If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it’s a robocall. Americans have seen a significant increase in the number of illegal robocalls because internet-powered phone systems have made it cheap and easy for scammers to make illegal calls from anywhere in the world, and to hide from law enforcement by displaying fake caller ID information.
To date, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC ) has brought more than a hundred lawsuits against more than 600 companies and individuals responsible for billions of illegal robocalls and other Do Not Call violations.
The FTC also is leading several initiatives to develop technology-based solutions. Those initiatives include a series of robocall contests that challenge tech gurus to design tools that block robocalls and help investigators track down and stop robocallers. The FTC also is encouraging industry efforts to combat caller ID spoofing. Here’s the FTC’s game plan to combat robocalls:
continue aggressive law enforcement
build better tools for investigating robocalls
coordinate with law enforcement, industry, and other stakeholders
Nearly half of U.S. adults have reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the virus, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
A new NFCC survey finds situations that immensely exacerbate financial worries include not having enough savings, losing a job and the inability to pay debts.
Many large health insurance companies as well as Medicare have increased their capacity and coverage for telehealth visits with mental health providers.
Here are some tips from the mental health and financial experts on how best to cope with these common money stressors.
1. Not enough savings
If you find yourself struggling financially and have a limited emergency fund — or none at all — focus instead on what you can control. “First, carefully examine your expenses and reprioritize your spending. Cut out everything but the essentials , such as, mortgage or rent, food, utilities and insurance,” said author and certified financial planner Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, who is also president of the Charles Schwab Foundation. “If you’re unable to pay a bill, contact your creditors right away. They may be willing to negotiate a payment schedule or waive late fees.
2. Job loss
If you haven’t already, file for unemployment benefits immediately through your state’s program. There will likely be a lag time until you receive your first check.
Make sure you still have health insurance. You could switch to COBRA to receive the same coverage you had under your employer for the next 18 months, but you have to pay for it yourself at a considerably higher cost than you were paying as an employee. “Do some comparison-shopping.”
Nearly half of U.S. adults currently have credit card debt and 13% of them are not paying anything at all or don’t have a plan on how to pay, according to a report by CreditCards.com.
Consider temporarily paying only the minimum on mortgage/rent, car loans and student loans as well, said Schwab-Pomerantz, whose Schwab MoneyWise website has a list of resources to help during the Covid-19 crisis. More help could be available. You may be able to lower or suspend your mortgage payments for up to one year in some cases. Contact your lender. If you’re having trouble paying your rent, talk to your landlord about your situation and your options. Some states and municipalities are providing eviction restrictions for impacted individuals. Many utilities and phone companies have stopped cutting off services for nonpayment. Call them.
COVID-19 has thrown the economy into a tailspin. Many people have been laid off, furloughed, or are working fewer hours. And as wages dry up, bills can pile up.
Debt can be tricky. Here are some ideas about how you can manage your debts and start regaining your financial well being.
Gather your bills: Make a list of your monthly bills: rent/mortgage, car payment, utilities, student loans, medical bills, and anything else. Consider how much you need for food, medicine, and other necessities.
Ask for help: Many companies have special programs to help people right now. Contact the companies you owe money to and try to work out a new payment plan with lower payments or delayed due dates. Make sure to get any changes in writing.
Trouble paying your mortgage? Here’s some advice on how to manage that problem. If you have a government-backed mortgage, you may be able to delay payment by contacting your servicer.
Need additional help? Check out ftc.gov/creditcounselor for tips on how to choose a counselor who really helps you out.
Prioritize if you need to: If you still can’t pay everything on time, look at what would happen if you couldn’t pay each bill and decide which bills to pay first. Would you lose your home? Would your car be repossessed? Would your debt go into collection and affect your credit report?
Watch out for scams: In stressful times, scammers are everywhere. Beware of any company that guarantees that creditors will forgive your debts, or makes you pay up front for help. If you are looking for debt relief, make sure to find help you can trust.
For many people, how to pay for a college education is one of the major financial decisions before deciding on a school. There are many different ways to pay for college. Understanding your choices can help you make the right decision for your situation.
Start by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
A critical first step for many prospective students is to complete the FAFSA . FAFSA completion is an important part of the student aid process.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, some states have extended their FAFSA deadlines. . Contact your school’s financial aid office to find out if their priority FAFSA deadline has been extended.
Why fill out the FAFSA?
Filling out the FAFSA is required if you want to apply for federal assistance, including grants, loans and work study. Your eligibility for need-based federal aid, such as Pell Grants and subsidized student loans is determined by your FAFSA submission.
Filling out the FAFSA does not commit you to taking out student loans or accepting the financial aid offered. However, if you do not submit a FAFSA you will not be able to access federal grants or other forms of federal financial aid.
In addition, states typically require students to complete the FAFSA to qualify for state grant programs, and most colleges and universities will not consider awarding any institutional aid, until the FAFSA has been submitted.
Even if you have not finalized your plans for this fall, consider filling out the 2020-2021 FAFSA sooner rather than later, many state and schools award aid on a first-come, first-serve basis and may have established earlier, “priority” deadlines. If you miss a key deadline to complete the FAFSA, you will limit your ability to qualify for state or institutional funding.
While car ownership has been a cultural milestone in our society, this tradition is diminishing with a trend toward renting or borrowing rather than owning. This situation is partially related to fewer teenagers opting to obtain a driver’s license. Also, fewer young people are buying homes, giving preference to the flexibility of renting.
The owning of “stuff” is shifting toward “decluttering” and choosing instead to rent items as needed. A strong belief that overconsumption is putting our planet at risk is driving the rise of the sharing economy. In addition, there is a growing trust to value exchanging items with “real people” rather than buying from major companies.
In addition to Zipcar, which rents vehicles by the hour, other rental business models include:
Ann Taylor’s Infinite Style service that allows a person, for a $95 monthly fee, to rent up to three garments at a time.
SnapGoods rents cameras, power tools and home appliances, such as blenders.
Frankfurt airport has a service that allows travelers to store winter coats when flying to warmer climates. Other businesses are considering a service to rent cold weather clothing to travelers arriving from tropical areas.
Since about one-third of new vehicles are leased, Cadillac created the “Book By Cadillac” program allowing a person to exchange up to 18 vehicles a year.
The many empty stores in malls create opportunities for “swap meets” and “rental fairs” for various products, using these spaces to also build connections in the local community.
For additional information on renting instead of buying, click here.
Have students locate examples of sharing economy businesses and rental companies in your community and online.
Have students talk to others to obtain ideas for new types of rental businesses.
What do you believe are the benefits and drawbacks of renting instead of owning?
Describe actions that might be taken to determine needs and ideas for rental businesses in a community.
In March 2018, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported on their 2017 activities to combat illegal debt collection practices. The CFPB handled approximately 84,500 debt collection complaints, making it one of the most prevalent topics of complaints about consumer financial products or services. The Bureau offered five sample letters that consumers may use when they interact with debt collectors.
The FTC resolved 10 cases against 42 defendants and obtained more than $64 million in judgements, focused on curbing egregious debt collection practices, including phantom departments, schools, non-profit organizations, banks, credit unions, other businesses and government agencies. The agency logged more than 60 million views on its webpages, with its videos seen more than 581,000 times at YouTube.com/FTC, and its consumer blogs reaching 199,860 (English) and 50,480 (Spanish) email subscribers.
Millions of Americans are dealing with debt overload every day. If you’re struggling to pay your loans, credit cards or other bills, here are some steps you can take to begin managing your debt problems.
Create a budget.
Try to get a clear picture of your monthly income and expenses.
Contact your creditors about easier ways to make your most important bill payments.
Have a strategy for saving money on interest and fees.
Consider getting help from a reputable credit counselor.
Know your rights if a debt collector contacts you.
Know someone who’s behind on their bills? Maybe debt collectors are calling for payment? The Federal Trade Commission’s new debt collection video can help you understand your legal rights – and may lower your stress level. In the video, you’ll see how bad debt collectors try to get you to pay up. Bad debt collectors will say anything to get you to pay – and they’ll make it feel urgent to get you to pay immediately. But there are laws to protect you. Debt collectors:
Can’t call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
Can’t use profanity, threaten violence or harass you to pay
May not lie or pretend to be someone they’re not
Cannot ask you to pay a debt that doesn’t even exist
Can’t threaten you with arrest or deportation
Cannot tell anyone – except your spouse or attorney – about your debt
If a debt collector calls and uses any of these tactics, hang up and report it to the FTC. Remember: you have the right to be treated fairly – no matter what.
Consumers across the country report that they’re getting telephone calls from people trying to collect loans the consumers never received or on loans they did receive for amounts they do not owe. Others are receiving calls from people seeking to recover on loans consumers received but where the creditors never authorized the callers to collect them.
The FTC is warning consumers to be alert for scam artists posing as debt collectors. It may be hard to tell the difference between a legitimate debt collector and a fake one.
A caller may be a fake debt collector if he/she:
is seeking payment on a debt for a loan you do not recognize;
refuses to give you a mailing address or phone number;
asks for personal financial or sensitive information; or
exerts high pressure to try to scare you into paying, such as threatening to have you arrested or to report you to a law enforcement agency.