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  • How to Check If a Debt Collector Is Legitimate

    Figures from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) show that about 70 million people"more than a quarter of adults in the United States"either have a debt in collection or have been contacted about one.

    Some of those people are wrongly contacted by debt collectors. Reasons include contacting the wrong person for the wrong amount, or for debt that cant legally be enforced, according to the CFPB.

    Some calls are from debt collectors who arent legitimate and dont represent an original creditor or dont own the debt. In other words, theyre outright scams.

    There are a few warning signs that a debt collector isnt legitimate. Here are a few, according to the CFPB:

    They hang up when you question them
    Ask the caller for their name, company, street address and telephone number. If your state licenses debt collectors, ask for their professional license number. If they wont give you any of that information, or they hang up when you ask for such information, then its probably a scam.

    Dont give personal, financial information or money to the caller until youve confirmed theyre legit.

    Criminal charges threatened
    Legitimate debt collectors shouldnt have to claim that theyll have you arrested.

    You dont recognize the debt
    If debt collectors refuse to give you information about your debt, or you dont recognize the debt, you can request more information in writing before you pay.

    Dont discuss any debt until you get a written validation notice, says the CFPB. The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor you owe, and a description of certain rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

    They ask for personal information
    Any caller who asks for personal information should be avoided, including fake debt collectors.

    This can include a request to confirm personal financial or other sensitive information such as your bank account, credit card or Social Security Number. Scam artists can use this information to commit identity theft and charge your credit cards or open new credit card or checking accounts in your name.

    They wont stop contacting you
    If you dont want a debt collector to call you anymore " whether theyre legit or a fraud " you can ask them to stop calling you. The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act requires them to stop contacting you if you tell them in writing to stop.

    If its a legitimate debt, that doesnt mean the debt will go away. These tips will help if you’re being wrongly contacted.

    Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • Should You Ask Someone to Co-Sign Your Mortgage?

    If you’ve found the house of your dreams but are having trouble qualifying for a mortgage, you could ask another person to co-sign your mortgage. Here are some things to consider.

    Reasons to Have a Co-Signer

    Buying your first house, high credit card balances or a poor credit history are all valid reasons for having a co-signer.

    Co-Signer Considerations

    If you ask someone to co-sign a mortgage, expect them to have legitimate reservations.

    Doing so will increase their debt-to-income ratio.

    Should You Ask Someone to Co-Sign?

    Before you ask someone to co-sign, make sure you can afford the monthly mortgage payments.

    If you have any doubts, put off home buying until you save more money and improve your credit score.

    Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • At-Home Date Nights That May Beat Going Out

    Whether its because you have kids at home and no babysitter, or because your favorite date-night haunts are currently off the table, most of us are spending far more time at home these days"and nights"than wed like. Here are some fresh, new date night ideas to help make your evenings at home more fun.

    • Pick a puzzle – Remember jigsaw puzzles? Those 500-piece challenges you were tempted to save and frame after all the fun and work that went into them? Pick out one that recalls your favorite vacation spot, or the destination next on your bucket list, and spend the evening puzzling.
    • Have dessert for dinner – Whether you order in your favorite dessert from a local restaurant, build your own towering ice cream sundaes, or choose a delectable recipe and cook it together, throw nutrition under the bus for one night and indulge your sweet tooth together.
    • Make it a tapas night – If you cant get behind a sweets-only dinner, make tapas together instead. The Spanish custom of assorted appetizers offers lots of leeway and a broad array of food choices, such as thin sliced ham, cheeses, pickles, flatbreads, sauces and dips. Let your taste buds be your guide, then arrange your tapas feast attractively on boards or platters and enjoy with your favorite music as background.
    • Enjoy a spa night – Fill up the tub and surround yourselves with scented candles, plush towels and your best lotions and soaps.
    • Have a candle-lit evening – Turn off the lights and your cell-phones, light some tapers and scented pillars, and spend the evening by candle light. Eat, read to each other, listen to music or stroll down memory lane perusing the pages of an old photo album.
    • Plan a trip – A flight to Paris? A cross-country road-trip? An over-water bungalow in Fiji? Most airlines, resorts and cruise companies are offering great prices on post-pandemic vacations booked now. Spend an evening deciding on your next destination and scoping out prices, cuisines, sight-seeing musts and all things related to your next trip.

    Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • Eat Better With These Veggie Prep Strategies

    The pressure to add more vegetables to our diet is real. Vegetables are a critical part of our health and well-being, providing essential nutrients to help our bodies function optimally and helping us stave off disease and lose weight.

    The problem is, unlike many packaged foods, fresh veggies take some creativity and effort in order to turn them into appealing and delicious meals or sides. Thats why so many of us neglect to eat them"we just dont have the time or desire to prep them after a busy day. Thankfully, taking a little time on the weekend to get vegetables ready to go during the week goes a long way toward eating more of them each day. Use the following strategies from The Food Network to prepare and store veggies for easy access all week long.

    While you may think that onions are just for adding flavor, they actually possess many health benefits. According to Healthline, onions contain antioxidants and compounds that fight inflammation, decrease triglycerides and reduce cholesterol levels, all of which may help lower heart disease.

    To make sure you have plenty of onions ready to toss into your meals all week, slice in. off the top and remove its papery outer layer. Place it cut side down on a cutting board, and slice it vertically. Place one half at a time flat side down and make in vertical slices; then rotate it 90 degrees and make vertical slices in the other direction. Repeat this process with both halves until you have a fine dice. Store the diced onions in an airtight container and place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the onions before closing. This will prevent the lid from absorbing the odor.

    Peppers of all colors have an array of health benefits. Red, yellow and orange varieties are a great source of vitamins A and C, and bell peppers contain fiber, folate and iron. They also work well in many dishes, from scrambled eggs to pasta.

    To prep them for the week, stand the pepper on a cutting board and cut the sides off, avoiding the stem and core. Then cut the bottom off and discard the rest. Remove the seeds and cut away membranes. Then slice them in strips or dice depending on how you like to use them. Wrap the cut peppers in a sheet of paper towels and place in an airtight storage container.

    Theres a long list of health benefits associated with broccoli" its packed with vitamins and minerals, contains potent antioxidants, helps reduce inflammation and may also help protect against certain types of cancer, as do all cruciferous vegetables.

    To make sure you have plenty of broccoli on hand for the week, hold it upside down by the stalk and cut away the florets. Halve any larger florets into smaller pieces. Wrap the cut broccoli in damp paper towels and keep inside the crisper drawer in your fridge. Make sure the container you place it in is uncovered to avoid yellowing.

    Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • 5 Steps to Keep Your Smart Home Safe

    Ensure that your smart home is safe from potential threats with these steps.

    Create a Separate Network

    Have a separate wifi network for your smart devices to run on, which can be done without having to purchase an additional router.

    Review Privacy Settings

    Do research to get a better sense of what the manufacturer or service provider has access to.

    Change Default Passwords

    When you get a new smart product, be sure to change the default password.

    Install the Latest Updates

    Software updates include improved security features, so set your smart products to automatically update.

    Consider a VPN

    When using public networks to control your smart products, use a VPN, virtual private network, to encrypt your connection.

    Published with permission from RISMedia.

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