By Guest Writer: Emily Hoda, LAc.
Over the years, I’ve worked in many places such as hospitals and in HIV clinics, helping people of all kinds with lowered immune function. During this COVID-19 crisis, the fear levels are high and people are turning to many sources for their information. I’ve been treating patients throughout this outbreak since Acupuncture is considered an essential health care service. Since the beginning of “safer at home” implementation, I have so many emotions about coming into contact with people regularly and even touching when there is still so much unknown about how the virus spreads. I wanted to put together a list of things that I have in place to help combat the stress, anxiety, fear and to make sure my immune system is getting all the support it needs. I hope this helps people as they make the transition from the “safer at home” to a safer new reality.
B R E A T H W O R K
The practice can be done seated or standing with the feet together. Hands are by the sides or on the knees.
1. Deep breathing - 1 minute
Inhale and exhale deeply and rapidly through the nose into the lungs and belly.
2. Square Breath - 3 - 5 minutes
10-20 seconds each, 40-60 seconds per 1 breath.
Inhale / Hold the breath in / Exhale / Hold the breath out
3. Hold the breath out - 1 - 3 minutes
S A L T W A T E R
Gargle with warm salt-water morning and night and anytime you return from being out.
Every morning, dissolve 1 – 2 teaspoons of salt in 8 oz. of lukewarm water. After a few seconds of gargling, spit the water out. Repeat this process three times.
At night soak your feet in warm water with sea-salt several times a week. This will open the meridians that run throughout the body and draw out poisons, you can add lavender and eucalyptus essential oils.
E S S E N T I A L O I L S
Essential oils help clean the air and can be applied topically as herbal medicine. Here are a few recommendations and brands you can work within the house to take extra precautions when you need to travel. Currently, I am working with Thieves Oil, Lavender, and Eucalyptus.
Thieves Oil / Warrior Oil (Arbonne)
Traditionally, the original Thieves oil formula consists of these five essential oils: Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus Radiata, and Rosemary. I prefer to add 50% lavender oil to this blend.
Applications - apply a few drops to the following regions before leaving the house.
1. Nape of the neck - DU 16
2. Bottom of your face mask or under the chin.
3. Bottom of feet - Kidney 1 point
4. In the home via a diffuser
H O T W A T E R
6 cups per day
2 am / 2 mid-day / 2 early evening
- Detoxes body
- Keeps mouth and throat hydrated
- Hot water helps regulate
H E A L I N G FO O D S & S P I C E S
Chai Tea with Star Anise
● 1 gallon of water in a 3-gallon pot.
● 1 teaspoon of crushed whole cloves
● 1 teaspoon of whole black pepper
● 3 teaspoons of crushed whole cardamom pods (or 2 tsp of cardamom seeds)
● 3 long sticks of cinnamon, or 6 short sticks
● 1-3 inches fresh ginger root, sliced (add a bit more ginger if you have the flu)
● 7 whole pieces of Star Anise (do not use the Japanese variety).
Once the water is boiling, add the crushed cloves. A few minutes later, add the rest of the ingredients and keep the water at a low boil for approximately 30-45 minutes.
The tea can be refrigerated for up to four days and reheated to drink as needed.
Bring 16 oz water to a boil and add 1 Tbs cloves and turn off the heat. Let steep overnight. In the morning before eating breakfast swish clove tea around your mouth for 15 seconds and gargle before swallowing. Repeat before going to bed. This mixture makes enough for 2 days.
When the body is warm, it is harder to be infected with a virus. In general, it is recommended, for virus prevention, to eat less sweet, sour, and salty foods. It is also a good idea to stay away from cold regions.
Ginger Eating warming foods, such as ginger can help to give the body added warmth and heat. If a person has a fever, they can take ginger in a broth or soup to help increase the body temperature and purify any toxins out through sweat. It helps to cover up with a heavy blanket to increase body temperature.
Here is a list of other foods that will increase the immune function and help with digestion which is the root of digestion. They can be eaten raw if the stomach can tolerate it or added into or cooked with food.
V I T A M I N S
Our front line is our immune system. In addition to taking a regular multivitamin, here are a few vitamins that will help support a healthy immune system. If you are already taking them, I’ve included alternative foods and activities that can increase them naturally in your diet and lifestyle.
Vitamin C - 1000 Mg - Dark Leafy Greens, Peppers, Broccoli
Vitamin D - 5000 IU - Sun exposure 1 - 2 x / day
S L E E P
We all know sleep is important, but lately, people have not been sleeping well, waking up and not falling asleep, unable to fall asleep. Sleep is imperative to restore the immune system function. In Chinese Medicine, the protective function or “wei qi” retreats from the exterior and goes interior. Most people are sleeping in and going to bed late, while this might be fun on a weekend it can upset normal rhythms. Additionally, many people are having more vivid or scary dreams. Sometimes eating before bed can also create insomnia. I advise my patients when possible to work out in the morning and stop eating around 6 pm. This can help restore natural rhythms and help sleep.
Most people are familiar with IRA and 401K plans. Financial planners always advise their clients to contribute to these programs for retirement and many of us have used the tax deferred benefits to significantly reduce our income taxes each year. However, why don’t we hear more about 529 plans?
According to a recent article in the Journal of Financial Planning, American families are leaving an estimated $237 billion on the table by not investing their college savings in 529 plans under normal market conditions. The primary benefit for most families is not its tax advantages; it is the fact that it encourages investing instead of using a savings account.
The article continues that middle and upper-middle-class families stand to benefit the most from increased adoption of 529 plans. The average family saving for college would see a benefit of $4,044 per child.
West-Cal Reverse has a program called a Limited Equity Share System that allows home owning families to diversify investments by transferring from their residential real estate equity into a 529 plan and then invest for maximum effect. This can be a game-changer for college financing.
According to Douglas Solorzano, an advisor with DAS Wells Fargo Advisors in Century City, Los Angeles, CA, a well-managed stock portfolio has returned 9% per annum over the last 30 years. A $100,000 contribution, using a LESS program to create a lump sum, into a 529 portfolio when a child is born, could grow to nearly $500,000 by the time he or she is ready to go to college.
In these difficult times, we ask you to be safe, but to continue to have hope and plan for you and your family’s future. Learn more at www.less.reverseurthinking.com
One of the things staying home during war and pandemics gives you is a lot of time to address things that prior to the war or pandemic you said you didn’t have time to do. You get a thought and then you hear yourself say, Ill try to remember to do this later cause I don’t have time right now. Normally you would then be off to something more pressing. Now, however, a second voice enters after the first and says, You don’t have time because you have to do, or go or say…what? This brings you back to the moment and the task at hand.
I was struck by this last Sunday as I was trolling through my emails over my first cup of coffee. Like most people, I receive lots of spam, advertisements, newsletters and blogs that I signed up for that I never read. In addition, I am bombarded by other marketing emails that got my information from the ones I did sign up for. As I sat there that morning I realized I had no place to go that was more important than being right then and there.
So I applied what I knew about how to clean out a clothes closet. If you haven’t worn it in the last 24 months, get rid of it. If I hadn’t read or bought from or interacted substantially with a recurring email "vendor" in the last 12 months, unsubscribe. Some I unsubscribed to but I saved the link in case I wanted to see something there in the future, but most were just unsubscribed to. It took me an hour to go through them all. And I am sure I missed some this go round and will have to do it again a couple of times.
It was interesting how many had layers for me to swim through before they would accept my request to unsubscribe. Lots of opportunities to waver and feel a sense of loss, and many tried to make me feel guilty about doing it. But when I was done, I knew that I had taken back control over a substantial part of my time and life.
I would strongly recommend that you do the same. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we need to get back in touch with our life and be present. If you are housebound, you need to allow time to sit still in silence and think about what you think about. Not just about what you do or how you feel. Because how you feel and what you do is caused by what you think. And if you don’t think about what you think about, you wont know that that is what is causing your emotions and your actions. GIGO: garbage in and garbage out. You are what you think about.
And that is one of the ways that we emotionally spend money we don’t have online and are broke at the end of the month. Be allowing ourselves to be bombarded on line at home.
And I for one don’t want to think about all of the things that recurring emails and marketing under the guise of free information want me to think about all the time. Unless of course I do decide that I want to think about them. In which case I want to sit still long enough to focus and read them and not just say I need to make time to do that one-day. Think about that.
Because of the Coronavirus, many people are facing financial challenges, especially paying their mortgage. If you’re unable to make your mortgage payments, you could lose your home to foreclosure. Federal lenders and some private lenders are offering borrowers temporary help, like stopping or delaying foreclosure or modifying the mortgage. But these measures don’t apply to everyone. If you need help, research the options available to you for getting through these tough times. These tips can help:
Learn about newly available relief for federally backed mortgages.
A new federal law, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, creates two protections for some borrowers. To be eligible, you must have a federally-backed mortgage and be experiencing financial hardship because of the Coronavirus.
First, figure out if your mortgage is federally backed. If you don’t know, you can call your mortgage servicer or follow the links below. You can get your servicer’s contact information from your billing statement.
More than half of U.S. mortgages are backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and these mortgages count as federally backed.
Look up whether your mortgage is owned by Fannie Mae
Look up whether your mortgage is owned by Freddie Mac
If your loan is backed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (FHA mortgages), Department of Agriculture (USDA mortgages), or Department of Veterans Affairs (VA mortgages), you also may be eligible for relief.
2. Contact your servicer no matter what type of mortgage you have.
Tell them your situation and ask what options are available to you. Even if your mortgage is not federally backed, you may still qualify for other help.
If you’re considering forbearance, keep in mind that it is not loan forgiveness, and ask your servicer what happens after the forbearance ends. Your servicer should be able to tell you if it will extend the loan term so you can make the missed payments later, if your monthly payments will go up to make up the difference, if you will owe the entire unpaid amount in a lump sum, and how forbearance could affect your credit.
3. Need advice? Contact an approved counselor.
Go to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) list of approved housing counseling agencies to find a counselor in your state who can explain your options. Consider contacting the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) at 888-995-HOPE. HPF is a nonprofit organization that partners with mortgage companies, local governments, and other organizations to help consumers get loan modifications and prevent foreclosures.
4. Check what help is available where you live.
Your state may offer additional support. Some states have frozen foreclosures. Find your state government’s website and look around for the latest updates on help for borrowers.
5. Scammers follow the headlines.
It’s tempting to hire a company that says they can get a change to your loan that will reduce your monthly mortgage payment or take other steps to save your home. Unfortunately, many companies use half-truths and even outright lies to sell their services or they make promises but don’t deliver. Learn more about avoiding mortgage relief scams.
6. Don’t pay up-front for help.
Federal law says that even if you hire someone to help you with your mortgage, you don't have to pay them until they deliver the results you want. It's illegal for a company to charge you a penny until you’ve accepted their written offer for a loan modification or other relief from your lender, and you’re free to reject an offer you don’t like. Even if you hire someone, you should always feel free to contact your mortgage servicer directly to see whether they can offer you additional options. Learn more about your rights when it comes to hiring a mortgage relief company.
Thanks to: Carol Kando-Pineda | Attorney, FTC Division of Consumer & Business Education
Accurate as of 4/14/2020
Dear Friends and my Community of Allies,
I have tried this week to create a comprehensive source for relevant information in these unprecedented times. This information is relevant to all of you nationally and some of it is specific to those of you who are Californians. Topics include federal updates, food, housing, financial considerations, government loan assistance programs, utilities and more.
Please feel free to forward this to anyone you feel will benefit from the information directly or indirectly. However, there is too much information for a newsletter so I have included a link to my bog where you may download an Excel spreadsheet. Please feel free to share the link as well.
My special thanks to my right hand Rhonda May for assisting in compiling this list.
Mat Sorensen | GUEST WRITER | CEO & Attorney at Directed IRA & Directed Trust Company
March 30, 2020
The coronavirus stimulus bill signed into law on March 27 creates new exceptions that allow 401(k) and IRA owners affected by the pandemic to tap into their retirement accounts early. The new law increases the dollar amount you can loan yourself from your own 401(k) from $50,000 to $100,000 and also creates a penalty-free early distribution rule whereby IRA or 401(k) account owners under age 59-and-a-half can take a penalty-free retirement account distribution of up to $100,000.
These new rules greatly increase access to retirement account funds, which have become one of the most reliable savings tools. At the end of 2019, Americans held more than $30 trillion dollars in retirement accounts, according to the Investment Company Institute. That’s right, trillions.
These new exceptions are among the many ways business owners, entrepreneurs and self-employed persons can provide short-term financial relief. Just this past week, I had two separate conversations with business owners who had requests on how they can take a loan from their 401(k) to cover payroll costs and their own personal expenses amid significant revenue shortfalls.
As the financial strength of Americans is being tested, many small-business owners and entrepreneurs are simply out of available cash and have limited lines of credit, but they may have a retirement savings account with funds that could help them survive. Tapping that resource could be the necessary short-term measure needed to bridge you or your business over until funding is secured from an SBA Disaster Assistance Loan, a home-equity line of credit or other long-term financing or equity investment.
Details of, and frequently asked questions about, the penalty-free, $100,000 early retirement distribution and increased 401(k) loan limit of $100,000 are more fully outlined below.
Penalty-Free Early Distributions Up to $100,000
Who Can Take the Penalty-Free Distribution?
The distribution rules are personal to the account owner and include anyone who has experienced “adverse financial consequences” from the pandemic. This is a broad definition and one that the account owner claims with their account administrator. Adverse financial consequences include being subject to a quarantine, being furloughed or laid off, having your business closed or hours reduced or being unable to work due to childcare changes and availability (closed schools, closed childcare facilities). The rule also includes anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or whose spouse or dependent is diagnosed with the virus.
What Accounts Qualify?
All retirement accounts fall under this rule. This includes IRAs, Roth IRAs, SEP IRAs, SIMPLE IRAs, 401(k)s, pension plans, 457 plans and 403(b) plans.
Am I Taxed on the Distribution?
The 10 percent early withdrawal penalty is waived, but you are taxed on traditional funds distributed. Congress did provide relief on the taxes on the distribution by allowing taxpayers to pay the tax owed on the distribution over three years. This is a significant benefit, as most retirement account distributions are subject to tax on the full amount in the tax year distributed. By paying over three years, you can spread the taxes due on the distribution over multiple tax years, which keeps you in a lower bracket and allows you to defer payment over time.
Can I Pay Back the Funds?
Yes. The special distribution provision allows you to pay back the retirement account over a three-year period. You can make multiple payments back to the account or one lump-sum payment to the account by the end of the three-year window. This is an excellent option, as it allows those who can get back on their feet financially to return the funds to their retirement account. And if you do, you’ll avoid any taxes on the distribution.
How Long Is This Penalty-Free Option Available?
The penalty-free distribution option is available on qualifying distributions made from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.
401(k) Loans up to $100,000
Who Can Take the Loan?
Anyone who has a qualifying employer plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, and has suffered “adverse financial consequences” from the pandemic. The qualification rule is identical to the penalty-free distribution rule and the account owner themselves claims whether they qualify with their account administrator. Adverse financial consequences include being subject to a quarantine (most states/cities now), being furloughed or laid off, having your business closed or hours reduced, or being unable to work due to childcare changes and availability (closed schools, childcare facilities). The rule also includes anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or whose spouse or dependent is diagnosed with the virus.
These loans are not available on IRA or SEP IRA accounts. Also, a 401(k) with a former employer is usually restricted from taking loans by that former employer. However, some individuals with IRAs, SEP IRAs or former employer plans who are self-employed may establish a solo 401(k) and then roll IRA or SEP IRA dollars over to the solo 401(k) to take a loan from the solo 401(k) account under these special coronavirus rules. There’s plenty of planning opportunities to those who need access to retirement account funds right now.
Are There Taxes Due on the Loaned Amount?
There are no taxes or penalties owned when you take the loan. And so long as you pay the loan back, it's a tax- and penalty-free opportunity to access your own retirement savings early.
How Much Can I Take?
Up to $100,000. The standard rule only allows individuals to take 50 percent of their vested 401(k) account balance (or other employer qualifying account), not to exceed $50,000. The special coronavirus rule not only increases the maximum loan amount from $50,000 to $100,000, but also removes the requirement that you can only loan yourself 50 percent of the account balance. These are two big improvements that will provide greater access to retirement account funds.
The differences are best understood by two examples. Under the standard rule, if you had a $200,000 401(k), you could take a loan of 50 percent of the account, not to exceed $50,000. This would allow you to take the limit of $50,000. Under the special coronavirus rule, with a $200,000 401(k), you could take the maximum of $100,000.
Let’s consider another example and assume you have a 401(k) with a $70,000 vested balance. Under the standard rule, you could take a loan of $35,000 because you can’t take more than 50 percent of the vested account balance. Under the special coronavirus rule, you can take 100 percent of the vested account balance and a loan of $70,000.
What Can I Use the Funds For?
By law, the loan can be used for anything you want. The funds can be used to cover personal financial expenses, business expenses like payroll or rent, new business startups, education expenses or any personal or business purpose you want.
How Long Do I Have to Pay It Back?
You’ve got five years to pay back the 401(k) loan, and it must be paid back in substantially level payments, at least quarterly, within five years. A lump-sum payment at the end of the loan is not acceptable.
What Is the Interest Rate?
The interest rate for 401(k) loans is currently 5.25 percent. By law, the interest rate to be charged is a “commercially reasonable” rate. This has been interpreted by the industry and the IRS/DOL to be prime plus 2 percent (prime is currently 3.25 percent). If the loan is for the purchase of a home for the account owner, then the rate is the federal home loan mortgage corporate rate for conventional fixed mortgages. Even though you are paying interest, you are paying that interest to your own 401(k), as opposed to paying a bank or credit card company. That’s a plus, as you’re repaying your 401(k) and getting the interest in the 401(k) too. Also, business owners who use a 401(k) loan to fund their business can expense the interest they are paying back to the 401(k). They can treat that interest expenses the same as interest they pay a bank on a business loan.
How Many Loans Can I Take?
By law, you can take as many loans as you want, provided that they do not collectively exceed the total loan amount. If you are taking a loan from a current company plan, some plans restrict you to one loan per 12-month period. There is also a fee under most plans for a loan ranging from $50 to $350, so make sure you check your 401(k) plan's loan rules and fees.
What Happens If I Don’t Pay the Loan Back?
Any amount not repaid under the loan will be considered a distribution, and any applicable taxes and penalties will be due by the account owner. Most plans give you a grace period of one missed payment, but after that, the total amount owed under the plan is deemed distributed if you miss your payments.
How Long Is This New Increased Loan Option Available?
The new loan option is available 180 days from enactment of the law. The bill was signed into law on March 27, 2020, and as a result, the increased loan amount option will be available until September 23, 2020. Any loans taken outside of this time period are subject to the normal 50 percent limitation and the $50,000 loan cap.
Hopefully, this will provide all of us some relief.
By NNA Staff
Developing Story: Updated 3-25-20. Notary Signing Agents, mobile Notaries and signers are concerned about possible contact with the COVID-19 coronavirus when meeting face to face during loan signings and notarizations. In response, some closing companies have recommended a process called “window-separated signing” or “porch signing”, in which loan signings are conducted through a window or doorway at a safe physical distance.
Signing Agents and Notaries have asked if they may perform notarizations using this new practice. A few companies have published guidance for how these signings should be performed. In response, the NNA has published its own guidance for performing these signings in a way that protects the health of all involved and ensures that any notarial acts performed comply with state laws.
The NNA recommends that Notaries should follow these minimum guidelines when perform “window-separated signings”:
Among the significant developments is a new NNA recommended best practice that both Notaries and signers/borrowers complete a disclosure prior to each individual signing. The disclosure which, if used, will be produced by your contracting party and may include questions about your recent travel and if you have had contact with any people diagnosed with the coronavirus. There are a variety of new precautions, policies, and procedures being implemented by the mortgage finance industry.
Reach out to your contracting parties for specific guidance and be sure to follow any new procedures they prescribe. Notaries should expect enhanced precautions from contracting parties for as long as the COVID-19 crisis remains a threat to health and safety.
Your health and safety, and that of borrowers and signers, is the top priority of the NNA and industry officials, and each closing will need to be evaluated and handled on a case-by-case basis. As such, we are issuing this additional guidance:
If you feel sick, the CDC recommends that you stay home and contact your healthcare provider.
The Notary Bulletin will report further developments as they occur amid this rapidly evolving issue.
With the worldwide pandemic spreading throughout the United States and cases in Los Angeles on the rise, many businesses are being impacted both in the short- and long-term. We have seen closures to all public places where ten or more people may gather in LA. In other cities, curfews have been imposed. Economic stimulus packages are being discussed, and other measures to secure the public safety are being imposed. So, we wanted to touch base and provide some information that may be helpful to you and your business.
Even though factories are reported to be opening again in China, many businesses worldwide continue to shut down to protect workers, reduce liability, and sanitize. Entire countries like Italy are on lockdown. The closures have severely impacted supply chains in all industries and may lead you to question what contractual rights you may have if a contract by a supplier, or even you, are breached.
Here are some things to think about, speak to your lawyer about, and action steps to take.
COVID-19 has and will continue to disrupt businesses around the world for months to come. It is best to take a proactive approach to any potential business and legal issues that may arise. I've gone into further detail in a brief YouTube video on the Corona Virus and Contracts.
Please give Eric J. Proose's office a call if you have questions regarding your business and its contractual rights, obligations, and potential liabilities. We are here to help in these unprecedented times.
Thank you to Eric J. Proos, Esq for this valuable information.
Eric J. Proos, Esq.
THE LAW OFFICE OF ERIC J. PROOS, PC
458 N. Doheny Dr. #69712
West Hollywood, CA 90048
In support of National Consumer Protection, last week we covered internet merchandise scams, phishing/spoofing, fake prizes, sweepstakes, or free gifts, fake check scams, and advance fee loans, credit arrangers. We continue the top 10 scams reported in 2019:
6. Romance scams/sweetheart swindles
The set-up: Someone you’ve met online on a dating website, online forum or via social media quickly develops a friendship or romantic relationship with you. Eventually, they ask for money for a visit, to cover an unexpected emergency, or some other reason.
How to avoid it: Don't leave protected dating website messaging platforms for unprotected text or instant messaging chats. Never send money to someone you’ve only met online or talked to over the phone.
7. Recovery/refund scams
The set-up: If you’ve lost money in a scam, someone may claim to be able to recover those losses for you. The only catch it that you must pay a fee or hand over sensitive personal information like bank account numbers or grant access to your computer in order to recover your losses.
How to avoid it: You should never pay money or give up personal information in order to recover fraud losses. Anyone who claims to be able to help you recover your losses in exchange for a fee is just trying to scam you.
8. Computer equipment/software
The set-up: Also known as the tech support scam, a caller may claim to be with a well-known software company like Microsoft or an anti-virus company and have information that your computer is infected with malware. They request remote access to your computer in order to “diagnose” the problem. They may then urge you to buy an expensive tech support solution to “fix” the problem.
How to avoid it: If someone calls you unsolicited offering tech support, it’s almost certainly a scam. Scary pop-ups on your phone or computer may also urge you to call a phone number to get the problem fixed. Don’t fall for those either as they are simply a lure to get you paying for tech support you probably don’t need.
9. Investment related scams
The set-up: Someone may offer you “guaranteed” returns with little or no risk in exchange for a big up-front investment. Investment in gold coins, precious metals, Bitcoin, real estate, or Internet startups are often used to entice unwary investors.
How to avoid it: Investigate anyone offering to make an investment on your behalf. Get documentation about the track record of the investment and check to make sure the “advisor” is registered with the state or federal government. If they pressure you to make a decision right away, chances are that it’s a scam.
10. Family/friend imposter
The set-up: A caller claims to be a family member or friend in trouble (or someone helping them, like a lawyer, doctor, or policeman). They urge the victim to send money to help out their loved one. The scammer may have details about your friend or family member (likely gleaned from social media).
How to avoid it: Hang up the phone and call your friend or family member yourself. If they don’t answer, try another relative who knows them to verify what’s going on. Any urgent request to send money without verification is almost certainly a scam.
Even if you’ve studied up on the most prevalent scams, we’re all vulnerable. If you’ve been approached by a scammer or lost money, report the scam. You can help other consumers avoid these and other scams by filing a complaint at Fraud.org via our secure online complaint form. We share complaints with our network of nearly 200 law enforcement and consumer protection agency partners who can and do put fraudsters behind bars.
It’s National Consumer Protection Week, and there’s never been a better time to brush up on your scam IQ. To help, we’ve released our annual Top Ten Scams report, based on thousands of complaints submitted by real consumers like you to Fraud.org last year.
Each year, we monitor and analyze the complaints to track trends in scams and how con artists are tweaking their pitch to succeed at finding new victims. Our data helps us identify emerging scams we’d never heard of, what scams are fading into the sunset, and new twists on old classics.
So without further ado, here are the most reported scams from 2019 and, just as important, tips on how to spot and avoid them so that you don’t become a statistic on next year’s report …
1. Internet merchandise scams
The set-up: Scammers offer cut-rate merchandise on the Internet in the hopes that consumers looking for a deal will buy.
How to avoid it: Buy from reputable sellers. If the price for an item is well below the price offered on e-commerce sites like Amazon, there’s a good chance it’s a scam, particularly if the merchandise is electronics, luxury apparel, or medications.
The set-up: Scammers use legitimate-looking emails or spoofed Caller ID to get consumers to think they’re getting an email or phone call from the government, their bank or another entity. Once the scammer has the victim convinced they’re someone they’re not, they threaten them to get money or sensitive personal information.
How to avoid it: If someone you don’t know calls you on the phone or sends a threatening email demanding quick payment, it’s likely a scam. Delete the email or hang up the phone.
3. Fake prizes, sweepstakes, or free gifts
The set-up: The scammer contacts you to let you know you’ve won a big prize. All you must do to collect is pay them a fee for “insurance,” “taxes,” “processing” or some other reason.
How to avoid it: The prize doesn’t exist. They’re just after your money. If someone asks you to pay money to win money, it’s a scam.
4. Fake check scams
The set-up: Someone you’ve never met in person sends you a check and asks you to deposit it into your personal bank account. Then they ask you to send them some or all the proceeds from the check via wire transfer, by buying a gift card, or some other method.
How to avoid it: Don’t deposit the check and definitely don’t send money based on funds that may appear available if you deposit it. The bank will catch on, and you’ll potentially be left owing the bank for the negative balance.
5. Advance fee loans, credit arrangers
The set-up: Scammers offer a “guaranteed” credit card or bank loan to consumers looking for cash. All the victim needs to do is pay an up-front fee to obtain the loan.
How to avoid it: Only look for loans or credit cards from reputable lenders. If a lender offers you a “guaranteed” credit card or loan without a credit check, it’s probably a scam.
Marc has 36 years in financial services and 6 years in teaching.
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