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As COVID cases increase, so do related scams

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While we are not out of the woods yet regarding the pandemic, people are getting vaccinated and traveling again. With proper precautions, you can see the world while staying safe this summer.

The Delta variant is rising to the top of COVID strains, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidelines accordingly. You can keep track of the spread of the virus with an interactive map provided by the CDC. Tap or click here for more information and tips.

The pandemic has unfortunately been a solid source for crooks to ply their trade. There are too many scams to list, but we’ll give you two to watch out for.

Here’s the backstory

Phishing is a common method scammers keep in their tacklebox of tricks. They imitate well-known and trusted brands and companies to get to your information or finances. Phishing scams can be employed through email, phone calls, texts, phony websites and malicious links and apps.

The Federal Trade Commission recently reported on a scam that uses text messaging to inform victims that their unemployment insurance benefits are expiring. In a time when many people are struggling with work, this scam can gain serious traction.

This phishing scam includes a link to a fake state workforce agency (SWA) website, where victims are asked to enter personal information, including their Social Security numbers. Scammers not only get personal information but also use this data for identity theft and false unemployment insurance claims. Yes, they can use an unemployment scam to steal your benefits.

FTC

The report notes that state agencies will never send a text or email messages asking for personal information. If you get one of these messages, do not reply or click any links.

If you think you may be the victim of identity theft, visit www.identitytheft.gov to report the incident and get help. You can also report a suspicious message to ReportFraud.ftc.gov and the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) or call (866) 720-5721.

Eviction panic

Eviction has been another hardship people are facing during the pandemic. And you can bet that scammers are there to take advantage. The Biden Administration has extended the moratorium on evictions to Oct. 3, and it’s easy to become confused with everything surrounding this action.

People are looking for any help as they face the deadline when they have to leave their homes. The Better Business Bureau reports that scammers are swooping in to offer their “assistance” in the form of debt relief, government aid and loans.

Here are some examples of how this scam works:

  • The BBB Scam Tracker report includes the story of a victim being denied any legitimate loans. Then a call came in saying that their loan was approved. The caller said that the money will only be sent once the borrower increased their credit score. This could be done by depositing money in the borrower’s account, who in turn would send the money back and increase their score. The victim sent $1,000 but never received it in return, which led to an overdrafted account.
  • When offering a federal grant, the scammer will request that the victim pays an upfront fee to process the payment. You pay the fee and the scammer disappears. There is no grant.
  • The same trick comes along with debt relief and credit repair scams. The scammer will offer to fix your credit, even promising to erase late payments or bankruptcy, in exchange for advanced payment. Once you send the money, it’s gone for good and your credit will remain unchanged (aside from the money you just doled out to a crook).

The BBB offers the following tips to avoid falling victim to these types of scams:

  • Double check any government program before you sign up. If an organization is offering you a grant or relief funds, get to know them before you agree to anything. Take a close look at their website and read reviews. If you think you might be dealing with an impostor, find the official contact information and call the company to make sure the offer is legitimate.
  • Be wary of out-of-the-blue calls, emails or text message claiming to be from the government. In general, the government will not contact you using these methods, unless you granted permission.
  • Think something seems suspicious? Reach out to the agency directly. If you doubt that a government representative is legitimate, hang up the phone or stop emailing. Then, report the suspicious calls or messages. Make sure the agency is real. Scammers often make up names of agencies and/or grants.
  • Do not pay any money for a “free” government grant or program. It is not really free if there is a fee involved. A real government agency will not ask for an advanced processing fee. Instead, find out if the grant is legitimate by checking grants.gov.
  • Advance fees are a concern. Not all businesses promising to help you repair bad credit are scams, but if you are asked to pay in advance, that’s a big red flag. In both the U.S. and Canada, credit repair and debt relief companies can only collect their fee after they perform the services promised.
  • Avoid guarantees and unusual payment methods. Real lenders never guarantee a loan in advance. They will check your credit score and other documents before providing an interest rate and/or loan amount and will not ask you to pay an upfront fee. Fees are never paid via gift cards, CashApp, or prepaid debit card. Unusual payment methods and payments to an individual are a big tip off.

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?

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When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances

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Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit

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Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.

 

 

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