Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

To avoid penalties retirees should check their withholding —Time for a Paycheck Checkup

Recent reminders from Washing Post personal finance columnist, Michelle Singletary, CNBC and Money warn their readers of the need to use the IRS’ online withholding calculator to determine whether a change is necessary in their W-4 form. if necessary, complete a new  W-4 form. The calculator helps determine the right amount of withholding. If you receive pension income, you can use the results from the calculator to complete a Form W-4P and give it to your payer.

Withholding too much from each check could result in an outsized refund, while withholding too little could mean you owe the IRS next spring.

Perform a ‘Paycheck Checkup’

Because of the far-reaching tax changes taking effect this year, the IRS urges all employees, including those with other sources of income, to perform a Paycheck Checkup now. Doing so now will help avoid an unexpected year-end tax bill and possibly a penalty. The easiest way to do this is to use the Withholding Calculator available on IRS.gov.

To use the Withholding Calculator most effectively, users should have a copy of last year’s tax return and recent paystub. After filling out the Withholding Calculator, the tool will recommend the number of allowances the employee should claim on their Form W-4. Though primarily designed for employees who receive wages, the Withholding Calculator can also be helpful to some recipients of pension and annuity income.

If the Withholding Calculator suggests a change, the employee should fill out a new Form W-4 and submit it to their employer as soon as possible. Similarly, recipients of pensions and annuities can make a change by filling out Form W-4P and giving it to their payer.

Employees who expect to receive long term capital gains or qualified dividends, or employees who owe self-employment tax, alternative minimum tax, or tax on unearned income of minors should use the instructions in Publication 505 to check whether they should change their withholding or pay estimated tax.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, enacted in December 2017, changed the way tax is calculated for most taxpayers, including those with substantial income not subject to withholding. Among other reforms, the new law changed the tax rates and brackets, revised business expense deductions, increased the standard deduction, removed personal exemptions, increased the child tax credit and limited or discontinued certain deductions. As a result, many taxpayers may need to raise or lower the amount of tax they pay each quarter through the estimated tax system.

Form 1040-ES, available on IRS.gov, is designed to help taxpayers figure these payments simply and accurately. The estimated tax package includes a quick rundown of key tax changes, income tax rate schedules for 2018 and a useful worksheet for figuring the right amount to pay. The IRS also mailed 1 million Form 1040-ES vouchers with instructions in late March to taxpayers who used this form last year.

A companion publication, Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, has additional details, including worksheets and examples, which can help taxpayers determine whether they should pay estimated tax, such as those who have dividend or capital gains income, owe alternative minimum tax or have other special situations.

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Free credit freezes are here — Federal Trade Commission

PRESS RELEASE
Andrew Smith, Federal Trade Commission, Director, Bureau of Consumer Protection
Gail Hillebrand, Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, Associate Director, Division of Consumer Education and Engagement

Free credit freezes and year-long fraud alerts are here, starting September 21st, thanks to a new federal law. Here’s what you should know:

Free credit freezes

Security freezes, also known as credit freezes, restrict access to your credit file, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Starting September 21, 2018, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit file for free. You also can get a free freeze for your children who are under 16. And if you are someone’s guardian, conservator or have a valid power of attorney, you can get a free freeze for that person, too.

How will these freezes work? Contact all three of the nationwide credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you request a freeze online or by phone, the agency must place the freeze within one business day. If you request a lift of the freeze, the agency must lift it within one hour. If you make your request by mail, the agency must place or lift the freeze within three business days after it gets your request. You also can lift the freeze temporarily without a fee.

Don’t confuse freezes with locks. They work in a similar way, but locks may have monthly fees. If you want a free freeze guaranteed by federal law, then opt for a freeze, not a lock.

Year-long fraud alerts

A fraud alert tells businesses that check your credit that they should check with you before opening a new account. Starting September 21, 2018, when you place a fraud alert, it will last one year, instead of 90 days. Fraud alerts will still be free and identity theft victims can still get an extended fraud alert for seven years.

Credit freezes and the military

If you’re in the military, you’ll still have access to active duty alerts, which let you place a fraud alert for one year, renewable for the time you’re deployed. The active duty alert also gives you an added benefit: the credit reporting agencies will take your name off their marketing lists for prescreened credit card offers for two years (unless you ask them to add you back on).

You can place a fraud alert or active duty alert by visiting any one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. The one that you contact must notify the other two. You also can find links to their websites at IdentityTheft.gov/CreditBureauContacts.

Issues with a credit freeze

If you think a credit reporting agency is not placing a credit freeze or fraud alert properly, you can submit a complaint online or by calling 855-411-2372. If you think someone stole your identity, visit the FTC’s website, IdentityTheft.gov, to get a personalized recovery plan that walks you through the steps to take.

For more information, check out Place a Fraud Alert, Extended Fraud Alerts and Credit Freezes, and Credit Freeze FAQs. And if you’re considering a child credit freeze, you also may want to read Child Identity Theft.

Credit Bureau Contacts

Contact the national credit bureaus to request fraud alerts, credit freezes (also known as security freezes), and opt outs from pre‑screened credit offers.

Equifax
Equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services
800-685-1111

Experian
Experian.com/help
888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)

Transunion
TransUnion.com/credit-help
888-909-8872

 

The Maine Bureau of Insurance 2019 Individual Health Insurance Rate Calculator is now available.

Press Release
September 14, 2018
Professional & Financial Regulation – Insurance

2019 Individual Plans – Rate Calculator

The Bureau of Insurances 2019 Individual Health Insurance Rate Calculator is now available.

The rate calculator at maine.gov/insurance makes it easy to find out which plans are available and the estimated rates for each. (The calculator does NOT apply premium subsidies. Individuals who purchase plans through the Marketplace will be able to calculate their estimated premium subsidy at healthcare.gov when that site has been updated for 2019.)

Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa stated “we wanted to make the online rate calculator for 2019 available to consumers as soon as the 2019 rates were finalized by the Bureau. The rate calculator will allow Mainers who purchase insurance in the individual market to start researching their options so they will be well-prepared for Open Enrollment on November first.”

The approved rates have been submitted to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) and contracts between CMS and the insurance carriers will be finalized by early October.

Superintendent Cioppa said that on average, rate increases are modest, and some rates have decreased, thanks to the re-launching of the Maine Guaranteed Access Reinsurance Association (MGARA) program for 2019, which received federal approval via a Section 1332 Innovation Waiver. The program will reduce risk for insurers, helping to keep overall rate increases lower.

In 2019, consumers will have an additional carrier to choose from with Anthem again selling plans on the Marketplace. In 2018 Anthem only sold plans “off-exchange,” which does not allow the use of premium subsidies. Maine Community Health Options and Harvard Pilgrim will continue to sell plans both on and off the Marketplace in 2019.

Superintendent Cioppa urges individuals to take the following steps to prepare for Open Enrollment:

Compare all costs, not just the premiums, as well as networks, providers and drug formularies. – Look at deductibles, co-insurance, copays and maximum out of pocket amounts to determine the total cost of a plan, based on your health and anticipated use of services. – Make sure your preferred providers and medications are covered by the specific plan you are considering.

Don’t wait until the last minute – start now. Open Enrollment is just six weeks – Nov 1 – Dec 15. – New plans must be purchased by December 15 to have coverage for 2019. Look at your options, ask questions, choose a plan, complete an application and (if applicable) update financial and household information at healthcare.gov soon, to avoid encountering a bottleneck as enrollment comes to a close. (Also, be sure you are on the government website, versus another one with a similar name.)

** Consumer Health Care Division ** Bureau staff members are available to answer questions Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached by dialing 1-800-300-5000 or 207-624-8475 (TTY please use Maine Relay 711). Emailed questions can be sent to insurance.pfr@maine.gov.

** Other sources of assistance: ** Find an insurance broker or agent, a Marketplace Navigator or Assister near you at healthcare.gov. Consumers can also contact the insurers directly to ask questions about covered services, providers, medications, and cost-sharing or to purchase unsubsidized plans.

Empower yourself against utility scams — Federal Trade Commission

Lisa Lake
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC
September 17, 2018

You get a call saying your electricity or water will be shut off unless you pay a past due bill. You may not think you have a past due bill. But the caller sounds convincing, and you can’t afford to ignore it, especially if you’re running a small business.

Actually, you can’t afford to believe it.

The FTC has been hearing about scammers impersonating utility companies in an effort to get your money. Here are some warning signs of a utility scam:

  • If you know you already paid, stop. Even if the caller insists you have a past due bill. That’s a big red flag.
  • Never give out your banking information by email or phone. Utility companies don’t demand banking information by email or phone. And they won’t force you to pay by phone as your only option.
  • Did the caller demand payment by gift card, cash reload card, wiring money or cryptocurrency? Don’t do it. Legitimate companies don’t demand one specific method of payment. And they don’t generally accept gift cards (like iTunes or Amazon), cash reload cards (like MoneyPak, Vanilla, or Reloadit), or cryptocurrency (like bitcoin).

If you get a call like this, here are some things you can do:

  • Concerned that your bill is past due? Contact the utility company directly using number on your paper bill or on the company’s website. Don’t call any number the caller gave you.
  • Never give banking information over the phone unless you place the call to a number you know is legitimate.
  • Tell the FTC. Your reports help us fight these scams. And report it to the real utility company. If you already paid, tell the payment provider – such as the wire transfer or gift card company. You may not get your money back, but it’s important to tell them about the scam.
  • Find out how you can protect yourself and your business from scams.
Tagged with: scam
Blog Topics:

Homes & Mortgages

Selling your car? Clear your personal data first. FTC has advice for you

Is a new car in your future? You might first have some unfinished business with your old one. While you’re cleaning out your personal items, think about the personal information stored in the car’s electronic system.

Your car is a computer that stores a lot of information about you — just like your smartphone or home computer. When you sell or donate your car, that personal data might be accessible to the next owner if you don’t take steps to remove it.

Some cars have a factory reset option that will return the settings and data to their original state. But even after a factory reset, you may still have work to do. For example, your old car may still be connected to subscription services like satellite radio, mobile wi-fi hotspots, and data services. You need to cancel these services or have them transferred to your new vehicle.

Here are types of data you want to remove from the electronic system before selling or donating your car:

  • Phone contacts and an address book may have been downloaded when you synced your phone with your vehicle.
  • Mobile apps’ log-in information, or data that’s gathered and stored on mobile apps, may be stored in the car.
  • Digital content like music may be stored on a built-in hard drive.
  • Location data like addresses or the routes you take to home, work, and favorite places may be stored in your navigation system.
  • Garage door codes for your home or office may be on your system.

Besides the information stored on your vehicle, check to make sure you’ve cleared connections between your devices and the car as well. For example, car manufacturers may provide an app that lets you control the car’s functions or find the car — you should disconnect the app from the car when you sell it or trade it in.

For more information about resetting and removing your information, check your owner’s manual, contact your dealer, and visit your vehicle manufacturer’s website.

******************************
While you think about clearing the data from your vehicle consider the following CBC warning

from Catherine Harrop · CBC News ·

Digital dirt: Why the data you leave in a rental car could threaten your privacy

Keep the Poison Center number handy

Good advice from Maine Emergency Management Agency

August 22, 2018

1-800-222-1222 is the emergency number for every Poison Control Center in the country. Add 1-800-222-1222 to your emergency phone list. The Poison Center provides immediate treatment advice for poison emergencies. They also provide information about poisons and poison prevention, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Wherever you are in the US, you can call 1-800-222-1222 and reach the Poison Control Center nearest you. You can visit their website at: https://www.nnepc.org/ and use the live chat function or text them.

Watch out for card skimming at the gas pump — Federal Trade Commission warning

PRESS RELEASE

by
Colleen Tressler
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC
August 7, 2018

With the summer travel season in high gear, the FTC is warning drivers about skimming scams at the pump.

Skimmers are illegal card readers attached to payment terminals.  These card readers grab data off a credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe without your knowledge. Criminals 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 gas up:

  • Make sure the gas pump panel is closed and doesn’t show signs of tampering. Many stations now put security seals over the cabinet panel. If the pump panel is opened, the label will read “void.”
  • Look at the card reader itself. Does it look different than other readers at the station? For example, the card reader on the left has a skimmer attached; the reader on the right doesn’t.

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 entering a PIN. That way, the PIN is safe and the money isn’t deducted immediately 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. 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, read Lost or Stolen Credit, ATM, and Debit Cards.

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