Staying a Step Ahead of the Bad Guys

By Doug Shadel, AARP Washington state director An identity thief with just a few bits of information about you can max out your credit cards, raid your bank account, even mortgage your house. In this digital age, a criminal can literally become you financially and take over your life. Alice Lipsky (not her real name) did this all the time. Using both high-tech computer skills and low-tech methods like car prowls and stealing purses, she took on the identities of …

Cheapskate Answers to Your Money Questions

When you write about personal finance for a living, lots of folks ask for your advice about their own money issues and problems. That places me in a difficult position because, while I’d like to help, in many cases there are just too many variables when it comes to offering good financial advice to people I barely know. And then there’s the “How dare you!” factor. That’s especially common when you primarily give advice about the spending side of people’s finances, …

Tips for International Travel

Two back-to-back international trips this year — to Germany and South Africa — gave me a good reason to brush up on my world-traveler skills. Here are the main things I think about when I’m planning a trip abroad. Phoning home. How I am going to communicate? I mainly use Skype. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to make international calls. There are similar applications for phones, including Viber and WhatsApp, that allow you to text, call and send photos and …

Data Breach Hits Major Banks

JPMorgan Chase and at least four other major U.S. financial institutions are reporting hack attacks by cyber criminals who lifted customers’ personal information, according to published accounts. The attacks, which apparently took place in August, stole customer data that could be used to drain checking and savings accounts, Bloomberg News said, citing sources briefed by law enforcement. News accounts didn’t name the other banks targeted in the cyber theft or disclose how many customers may be at risk. Banks must …

Are Medical Credit Cards Unhealthy for Your Finances?

You need some expensive medical care yet don’t have the insurance or money to pay for it. Should you use a medical credit card that’s pitched at some doctors’ offices? A new report by the nonprofit Consumer Action warns that some of these cards can be unhealthy for your finances. They usually offer a zero percent introductory rate, though after that period, card terms can vary greatly. The problem is that these terms often are difficult to uncover. So patients …

GE Capital Ordered to Pay $225 Million to Consumers

GE Capital Retail Bank must shell out an estimated $225 million to consumers to settle government claims that it discriminated against Hispanic credit card customers and persuaded other card holders to buy add-on products that promised to cancel part of their debt if they became disabled, lost a job or suffered from another hardship, the Justice Department announced Thursday. “We will continue to take action against marketing tactics that trick consumers into buying credit card products they do not want or cannot use,” …