Natural disasters and weather emergencies are in the news. Whether it's the devastating wildfires along the West Coast, the relentless rains and flooding along the East Coast, tornado strikes in the Midwest or hurricanes in Hawaii, it's heartbreaking to see people lose their homes and businesses. But it's despicable when scammers exploit such tragedies to appeal to your sense of generosity.
If you're looking for a way to help, the Federal Trade Commission (
urges you to be cautious of potential charity scams. Research the charity to ensure that your donation will not only go to a reputable organization, but that the charity will use the money the way you wish.   
Consider these tips from the FTC:
  • Donate to charities you know and trust with a proven track record in dealing with disasters.
  • Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events. Check out the charity with the or  with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) 
  • Designate the disaster so you can ensure your funds are going to disaster relief, rather than a general fund that the charity could use for any of its work.
  • If you receive donation requests by email, never click on links or open attachments in e-mails unless you know who sent it. You could unknowingly install malware on your computer.
Don't assume charity messages posted on social media are legitimate. Research the organization yourself.
Many school forms require student's personal and sensitive information. Despite good intentions of teachers and school administrators, parents should closely monitor any activity or requirements related to their children.  

Consider these tips from the FTC offers tips for keeping your child's personal information safe. 
  • Safeguard your child's Social Security number (SSN). Don't carry your child's Social Security card with you, and don't share it unless you know and trust the other party. Ask why it's necessary and how it will be protected. Ask if you can use a different identifier or use only the last four digits.
  • Know your rights under The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA-US CFR Part 99). It protects the privacy of student records. FERPA requires schools to notify parents and guardians about their school directory policy. It also gives parents the right to opt out of sharing contact or other directory information with third parties, including other families.
  • Limit what kids share online. Teach kids not to post their name, address or full date of birth on social media. Teach the importance of changing passwords - and not sharing them. This is especially important for college students in a dorm or other shared living space.
  • Use a shredder. Shred all documents with your child's personal information before throwing them away. 
If someone misuses your child's information, go to Children's Online Privacy Protection Act to learn what corrective action you can take. 

The Federal Trade Commission ( www.FTC.Gov) is warning drivers about scams at the gas pump. Scammers use skimmers, illegal credit card readers attached to payment terminals that you can't see. Skimmers grab data from your credit or debit card's magnetic stripe without your knowledge. Criminals then sell the stolen data or use it to buy things online. You won't know your information has been stolen until you get your statement or an overdraft notice.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid a skimmer when you fill up:
  • Look at the card reader itself. Does it look different than other readers at the station?
  • Try to wiggle the card reader before you put in your card. If it moves, report it to the attendant. Then use a different pump. 
  • If you use a debit card at the pump, run it as a credit card instead of a debit card. The money will not immediately be deducted from your account. 
  • If you're really concerned about skimmers, pay inside rather than at the pump.
Monitor your credit card and bank accounts regularly to spot unauthorized charges.
If your credit card has been compromised, report it to your bank or card issuer promptly. Federal law limits your liability if your credit, ATM, or debit card is lost or stolen, but your liability may depend on how quickly you report the loss or theft. For more information contact

Shopping for a car can be exciting. But wading through ads and promotions from car dealers, and deciding how to pay, can be stressful. If you are planning to purchase a new set of wheels, take your time. Carefully read the documents, especially the credit or lease contract. A key to any satisfactory purchase is an understanding of all the sneaky fine print in any documents.
Most auto dealers are honest, but not all dealers play by the rules. Remember the Basic rule:
If you decide to finance the car, you will likely obtain a loan from a bank, credit union, or finance company, or include dealership financing. Either way, the financing application requires an accurate and honest listing of your monthly payments and the amount of your down payment. 
Before signing, carefully review your final financing application and sales contract. Make sure they show your down payment, monthly payments and other relevant information.
Before you sign any document, be sure you agree with all the terms, including the price and the financing.  If there is something you do not understand you can ask a trusted friend to review it with you before you sign. 
Things to watch for:
  • Deceptive advertising to lure people into the dealers' door
  • Failure to disclose required financing terms
  • Inflation of a consumer's income and down payment information in an effort to close the deal for a customer who in fact would not financially be able to make all payments. The upshot could lead to repossession of the automobile
  • Salesman requiring the customer to sign a purchase contract before all terms are entered
  • Salesman rushing the customer to promptly sign, falsely alleging there in a time limit in which to sign.
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