Work at Home Scams Just Don’t Pay

Experts say offers to work at home that seem too good to be true probably are. According to the U.S. Census, over four million people in the U.S. work at home every day and the numbers are increasing.

Proceed with caution warn U.S. Postal Inspectors, because many “offers” don’t deliver on the promises. Most “opportunities” will not guarantee regular salaried employment and many omit the fact that you have to work many hours without pay.
Some of the classic work-at-home scams include:

  • Envelope stuffing
  • Medical billing
  • Reshipping

Reshipping – one of the newer scams – involves receiving items ordered by the scam artist often using stolen credit card information. The scam victim then repackages the merchandise for shipment to a foreign country.

Whether they’re old or new, these scams have cost their victims thousands of dollars. Check out any offer before responding. Legitimate companies should provide information in writing about the program they are offering.

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WHISTLE BLOWERS’ PROTECTION ACT

Under Michigan Law, the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, P.A. 1980, No. 469, an employee shall not be dis­charged, threatened, or otherwise discriminated against by their employer for reporting violations of state, local or federal law in the workplace. A discharged employee who alleges a violation of this Act by their employer may bring a civil action for damages and/or an injunctive relief. An employee shall show by clear and convincing evidence that they had or were about to report a violation or a suspected violation of a law. A court, in rendering a judgment in an action brought under this act, shall order, as the court considers appropriate, reinstatement of the employee, the payment of back wages, full reinstatement of fringe benefits and seniority rights, actual damages, or any combination of these remedies. A court may also award the complainant all or a portion of the costs of litigation, including reasonable attorney fees and witness fees.

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Wedding Insurance?

In light of recent events, companies are now starting to offer insurance for wedding ceremonies. Premiums start at $155 but don’t cover many important aspects, such as the bride and groom getting cold feet. Some things typically covered are:

  • Accidents at the wedding or while guest are on their way home
  • Vendors who don’t show up
  • Cancellation by the event site
  • Damage or destruction of wedding rings
  • Lost wedding rings
  • Thefts of gifts or jewelry
  • Illness among key members of the wedding party and loss of rental property
  • Bad weather (But only on the level of natural disaster)

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Unexpected Tax Deductions

When the warm weather wanes, the summer and autumn fun can become expensive. But some out of pocket expenses may be deductible next April. So save your receipts as you prepare for that family or your company’s BBQ.

Many working parents run into a babysitting bind. If you have to put your kids in day camp so you can work, don’t sweat it those expenses can be applied to your child and dependent care credit.

If your kids are under age 13 and you need to pay someone to watch them while you and your spouse can work or go to school, you’re eligible for the credit. That equals up to $3,000 of the expenses paid in a year for one child, or up to $6,000 for two or more kids. And good news –that includes day camp all summer. But the cost of sleep-away camp does not count.

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Trust Us with Your Estate Planning Needs

Many estate planning issues require your answers to difficult questions. In fact, these topics can keep you up at night. For example:

  • How sure are you that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes if you become incapacitated?
  • If you have minor children or children with special needs, will there be enough money for their support?
  • If you own a family business, have you considered continued operations and how the assets would pass on after you die?

The answers to these and other related questions lie in the creation of a trust that allows you to transfer property and assets for the benefit of your beneficiaries. Your assets are placed under control of a trustee (usually you as the initial trustee). Upon death, the successor trustee manages and distributes the assets in accordance with your wishes.

There are many types of trusts and each is designed to accomplish your specific goals. Trust agreements are a great tool for avoiding probate, and skirting the court hassels and costs that would adversely affect your loved ones.

Because trusts are complex, it’s important to consult an estate planning attorney for information on how they work and how we can answer your questions both quickly and affordably. Your situation is unique and we will develop a trust that makes the most sense for your family.

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TREASURE HUNT

There is no longer a need to dig through stacks of paper or old files looking for savings bond information. The United States Treasury Department has added a link called “Treasury Hunt” to its website. The idea behind the link is to help people locate missing bonds and interest payments and find out if their bonds have matured. In order to search the database, investors need only their name, city, state, and social security number. Once the information is entered into the site, the database is searched and any matches are listed. If there is a match, the site offers instructions on how to recover the lost bond or payment.

The most common causes of lost bonds and payments are actually pretty simple to fix. Changing your mailing address or switching banks are most often the culprits of confusion. To avoid this confusion, remember to give the government new delivery instructions.

There is currently $8 billion worth of savings bonds that have matured, yet remain unclaimed. Though owners are usually aware that they have the bonds and know where they are, often they have not realized that the bonds have stopped earning interest. Treasury Hunt hopes to encourage these investors redeem their bonds and put their money back into the government.

Savingsbonds.gov

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TIPS TO LOWER YOUR PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT

Review the assessment on file, especially the descriptions and dimensions of the property. Compare assessments with neighbors with similar property.

Hire an independent certified appraiser and/or meet with your assessor and provide them with enough convincing evidence to warrant a reduction. File a formal appeal with your local government office.

If a hearing is necessary, make sure you arrive prepared. You may request a copy of the board’s procedures prior to the hearing. Arrive with photos and comparable property assessments.

STAY CALM! Though you may be frustrated with your taxes, it is important to be methodical and all business when communicating with various individuals “just doing their job.”

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The Mystery of Credit Scores

The credit reporting and scoring system is a mystery to many, but affects our lives immensely. Credit agencies hold the financial histories of millions of people. After reviewing this history, you are given a score from a low of 300 to a high of 850, which determines how much you pay in interest for a mortgage, car loan, or credit card.

Even after all this, only three percent of Americans could name the three main credit card bureaus, according to a study by Consumer Federation of America. A recommendation to many Americans is to become knowledgeable about credit scores.

Many of our credit files contain errors that clients have had to file lawsuits to get corrected. According to a new survey released by U.S. PIRG, one in four credit reports contains errors serious enough to cause consumers to be denied credit, an apartment, car or home loan.

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TAX SCAMS IDENTITY THEFT

As we head into another tax season we should all be vigilant of the ever expanding con artists using the tax system to prey on the unsuspecting. We all probably know someone who has had their identity stolen.  The recent well publicized data security breaches at major retailers and Sony has put consumers at risk as we become ever more connected.

TAX RETURN FILING:  Part of the new problem is identity thieves know the IRS waits until the March deadline to review EIN’s and Social Security Numbers so these thieves file very early.  In that period of time, the thief collects the tax refund and then after the IRS review, the business owner or individual receives communications from the IRS demanding a return of the tax refund.

Quick action is critical.  First call the IRS Identity Protection Specialization Unit (800-908-1490).  You need to establish a record.  Next complete IRS form 14039-Identity Theft Affidavit and submit the form to the IRS.  We recommend filing your “correct original” tax return by certified mail or overnight mail with a letter of explanation.  You should also contact the Social Security Administration as the improper tax return can affect your credits.  It is not a bad idea to pull your credit report as well.

TELEPHONE SCAMS:  Often time’s businesses or clients receive a telephone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS.  Please note these calls are frauds.  The IRS does not call you over the telephone out of the clear blue.  You can also call the Treasury Inspector General if this occurs (800-366-4484) to report the incident.

BUSINESS IDENTITY THEFT:  The typical and simple mode of thieves is to select an established business identity and then establish a fraudulent office.  That business name will then be used to establish either a new line of credit or a new bank account to purchase goods and services until the credit line or other resources are exhausted, then the thief just moves on.

DORMANT, SHELL AND AGELESS BUSINESSES:  Another new method is for thieves to access and online business registries for ones that were previously dissolved or dormant.  These businesses are particularly vulnerable to this type of crime because their owners are less likely to be monitoring the situation.  The wrongdoer merely takes advantage of a well established history and credit rating to commit the fraud.

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TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME

Family outings to baseball games are typically carefree days of outdoor fun. But what happens if a foul ball flies into the stands and knocks you or a loved one on the top of the head or directly in the face? The damage could be anywhere from painful to permanent.

Next time you have baseball tickets, proceed with caution because Michigan has adopted a rule of “limited duty” in regard to spectator injuries at baseball games. This provision frees stadium owners from liability for any objects leaving the playing field and causing injury to spectators, providing safety screening is in place behind home plate and protected seat are available. In addition, stadium owners have no duty to warn spectators of dangerous projectiles, as baseball spectators are generally aware of this risk.

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