Gunning Daily News

5 Tips to Avoid Fees, Traps and Moving Scams

May 29, 2013 4:32 pm

A recent Consumer Reports story found that last year, Massachusetts officials sued one moving company and New Jersey officials sued two for providing low-ball estimates and then grossly inflating fees after loading the trucks. One of the companies had threatened to auction the possessions of customers who didn’t pay.

Hiring a moving company can be complicated, and even an honest mover can disappoint a consumer unless they know their rights. And those rights can vary depending on whether you’re moving between states or within one. Consumers need to protect themselves, and here’s how:

Get recommendations. Try not to rely on newspaper, phone-book, or online ads for the names of movers. Instead, get recommendations from friends, family, or reliable real-estate agents. Plan to obtain estimates from at least three companies. Avoid movers that can’t provide an address or licensing information. Ask if they have marked trucks, and use a mover that does. Never hire a company that relies solely on a phone or online estimate, or one that requires a large deposit.

Verify licensing. In August New Jersey officials announced a sting operation that resulted in fines against 25 unlicensed moving companies with listings on Craigslist, Angie’s List, and other websites.  Several movers had outstanding warrants; two were wanted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Interstate movers are licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which offers information on how to screen them, at www.protectyourmove.gov. The site also has a list of state regulators who oversee in-state movers. (Click on “State/Local Resources.”)

Check for complaints. Along with licensing information, the federal website and some state sites list complaints against movers. Also check the BBB (bbb.org), and search with the company’s name to find reviews and complaints on online forums and complaint websites.

Know your rights. The federal government and some states require movers to provide booklets explaining your rights. Although the federal “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” doesn’t apply to in-state movers, it’s a must-read for all. Find the title under “Are You Moving?” at www.protectyourmove.gov. Also check the consumer information on the American Moving & Storage Association’s website (moving.org).

Making Complaints. If there’s a problem after the move—you notice items are damaged or missing—contact the mover immediately. The mover should have given you a copy of its procedures for handling complaints and inquiries. If you think you’ve been defrauded or that the mover violated the law, contact your state attorney general or consumer protection agency. If you think the mover is illegally holding your possessions and trying to rip you off, contact the police. If ultimately you need to sue in small-claims court, send your mover a demand letter with your complaint and what you’re seeking.

Source: Consumer Reports


Q: What Are Some Costs Associated with Buying a New Home?

May 29, 2013 4:32 pm

A: You can expect moving expenses, loan costs, the down payment, a home inspection, title work and policy, and paying for a new hazard insurance policy. Your lender can give you a disclosure of estimated costs when you apply to be pre-approved for a home loan.


Word of the Day

May 29, 2013 4:32 pm

Lien. A debt on a property which encumbers it until the obligation is paid; a mortgage, back taxes, or other claim.


Aging Americans Are Fighting to Stay Wired (to the Phone)

May 28, 2013 5:20 pm

As a wireless kind of guy, I was recently connected to a survey that showed those age 50 and older are fighting to stay wired to their residential phone service while continuing to utilize their wireless or cell phones.

The Connecticut AARP survey, which was published nationally, indicated that while cell phone usage is very high among the senior population (89 percent), 84 percent of respondents indicated they were not likely to drop their landline. Respondents most often say they intend to keep their landlines because they want the security it offers in case of an emergency or because cell phone service is not dependable where they live.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents also supported AARP working with federal and state policymakers to ensure that telecommunications services are affordable, reliable, and accessible to all residents.

AARP Connecticut Director Nora Duncan said her agency and other consumer advocates are opposing legislation that could put landlines at risk for thousands of customers whose service includes additional features such as caller ID, call-waiting or long distance.

According to the survey, nine out of ten residents over age 50 say they currently have landline telephone service at home. More than three-quarters of these residents (76 percent) pay a set monthly price for a ‘package’ of services that could include, in addition to their basic phone service, call waiting, caller ID, or long distance.

Pending Connecticut legislation would allow AT&T to drop competitive landline telephone service in Connecticut by simply notifying the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. Advocates also oppose legislation that would prohibit future state regulation of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

Down in Kentucky, AARP is also supporting the use of advanced technologies; but not at the risk of leaving rural, low-income and fixed-income Kentuckians without access to basic phone service, including 911-emergency service.

On behalf of our 460,000 Kentucky members, AARP has vowed to stay in the fight on telephone deregulation. AARP and its grassroots citizen advocates are in the fight to win for AARP members and all Kentuckians who want a choice in keeping their landline telephone service.

Colorado and New Jersey are among a growing number of other states working to protect access to landline and telecom services for its seniors and residents. Learn more about where your state stands on telecom regulation at aarp.org.


7 Top Ways to Gift a Graduating Teen

May 28, 2013 5:20 pm

If there’s a high school graduate on your gift list this spring, it’s good to remember that cash is king to most teenagers, who undoubtedly have big plans to start a job or college soon and/or to enjoy a last fun-only summer.

But if giving cash to your favorite teen does not seem personal enough, there are plenty of fun and unusual ways to make the gift memorable. From Omaha mom Jane Crawford, an aunt to eight Nebraska teens, here are seven ideas she has used with great success over the years:

  • Put it in a wallet – Choose a good leather wallet that will last for years. Put the cash in the wallet and wrap the wallet as a gift.
  • Clip it – For a boy, clip the money in a quality money clip that has been engraved with his initials.
  • Box it – for a girl, choose a small jewelry or keepsake box and insert the cash before you wrap the box.
  • Book it – Put the money in a card and place the envelope, like a bookmark, in the book of your choice – perhaps a book on investing.
  • Bank it – Choose a fat pink piggy bank or any bank that appeals to you. Before you wrap it, stuff it with dollar bills. Include some change to make it jingle.
  • Turn it into gift cards – Disperse the cash into gift cards to the teen’s favorite stores. Include a note encouraging happy shopping – with or without your company.
  • Turn it into college cash – If you know what school your teen will be attending in the fall, get online and turn your gift into a spending account he or she can use for meals, books and more on campus.

Summer of Savings: Tips for a Financially Sane Summer

May 28, 2013 5:20 pm

Parents, the green season is upon us. Summer. And the “green” doesn’t just stand for the leafy trees kids climb and the lawns through which they chase fireflies. It stands for cold hard cash. Kids cost money all year long, of course, but summer brings with it a slew of extra expenses: summer childcare programs…summer camps…extravagant family vacations.

According to financial counselor and bestselling author Eric Tyson, if parents aren’t careful, they can easily find themselves living a summer lifestyle they really can’t afford.

“Many people assume, ‘Oh, it’s summertime—of course we have to take a fabulous family vacation,” says Tyson, author of Personal Finance For Dummies®.

Tyson says overspending on summer activities and “stuff” doesn’t do kids any favors. In fact, your conspicuous consumption may be teaching them poor money management habits, which sets them up for problems in their own financial lives down the road.

“Make this the summer that you rein in your spending and start teaching kids by example how to make smart financial decisions,” urges Tyson. “You may be surprised to find that, far from feeling that you’re sacrificing, this is the most fun, fulfilling summer you’ve ever had.”

No matter where your wanderlust leads you and your family, you can cut costs. Here are a few tips:

Plan, plan, plan. Do plenty of research before you ever leave home so you’ll know the best and most budget-friendly activities and destinations in advance. “It’s when we fail to plan ahead that we fall prey to overpriced tourist traps,” notes Tyson.

Don’t go overboard on the hotel. There’s really no reason to spend big bucks on a room you’ll do little more than sleep in.

BYOF: Bring your own food. If you’re taking the family to a theme park, bring along a backpack of snacks. (If you don’t, be prepared for some serious sticker shock!) And choose a hotel room with a kitchen (or vacation home) so you can prepare a few meals in.

Don’t buy a bunch of T-shirts and trinkets. It’s usually better to spend the money on photos than “keepsakes” (i.e., clutter you don’t need).

If your child brings along a friend, make sure he pays his own way. “Don’t assume that because Billy is inviting his friend Josh, you have to pay for Josh’s meals, amusement park tickets, and so forth,” says Tyson. “If you aren’t comfortable having a frank discussion with Josh’s parents ahead of time about who pays for what, don’t invite him.”

Strapped for cash? Dream up creative vacation alternatives. For instance, you can “vacation at home” by spending a week exploring fun, kid-friendly destinations—zoos, museums, gemstone mines—within easy driving distance of your home. Or spend a few nights camping in a local wilderness spot. (Assuming you already have the tents, sleeping bags, and other gear, that is; otherwise you’ll spend a fortune on your “roughing it” adventure!) Or visit relatives you rarely see who have an unfamiliar lifestyle—if you’re a “city mouse” family, spend a few days on the farm with Great Aunt Bertha.

“The point is, you can find endless fun and educational activities that don’t require a major outlay of money,” says Tyson. “Use your imagination.”

Skip the expensive summer camp. It’s easy to see why summer camps are popular: kids get to spend weeks on end swimming and playing sports. Unfortunately, these adventures can cost thousands of dollars, and especially if you have more than one child, can be costly. If summer camp is a “must” for your kids, seek out the more affordable ones run by non-profit organizations or churches, says Tyson. But don’t assume your kids have to go to summer camp at all.

“If you think about it, this is the time of year families should be together,” he says. “The kids are out of school; they don’t have homework to take up their time; the weather is nice—wouldn’t it be better to spend that time doing fun things as a family?”

Don’t rule out “summer jobs” for your kids. If you’re worried that, in the absence of summer camp, your kids will spend their summer lounging in front of the TV and computer and playing video games, put them to work. No, seriously, says Tyson. In addition to their regular chores, give your kids summer projects to complete, such as painting their rooms (under your supervision, of course) or designing, planting, and maintaining a flower garden in the yard. Or volunteer them to walk an elderly neighbor’s dog or (if they’re old enough) cut her lawn.

“Working is good for kids,” notes Tyson. “You can pay them a modest allowance for their labor, which helps them learn financial responsibility.”

Encourage your kids to give this summer, not receive. Spending lots of money on kids, whether in the form of vacations, summer camps, or brand new bikes, can breed materialism and a sense of entitlement. You can counteract these forces by insisting that your children spend some time giving back this summer. This will also help foster compassion for others in your children.

“There are many nonprofit organizations for which kids and entire families can volunteer,” says Tyson. “Of course, it doesn’t have to be that structured. You can make a decision to, say, visit nursing home residents once a week. Adopting a ‘cause’ as a family helps kids gain a healthier perspective to see that others are less fortunate, and frankly, it serves as a good reminder for parents as well.”

Source:  www.erictyson.com

 


Q: How Does a Lease Option Work?

May 28, 2013 5:20 pm

A: A landlord agrees to give a renter an exclusive option to purchase the property.  The option price is usually determined at the outset, but not always, and the agreement states when the purchase should take place – whether, say, six months, or a year or two down the road.    

A portion of the rent is used to make the future down payment.  Most lenders will accept the down payment if the rental payments exceed the market rent and a valid lease-purchase agreement is in effect.

Before you opt to do a lease option, find out as much as possible about how they work.  Talk to real estate agents, read published materials, and, in the end, have an attorney review any paperwork before you and the tenant sign on the dotted line.

 


Word of the Day

May 28, 2013 5:20 pm

License.  A privilege or right granted to a person by a state to operate as a real estate broker or salesperson.


Summer Pest Prevention Tips

May 25, 2013 10:54 am

Throughout the U.S., ants are a major concern for Americans. Ants can enter homes through the tiniest cracks and look for sweet, greasy or protein-based foods. They leave an invisible pheromone trail for other ants to follow once they find a food source. Ants are not only a nuisance: carpenter ants can be a threat to homes and structures, pharaoh ants can transmit diseases and fire ants can be harmful if a person is allergic to their painful stings.

"Fire ants are very active and aggressive and can sting animals and humans repeatedly when threatened or searching for prey," says Orkin entomologist and technical services director Ron Harrison. "They attach themselves to their victim with their mandibles and inject venom through their stingers. People in the Southeast are most likely to encounter fire ants, although they have been seen as far north as Maryland and as far west as California."

To help protect yourself from fire ants, which prefer hot, sunny locations, survey large open areas like athletic fields and try to stay in the shade and cooler areas. You can prevent other ants from coming into your home by remembering the following tips:

  • Clean up spilled food and drinks immediately, and keep food stored tightly, especially during outdoor picnics.
  • Rinse out cans before putting them into recycling bins.
  • Seal cracks around doors and windows.
  • Keep gutters and downspouts clean and keep plants away from the home's foundation.

According to Orkin's survey, the biggest concerns with mosquitoes are that they could bite, sting or attack (58 percent) and could give you a disease (52 percent). The majority (82 percent) of respondents are aware that mosquitoes can cause West Nile Virus and more than half (60 percent) are aware that they can cause malaria. People are most afraid of getting West Nile Virus (54 percent). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year had the highest number of West Nile Virus disease cases reported since 2003. The CDC also said 80 percent of the 5,387 total cases last year were reported from 13 states, and one-third of all cases were reported from Texas.

"A variety of environmental conditions can impact mosquito species and the diseases associated with them," says Harrison. "So scientists are not exactly sure why Texas saw the highest number of cases. It just goes to show mosquito 'hot spots' can pop up, so be vigilant and cautious."

To prevent you and your family from being a meal for mosquitoes, Harrison suggests the following:

  • Make sure to take the time before heading outside to apply an EPA-approved insect repellent.
  • Prime mosquito-biting time is at dawn and dusk, so, if possible, wear long sleeves and pants if you're outside during those times.
  • Empty any standing water from bird baths and thin vegetation from around the home.
  • Make sure screens on windows and doors fit tightly and have no holes to prevent mosquitoes from coming indoors.

Two additional potentially dangerous summer pests are bees and wasps. Wasps can sting multiple times, while bees can only sting once before dying. Bees and wasps share two of the same characteristics: they can exist where humans live and can be dangerous if disturbed.

"Because 5 percent of the population has severe reactions to stings and 1 to 2 percent is highly allergic, it is not advised you try to get rid of bees or wasps on your own," warns Harrison. "These are pests you do not want to mess with because it takes a trained professional to determine what type of bee or wasp nest it is. For instance, Africanized honey bees, also known as killer bees, can swarm and repeatedly sting the person or animal that threatened their nest."

The following steps can help prevent bees and wasps from pestering you while enjoying time outdoors:

  • Frequently monitor around your home for nests.
  • If bees or wasps are flying around you, act calmly.
  • Keep food containers tightly wrapped or secured while outdoors, and don't leave food out in the open.
  • Empty garbage cans often.

If you find a bee hive around your home, contact a local apiary for more information on removing it. Because bees are important pollinators, Orkin encourages consumers to have hives relocated when possible.

Bed bugs have become such a problem in the U.S. that, according to Orkin's survey, nearly 40 percent of people say they inspect their room for bed bugs. Although not necessarily a "summer pest," bed bugs are still a concern during this season, since that is when Americans tend to vacation and are more likely to unknowingly bring them home in luggage.

"Education and prevention are key," says Harrison. "Inspect your bedroom regularly, and be cautious when traveling—whether it is business or pleasure, or to visit family, friends or vacation. We need to be vigilant wherever we are and take the proper precautions so that one bed bug does not turn into a major infestation."

Source: www.orkin.com.


Tips for Recovering Storm-Damaged Cars

May 25, 2013 10:54 am

The process of recovering and rebuilding from severe weather can be daunting, but when it comes to damaged or destroyed cars, it’s best to begin as soon as possible.  

You can get an idea of whether you have coverage for storm-related damages by getting out your policy and seeing if comprehensive (also sometimes referred to as "other than collision") coverage is included.

This coverage type is not required by law and is the only one that will compensate drivers for vehicle damages caused by weather-related events like tornadoes and hail.

Drivers without this type of protection can prepare for the next storm by checking to see how much it would cost to add it to their policy by using an online quote-comparison tool.

Know your deductible

If you do have this coverage type, one thing you should be aware of is your deductible.

When you bought your policy, you and your agent or insurer agreed on a set dollar amount that you would have to pay before your comprehensive coverage actually kicks in. So if you have a $500 deductible and the damage to your car will cost $1,500 to repair, you'll likely have to pay your insurer $500 before they cover the remaining $1,000.

Filing your claim

To start your claim, call your agent or your insurance company's claims hotline with your policy information in hand. The number for the claims hotline may be on the proof of insurance card you keep in your glove box. If not, you can likely find it on the company website.

If you feel that temporary vehicle repairs are necessary to prevent further damage, ask the contact at your insurance company about the best way to go about doing that. The best route may end up being paying for the temporary repairs, saving the receipt and then seeking reimbursement from your insurer.

Also, make sure to take photos of the damage.

Source: http://www.onlineautoinsurance.com