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Got Credit Fraud?

Credit Cards
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So last night I get a phone call saying they're my bank and asking to verify information. As you should always do under such circumstances, I refused and asked for a number where I could call her back. When she provided it, I looked it up online, but found nothing. So I called the bank at a known number and they were able to confirm it. Phase one complete.

Next I was transferred to the Credit Card Fraud department where they explained that I had unauthorized charges. My wife and I have always used our credit card as a shield for places that we didn't fully trust or online stores. Now that was coming in handy.

The sad fact is that there's nothing you can really do to protect a credit card number other than not use credit cards, but thanks to strong federal regulation instead of bogus "self-regulation", it was a very smooth process.

She read me the last 10 or so transactions and I claimed the ones that were mine and told her that the $300, $400, and $80 charges weren't. Despite that being a lot of money, by law I'm not responsible for any of it.

The charges will be reversed and new cards will be issued though not as fast as I'd like. I'd like to be angry, but at who? There's no telling how they got the number or how long they've had it. At the best, you should try to protect your card as much as possible, but don't take it personally when and if this happens to you.

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Debt Collectors Harrass Family And Friends Thanks to Facebook

Facebook
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I am constantly telling people to lock down their privacy settings because if you keep this stuff visible, this kind of story becomes possible. Apparently there was a debt collector that spammed friends and family of a debtor in order to pressure her to pay.

Melanie Beacham says she fell behind on her car payment after getting sick and taking a medical leave from work. She contacted MarkOne Financial to explain the situation but says the harassing phone calls, as many as 20 per day, kept coming. Then one day she got a call from her sister saying the company contacted her in Georgia. "I was telling her, 'No way, because you're not even a reference,'" said Beacham, who later found out MarkOne contacted her sister and other relatives via Facebook.
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Mint Data Lets You See Anonymous Purchase Trends

I've never liked Mint.com. Not because they're bad at what they do (they're not), but because you have to give them too much access to take advantage of it. So you get a little money management help, so what? You have to give away your password to do it. Not only that, Mint is (surprise, surprise) using all that juicy data you provide for their own purposes.

For now, it seems that they're not actually telling you who purchased what, but there's no telling when and if they'll start selling your valuable personal data to 3rd parties. Until then, showing truly anonymous purchase information is kind of neat so long as they don't take it further than that.

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Great Money Advice

Money
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Today I found some great and solid advice from "TheSimpleDollar.com" about managing money the right way. I agree with most of this though I wonder about the advice of investing before paying off bills. If your interest rates of debts are always higher than those of investments, it seems you're spending more than you're gaining.

Shouldn't you pay off debts then invest?

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Every Bank Abuses You With Credit

One hundred percent of credit cards offered online by the leading bank card issuers continue to include practices that will be outlawed once legislation passed in May takes effect next year.

What this hardly surprising bit of news is saying is that every single bank, because they've been allowed to thus far, uses abusive and deceptive credit practices. It just boggles my mind when people say the market can "regulate itself". I wonder why several hundred years of abuses isn't enough evidence of just how wrong that is.

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Control Your Online Banking With Twitter. Seriously!?

This is a great idea!
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With tweetMyMoney, you can monitor your account balance, deposits, withdrawals, holds and cleared checks with simple commands. And, you can even transfer funds within your account. It’s all available on Twitter, 24/7! And, the best part is, our tweetMyMoney service is free!

(Emphasis mine)

Hello Twitter banking, goodbye money.

Why anyone thought this was a good idea, I don't know. Granted, you can't transfer money to OTHER accounts, only "within you account", but someone who breaks into your twitter account can still get a lot of information about you and move your money around causing you serious overdraft fees.

The issue at heart here is that getting information about your account and moving money around only requires the security of your Twitter account (which isn't to say much). How many people put strong passwords on their Twitter like they do the bank? How much effort does Twitter put into their security?

I think the idea of alerts to your phone is kind of cool, but maybe the bank should have set up its own Twitter-like messaging service instead of using a public one that's a big fat target of bad guys already.

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What the Bailout Means to You

Confused by the bailout? Who isn't?
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A little translation for the rest of us.

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How to use Paypal Safely

Paypal
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This isn't going to be an exhaustive write-up about Paypal and the various trouble you can get into with it. Instead, I'm going to talk about one very important part of the system that most people should know how to deal with.

Specifically, the direct bank access.

When you sign up for Paypal, they ask for your bank account information so they can make some test deposits. Once you see the deposits, you return to the system to tell them how much was sent to verify your account.

Here's the problem: if you do it, Paypal will then have full access to your bank account to pull funds if you were to say, go negative on your Paypal account or some Paypal employee decides they need a little of what you have or a hacker breaks through their world class security.

Instead, don't ever confirm the deposits. What this does is allow Paypal to continue making deposits (for when you get cash in Paypal), but they can't debit your account (so there!). Granted, doing this will limit the amount of money you can filter through paypal (like $500 a month or so), but so what? Most people never do transactions that large and worst-case, if you manage to get a single transaction over $500, just withdraw it over the course of a few months.

If that's not realistic for you, confirm the numbers, just make sure the account you're using is disposable.

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French Branch of Scientology to Be Sued for Organized Fraud

Scientology
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Now if the lawsuits would propagate throughout the world, we'd finally be getting somewhere. From the article:

In his order, the judge found that the church had used "personality tests void of scientific value...with the sole aim of selling services or divers products."
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Save on Textbooks

Save some money. Always a good thing.
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Funny that I was just talking about this with someone yesterday, but today there's an article on Lifehacker about saving money on textbooks. I have used their first suggestion, Bigwords.com many times myself though I've often found even better deals by simply looking for a previous edition book. For example, if your class is using the 5th edition, look for the 4th for big savings.

Anyway, if you or someone you know is looking for textbooks, perhaps you should give it a try.

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