Today’s Bottom Line column:
Scammers have Marvin Goldfarb’s number, and address, and probably know the color of his house.
Two years ago, Goldfarb provided The Bottom Line a stack of scam mail, delivered to his Newington home by the United States Postal Service. Goldfarb, 78, a retired truck driver, has likely landed on a “sucker list” handed from one fraudster to another. He’s still getting mail and phone calls from scammers hoping to find yet another elderly victim.
More . . .
1st Alliance Lending of East Hartford must pay an $83,000 civil penalty announced Monday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for violating a federal law by splitting real estate settlement fees.
The CFPB says 1st Alliance reported he violations to the bureau, admitting liability, and offered additional information.
“These types of illegal payments can harm consumers by driving up the costs of mortgage settlements,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “The Bureau will use its enforcement authority to ensure that these types of practices are halted. We will, however, also continue to take into account the self-reporting and cooperation of companies in determining how to resolve such matters.”
The CFPB says First Alliance, beginning in 2010, used a hedge fund to finance its loans and split revenues and fees with the hedge fund’s affiliates. That lasted a year, but 1st Alliance continued to split and origination and loss-mitigation fees with the hedge fund.
1st Alliance last year reported to the CFPB that it believed those payments violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.
Spring is one the way . . . and so is baseball and summer. Before you know it, we’ll be sitting under the mango tree.
Tips from the Connecticut Better Business Bureau on hiring a tax preparer:
Check the preparer’s qualifications – All paid tax preparers are required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN. Paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN as required by law. Ask preparers if they belong to a professional organization and attend continuing education classes.
Ask about service fees – Request an estimate of the cost of preparation and whether any additional fees may apply.
Request eFile and direct deposit – Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file and that any refund due is sent to you or deposited into your bank account. Do not allow a refund to be deposited into a preparer’s bank account.
Check availability – Make sure you’ll be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return – even after the April 15 due date. This may be helpful in the event questions come up about your tax return.
Verify your return before signing – Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Make sure you’re comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.
Steer clear of any tax preparer who promises you an inflated refund, or charges fees based on the size of your refund, and ensure that all documents are enclosed
You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
The damage totals from the Target data breach are in: The Consumer Bankers Association says its members have spent $172 million. The Credit Union National Association says credit unions have paid $30.6 million.
More . . .
This weekend’s Bottom Line column:
We know where the time has gone, so stop asking. Where has the money gone?
Let’s try to minimize regret, and maximize assets, in 2014 with some basic guidance from Don Taylor, a financial columnist for Bankrate.com who is also a financial planner with a doctorate in finance.
You’ll find financial truth in the numbers.
Q: Should I start pre-paying the mortgage on our house or invest savings?
More . . .
Mortgage rates moved incrementally higher for the second straight week, with 30-year fixed-rate loans averaging 4.33 percent nationally, according to data released Thursday by Freddie Mac.
A week ago, 30-year rates averaged 4.28 percent. Fifteen-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.35 percent in the past week, up from 3.33 percent.
The numbers in New England:
30-year: 4.33 percent
15-year: 3.35 percent
30-year: 4.28 percent
15-year: 3.33 percent
A year ago:
30-year: 3.58 percent
15-year: 2.81 percent
The U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Command is warning soldiers and their families about a website scam that attempts collect personal information.
The Connecticut Better Business Bureau says the same site, identified as My Army Benefits at usmilitarybenefit.org is fraudulent, is not affiliated with the U.S. Army and should be avoided.
The site, say investigators, also claims “the U.S. military has granted access to unclaimed and accumulated benefits for active duty soldiers, and that benefits not claimed within the stipulated period will be available for claims after 60 months.”
The Criminal Investigation Command’s advice:
>> Do not log in to the website
>> Do not respond to any emails
>> Stop all contact if you have previously responded to any emails
>> Immediately contact your local information assurance office if you accessed the website from a government computer or system.
The program that allows consumers to chose electricity suppliers has been a disaster. If you’ve experienced dramatic increases in your supply charges or feel you’ve been the victim of unfair billing practices, let the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) know at one of these public hearings:
>> Today (Feb.20) at 6:30 p.m. at the Farmington Community Senior Center, 321 New Britain Avenue, Unionville.
>> Monday (Feb. 24) at 6:30 p.m. in Room 135, Brookfield Town Hall, 100 Pocono Road, Brookfield.
>> Tuesday (Feb. 25) 2014 at 6:30 p.m. in the Norwich City Hall, 100 Broadway, Norwich, Connecticut
>> Thursday (Feb. 27) at 6:30 p.m. in the City Hall Building, Veterans Memorial Hall – 2nd Floor, 235 Grand Street, Waterbury.
Today’s Bottom Line column:
The snow’s not deep enough, the temperature’s not low enough to stop Roshawn Finn from thinking about her through-the-wall air conditioner.
Finn says the General Electric model she bought at P.C. Richard & Son last July never worked properly. Neither did the replacement that came two weeks later.
“Same issue,” says Finn. “No cold air.”
More . . .