Category Archives: Neat Site

New Mortgage Scams Surface

The TODAY Show aired another set of warnings about mortgage scams on May 27, 2009. The expert reports there are currently millions of Americans on the brink of foreclosure and some illegitimate “Foreclosure Consultants” are taking advantage of their dire situations.

  • WHN Tip: Contact your lender directly before you get behind in your mortgage payments. Ask for options to renegotiate the terms of your loan.

Real estate expert Barbara Corcoran outlined the newest scam along with several that have been wreaking havoc with desperate homeowners for months.

The latest scam involves President Obama’s Rescue Plan designed to help seven to nine million families avoid foreclosure. People are paying thousands of dollars to illegitimate counselors who promise to research facts about qualification and the application process. Of course, they don’t conduct the research and, instead, keep the money.

The information you need is free and can be accessed in two simple ways. First, the Internet site makinghomeaffordable.gov provides everything you need to know. Second, a call to 888-995-HOPE delivers the same assistance.

Make sure you are visiting a legitimate website. The scam artists often create websites with official-sounding addresses that may end with “.gov”. Don’t assume a site with this type of name is legitimate. If you have any questions about the legitimacy of a site, conduct a Google search with the name and the word “scam” or just search “mortgage scams”. Go to the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission sites as well.

One of the most dangerous scams is called “Bait and Switch”. An illegitimate counselor hands the prospect a document to sign. Instead of a mortgage application, the document is actually a transfer of title. Once signed, the scam artist owns your home and you are evicted.

A “Rent-to-Buy” scheme is equally dangerous. The representative offers to buy your home at a very low price and promises to sell it back when you get on your feet. In the meantime, they propose you pay rent. Soon, the rent soars well beyond your means, they own the home and you are evicted.

The “Middleman” scam preys upon your vulnerability and lack of self-confidence. Besides requiring you to pay thousands upfront, you are required to supply confidential information such as your social security numbers, bank account numbers and/or driver’s license details. (WHN NOTE: Never release your confidential information until you are certain the company is legitimate and it will not be used for identity theft.) The illegitimate counselor then tells you to “leave it to me” and collects your mortgage payments with a promise to pay the bank while they renegotiate your loan for you. Of course, they take your money and your confidential information and disappear. They had no intention of ever speaking with your bank.

In the “Bankruptcy” scheme, the scammer promises to work with the lender on your behalf. Instead, they file bankruptcy on your behalf and you lose both your home and your credit rating.

According to Barbara Corcoran, there are legitimate mortgage consultants in the country. WHN recommends that you start by working directly with your lender or the government. Again, the information is free and readily available. You can make a few calls or visit the legitimate websites to get the ball rolling without spending a dime.

There are websites to help identify scams and provide advice about how to safely deal with a mortgage renegotiation or refinance. One to visit is scambusters.

If you have questions or would like to share your experiences, please email me: Leann (at) WhatHappensNow.com.

Beauty on a Budget and Training for a Great New Career: Think Beauty Schools!

WHN heard from a reader who is investigating options for a career change. In the process, she discovered a great way to work beauty services back into the family budget. A beauty school visit proved to be a great investment of her time. Here is her story.

Hello WHN.

Since the economy caused my former employer to lay off almost 20% of its staff at the corporate headquarters, I have been among the growing ranks of the unemployed. While the competition for a shrinking number of openings is increasing, I started researching ways to train for a new career.

Although I have a bachelor’s degree, the cost of returning to college to finish my master’s degree eliminated that option. My husband and I have two sons well on their way to needing our help with college tuition. Anticipating those expenses led me to look for a career with a lot of growth possibilities that doesn’t require such large investments of time and money.

A career in beauty fits all of my criteria, including the desire to do something creative in an environment where every day brings new challenges. I visited a school as a client to see what the students had to say about their education and what a typical day looks like.

I was totally impressed and excited. Not only did I get a fantastic manicure at a great price, the students said they loved their training and the time was flying. No wonder. It was obvious they were having fun every day doing a wide variety of services on their way to becoming licensed.

As a client, I was treated with complete professionalism for a price that I could afford. Finally, I don’t have to put off having my hair and nails done! Manicures at the school I chose, Regency Beauty Institute, start at $11 (plus tip, of course). In addition, I received an OPI nail color of my choice. That alone has a retail value of $8.50. A supervisor checked with the student before the service and was always nearby. After the manicure, she was back to make sure I was 100% satisfied. That was easy. It couldn’t have been better. The hand and arm massage was so relaxing that I felt almost guilty to be paying so little and getting so much!

Regency has the best loyalty/referral program I have ever joined. No paperwork and lots of benefits make this the perfect perk for everyone. I’ve already posted my recommendation on Facebook and now my friends are spreading the word, too. I’m going back next week for a pedicure (starts at $15 and includes the complimentary OPI) and another manicure. (The client next to me was having a pedicure and it looked like a slice of heaven.) I had given up facials, but they are back on my to-do list.

There are beauty schools in virtually every city. I highly recommend that you check one out. I’ve found that the time it takes to complete the requirements varies by state and the services/prices vary by school. A website with answers to all of my questions is hosted by the American Association of Cosmetology Schools. You’ll find schools in your area and links to all of the AACS member websites in minutes. (Click on Careers in Beauty.)

I think we all feel more confident facing the economy with a contemporary hairstyle and color. Remember to tell the men in your life, too!

Thanks for sharing my story. An encouraged WHN reader.

  • WHN TIP: AACS Executive Director Jim Cox says, “Regency, Empire Beauty SchoolsMarinello Schools of Beauty and International Academy of Hair Design each have multiple locations across several states. The hours required for licensing range from 1,000 in New York and Massachusetts, for example, to over 2,000 in Oregon, Utah and Iowa. The requirements for every state are listed on our site in the Student Resources section.” Mr. Cox also commented on the wide range of tuition across the country. “The cost you can expect could be anywhere from about $8,000 to $18,000 depending on programs offered, location, etc.” As our reader mentioned, the services offered and price lists also vary. Check the school’s website or call the location near you for specifics.

For more information or to share your experiences, please email me: Leann (at) WhatHappensNow.com.

To Help Build Business, More Companies are Offering Freebies.

This advice came to WHN from a reader who watched the TODAY Show on April 28th. If you have never considered searching for free items offered by retailers via the Internet, this might be a great time to check out TODAY’s recommended websites.

Dear WhatHappensNow,

After being laid off, I admit my family became more creative about our monthly budget. Clipping store coupons, enjoying the free samples at stores like Costco and Sam’s Club and buying non-perishables in bulk gave us some fast and easy ways to save.

I hadn’t considered using the Internet to look for more ways to conserve until today. When you take a few minutes to search, the free items offered on various sites are pretty enticing.

The TODAY segment provided some precautions that I would like to share. First, create a separate email account (one that is free) devoted to communicating with freebie sites. That way, if you begin to receive a lot of spam, you can simply close the account. When filling out a form to receive free items, do not include a phone or credit card number. In fact, the only personal information you share will be a valid mailing address. If an item is offered for nothing, but there are shipping/handling charges, don’t fall for an offer that requires an unreasonable fee. This is a red flag for a scam, according to TODAY’s expert.

I visited Hey, It’s Free, recommended on TODAY, and found a treasure chest of freebies. My favorite part of this website is the list of Cool Sites on the homepage. These links give you countless additional options. Although I haven’t tried ordering free samples yet, I plan to check it out.

Two other sites featured on TODAY are Spoofee and My Savings. If you can’t find something that your family can use on one of these sites, I would be surprised. Just remember that it may take awhile for your free items to arrive. But, you can’t beat the price.

Signed, a WHN fan.

Thanks for the smart savings advice! If you would like to share your experiences about getting goods for free, please email me: Leann (at) WhatHappensNow.com.

The Best Websites

TIME just named the top 50 best websites for 2008. Here we’ve pulled the sites from their list that we found to be the most useful and inventive:

1. TripKick…tells you which hotel floors are best and which rooms to avoid. “When we searched for the Hilton Las Vegas, for example, TripKick told us not only which rooms had the best view, but also which were too close to the elevators and noisy vending machines.”

2. Nymbler: “Choosing a baby name just got more inspired, thanks to an ingenious calculator that uses phonetics to give you fresh ideas. Type in up to six names you like, and Nymbler will suggest dozens of similar-sounding suggestions.”

3. Gasbuddy: “Where’s the cheapest gas? GasBuddy can tell you. The site collects real-time prices from some 750,000 volunteer price “spotters,” who send in daily updates from their local stations.”

4. WikiTravel: “The best travel guides have one thing in common: they’re up to date. That’s why WikiTravel has become the most invaluable travel resource on the Web.”

Have a site you just can’t live without? Post it in the Comments below!

Top 5 Air Travel Secrets

After researching a query from a reader, I rediscovered a gem of a website we’ve already linked to in the past: the Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division’s website.

Focusing on the consumer side of air travel, the Aviation Consumer Protection Division (ACPD) operates a complaint handling system for consumers who experience air travel service problems. They also have a plethora of helpful tips for any traveler whether you’re a frequent flyer or a once-a-year vacationer.

Here are the top five tips from their site I found to be the most helpful:

1. Refunds. Contrary to the belief of some, airlines are not required to compensate passengers for “damages” when flights are delayed or canceled. Compensation is required by law only when you are “bumped” from a flight that is oversold.

2. Delayed passengers – food and amenities. Each airline has its own policies about what it will do for delayed passengers waiting at the airport. There are no federal requirements regarding these amenities or services. If you are delayed, ask the airline staff if they will pay for meals or phone calls. Some do not provide any amenities to stranded passengers.

3. Know where your bags are checked to. They may be checked only to one of your intermediate stops rather than your final destination if:

  • you must clear Customs short of your final destination, or
  • you are taking a connecting flight involving two airlines which don’t have an interline agreement (e.g., Southwest Airlines does not transfer bags to other carriers).

4. Avoid overnight stays. When selecting a flight, remember that a departure early in the day is less likely to be delayed than a later flight, due to “ripple” effects throughout the day. If you book the last flight of the day, you could get stuck overnight.

5. Consider paying by credit card, which provides certain protections under Federal credit regulations. For example, in all recent airline bankruptcies passengers who had charged their fare and were not provided service were able to have their credit card company credit their account for the amount of the fare.

Open Sesame!

Your personal and financial information is only as strong as your passwords.

We’ve written about this on the blog before here and here but the best passwords include numbers, letters and symbols (i.e. 5RT!sm345@). Why? Because these take much longer to hack.

Lifehacker, a personal productivity blog, has also just reviewed a free online tool called The Password Meter. “The Password Meter web utility tests the strength of your passwords as you type it, scoring your password strength based on a number of positive and negative password attributes.” Give it a shot:

Have a site or software you’d like to recommend? Post it in the Comments section below!

Neat Site: Service Beacon

Ever wish you could have a friend to remind you about all those things you gotta do, like update and check your emergency kit, file taxes, or even to let you know when it’s time to rotate your car’s tires?

Well, today’s neat site doesn’t help you with all of those tasks but it does tackle a pretty big one: car maintenance. ServiceBeacon.com is a free and easy-to-use program that helps you keep track of your car’s regular maintenance needs like when to check your timing belts, when to get your tires rotated or how long it’s been since your last oil change.

It also sends you notifications about any major recalls regarding your car and you can also sync up your service needs with your local auto dealer.

Just gives you one less thing to worry about. Now if they only had this for everything else in life!!

Neat Site: Healthfinder

Ever wish you could learn more about what causes your migraines? Your family’s history of breast cancer? Or just more about health care in general.
Today’s neat site, Healthfinder.gov, offers a huge health library, information about health care and links to health organizations. The site is run by the National Health Information Center of The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

I especially like the consumer guides section – it’s easy to navigate and provides a lot of information on many different topics. Check out for yourself:

Have a medical site to recommend? Post it in the Comments!!

Neat Site: Identity Theft Resource Center

Over 9 million Americans were affected by identity theft in the last year…were you a victim? Chances are you might not know it yet – the average time to detect identity theft is 14 months!

Today’s neat site, The Identity Theft Resource Center, offers helpful information for victims as well as for those looking to avoid identity theft. The ITRC is a nonprofit program dedicated exclusively to identity theft and also includes regional victim support groups on its web site. Check out their site to read identity theft facts, figures and how to protect yourself:

Neat Site: Medline Plus

You’ve come back from the doctor with a new prescription for a new condition you’ve been diagnosed with…but you wanted more answers than the doctor had time for.

Enter Medline Plus. A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, this neat site offers info on over 740 conditions, a medical encyclopedia and dictionary, and info about your prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines.

The best part is that the information is direct and straight-forward (although some pages might be a bit scientifically-worded). There are no drug or any other advertisements clogging the pages – you can just read up on the information you’re interested in.

So even if you’re feeling well at the moment, bookmark MedlinePlus for later reference. Or better yet, bookmark our Doctor Visit – Links page for a longer list of helpful medical references sites.

Have a health care or medical site to recommend? Post it in the Comments below!