Gunning Daily News

Don’t Get Scammed by a Fraudulent Loan or Mortgage Scheme

January 3, 2013 6:02 pm

If you made a resolution to solve any credit issues or address mortgage challenges in the new year, then this is for you. We recently heard from some of the nation's most tried and true 'watchdogs' about an issue he will be monitoring closely in 2013 - mortgage fraud.

One is the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) -- a nonprofit leader in crime prevention. For more than 30 years, its mascot, McGruff the Crime Dog and the council have been watching out for consumers and 2013 will be no different.

The FBI is also on the case, since its most recent Mortgage Fraud Report indicates that more than $10 billion in loans originated with fraudulent application data in 2010. Another agency, the Federal Trade Commission has issued some red flags that can tip you off to scam artists’ attempts to get you to sign on the bottom line of a fraudulent mortgage or loan document.

In this segment, we'll begin to review these important tips, beginning with the usual suspects:

  • A lender who isn’t interested in your credit history. A lender may offer loans or credit cards for many purposes — for example, so a borrower can start a business or consolidate bill payments. But one who doesn’t care about your credit record should give you cause for concern.
  • It’s also a warning sign if a lender says they won’t check your credit history, yet asks for your personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account number. They may use your information to debit your bank account to pay a fee they’re hiding.
  • Ads that say “Bad credit? No problem” or “We don’t care about your past. You deserve a loan” or “Get money fast” or even “No hassle — guaranteed” often indicate a scam. Banks and other legitimate lenders generally evaluate creditworthiness and confirm the information in an application before they guarantee firm offers of credit — even to creditworthy consumers.

In the next segment we'll pick up with some additional tips on how to avoid mortgage and loan fraud. But in the meantime, if you think you’ve had an experience with an advance-fee loan scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Clean Closets Make a Happy Home

January 3, 2013 6:02 pm

(Family Features)—When it comes to getting the house clean and tidy, closets often get left off the to-do list. From hall closets and linen closets to bedroom closets, "out of sight, out of mind" thinking quickly leads to clutter -- and then frustration when you can't find what you need when you need it.

But a little planning and a few simple tips can help you get your closets in user-friendly shape in no time.

Put your closets on your calendar. Take stock of your schedule and commit some time to tackle your closets. Set realistic expectations -- you don't have to conquer all your closets at once. It may make sense for your family to forego TV one evening a week and focus on one closet at a time, for example.

Start by sorting.

  • If you haven't worn a piece of clothing in the past year -- or you can't remember the last time you wore something -- then you don't need it. Other items to purge from your closet: children's clothes and shoes that are either too small or too worn out to pass down to a sibling or a friend.
  • Sort your remaining clothes by season and then into piles to keep or pass down. If you have limited closet space, keep only the current season's wardrobe in your closet. Carefully pack and store the rest for later.
  • Linen closets stay more organized when you stack similar sized items together. Sort sheets by size, and group washcloths, hand towels and bath towels together.
  • For closets that hold everything from the vacuum cleaner to art supplies and anything in between, work one shelf at a time. Sort items by categories and dedicate one shelf or area of the closet to each group.
Eliminate excess -- but don't throw it away. As the saying goes, one man's trash is another's treasure. There are easy ways to donate your unwanted items to benefit those in need. One example is DonateStuff.com, where you can request pre-paid UPS shipping bags that make it simple and free to send in unwanted clothes, shoes, accessories and household linens. Your donation benefits one of three national nonprofits of your choosing: AMVETS, Easter Seals, or The Purple Heart. It's tax deductible, and it reduces waste. Americans throw away an average of 68 pounds of clothing each year. You can learn more at www.donatestuff.com.

Green up your storage. When it's time to put things back into place, instead of buying new containers to hold things, look around the house for boxes and containers you already heave. Baskets, crates and even empty shoeboxes can be reused to keep your closets more organized.

Repeat often. You don't have to wait until the next neighborhood yard sale before you sift through your closets again. As with most household chores, a little maintenance goes a long way to keep your closets looking neat and clean. You could even keep a bag in each of your kids' closets and encourage them to set aside gently used and outgrown items on a regular basis.

You'll be amazed at how much happier clean closets can make the whole house feel -- especially when you turn the stuff you don't need into a good deed.

Q: Is There Anything I Should Pay Special Attention to When Maintaining My Property?

January 3, 2013 6:02 pm

A: From the very beginning, get in the habit of taking an inventory at least once every year of every nook and cranny of your home to check for potential problems. Examine the roof, foundation, plumbing, electrical wiring – basically everything. Try to fix trouble spots as soon as you uncover them. This proactive approach will help you avoid larger expenses later on, so leave no stone unturned when taking your inventory.

Trends in Baby Furniture: Unique New Designs That Combine Comfort and Practicality

January 2, 2013 5:54 pm

Decorating the nursery is a distinct pleasure for most expectant parents. But it isn’t easy to choose furniture and accessories that offer style, comfort and practicality that will last for many years.

Design mavens at the ABC Kids Expo in Louisville, Ky. spotlighted six new products for parents who are looking for something different. They aren’t cheap, but they offer unique and modern styles created with beauty, safety and comfort in mind:

The Babycotpod – The most contemporary bassinets ever, Babycotpod designs feature an egg-shaped collection of baby furniture that is handcrafted of fine hardwoods with custom-painted exteriors. The Nuna and Cascara models offer a unique, sophisticated and comfy sleep space with built-in hood and carry handles. Prices begin at about $800.
The Gro-Crib - A crib that turns into a toddler bed, a day bed, a desk and a play table – with no screws or hinges. Designer David Singelyn’s crib has no mechanical fasteners and takes only minutes to put together. Not cheap at $1,400, but when you consider how many pieces of furniture you get in one, it’s great for those who can afford it.
Baby Dee Dee Sleep Nest – A cross between a soft, washable duvet and a wearable baby sleeping bag, this new innovation with shoulder snaps and a glow-in-the-dark zipper wraps baby in a soft cocoon, eliminates the need for loose blankets, and makes it easy to change diapers in the dark. Costs about $35.
The Petit Nest – An eco-friendly, made in America collection of cribs, dressers, gliders, wall art and more designed to last long beyond baby’s early years. Whimsical, playful styling with a distinct point of view that can later be integrated into the design of any home. Cribs and dressers cost between $1,400 and $1,700.
Ububub cribs – Unique, modern wood cribs with smooth, rounded edges and clear Lucite sides for best visibility for you and your baby. They feature a low profile, adjustable mattress positions, and no bars for baby to get stuck in. Cost? About $1,600.
Spa Baby Hot Tub – A soothing green ‘baby bucket’ that calms squirmy babies and keeps them safe at bath time. Provides a chest-high warm soak in a natural, womb-like position. Cost is about $38.

8 Tips to Help Children Deal with Trauma

January 2, 2013 5:54 pm

As we process and mourn the losses of the unthinkable Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy that has affected us both physically and emotionally, we must stay strong especially for the children who were traumatized that day. In an effort to help the families, Psychotherapist, author, and Positive Living Expert, Diane Lang, shares 8 tips on how to help kids deal with trauma.

It's difficult to comprehend even the possibility of the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Conn. Many of us are experiencing both physical and emotional affects as we all mourn the losses from that day and have deep sympathy and condolences for all those that were directly affected including the first responders.
In this time of sadness, we must remain strong especially for the kids who were traumatized. Here are eight tips to help kids deal with trauma:

Empathetic listening - Be empathetic to what the kids have been through. Put yourself in their shoes.
Be a good listener - Listen to your kids both verbally and non-verbally.
Be honest - Be honest and open, but age appropriate. Remember, age is just a number; know the child's maturity level and how much they can handle.
Assure the situation is temporary and they are safe - Let the child know the situation is temporary and they are doing everything in their power to make sure everyone is safe.
Allow time for a Q&A - Talking out in the open is an important way to cope.
Healing takes time/comfort as much as you can - It takes time to heal/comfort. Give the kids time to heal and be as warm as possible and comfort them as they heal.
Try to keep a sense of normalcy and routine- Don't make any sudden or drastic changes, if possible.
Watch your own behavior- If your kids see you upset and stressed, they will become more stressed. Kids are visual learners so watch your behaviors.

Diane Lang - Positive Living Expert and psychotherapist - is a nationally recognized author, educator, speaker, therapist and media expert.

Here’s to Health: 5 Grocery Staples

January 2, 2013 5:54 pm

It’s the question we ask ourselves almost every day: What’s for dinner?

Entwined in this daily dialogue is wondering whether we’ll need to dash into the grocery store on the way home from work. The next time we make one of those supermarket pit stops, Dr. Eudene Harry, author of “Live Younger in 8 Simple Steps,” would like us to veer in a new direction.

“When people shop on the go, they tend to gravitate toward old standbys and foods they can multipurpose with – usually not the most nutritious choices possible. But by substituting a few items on your list, you can not only look and feel more youthful, you’ll boost your resistance to certain cancers and other illnesses.”
Some of the most nutrition-packed foods not only taste great, they’re readily available at the grocery store and easy to prepare, Harry says.

“The more you eat, the more you’ll crave them.”

Here are five food combos for shoppers with healthy eating on their minds:
• Tomato, garlic, chicken and almonds: Tomatoes contain one of the world’s most concentrated sources of cancer-fighting lycopene, which is best absorbed from tomatoes that are cooked. Garlic has been used for centuries for various health purposes and is a known free-radical destroyer. Nuts help to lose weight, maintain healthy blood pressure and support moods; almond crumbs are a great substitute for bread crumbs on chicken. Pair these goodies with whole wheat couscous for a full dinner.
• Tempeh: With its high protein, fiber and isoflavones content, and meaty texture, tempeh is heavily utilized by vegetarians. It’s made from soybeans processed in a manner similar to cheese making. Like tofu, tempeh takes on the flavors with which it is cooked or marinated, including zesty-tangy balsamic vinegar – perfect for accentuating salads.
• Mashed cauliflower gone Greek: Mash some cauliflower with Greek yogurt! Not only does the “original” yogurt have a thicker texture and richer taste, it’s also denser in lactobacilli, the healthy bacteria that may delay the onset of cancer. And yogurt is low in fat and high in protein, which is essential for many body functions, including building and repairing muscle tissue, organs, bones and connective tissue. Rather than add fatty, cholesterol-filled butter and sour cream to starchy potatoes that stick to your ribs, why not pair two healthy options with mashed cauliflower with Greek yogurt and fresh black pepper for simple goodness?
• Sushi – wild salmon, minced cucumbers, shredded carrots, kelp, sesame seeds and rice: A sushi roll is much more filling and satisfying than a non-sushi eater would think. Many grocery chains offer ready-made rolls, but they are also fairly easy to make. A bamboo roller is a great start; place a sheet of nutrient-dense kelp as the first thing on the roller, and add, lengthwise, desired ingredients. Your first try is not likely to be perfect, but the tasty and healthy ingredients will be there.
• Fruit salad for dessert: Bring together chopped apples, strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon and pineapple with blueberries and grapes for a sweet and juicy post-dinner palate-cleanser. Lemon juice prevents fruits from bruising. If that’s not enough, combine the salad with Greek yogurt – perhaps blended with vanilla or almond extract – and fiber-filled granola for a parfait.

Dr. Eudene Harry holds a bachelor’s in biology from New York University and completed both her medical degree and residency training at Thomas Jefferson University. Currently the medical director for the integrative and holistic Oasis Wellness and Rejuvenation Center, she has practiced medicine for nearly 20 years, is board certified in both emergency and holistic medicine, and for more than a decade practiced emergency medicine as an attending physician in Level II trauma centers.

Word of the Day

January 2, 2013 5:54 pm

Counteroffer. An offer made in response to an earlier, unacceptable one; it terminates the original offer.

How to Choose a Cell Phone Service Plan

December 19, 2012 2:12 pm

Are you buying a cell phone service plan? How about giving one as a gift this holiday season? Since smartphones require a data plan for access to the Internet and many applications, the gift of a service plan would enable your recipient to use the phone right away. If you go this route, first figure out how much data the phone recipient will be using every month.

According to a September, 2012 NPD Connected Intelligence study, consumers are using more data than ever before. Android smartphone users download an average of 870 MB of data per month on cellular networks and about 2.5 GB per month on Wi-Fi networks. So what does that really mean? For context, with approximately one gigabyte (GB) of data, you could do one of the following tasks: view 1,000 web pages, send or receive 50,000 emails without attachments, stream 33 hours of music, post 2,800 pictures to Facebook, or watch 8+ hours of video on YouTube.

Knowing how the phone recipient will use it not only helps you find the right device, but the right data plan as well. Ask yourself:

  • How often will they check email on the device each day?
  • How often will they surf the web or check their social network?
  • How often will they share photos and documents?
  • How often will they download games, apps and music?
  • How often will they stream music and videos?

Compare service options to get the most for your money. Some plans offer a limited number of texts or data usage and charge hefty overage fees. Other plans include unlimited talk, text and data for multiple phone lines for a reasonable monthly fee.

In addition to contract plans, you can also consider a pre-paid plan.

Source: www.t-mobile.com/tools.

Word of the Day

December 19, 2012 2:12 pm

Competitive market analysis. A method of determining home value that looks at recent home sales, homes presently on the market, and homes that were listed but did not sell.

Q: Is It True You Never Really Stop Fixing up a Home?

December 19, 2012 2:12 pm

A: From the day you move in to the day you sell your home, there will always be something that will need to be repaired or remodeled. You may want to undertake some changes simply to elevate your comfort level – like installing central air conditioning – or spruce up the home’s aesthetics, such as adding a few stained-glass windows.

But other work will need to be done to maintain the property and minimize problems later on. For example, replacing a hazardous roof, fixing broken windows, and repairing leaky pipes. These are all necessities. Left undone, they can lead to major problems and damages within the home.

If you decide one day to sell, other improvements will likely be made to increase the home’s value and appeal to potential buyers.