely ask you to fill out fraud affidavits. The FTC provides a uniform affidavit form that most creditors accept, . No law requires affidavits to be notarized at your own expense. You may choose to substitute witness signatures for notarization if creditors require verification of your signature.

Ask the credit grantors in writing to furnish you and your investigating law enforcement agency with copies of the documentation, such as the fraudulent application and transaction records.

You must provide a copy of the FTC affidavit or another affidavit acceptable to the business, plus government-issued identification, and a copy of an "identity theft report" (police report) in order to obtain the documents created by the imposter. The business must provide copies of these records to the victim within 30 days of the victim's request at no charge. The law also allows the victim to authorize a law enforcement investigator to get access to these records.

When you have resolved the fraudulent account with the creditor, ask for a letter stating that the company has closed the disputed account and has discharged the debts. Keep this letter in your files. You may need it if the account reappears on your credit report.

You must also notify the credit bureaus about the fraudulent accounts. Instructions are provided in Section 1 above.

5. Handling problems with your existing credit or debit accounts. If your existing credit or debit accounts have been used fraudulently, report it in writing immediately to the credit card company. Request replacement cards with new account numbers. Do this by phone and in writing.

6. Debt collectors. If debt collectors try to get you to pay the unpaid bills on fraudulent accounts, request that they provide you with both their name and address as well as the identity of the original creditor. They have to do this within 30 days of your written request. This information is normally printed in their initial letter to you. If they contact you by telephone, ask for this information in writing. Inform them of the identity theft and send them a copy of the identity theft report. Under the FCRA, a debt collector must notify the creditor that the debt may be a result of identity theft.

7. Check and banking fraud. If you have had checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, ask your bank to report it to ChexSystems, a consumer reporting agency that compiles reports on checking accounts. Also, place a security alert on your file (see web address below). Your bank should be able to provide you with a fraud affidavit. Put "stop payments" on any outstanding checks that you are unsure about. Close your checking account and other affected accounts and obtain new account numbers.

If your own checks are rejected at stores where you shop, contact the check verification company that the merchant uses. The major ones are listed here.

Fidelity National Information Services
(was Certegy)

(800) 437-5120


(800) 262-7771

For annual file disclosure
Fraud, id theft department

(800) 366-2425
(800) 835-3243
(800) 710-9898


International Check Services

(800) 526-5380



(800) 843-0760

Under a new federal law, you now have a right to obtain any reports that these companies compile about you. For ChexSystems and any of the check verification companies listed here that you have had to contact as a result of your identity theft situation, we recommend that you request a copy of your file once a year. Make sure your file has been corrected. If not, you will find it difficult to open new bank accounts and/or write checks. Visit the web sites listed above to learn how to order your free annual reports.

8. ATM cards. If your ATM or debit card has been stolen report it immediately. Contact your bank and fill out a fraud affidavit. Get a new card, account number, and password.

ATM and debit card transactions are subject to the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. (15 USC §1693) Even if you are a victim of identity theft, your liability for charges can increase the longer the crime goes unreported. For more on EFTA, see the Federal Reserve Board's guide, Also read the FTC's guide on electronic banking,

9. Brokerage accounts. If an identity thief targets your brokerage account, refer to your account agreement for information on what to do. Immediately report the incident to the brokerage company and notify the Securities and Exchange Commission, . Also notify the National Association of Securities Dealers, To protect against fraud, put a password on each of your investment accounts.

10. Fraud involving U.S. mail. This happens in many ways. Sometimes a thief fraudulently has your mail forwarded to another address. Other times, they simply steal you mail. If you do not have a locking mail box, get one. Also, don’t mail out bill payments from your house, take them to a post office or USPS mailbox. Finally to prevent mail theft, consider receiving and paying your bills online or by telephone. If you suspect mail fraud, call the U.S. Postal Service to find the nearest Postal Inspector at (800) 275-8777 or visit its web site at The online complaint form is available at Or you can mail your complaint to: U.S. Postal Service, Criminal Investigations Service Center, Attn: Mail Fraud, 222 S. Riverside Plaza Suite 1250, Chicago, IL 60606-6100.

11. Secret Service. The U.S. Secret Service also has jurisdiction over financial fraud. But, based on U.S. Attorney guidelines, it usually does not investigate individual cases unless the dollar amount is high or you are one of many victims of a fraud ring.

12. Social Security number (SSN) misuse. The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not provide assistance to identity theft victims. But be sure to contact the SSA Inspector General to report Social Security benefit fraud, employment fraud, or welfare fraud.

  • Social Security Administration online complaint form:
  • SSA fraud hotline: (800) 269-0271
  • By mail: SSA Fraud Hotline, P.O. Box 17768, Baltimore, MD 21235

If your SSN card has been stolen or lost, order a replacement. Complete the SSA's application available at or by calling the SSA at (800) 772-1213, or by visiting your local SSA office. You will need to provide the required documentation such as birth certificate and government ID at your local SSA office to get a replacement card.

13. Passports. Whether you have a passport or not, write to the passport office to alert them to anyone ordering a passport fraudulently.

14. Phone service. Identity thieves often establish fraudulent cell phone accounts, with monthly bills going unpaid. The imposter might also have opened local and long distance telephone accounts. If the imposter has obtained phone account(s) in your name, contact the phone company for information on how to report the situation. The steps that you take to clear your name with both the phone company and credit bureaus are much the same as with credit card accounts described above in steps one and three. In California, SBC-Pacific Bell's fraud hotline is (877) 202-4558.

If your calling card has been stolen or there are fraudulent charges, cancel it and open a new account. For your own phone accounts, add a password that must be used any time your local, cell phone, and long distance accounts are changed.

15. Student loans. If an identity thief has obtained a student loan in your name, report it in writing to the school that opened the loan. Request that the account be closed. Also report it to the U.S. Dept. of Education:

16. Driver's license number misuse. You may need to change your driver's license number if someone is using yours as ID on bad checks or for other types of fraud. Call the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to see if another license was issued in your name. Put a fraud alert on your license if your state's DMV provides a fraud alert process. Go to your local DMV to request a new number. Fill out the DMV's complaint form to begin the investigation process. Send supporting documents with the completed form to the nearest DMV investigation office.

17. Identity theft involving family members and others you know. If a deceased relative's information is being used to perpetrate identity theft, or if you personally know the identity thief, additional information about how to address these situations is available in other fact sheets. Visit the Identity Theft Resource Center web site:

18. Victim statements. If the imposter is apprehended by law enforcement and stands trial and/or is sentenced, write a victim impact letter to the judge handling the case. Contact the victim-witness assistance program in your area for further information on how to make your voice heard in the legal proceedings

19. False civil and criminal judgments. Sometimes victims of identity theft are wrongfully accused of crimes that were committed by the imposter. If you are wrongfully arrested or prosecuted for criminal charges, contact the police department and the court in the jurisdiction of the arrest. Also contact your state's Department of Justice and the FBI to ask how to clear your name. If a civil judgment is entered in your name for your imposter's actions, contact the court where the judgment was entered and report that you are a victim of identity theft.

20. Legal help. You may want to consult an attorney to determine legal action to take against creditors, credit bureaus, and/or debt collectors if they are not cooperative in removing fraudulent entries from your credit report or if negligence is a factor.

21. Keep good records. In dealing with the authorities and financial companies, keep a log of all conversations, including dates, names, and phone numbers. Note the time you spent and any expenses incurred in case you are able to seek restitution in a later judgment or conviction against the thief. You may be able to obtain tax deductions for theft-related expenses (26 U.S.C. §165(e) -- consult your accountant). Confirm all conversations in writing. Send correspondence using certified mail with return receipt requested. Keep copies of all letters and documents.

Visit these web sites for tips on organizing your case:

22. Don't give in. Do not pay any bill or portion of a bill that is a result of fraud. Do not cover any checks that were written or cashed fraudulently. Do not file for bankruptcy. Your credit rating should not be permanently affected. No legal action should be taken against you. If any merchant, financial company or collection agency suggests otherwise, restate your willingness to cooperate, but don't allow yourself to be coerced into paying fraudulent bills. Report such attempts to government regulators immediately.

25. Other Useful Tips

If you are in the military, place an active duty alert on your credit report
When you are away from your usual duty station, you can place an active duty alert on your three credit reports as an extra protection against identity theft. The alert remains on your credit reports for 12 months. Contact the fraud departments for the three credit bureaus.

Order your free credit report
Whether or not you are a victim of identity theft, take advantage of your free annual credit reports, now a requirement of federal law.

Opt out of pre-approved offers of credit for all three credit bureaus

  • Call (888) 5OPTOUT (888-567-8688). You may choose a five-year opt-out period or permanent opt-out status.
  • Or opt-out online,

Remove your name from mail marketing lists (Direct Marketing Association)

  • Write: Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 282, Carmel, NY 10512. Include check or money order for $1.
  • Web: Online opt-out program costs $1 by credit card.

Remove your phone number(s) from telemarketing lists

  • Phone the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry: (888) 382-1222
  • Online registration:

Order your earnings report from the Social Security Administration

  • Order your Personal Earnings and Benefits Estimate Statement The SSA automatically mails it to individuals three months before the birthday each year.
  • For information on reporting fraud to the SSA, read tip 12 above.

26. Resources

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Federal Agencies and Technology Industry

Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC)

Identity Theft Survival Guide

  • R.M. Tracy., Former FBI Agent and author of Identity Theft Survival Guide, A Step By Step Guide To Reclaiming Your Life.
  • Web:
  • Phone: (877) 648-0119

U.S. Dept. of Justice. The DOJ prosecutes federal identity theft cases. Personal Finance News