Monday, September 29, 2014

Identity Theft: The 10 Steps to Take When Your Identity Has Been Stolen

Identity theft can happen to anyone. It can happen to you as an adult. It can happen to your child. It can happen to you even if you’re dead. It can be through a credit card, through your taxes, through your bank account and so on. All a person needs to steal your identity is a few key pieces of information which most people leave out in the open, like: your birthdate, address and phone number. Once identity thieves get access to this information they can do further research and pull up your social security number, employment history and credit history. They can use this information to “verify” your identity when falsely applying for credit under your name. They can use your social security number to file for income tax refunds, credit cards and bank accounts. They can even get a job using your information and you must pay the taxes.

Steps to take if you think your identity has been stolen:

1. Check your wallet or purse to see if you are missing an ID or any kind

of card that has your personal information.

2. Review your credit card and bank balances for accuracy.

3. Check your credit report to see if there have been any unusual credit inquires.

4. Submit a request to EQUIFAX for your credit report (www.equifax.com).

5. Submit a request to TransUnion for your credit report (www.transunion.com).

6. Submit a request to Experian for your credit report (www.experian.com).

7. Make sure to thoroughly check ALL three of your credit reports. Some companies only report to one or two credit reporting agencies. It is essential to make sure the information in ALL the reports are accurate.

8. When or if you detect there is an issue with an item reported on your credit report contact the credit reporting agencies immediately and place a fraud alert or fraud hold on your credit reports. A fraud alert would tell the three credit reporting agencies that you have detected fraudulent information on your credit report and would like them to keep an eye out for more. A fraud hold would put a complete hold on your credit report. This means that people would not be able to pull up your credit history. You must contact the credit reporting agency and verify your identity and the credit inquiry.

9. If it’s around tax time make sure to submit your tax return early. If a person files taxes under your name and social security number before you do, you will NOT be able to file your tax documents electronically. That means your processing time will increase significantly. For this reason if you suspect identity fraud the best thing to do is file your taxes early.

10. Dispose of your paperwork properly. We have a lot of information that we often throw away. This information is like gold if identity thieves get their hands on it. Make sure to shred or burn all documents that contain identifying information like your: full legal name, birthdate, address, social security number, and so on.

[Note: In some cases you may be told or required to file a police report. Each jurisdiction is different. Check with your local law enforcement.]

The Legal Eagles Inc.
www.facebook.com/legaleaglesinc

Friday, September 26, 2014

Bank of America: Your Account May Be Here Today and Gone Tomorrow



1. Bank of America can change the Deposit Agreement Disclosure without notifying you?   
True
False
2. Bank of America can convert your existing account(s) to new accounts or services without any notice to you?         
True
False
3. Bank of American can close your checking or savings account without notifying you?
True
False
4. You may be required to give Bank of America at least seven days’ notice when you are closing a savings or interest bearing checking account by withdrawing your funds?
True
False
5. You are responsible for all transactions, penalties and fees that result from the closure of your account, whether your account was in good standing or not?
True
False
6. Bank of America does not specify the exact time frame to return your funds to you, after closing your account?
True
False
7. Bank of America does not have to notify you when they make a “security” change that may affect you positively or adversely?
True
False
 
So what is your Bank of America IQ? I bet you’d really like to know the correct answer to these questions. Well if you answered true to any of them you are correct. Each one of the questions above is true. For every question you answered to be true give yourself a point. For every question you answered false, deduct a point. Here’s your scale:
If you got all 7 correct fantastic! You got a 100%! You know your stuff!
If you got 6 correct good job! You score 86%.
If you got 5 correct you did ok. You scored 71%.
If you scored 4 and below you might want to check out the May 2014 Deposit Agreement Disclosure and see how this is all affecting you.

To see how true all these statements are for yourself, all you need to do is take a look at the Deposit Agreement Disclosure that was updated in May 2014. All of this information is found on page two. You may be asking well how this can be true. What it all means. Let’s address each of those questions:

One: It blatantly states in the disclose, on page two that Bank of American can change their Deposit Agreement without notifying you.

Two: Once again on page two under the subheading “Changes to this Agreement” they state very clearly that they can alter or change the status or type of account you hold at their discretion, without your approval.

Three: Bank of America can close your account at any time, at their discretion. They do not have to explain their reasons for closing your account. When you call or go into the bank they will tell you that the Risk Department closed the account and they cannot do anything about it. This department is often nameless and faceless, so unless you spend a lot of time trying to get answers, you probably never will find out the reason for the closure of your account. According to the disclosure statement on page two it clearly says Bank of America does not have to have a reason to close your account. Be advised according to one of our readers, whatever you do, don’t call them dimwits. They take offense.

Four: Bank of America can and may require you to give them seven days’ notice when you are closing a savings or interest checking account, but they don’t have to notify you, as stated above.
Five: If your closed account had a positive balance, Bank of America can choose to return any transactions that were supposed to post to your account, even though the balance would have covered the charges. They can then, charge you fines and fees, plus whatever you get charged by the other companies for the returned payments. YOU become responsible for all of it, even though you had the money in your account to cover all the transactions and were unaware the account had been or was going to be closed.

Six: This is simple. Take a look at the whole disclosure agreement and you will see that nowhere does it specify a time frame for which your funds must be returned to you. BUT, it does say if your account is closed with a negative balance, the balance must be paid to the bank immediately. Again, just check out page 2 of the agreement.

Seven: Under the sub heading “Changes to this Agreement” it expressly states that the bank does not have to notify its customers of any changes that occur to this disclosure or any other agreement. For changes that they deem to be “security” related, the bank doesn’t have to notify you at all. 

So next time you consider doing business with the Bank of Arrogance, you might want to take a look at the disclosure agreement first!


The Legal Eagles Inc.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Know your credit card limits

It’s easy to know what your spending limit is on your credit card. But do you know what your signature limits are on your card. You might ask “what does this mean?” This means, how much can you charge on your credit/debit card before you are required to sign for it. Is your signature limit $15, $25, $75 or somewhere in between? This is essential to understand, because it can greatly affect how you are affected by fraudulent charges. The higher your signature limit, the greater the chance you have of missing important information at the register. For example, there is currently a large scale scam at some major retailers, where the cashier is adding a cash back charge to your purchase total. If the total purchase amount, including the cash back, is below the signature limit, than you can potentially overlook the charge and be scammed out of your money. These cash back amounts usually are inconspicuous and tend to be overlooked by the customer, because they are usually smaller amounts (e.g. $10-$40). The cashier will typically punch in the cash back amount on their terminal without your knowledge and base the amount on the purchase total so you, as the customer are more likely to overlook the charge. That is why it is essential for you to demand and check your receipt after each purchase, before you leave the checkout stand. In some cases, people have had to completely rescan their purchase, but that is worth it when you consider the amount of money you could be losing regularly without this due diligence.
 
You may wonder what is happening with that cash. Well there are multiple scenarios. In one scenario the cashier discreetly pockets the money then and there. In other situations, the cashier will have an accomplice in line behind you to pocket the money. It doesn't really matter exactly who the money is going to, but it is essential to watch the cashier while they are ringing up your purchases. Always make sure to keep your eyes trained on the screen and dispute any unwanted cash back charges before the sale is finalized.

We all know the holidays are coming and everyone is rushed. But, make sure to slow down and review your receipts before leaving the checkout stand.

When is a non-profit NOT a non-profit?

I once saw this sign taped to a cash register: 
"This is a non-profit organization.  It wasn’t meant to be, but that’s how it turned out."

Holidays are fast approaching and so is the end of the year. This is the time that people tend to donate to charities and nonprofits. Considering how much money and goods are spent and donated toward “good causes”, it is essential that people understand what is a non-profits or charity. 

So have you ever wondered what happens to your donation if it goes to an organization that is not a charity recognized by the IRS?  You might be asking, how can you tell if a charity is officially recognized by the IRS?  This is what the 501(c)(3) is all about. These documents must be submitted to and approved by the IRS to authorize it as a nonprofit organization. This means a company can claim (all be it not legally) that they are a nonprofit and not have a 501(c)(3) on file with the IRS.  This claim could be made while their application is pending approval.  Or it could be a fraudulent claim to cheat generous donors during the holiday season or during disaster relief efforts.  Unless you ask the right questions you may not know.  

Most people see a non-profit and think, “Well that's a good cause, and it’s a tax deduction, why not? I can donate,” In reality, if that company is not a valid IRS approved nonprofit, your donation is NOT tax deductible. So, now knowing this, you might ask how a nonprofit can tell you your donation is eligible for tax credit when in fact it’s not.  Well, it is called fraud.  Most of these organizations won't tell you because they want to cheat you.  They want your money.  In reality, these groups are seeking donations without a valid 501(c)(3) aren't really the type of organization you would support with your donations. These fraudsters take in significant sums of money and supposedly don't make any profit.  Yet their CEO gets paid big bucks and they've actually only donated maybe five to ten percent of their gross donation amounts.  In financial accounting terms, they are non-profits due to their exceedingly high overhead and operating expenses.

You might be thinking well how does this affect me?  Well, other than the obvious fact that your donation isn't being used in the way you expect it to be used, your donations does not qualify as a tax deduction.  This means come tax time, you will file for a deduction that will be denied by the IRS.  Then you will have to file an amended return after recalculating your actual IRS approved tax deductible donations. That means, if you donated $2000 to reduce your tax liabilities and lower your tax bracket, you could find yourself cheated out of $2000 and you haven't reduced your tax liability at all. So now think about how that will affect you down the line. 

It would be easy to say well I'm just going to donate to big established charities, which admittedly makes sense. But don't get too jaded.  Before deciding to donate to a charity you don’t know much about, here are some proactive measures you can take:
1. Ask the charity for proof of their currently valid 501(c) (3) documentation;
2. Check with the IRS at www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Exempt-Organizations-Select-Checkto confirm the organization’s 501(c)(3) is valid
3. Look up the charity’s rating on Charitynavigator.org

Special Note: A good charity incurs an overhead of 10-12% with the balance of their budget going to the target recipients. 

The Legal Eagles Inc.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Is your employer "Googling" You?

Picture found on Forbes.com
How many times have you thought to “Google” yourself? When is the last time you did? What kind of information is out there about you? These are all good questions to ask today, when social media rules so much of our lives. If you were to Google your name right now what images would come up? What post? What profiles?
You may think “Oh it doesn’t matter.” But oh yes it does. More and more employers are Googling their employees. Some are going one giant step farther and requesting user names and passwords. Are you prepared to hand that information over to your boss if she/he asks you for it? To be totally honest this is less of an issue, as in many situations it can be considered a violation of privacy (but that’s usually if and only if your profile is private). More and more hiring managers and Human resource departments are realizing that the employees they hire represent them. How do you think it looks if you’re a teacher and you post a picture on your Facebook, Instagram, or whatever of yourself drunk? How many districts or schools do you think are going to want you on their payroll when your behavior, actions or words do not reflect their same principles? You might be reading this and thinking “Oh well, they can’t do anything to me.” And I would ask you, “Are you sure? Have you checked your employment contract or your employee handbook?” Both of these sources are considered contracts in the sense that as soon as your receive them and begin your employment you are required to uphold the standards stated in those documents. 

If this doesn’t bother you too much, think about this question: “Have you ever called out of work to play hooky?” Well, you should know consistently more employers and H.R. departments are checking your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets to see if when you called in, were you actually sick, or whatever you claimed. If you lie about this and your employer finds proof of it on your social media accounts you can be written up or in some cases fired. So next time you decide to go to the beach instead of work, you might want to consider that your employer might be checking up on you.

Picture found on The WashingtonPost.com

Some of you may be saying, “Well they can’t check my profile because it’s private”. And yes, that’s true. I’ve googled myself before and found that my Facebook account does not come up. But, I also noticed that if I am tagged in pictures with friends, then those images, times, dates and comments all become available to the public as long as that friends profile isn’t private. So yes, you may be safe and secure in knowing that your profile cannot be found, but how about someone else? The great thing about this is that you can change your Facebook settings so that others cannot tag you in pictures or posts without your permission. So yes although you can’t stop the picture from going up you can stop from getting tagged in it. 


So the next time you go out instead of going to work, or the next time you are in the market for a job you might want to sanitize your social media presence a little. That doesn’t mean don’t be controversial. But it can mean taking down that picture of you playing beer pong, or that post about ditching work to go to the beach. Employers don’t want these kinds of “images” surrounding the people they employ or consider employing. If you’re going to do a double check on your Facebook profile and make sure your privacy settings are still as you set them, keep a look out for Facebook's new “Privacy Checkup" tool, which should be appearing on your profile within the next few days to a couple weeks. 

The Legal Eagles Inc.