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Stimulus Check Scams: IRS Says Fraud Attempts at Record High



To the millions of people with three rounds of Economic Impact Payments under their belt, stimulus checks may seem like a relic of the early pandemic — like dalgona coffee or baking bread.

But not, apparently, to fraudsters.

The IRS revealed this week that it got “a record number of reports” about stimulus check scams in June and July. Amid curiosity around whether there will be a fourth stimulus check, scam attempts are reaching “levels we haven’t seen in more than a decade,” as Jim Lee, chief of IRS Criminal Investigation, said in a news release.

Many of the scam attempts came via text messages and phishing emails, both of which pushed consumers to click on links to claim their payments. A sample email provided by the IRS had the subject line “Notification : For security reasons, please re-enter the correct banking data previously provided to the IRS.” An example scam text began with “Congrats, we are pleased to inform you that your information was pick up for COVID-19 stimulus payment from the Federal Government by JOE BIDEN.”

COVID-19 scams aren’t a new problem. For the past year and a half, criminals have conned people out of their money and data by using billboards, Facebook, Zoom, job listings, robocalls and more. Thieves started out selling herbal supplements that supposedly cured the coronavirus, evolved into hawking fake vaccine appointments and are now targeting families’ advance child tax credit payments.

The Federal Trade Commission received roughly 360,000 fraud reports between Jan. 1, 2020, and this past Wednesday resulting in a loss of nearly $548 million. The vast majority involved online shopping and travel, but some 12,000 — or $15.8 million worth — were linked to government imposters.

“When money from the government is in the news, we know scammers are about to run their standard playbook,” FTC consumer education specialist Lisa Lake wrote in a June blog post.

How to know if that stimulus check text/email is a scam

First of all, you should know that the IRS is mostly a mail-based operation: It does not randomly reach out via email, text or social media to ask people for their personal information. In fact, the IRS generally doesn’t even call taxpayers on the phone.

If the message contains a threat, asks for a gift card or requests cryptocurrency, it’s definitely not from the IRS. (Jail time for tax evasion is extremely rare.) Another red flag is if it has glaring grammar or spelling errors. (Notice the weird phrasing and capitalization in that scam text above.)

If you receive an IRS message that you suspect is fishy, contact the agency to report it here.

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What to do if you still haven’t gotten a stimulus check

You might have your defenses down and be more susceptible to a scam if you’re missing any of the stimulus checks.

To recap: Congress has approved three rounds of Economic Impact Payments in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. The bulk of these payments were sent out via direct deposit in March 2020 (maximum amount $1,200 per person), late December 2020/early January 2021 (max $600) and March 2021 (max $1,400). Federal lawmakers aren’t really talking about issuing a fourth stimulus check at this time, though some states have taken up the cause on an individual basis.

The IRS is also sending out what it’s calling “plus-up payments” to people whose 2020 tax returns indicated they were owed more stimulus money than the IRS initially calculated. These may seem like a fourth stimulus check, but they’re not.

If you’re missing the first or second stimulus check, you should have claimed the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 tax return.

If you’re missing the third stimulus check, consider using the IRS Get My Payment tool to see whether your money was sent. If it was, and you think the funds were lost or stolen, you can request a payment trace. And if all else fails, you can claim the Recovery Rebate Credit when you file your 2021 taxes next year.

Just don’t give your personal information to anyone suspicious in the meantime.

More from Money:

How to Spot a Stimulus Check Scam

7 Stimulus Check Myths, Debunked

8 Major Stimulus Check Problems and What You Can Do About Them

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?



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



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



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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