Watch out for a deluge of online scams promising great deals as a result of the current Government shutdown. They’re promising anything from unbelievably cheap cars to cheap health care plans under the new Affordable Care Act commonly referred to as “Obamacare.” Online scams are in the form of fake websites, email spammers, and even phone calls or text messages. The cyber thieves’ goals can be to obtain personal information, credit cards numbers, and even so far as to attempt to con you into a wire transfer from your bank account.
Symantec’s security website issued a warning of spammers using fake headers to get past email filters and get seemingly official and legitimate offers to your inbox. Watch out for emails promising deals as a result of the Government shutdown and clearance sales on fleet vehicles, cars and trucks. For that matter it is wise to be suspicious of any offer involving special deals as a result of the shutdown. Be cautious of anyone who emails you and question why they would have your email. Spammers are able to spoof commonly known email headers and even people you know personally.
As a general rule never give your personal information such as name, address or phone number let alone more private information such as social security number, family names and employment information to any stranger who calls you on the phone no matter how official they sound. If it’s a company name you recognize, hang up and call them back at their listed number to verify the caller.
The Government shutdown couldn’t have come at a worse time for those shopping for health insurance this week. Starting October 1 the Health Insurance Exchange went live. Scam artists are taking full advantage of the overwhelming response and confusion associated with this new provision of the Affordable Care Act. Not only are the various exchanges inconsistent with their security protocols they are so new there that it’s easy for cyber thieves to take advantage of the confusion and lure people into a fake site to steal their personal information and even their money.
Trend Micro, a computer security company, has published warnings for consumers. The best way to avoid healthcare scams associated with the Affordable care Act is to head directly to the Federal Government website to either find the sites directly or verify the authenticity of sites you might find from a search engine such as Google or Bing.
Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Scam artists and cyber thieves will always jump in and take advantage of the confusion surrounding situations such as the Government shutdown and the newest provisions of the Affordable Care Act to make a quick buck at your expense. Be careful of such offers, verify the source and authenticity of anything that requires your personal or private information, and be suspicious of all emails that include links to websites or phone numbers with a too good to be true offer.
Recently I had a longtime customer call me to cancel, and of course I was a little taken back since I had built a relationship with them. When I asked why they were leaving they stated that it had nothing to do with my service, but that they had gotten a telemarketing call and someone gave them a smoking rate that was lower than mine. Obviously at that point I talked about lowering the rate and the service I provided, and how I was there for them anytime they had issues or problems with their account.
Upon hanging up, and yes losing the customer in the end, it got me thinking about how many industries have been commoditized by cut rate companies coming in with low ball rates but providing little service. Credit card processing, the insurance industry, and even the banking industry have all been commoditized. Many industries have been affected by cut rate companies promising low rates which sound unbelievably true.
So how do they do it?
Obviously I cannot speak for every industry, but I know how it works in the credit card processing arena. First of all, the low rates that are quoted are typically for check cards/debit cards. The cost from Visa and MasterCard for a check card or debit card is around 1.00% so 1.30% or 1.59% seems like a great rate. However, depending on your business model you may never even see a check or debit card. For instance if you are a vacation and travel company the odds of someone putting their vacation on a check or debit card are very slim so… guess what… you will never see that awesome rate of 1.30% or 1.59%. So be careful and understand what types of cards you see before you sign a contract.
Another trick of the trade is this: many companies get the account signed at the low rate they promised and when Visa and or MasterCard increase their rates they will increase your percentage rate. So if Visa goes up .01% points well you get a notice that says it is going up .03%. After a couple of increases guess what, you are right back to what you were paying before you switched or even worse case is that they will raise you even higher than what you were originally paying.
So how can you avoid buying into another industry sales gimmick? Just as I always preach, build a relationship with an expert in that industry. Find someone that you know, like, and trust. Go with the person that has been in the business for a good number of years because that person has obviously made a living at what they are doing which means that other people must know, like, and trust them. It doesn’t always work, but I guarantee that the success rate is much higher with an industry veteran versus someone you have never met or has called upon you with the latest scheme or gimmick.
Chris Damron frequently writes on financial issues businesses face with today’s often confusing and rapidly changing digital transaction market.
Deborah Bateman does incredible things for women. In fact, she is an incredible woman herself. She is the Executive Vice President of National Bank of Arizona as well as being the Director of Wealth Strategies. National Bank of Arizona is Arizona’s bank for women and Deborah is a large part of what makes that true. After all, she is also the creator of the Women’s Financial Group (WFG). Through this group Deborah and the team at WFG aim to help women become financially “literate.” Deborah said that literacy is, “the foundation.”
Women’s Financial Group would be nothing without the support of Keith Maio, the President and CEO of National Bank of Arizona, either. Deborah attributed him as a huge advocate for programs such as this. It makes a world of difference when there is someone dedicated to the advancement of women financially as the President of the bank. As a woman herself, Deborah understands the issues that come up in the financial world when you are female. From the astounding wage gap that exists between men and women in the working world, to things such as budgeting and planning, Deborah, along with Women’s Financial Group, works with customers to improve their monetary lifestyle.
On the WFG website, National Bank provides a description on what this specialty organization does. “WFG is supported by experienced and approachable bankers who understand the financial challenges women face and the strategies to help them succeed in work, business, and life.”
As far as the “financial challenges women face,” Deborah related that they are, “as different as the women.” After years of helping women with their struggles and solutions with money, Deborah knows that every woman is vastly different from the next and that no two problems are alike. The attitude towards diversity and understanding is what makes Women’s Financial Group what it is today.
In addition to aiding clientele of the National Bank, Deborah is famous for her generous nature in promoting and recommending women for various high level positions. In addition to an individual’s own talent, when hiring, Bateman looks for qualities of ingenuity and women with a goal in mind.
Coincidentally, Deborah is one of the most genuine people I have ever had the privilege of interviewing. Her passion for the lifestyle of successful women simply exudes off of her. She said that she had always been good with money and saving, but there was never really anyone to teach the techniques for building a financial foundation when she was younger, aside from economics classes. Deborah mentioned that it is so important to start young with financial planning. For this reason, National Bank of Arizona occasionally partners with schools across the state in order to provide seminars and workshops to guide teens and young women on their journey towards stability in their immediate and long term future.
Deborah said that her best technique is to always have a goal in mind. She prefers to pick vacations as her own, but there are an infinite number of other end goals, big and small, to prepare, save for, and look forward to.
In closing, Deborah Bateman quoted Ashton Kutcher in a recent speech he made at the Teen Choice Awards. “Build your life,” is what Deborah quoted of Kutcher. This represents building your life in all ways, financially, and simply building it up to what you want to make it. The foundation to the “building of life” is strong financial literacy and with Women’s Financial Group along with Executive Vice President Deborah Bateman achieving your goals is possible.
Deborah Bateman will be contributing to SmartFem.com through articles, features, and advice. Look for updates on SmartFem’s Facebook page.
When it comes to shopping for credit card processing every company sales on price and that they have the lowest price in town. So how do you know if you are setting up your business with the services and pricing that is best? Here are 5 tips to consider when shopping.
- Make sure you are not signing a long-term agreement.
- Most credit card processing companies want you to sign a 3 year commitment, however look for a company that only make you commit to a year. Or better yet one that is strictly month to month.
- Do you have a relationship with the company or representative?
- Go online and do a Google search on that person or business. Ask another business owner for a referral. If your gut is telling you that you feel comfortable with the representative then odds are on your side that things will go well.
- Ask the representative “Who will be servicing my account”?
- Will that person be your first point of contact or will you just be given an 800 number for support. If they say yes and give you their cell phone number, call it a few times and see if they answer. I would also see how long they’ve been in the business…here today, gone tomorrow.
- Make sure they are asking you questions about how your business functions.
- If they are not asking questions about how you accept credit cards then they are probably just looking for the sale and don’t really care about your business. This is where you could LOSE money! What you don’t understand could hurt your bottom line and once you’ve signed on the dotted line you could be stuck if you signed a committed agreement!
- Ask if they monitor their accounts for risk or fraud and what happens if something bad happens to your account like a breach.
- If they stumble or cannot answer the question then they don’t really understand the industry and aren’t looking out for your best interest. Ask if they offer breach insurance. There could be serious consequences to your business if you get caught in a security risk or fraud issue.
These tips and talking points will give you more to talk about than just pricing and the more items you can discuss the better your gut will feel and tell you if something’s wrong.
More than a century ago, Paul Revere shouted the warning that is now a part of history forever, “The British Are Coming, The British Are Coming!” And thank goodness people took action and defended themselves and preserved a great nation in the making.
So here is the new warning and proclamation of a fast and furious pending danger, “The ID Theives Are Coming, The ID Thieves Are Coming!” And too many people are not heeding the warnings of this proclamation, and face a horrible probability of ID theft that gets stronger every day.
Consider this, in 2011 over 2010 there was a 67 percent increase in one year in the number of US citizens (more than 36 million) who received data breach notification letters from various companies, associations, and government agencies. These letters were to warn citizens that their private and secure ID information was lost or stolen and could be used against them in a harmful way; financially or otherwise.
67 percent is a HUGE and ominous increase to consider. It is like filling beaches with thousands of sharks and yet everyone keeps going into the water unprotected, because we don’t see the sharks lurking below the surface. Ignoring these statistics and not creating some form of ultimate safety-net to be ready when the sharks/thieves attack, is just like jumping into the shark infested waters and taking your chances.
Now consider this, in 2012 over 2011 there was another increase in data breaches of 48 percent! This signifies compounding data breach statistics over the past two years and justifies someone to get on their horse (or blog) and start screaming some kind of warning to everyone. So here is your warning from your SmartFem advisor: get protected against the risks of ID theft and fraud and do it for less than $1 per month (a SmartFem special offer). This will protect your whole family!
So recently a friend of mine sent me an article that appeared on Inc.com about a new start up that is gunning for Square. Upon reading the article I had to chuckle a little… Read the full article…
Up until recent years, buying, owning, and retaining a home for adults who were born post-1980 was out of the question. The past years of unemployment rates, foreclosures, and bad loans had deferred many millennials from thoughts of home ownership. However, with the market shift, and rates that are at all-time lows, many are ready to become first time home-buyers. In fact, 65 percent of renters ages 18-34 with an annual income of at least $50,000 have indicated their intent to buy a home has strengthened significantly within the past year
College graduates today are continuing to wise up when it comes to planning out their next chapter in life. Building a financial portfolio at a young age is becoming increasingly important. The millennials are learning from the patterns of the past and attempting to avoid them by beginning to save early.
According to the National Association of Realtors, the median sales price of a home is $184,300. The mortgage payment, including principal and interest would be $661.89 per month putting at least 20% down payment at a 3.5% interest rate. In comparison, the median rent asking price is $717 per month. Now which option seems more beneficial and logical to a first time buyer?
The way I see it, instead of paying someone else to provide for you, you could provide for yourself. When weighing out the decision between renting vs. owning, you want to take a look at your current finances and get pre-qualified to determine what price point of a home you can afford. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development even has a page specifically for new-home buyers which can help answer most financial questions on the subject.
The majority of millennials, 76 percent, will buy first with their spouse, and 22 percent will end up purchasing with a roommate. As a couple, the benefit of home ownership includes saving money on your monthly payment, as opposed to a rent situation, and owning a home will also help in building equity for your future.
As an individual, the benefits of owning a home include avoiding the over-payment of rent, but also the possibility of charging a roommate or two monthly rent. With the help of a decent price point, the combined rent money will cover your monthly mortgage, and maybe even place a bit extra back in your wallet.
Both scenarios will enable the homeowner to take advantage of many tax benefits. With a 30 year mortgage fix, your housing expenses will remain the same till the end of the loan. But as for renting housing expenses, the pattern is continuing to rise.
As millennials continue to look forward to a bright, successful future, home ownership seems to be at the top of their list. With the market consistently improving, now is the time, for everyone, to consider making the smart investment in home ownership.
In 2007 and 2008, the housing market dropped off the table – essentially no sales and no income. Developers holding land needed cash to survive and sold land for pennies. The bottom of the land market was in 2010 with an average sale price of 27 cents per square foot per CoStar; investors with cash gobbled up the parcels.
When the housing market finally rebounded to a price point that allowed developers to again build and sell for a profit about a year ago, they were forced to buy back their in-fill land; often times, from the same folks that they sold to and sometimes at more than triple the price. The average sale price for land in Q3 2011 was 92 cents/sf and in Q3 of 2012 was $2.62/sf, almost tripled.
The projection made at a seminar held by Valley Partnership, an advocacy group responsible for development in metro Phoenix, on May 31 stated that metro Phoenix would increase in population by more than one million over the next 10 years. To meet the population explosion, we will need around 350,000 new homes to be built. Obviously the construction industry will not only fuel jobs for houses, but also for all disciplines of real estate. This also means that land will be in strong demand. The in-fill locations have already jumped in value, but land on the outskirts of metro Phoenix are also starting to appreciate, and now provides a strong buying opportunity.
One of the main reasons for buying land as an investment is that once the market goes up – land values typically go up at a much faster rate than other real estate investments. The number one rule is location and timing and there may be no better time to invest in land in Central Arizona than right now. A buyer has the ability to buy land and do nothing but wait for values to jump, or possibly add immediate value to the property by legally changing the zoning via the entitlement process.
Land can be a risky investment because it almost always involves speculating that the land will increase in value over time. While we believe that metro Phoenix is truly set for a huge boom – events that we have no control over can always happen, be them local or worldwide. Land also has some holding costs like property taxes, and possibly maintenance while the property is sitting vacant and generating no income. On the positive side there are no buildings, plumbing /electrical issues, nor tenants with complaints about accommodations or excuses why they could not pay! Land is easy, but always work with a trusted and experienced land specialist.
Leadership in the private and nonprofit sector come together at the Arizona Leadership Forum
It may come to you as no surprise that Arizona is one of the poorest performing states in the US when it comes to education and poverty levels. We have all read the statistics and seen the headlines and understand that changes need to be made. It may, however, surprise you to know that a community bank right here in Arizona is spearheading an ambitious mission to change that. National Bank of Arizona arranged a forum putting together business leaders in the Valley, Arizona non-profits leaders as well as legislators. The forum kicked off February 8th at the Sheraton. In addition to National Bank of Arizona, the founding sponsors were the Phoenix Philanthropy Group and Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold.
The forum was the kick off which brought in well known author and speaker Jim Collins of “Good to Great.” The forum was more than an event. It is a movement with ongoing sessions of strategizing and brainstorming to help Arizona become the great state that it should be.
It was fabulous to see so many brilliant minds coming together to discuss ideas to help our state. Assembling such high-powered teams of Arizona business leaders was a first and definitely set a precedent. Also overseeing the movement was Lattie Coor, Chairman and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona. The movement will be on going to discuss activities and commitments to help Arizona become a great state.
National Bank of Arizona hosted the follow up meeting last week at their conference center and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton was in attendance.
It is an unfortunate truth that while women represent 87 percent of consumerism in the US we are still vastly behind when it comes to financial literacy. While women make the majority of the spending decisions for the family they still seem to be lagging behind when it comes to long-term money investments and creating wealth. It is alarming to find out just how many women are dependent on their spouse to plan their retirement.
I recently attended a forum sponsored by Deborah Bateman of National Bank of Arizona which featured a fabulous panel of female experts to address some of these issues women now deal with today. The event was hosted by Sharon Lechter, international spokesperson and famous author on finance. Attorneys Darra Rayndon and Angela Hallier, were also on hand to lend their expertise when it comes to protecting your wealth in regards to your relationship, divorce and sometimes when losing a spouse.
It still surprises me that many women are not prepared financially in the event of a divorce, considering the divorce rates are well over 50 percent. The panel touched on pre-nups, postnups and the importance of a will.
National Bank of Arizona is affectionately known as the Women’s Bank and has created, WFG short for the Women’s Financial Group. Women live longer and having the right strategies in place for retirement are essential. NBAZ does its best to bring these subjects to the forefront and to apprise women of their options. No one likes to think about wills, prenuptials, long term disability or revocable trusts. However, by the time we usually get around to realizing we need these things it’s often too late.
Personally speaking, I can say that after attending this forum I did find a few holes in my plans for the future that I intend to correct. It has never been a better time to be a woman than it is now. Embrace your independence and take control of your future.