Coronavirus and your mortgage

Because of the Coronavirus, many people are facing financial challenges, especially paying their mortgage. If youre unable to make your mortgage payments, you could lose your home to foreclosure. Federal lenders and some private lenders are offering borrowers temporary help, like stopping or delaying foreclosure or modifying the mortgage. But these measures dont apply to everyone. If you need help, research the options available to you for getting through these tough times. These tips can help:

Financial impact of the Coronavirus

Learn about newly available relief for federally backed mortgages

A new federal law, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, creates two protections for some borrowers. To be eligible, you must have a federally-backed mortgage and be experiencing financial hardship because of the Coronavirus. 

  • The first is a temporary suspension – called a moratorium – of foreclosures for 60 days, starting March 18.
  • The second is a right to forbearance for 180 days. That means you can ask your servicer to reduce or suspend your mortgage payments for that time. If after six months, you’re still having trouble paying, you can request forbearance for another 180 days.

First, figure out if your mortgage is federally backed. If you don’t know, you can call your mortgage servicer or follow the links below. You can get your servicer’s contact information from your billing statement.

More than half of U.S. mortgages are backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and these mortgages count as federally backed.

Fannie Mae

Look up whether your mortgage is owned by Fannie Mae

(800) 232-6643

Freddie Mac

Look up whether your mortgage is owned by Freddie Mac

(800) 373-3343

If your loan is backed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (FHA mortgages), Department of Agriculture (USDA mortgages), or Department of Veterans Affairs (VA mortgages), you also may be eligible for relief. 

2. Contact your servicer no matter what type of mortgage you have. Tell them your situation and ask what options are available to you. Even if your mortgage is not federally backed, you may still qualify for other help.

If you’re considering forbearance, keep in mind that it is not loan forgiveness, and ask your servicer what happens after the forbearance ends. Your servicer should be able to tell you if it will extend the loan term so you can make the missed payments later, if your monthly payments will go up to make up the difference, if you will owe the entire unpaid amount in a lump sum, and how forebearance could affect your credit.

3. Need advice? Contact an approved counselor. Go to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) list of approved housing counseling agencies to find a counselor in your state who can explain your options. Consider contacting the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) at 888-995-HOPE. HPF is a nonprofit organization that partners with mortgage companies, local governments, and other organizations to help consumers get loan modifications and prevent foreclosures.

4. Check what help is available where you live. Your state may offer additional support. Some states have frozen foreclosures. Find your state government’s website and look around for the latest updates on help for borrowers.

5. Scammers follow the headlines. It’s tempting to hire a company that says they can get a change to your loan that will reduce your monthly mortgage payment or take other steps to save your home. Unfortunately, many companies use half-truths and even outright lies to sell their services or they make promises but don’t deliver. Learn more about avoiding mortgage relief scams.

6. Don’t pay up-front for help. Federal law says that even if you hire someone to help you with your mortgage, you don’t have to pay them until they deliver the results you want. It’s illegal for a company to charge you a penny until you’ve accepted their written offer for a loan modification or other relief from your lender, and you’re free to reject an offer you don’t like. Even if you hire someone, you should always feel free to contact your mortgage servicer directly to see whether they can offer you additional options. Learn more about your rights when it comes to hiring a mortgage relief company.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Scammers are using COVID-19 messages to scam people

Scammers are experts at shifting tactics and changing their messages to catch you off guard. This is especially true as they take advantage of anxieties related to the Coronavirus. Here’s a quick alert about some current government imposter scams using COVID-19 that are popping up on our radar.

Medicare scams

Scammers might call to offer things like a “COVID-19 kit,” “Coronavirus package,” or Medicare benefits related to the virus. But they’ll ask you to verify personal information like your bank account, Social Security, or Medicare numbers. If you get a call from someone who says they’re a Medicare representative and they ask for this information, hang up. It’s a scam, not Medicare calling. Report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint

To hear what one scammy Medicare call sounds like, listen to this:

Medicare Scams sound like this

Relief payment messages from “government agencies”

The FTC is getting a lot of reports about fraudulent calls, texts, and emails coming from people pretending to be from the Social Security Administration, IRS, Census, USCIS and the FDIC. These fake government messages might say that you’re approved for money, can get quick relief payments, or get cash grants due to the Coronavirus. Scammers might also promise you small business loans, or send a (phishing) alert that a check is ready to be picked up. These are all scams, and none of those messages come from a government agency.

If you respond to these calls or messages, they might ask you for money, personal information, or both. Don’t give it. And remember that the surest sign of a scam is anyone who asks you to send cash, pay with a gift card, wire money, or pay with cryptocurrency.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Looking for work after Coronavirus layoffs?

Have you been laid off due to the Coronavirus? Or maybe your small business shut down? Today, the FTC kicks off a series of blogs with tips about handling the financial impact of the Coronavirus.

These days, many people start by looking for ways to make money working from home. If you’re eyeing a work-at-home gig, here are some things to keep in mind.

Ads offer a variety of work-at-home jobs – lnternet businesses, shipping or mailing work, selling goods, and more. But many of these “jobs” are scams, aimed at getting your money, and won’t deliver on the claims they make. To avoid work-at-home scams:

  • Don’t pay to get a job. Scammers may say they’ve got a job waiting if you just pay a fee for certification, training, equipment, or supplies. But, after you pay, the job doesn’t materialize.
  • Avoid fake job ads. Some scammers pay to have their ads or scam websites appear at the top of your searches. Other scammers pretend to be affiliated with well-known companies or even the government. Research a potential employer by searching online for a potential employer’s name, email address, and phone number. You might find complaints by others who’ve been scammed and find out more about the scammer’s tricks. To find legitimate job listings, try visiting sites like your state’s Career OneStop.
  • Don’t believe ads for “previously undisclosed” federal government jobs. Information about federal jobs is free at usajobs.gov.
  • Check it out. Check out a company with your local consumer protection agency or your state Attorney General. They can tell you whether they’ve gotten complaints about a particular work-at-home program.

And if you’re dealing with job loss, you’re not alone. Here are some other things to keep in mind:

  • Contact your State Unemployment Insurance Office for information about applying for unemployment insurance benefits in your state. The Department of Labor recently announced new flexibilities offered as a result of the Coronavirus crisis. So, it pays to check if you’re eligible.
  • Contact your creditors. They may be willing to discuss some type of minimum payment or other flexibility. They’re more likely to be reasonable if you talk to them upfront about the financial problems you are having as a result of the Coronavirus, rather than waiting until after you’ve missed a payment.

For more tips, read Job Scams, Government Job Scams, Work at Home Businesses and Dealing with Job Loss. And if you spot a scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Behind on car payments because of the Coronavirus?

financial impact because of the CoronavirusAre you worried that you won’t be able to make your next car payment because you’ve lost your job or income because of the Coronavirus? Or are you already behind on your payments? You’re not alone. Here’s what you can do:

  • Contact your lender now. Some banks, credit unions, and auto financing companies are letting people delay payments or renegotiate their payment schedules. If your lender agrees to any changes, make sure you have them in writing for later.
  • Find out what rights you have in your state. Check with your State Attorney General or local consumer protection agency. States have their own rules about how cars can be repossessed and what happens after. If lenders break the rules, they might lose other rights against you or have to pay you damages.
  • See if you can refinance your loan. This makes sense if a lower interest rate or longer loan could make your car payment doable. Just make sure you refinance with a credible lender or company. Depending on how much your car is worth and how much you owe on it, you also could look into selling your car or trading it in to get something cheaper before you miss a payment.
  • Don’t do nothing. Even if you have to miss a payment, don’t be afraid to talk to your lender to learn about your options. If you miss payments, you could be charged a lot more in fees and hurt your credit. While many lenders have begun to voluntarily forego repossessions during the pandemic, if you get behind on your payments, your lender still could repossess your car — sometimes without warning.

If your car gets repossessed, check your state’s laws to see what options you might have to buy it back or get any personal property left in the car.

You also might still owe money after your car is repossessed. You could be on the hook for any “deficiency” — the difference between what your car sells for and how much you still owe on it, plus any fees related to the repossession. In most states, your lender is allowed to sue you for it. An attorney can tell you whether you have grounds to contest a deficiency judgment.

The important thing to remember — you could have more options than you think, so don’t wait to talk to your lender. The sooner you do, the better the chance you can work something out.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

COVID-19 scam reports, by the numbers

If you’re a regular reader of this blog — or of the news, you know that scammers are out in force, taking advantage of all aspects of the Coronavirus pandemic. We’ve spotted plenty of bogus cures and treatments, but many of you have told the FTC about straight-up scams, like texts/emails/calls from a “government agency” promising to get your relief money for you. Others have told us about things that could be scams (or could be businesses catching up with the new reality) — like websites that promise scarce cleaning products or masks (that never arrive), or problems related to getting money back for cancelled travel plans.

Every weekday, the Bureau of Consumer Protection’s data analysts pull all those reports together to give you a glimpse into what the data is telling us. And, every weekday, you can find that report at ftc.gov/exploredata. But let me hit a few high points for you here.

  • From January 1 until today, the FTC has gotten 18,235 reports related to COVID-19, and people reported losing $13.44 million dollars to fraud.
  • The top complaint categories relate to travel and vacations, online shopping, bogus text messages, and all kinds of imposters.
  • While reports of robocalls are way down overall, we’re now hearing about callers invoking the COVID-19 pandemic to pretend to be from the government, or making illegal medical or health care pitches, among other topics.
  • The big states have, not unexpectedly, the biggest number of reports. You can check out how many people are reporting what in your state.

If you’re getting calls, emails, or texts, or you’re seeing ads or offers online, keep a few things in mind: First, the government will never call out of the blue to ask for money or your personal information (like Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers). And second, anyone who tells you to pay by Western Union or Money Gram, or by putting money on a gift card, is a scammer. The government and legit businesses will never tell you to pay that way.
This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Coronavirus Financial Hardship: Everything You Need to Know

You may be sitting at home across American wondering what will happen to you economically from the coronavirus pandemic. When will it get back to normal? Will I lose my job? Should I sell my stock in my 401k? How do I payoff my debt? Should I back out of a large purchase? You are not alone. Many of us feel this way. Many of us are experiencing financial hardship from the coronavirus.

The purpose of this article is to help you understand more about your coronavirus hardship:

  1. What May Happen with the Coronavirus
  2. What You Personally May See from The Government Stimulus Bill
  3. Your coronavirus hardship options
  4. Your debt relief options from the coronavirus hardship

1. What May Happen With The Coronavirus Economically

On March 15th, the Federal Reserve issued an FMOC statement stating, “…the Committee decided to lower the target range for the federal funds rate to 0 to 1/4 percent.” Further, the goal of this action was to “…help support economic activity, strong labor market conditions and inflation…”

Many people with a mortgage may have expected that lowering interest rates would become a great time to refinance their mortgage. Instead, the 30-year fixed mortgage rates jumped to an average 3.65% on March 19th, the highest rate since January.

Coronavirus Economic Examples

Interest rates are rising, and that is a bad sign for the economy. Why? Because debt become more expensive. If a family living pay check to pay check had a difficult time paying a $125 minimum payment on a credit card at a 15% interest rate, imagine how difficult it would be to make a $200 minimum payment on that credit card if the interest rate increases to 25%.

Let’s take a mortgage example. Let’s say you are looking at a $200,000 fixed rate mortgage at 3.5%. The estimated monthly payment is $898. If the interest rate goes up to 7.5%, that estimated monthly payment jumps to $1,398, a $500 monthly increasing making that house much less affordable.

Summarizing How Economy Could Get Worse

When things get more expensive, people buy less. As people buy less, business review decrease and those companies may have to layoff employees. When business layoff employees, more people end up without a job and cannot afford the debt. When you cannot afford the debt, creditors have to tighten their credit underwriting giving less people access to credit. The recession (or depression) is here, and unfortunately, the Federal Reserve cannot lower interest rates to boost spending as it did it 2008 because it just sent those to 0 – 1/4% last week.

So, in short, the coronavirus hardship you are feeling right now could get worse. This article’s goal is not to tell you what to do with your stock or 401k, but to explain your options and how you may be able to get out of this stronger.

2) What You May Get From Government Stimulus Bill

If you have a few days free, you may be interested to read the 880 page Government stimulus bill tilted the CARES act that just passed the senate on March 25, 2020. Most of us don’t have that time and maybe don’t care to read about the airlines bailout, so let’s get into some of the nuts and bolts of how the plan may affect you. That said, I have also included sections to read the information from the bill yourself.

Direct Payments

You can estimate your rebate payment easily by using the Coronavirus Stimulus Calculator. This will help estimate what you will receive.

SEC. 6428. 2020: RECOVERY REBATES FOR INDIVIDUALS.

  • Single individuals may be eligible to receive $1,200
  • Married couples may be eligible to receive $2,400
  • A parent may be eligible to receive $500 per child

The limitation language can be found below about how the rebate is calculated.

Eligible individual is defined by any individual other than:

  • Any nonresident alien individual
  • Any individual under Section 151 is allowable to another taxpayer for a taxable year beginning in the calendar year in which the individual’s taxable year begin
  • An estate or trust

You may find that this coronavirus question and answers article can be helpful for specific questions about the rebate and other pieces of the stimulus package.

Student Loan Payment Suspension

SEC. 3513: TEMPORARY RELIEF FOR FEDERAL STUDENT
23 LOAN BORROWERS.

  • (a) The secretary suspends all payments due on loans under part D and part B (that are held by the Department of Education) of title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 through September 30, 2020.
  • (b) Interest DOES NOT accrue on the loans that qualify.
  • (d) Consumer reporting for those suspended payments are treated as regularly scheduled payments.
  • (e) Secretary suspends all involuntary collection related to a loan including: A wage garnishment authorized, a reduction of tax refund by amount of debt, a reduction of any other Federal benefit payment, any other involuntary collection activity by
    the Secretary.

Unemployment Payment Boost

SEC. 2104. EMERGENCY INCREASE IN UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BENEFITS

  • (a) Unemployment benefits continue to be amount determined by state law
  • (b) an additional amount of $600 (in this 22 section referred to as ‘‘Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation’’).
  • (e)(2) The agreement shall apply to weeks of unemployment ending on or before July 31, 2020.

3. Your Coronavirus Hardship Options

Thankfully the government and creditors are working to provide hardship relief to individuals that are affected economically from the coronavirus. Let’s jump into the details.

Housing Coronavirus Relief

For many of us, your mortgage or rent is the single biggest expense that you have to deal with each month. See what your coronavirus hardship options below.

Mortgage Relief due to Coronavirus

Federal regulator are ordering lenders through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to offer homeowners flexibility for those who have lost income or their jobs through the coronavirus. Depending on the situation, you may be eligible to have your mortgage payments reduced or suspended for up to 12 months. This move covers about half of all home loans in the United States.

See the following websites for more information about how this may help you:

Rental relief due to coronavirus

Furthermore, for those of us renting, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provided immediete relief and suspended all foreclosure and evictions for the next 60 days.

Credit Coronavirus Relief

You may have been getting a slew of emails from your creditors about the coronavirus response. If you are experiencing a coronavirus hardship, you may want to text, chat, call or email your bank to see what sort of hardship programs they offer such as an interest rate reduction or not making payments for a few months.

Here are some of the largest banks in the United States response to Coronavirus. You may want to reach out to your bank specifically if you are experiencing a coronavirus financial hardship

  1. JP Morgan Chase COVID-19 Response
  2. Bank of America COVID-19 Response
  3. Wells Fargo COVID-19 Response
  4. Citibank COVID-19 Response
  5. US Bank COVID-19 Response

Most creditors are offering some sort of hardship assistance, so it does not hurt to contact them if you are experiencing a coronavirus hardship.

Government Coronavirus Relief

This article should be updated periodically as we learn more about the different types of relief that are offered. There is a comprehensive that may be a helpful resource for you. You may want to review the government response to the coronavirus regarding what you may be eligible. Specifically, here are two articles that you may consider in regards to a coronavirus hardship

A few things to consider from these articles:

  1. IR-2020-58 – Tax Day is now July 15th. IRS extends the filing deadline and federal tax payments. This is regardless of the amount.
  2. IR-2020-57 – IRS, Labor, and Treasury announce a plan to implement coronavirus-related paid leave for workers
  3. Student Loan Servicing – The CFPB recommends to contact you servicer to find out more information about affordable repayment plans.

4. Your Coronavirus Hardship Debt Relief Options

Let’s say you get to the point where you are unable to continue making your minimum payments because of interest rates or job loss or medical hardships. You have many options, so let’s consider them one by one. Each option has pros and cons, so make sure to do your own due diligence.

Debt Payoff Planning

You may want to first consider whether you don’t have to do a debt relief options at all. First, You may still be able to afford the debt via a debt consolidation. The US Government provides some useful information about your debt consolidation options.

Second, you may consider doing debt payoff planning. In this example, you would want to consider all of your income and expenses to see whether you are able to afford the debt. Once you have a solid understanding of all your income and expenses, you will know how to prioritize your debt and get rid of the debt. Next, you will want to use a debt payoff planner application or a spreadsheet to prioritize how your extra monthly payment should be prioritized.

The most common methods are snowball and avalanche method. You can lose a lot of money in the snowball debt payoff method if your interest rates are highest on your largest debts, so we devised the Savvy Debt Payoff method to combine the best aspects of both Snowball and Avalanche method to save you money on interest.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

You may be able to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Often a bankruptcy has a bad stigma and there are many misconceptions to bankruptcy. The most important thing to know is that it’s legitimate, legal way to get debt relief. There are negative aspects about a bankruptcy, but it is often the cheapest and fastest way to debt relief.

You have to qualify for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy using what’s called the means test. It can be helpful estimate whether you qualify by taking a bankruptcy means test calculator. You should consider all pros and cons before doing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but it can be a positive way of debt relief for many folks. If you do decide to file for bankruptcy, you may want to consider reading recovering from bankruptcy after coronavirus for specific insights to how to get back on your feet.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is a payment plan based bankruptcy. Many people pursue a Chapter 13 bankruptcy because they do not qualify for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, have too many assets, or debt settlement is not right for them.

A general Chapter 13 plan could last 3 to 5 years. There are some similarities between a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement in relation to the payment plan.

In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will want to estimate what you would pay each month and compare that to what you are currently paying for your debt. You may want to try taking a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Calculator to estimate a Chapter 13 monthly payment.

Debt Settlement

Debt settlement companies work with your creditors to negotiate a lower amount owed. The total cost of debt settlement is often lower than debt management, but it can be more negative on your credit score because creditors will be unlikely to settle the debt until the accounts are past due. Debt settlement often hurts your credit score.

Although debt settlement is a valid option for some people who need relief, you will want to find a legitimate debt relief company as some companies do not seem to have the customer’s best interest in mind. You may also consider reviewing the debt settlement pros and cons as this option does have pros, but it also has cons to consider.

Debt Management

Debt management companies work with your creditors to negotiate a lower interest rate on your debt. These companies are also referred to as credit counseling. Many of these companies are non-profit companies, but most also charge a fee.

People get mistaken between the difference between debt management and debt settlement. A debt management company tries to negotiate a lower interest rate (example: 22% to 8%). A debt settlement company tries to negotiate a lower total amount owed (example: $10,000 to $5,000). You may consider reading debt management vs debt settlement to understand the key differences.

Conclusion

You are not alone in your coronavirus financial hardship. We are in this together, and we will get through it better on the others side.

Finally, please share your additional ideas in the comments below. Also, please share if you found that this article can be helpful to others.

This article by Ben Tejes first appeared on Ascend Finance and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

FTC Disconnects Pointbreak Media Robocall Scheme Defendants

Callers falsely claimed company represented Google, sought fees between $300 and $700 for first-page placement in online search results listings

At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a U.S. district court in Florida granted summary judgment against two individuals, approved six settlement agreements involving 11 defendants, and entered a default judgment against the remaining seven defendants, officially ending the massive Pointbreak Media robocall scheme.

In May 2018, the FTC charged the Florida-based defendants with operating a telemarketing scam that targeted small business owners with false threats of removal from Google’s search engine and false promises of unique keywords to make the business appear prominently in search results. The FTC also alleged the defendants wrote themselves $100 checks from over 250 businesses’ checking accounts without the business owners’ advance knowledge, consent, or authorization.

The FTC amended its complaint in July 2018 to add two counts for violations of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, because the defendants robocalled more than 74 million consumers and called more than 14 million numbers on the national Do Not Call (DNC) Registry. The summary judgment and other court orders announced today ban the defendants from such illegal robocalling and direct the scheme’s main perpetrators, Dustin Pillonato and Justin Ramsey, to pay over $3.3 million.

The Actions Announced Today

The stipulated court orders and judgments the FTC obtained are part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to combat the scourge of illegal robocalls. The court entered judgments against Pillonato and Ramsey, as well as a default judgment against Aaron Michael Jones, Vincent Yates, Pointbreak Media, LLC, DCP Marketing, LLC, Modern Source Media, LLC, National Business Listings, LLC, and AllStar Data, LLC. The judge also approved settlements with Daniel Carver, relief defendant Stephanie Watt, and relief defendant Jennefer Ramsey.

The court found the primary perpetrators of the scheme, Pillonato and Ramsey, liable for each count the FTC alleged. The order bans them from: 1) telemarketing; 2) using remotely created checks to debit consumers’ accounts; and 3) marketing, promoting, or selling search optimization products or services. The order prohibits Pillonato and Ramsey from misrepresenting their affiliation with Google or any other entity, and prohibits them from misrepresenting any other facts material to a consumer’s purchase of any good or service. The court further ordered Pillonato and Ramsey to pay $3,367,666.30 and transfer custody of dozens of pieces of jewelry to the FTC. The FTC may use these assets to provide refunds to affected businesses.

The order against Jones and several defaulting defendants includes the same conduct relief as imposed on Pillonato and Ramsey. It also bans Yates and the defaulting corporate defendants from robocalling and calling numbers on the DNC Registry. The order also imposes non-suspended judgments of $2,351,670.81 against Jones, a recidivist robocaller, $1,917,073.87 against Yates, and $3,367,666.30 against the defaulting corporate defendants.

The order against Carver permanently bans him from robocalling and calling numbers on the DNC Registry, as well as requiring specific disclosures to consumers in any other telemarketing he does. It prohibits misrepresentations and imposes a $2,461,626.12 judgment, which will be partially suspended after he surrenders a 2016 Lexus RX 350 SUV. Finally, the orders against relief defendants Watt and Jennefer Ramsey impose judgments of $62,279 and $52,321, respectively, against them. The judgment against Watt will be partially suspended upon payment of $20,000.

Case History

In May 2018, the FTC charged the Florida-based Pointbreak Media scheme operators with violations of the FTC Act for deceiving small business owners by falsely claiming to represent Google, falsely threatening businesses with removal from Google search results, falsely claiming that they could associate keywords with these businesses, and falsely promising first-place or first-page placement in Google search results.

The FTC’s complaint alleged the defendants had no relationship with Google, yet claimed to be “data service providers” for the company or “authorized Google My Business agencies.” The defendants also barraged small business owners with robocalls. The company’s telemarketers falsely told small business owners that the consumer’s business could only avoid removal from Google search results by paying the defendants a one-time fee of between $300 and $700. Otherwise, they said these businesses would be labeled “permanently closed.”

In March 2019, the following defendants entered into settlement agreements resolving the charges against them in the FTC’s amended complaint: 1) Michael Pocker, Modern Spotlight LLC, Modern Spotlight Group LLC, and Modern Internet Marketing LLC; 2) Steffan Molina, Perfect Image Online LLC, and Pinnacle Presence LLC; and 3) Ricardo Diaz. The settlements contain both injunctive and monetary relief, and are intended to remedy the illegal conduct alleged in the complaint. The court has now entered each of these orders as final. The actions announced today resolve the FTC’s charges against all remaining defendants in this case.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Former IRS Employee Convicted of Tax Evasion

A federal jury in Las Vegas, Nevada, yesterday convicted Craig P. Orrock, a former attorney and former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee, of tax evasion and obstructing the internal revenue laws, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich for the District of Nevada, and Special Agent in Charge Tara Sullivan of IRS-Criminal Investigation.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, starting in the early 1990s, Orrock, currently of Sandy, Utah, evaded the payment of his federal income taxes and obstructed IRS efforts to collect those taxes. Orrock filed federal individual income tax returns for the years 1993 through 2015, but failed to pay the income taxes reported as due. He attempted to prevent the IRS from collecting the reported income taxes through the use of nominee entities, bank accounts and trusts to hide his income and assets from IRS collection officers. Orrock attempted to evade the assessment of a large part of the income tax he owed for 2007, by concealing from the IRS both the ownership of real estate he held through a nominee known as Arville Properties LLC as well as the proceeds from the sale of the property. 

From 1993 through 2015, Orrock evaded the payment of over $500,000 in federal income taxes.

Orrock faces up to five years in prison on each of the first two counts and up to three years in prison on the third count, as well as a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 26.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman and U.S. Attorney Trutanich commended special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, who conducted the investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Burns and Tax Division Trial Attorney Erin S. Mellen, who are prosecuting the case.

This article by the Department of Justice was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

8 Affordable Alternatives to Cable in 2019

How can I find my favorite TV show… tonight?  For those of us currently paying for a cable TV connection, the answer is simple: turn on the TV, scroll through the dozens of simultaneously available channels, and select the perfect show. Now, sit back, relax and try not to think about the cost of such a luxury. Of course, there might just be a better way to access those same shows for a fraction of the cost while gaining more control over your finances. If you’re ready to embark on a quest for more affordable entertainment, then take a look at these ways to slash your cable bill in half, or get rid of it completely.

Cable Alternatives

TV streaming services are changing the way people watch their favorite shows and news programs. Harnessing the power of the internet, and the fact that few American homes seem to be without it, these streaming companies are able to put dozens of quality TV channels at your fingertips for a more affordable price than standard cable companies. In addition, instead of paying up front and being stuck in a year-long contract, these sites allow you to cancel, upgrade, or change your settings on a month-by-month basis. Check out these 3 companies and what they have to offer.

  • DIRECTV Now  – The starter package gives you access to 40+ channel for $50/ month. Channels include news outlets like MSNBC, FOX and ABC, as well as entertainment networks such as Disney, HBO, and the Hallmark channel. They also seem to have access to newer channels not included in other competitors’ packages.
  • Hulu Live TV  – A big competitor with Netflix in the movie streaming industry, Hulu also supports a Live TV option. For $45/month, Hulu Live TV gives you access to 60 channels and thousands of movies and episodes on 2 screens. (Add- free content requires an additional $6/month)
  • USTV Now – This site provides streaming of movies and TV programming from at least 25 major stations. Plans range from $40/month for 25 HD channels (with DVR capabilities) all the way down to 5 SD channels…. for free. Which leads us to the next category of alternatives.
Alternatives to Cable TV - Old TV

Free Streaming Sites

 Living in the 21st century, we’ve never had so many ways to instantly access so much entertainment. Now, some companies are teaming up with advertisers to allow those shows and movies to be viewed for free. If you don’t mind random but shorts ads throughout your viewing, then these options are worth a try. Here are 2 of the best platforms that give you access to hundreds of shows, live broadcasts, and movies…. all at zero cost to you.

  • Pluto TV – With 75+ channels as well as hundreds of movies to stream to your desktop, smartphone or tablet, Pluto TV has a lot to offer. Access is completely free ( with ads, of course) and no sign up is required.
  • Tubi TV – As an ad-supported platform with no premium features, what you see is what you get with Tubi TV. Thankfully, there is a lot to see. On the website, you can browse through 40+ categories like Anime, Classics, New Releases and Not On Netflix to find the film you need.

Thinking outside the box

 If you find ads annoying, or you’re simply looking for something different, here are 3 more creative options to help you achieve entertainment freedom.

  • Network Websites – Do you have a favorite channel or network? Consider going to their official website and streaming material for free to your desktop or tablet.  Better yet, you can use an application like Google Chromecast to quickly connect to your smart TV and watch the game on the big screen.
  • Hoopla  – Available to anyone with a current library account, Hoopla gives you access to movies and TV shows, as well as audiobooks and ebooks. While the website doesn’t provide live programming, numerous seasons of TV shows and hundreds of movies are available. Titles are borrowed and returned via the website or mobile app.
  • Digital TV Antenna – This last one is a real find. By investing $40-$50 in a digital TV antenna, you can immediately have access to scores of digitally broadcasted TV stations. (Purchasing a TV converter box might be necessary if you have an older TV)  After this one-time investment, you’ll be watching high-quality television with no contracts, no accounts and no fees. Not all networks broadcast digitally, so you’ll want to find the best antenna for your location.

Counting the Cost & Cutting the Cable  

Now that you’re familiar with some of the great viewing options out there, you’re almost ready to take the plunge. Before you call that cable company, I’d recommend doing some extra research on your own to find out which option (or combination) is best for you. Then, relax and have fun experiencing some more-affordable entertainment.

This article by Kyle K first appeared on Ascend and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Files Suit Against Forster & Garbus, LLP

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently filed a lawsuit in the federal district court in the Eastern District of New York against Forster & Garbus, LLP, a New York debt-collection law firm.

The Bureau’s complaint alleges that Forster & Garbus violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by representing to consumers that attorneys were meaningfully involved in its lawsuits when, in fact, attorneys were not meaningfully involved in preparing or filing them. The Bureau’s complaint also alleges that Forster & Garbus violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act’s prohibition against deceptive acts and practices by making such representations to consumers through its lawsuits. 

The Bureau’s complaint seeks an injunction against Forster & Garbus, as well as damages, redress to consumers, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, and the imposition of a civil money penalty.

A copy of the complaint filed in federal district court in the Eastern District of New York is available here.

This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.