It’s tax time again. Income tax identity theft is a major problem. According to the IRS, “Tax-refund fraud is expected to soar again this tax season, and hit a whopping $21 billion.“ Thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams and fake IRS communication.
The most common way income tax fraud occurs is when a thief files an income tax return using a victim’s Social Security number, along with a counterfeit W-2, indicating that a large refund is due.
It is important to note that the IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by phone, email, text messages or social media channels requesting personal or financial information. The IRS also does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment or other enforcement action.
The simplest way to reduce the risk of income tax fraud is by filing your income tax return as early as possible. If you file early, your tax refund will most likely be processed before the IRS receives the fraudulent return.
Below is an audio file of an interview I had last year on my BlogTalkRadio program with Steve Weisman, a lawyer, writer, college professor, and one of the country’s leading experts in scams and identity theft. In the interview, we discuss how to reduce the risk of tax fraud and the steps you can take to minimize identity theft. I encourage you to take a few minutes to listen to the broadcast.
Planning an overseas trip and want to be able to keep in touch with family, friends, and business associates back in the US without incurring large telephone and texting charges? Having an “international” smartphone doesn’t mean you can automatically use it to make and receive calls as if you were still at home. Just last week I received a call from a client who was appalled that he received a bill from his mobile phone carrier for $1200 after returning from a ten day trip to Europe.
I have written many times that it’s impossible to recommend a computer, program, and service that fits all. The same is true regarding a communication plan. Here’s a list of some of the things that must be considered before selecting the best strategy to manage your communication costs.
– Do you have an international phone?
– Where will you be traveling to?
– How long will you be away?
– What will be your primary means of communication (phone, text, e-mail)?
– How important will it be for you to access information (using your data plan) such as news, social networking, etc.?
– Will your hotel/residence have Internet access, and is there a cost for it?
– Will you have access to wi-fi?
I have written a number of times about the different ways of using your phone overseas at no cost. I have suggested you look at Viber, WhatsApp, MagicJack, and Skype. All have the ability to communicate for free from anywhere you can access the Internet through a wireless connection.
With many smartphones, you can purchase a simcard in many countries that will fit in the side of your phone, allowing you to use a local number; thereby, reducing the cost of each call.
However, each of the major mobile phone providers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile) offer international plans that, for a fee, will substantially reduce, and in several cases, let you use your phone as if you were in the US. For example, for either a daily or monthly fee, Verizon Wireless lets you use your phone in many parts of the world as if you were still home.
Below is a list of the major mobile providers. Click on your provider, and you will be able to review the different plans available to you.
Keep in mind, the plan you select is based on where you will be travelling, the length of your trip, and the availability of wi-fi.
Lastly, you can always rent an international phone here in the US from a company such as Cellhire.
The important think to remember is there is no need to be out of touch or pay exorbitant prices while travelling abroad.
As a parent, do you have the basic computer skills to maintain contact with your college student? Does your technology support your efforts, and do you have the most cost efficient systems in place?
The following are some points that you should be thinking about before the move-in date:
– Will you need to upgrade either your equipment or services?
– How do you determine your child’s equipment needs while in college?
– Does the cell phone provider that you use at home (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, etc.) have a strong network at your child’s school?
– What can you do to keep your communication costs down?
– What are the most cost efficient ways to stay in communication with your child in college?
– How do you keep in contact with your child who is studying abroad without incurring large telephone charges?
– Has your child’s school granted you online access to key school resources?
– Does your child know how to reach you 24/7?
The chances are that your child may be more up-to-date on the latest technology than you. It is important that you discuss a strategy to communicate in a cost efficient manner. If your child is studying thousands of miles away, or perhaps in any country, you do not want to incur telephone charges that approach the cost of tuition!
Most universities no longer provide phones in their dorms. The use of cell phones and other mobile technology tools has significantly enhanced our ability to maintain our relationships with our children in college. Are you prepared?
I have written many times about how to select the best wireless carrier (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, etc.). There is an ongoing price war being waged between the carriers offering discounted phones, unlimited data and phone plans, and other perks. However, remember, coverage is the key factor in selecting a wireless carrier. Click here read my recent blog regarding selecting a carrier.
A recent study conducted by PCMagazine reports on the fastest networks by region in the US. Which carrier has the fastest data network where you live? See who rules each US region and which carrier takes the prize for fastest network in the nation. Click Here to read the complete article.
Now there’s a free app, mobile passport, that lets you fast track through customs. Travelers with a smartphone or tablet can download the Mobile Passport Control app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. With the Mobile Passport App, you can skip the long lines at US airports for Custom and Border Protection (CBP).
The Mobile Passport is authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Just fill out your profile, snap a selfie, and answer CBP’s questions – then go straight to the “Mobile Passport Control” express lane at the airport!
Geoffrey A. Fowler in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal reviewed the program.
The website of the Department of Homeland Security contains answers to frequently asked questions such as:
– Who can use Mobile Passport
– Does Mobile Passport replace your passport
– Do you have to fill out a customs declaration form
– Will you still have to go through processing lines
– Is the Mobile passport app secure
I recently downloaded a new app onto my iPhone, ALLCAST which is allowing me to cast all my videos and pictures on my phone directly to my large screen TV. Previously, the app was only available for Android devices.
The ALLCAST app also permits you to stream them from cloud providers such as Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive and Instagram. Simply launch the application, grant permission for it to access your photos and videos, hit the familiar cast icon in the lower left, pick a target, select smart TVs, Chromecast, Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, Xbox. and you are ready to cast.
To read more about ALLCAST, CLICK HERE.
From a cost standpoint, you will be able to save money spent on:
- fax paper
- toner cartridges
- fax machine repair
- an additional phone line
As for convenience, all faxes will be received as an e-mail attachment which means you can receive all faxes on a computer, tabloid, and cell phone. With a fax machine, you have to be in your office/home to receive documents.
Ever wonder how you can use your smartphone without an Internet connection? Being offline doesn’t mean you can’t watch a movie, listen to your music, read a book, and keep up to date with your favorite podcasts. Many airlines now offer wi-fi, however don’t rely on it to stream since, in most cases, the signal is not as great as what you are used to at home.
To learn more on what you should be doing, prior to your trip, when connected to the Internet (preferably wi-fi), click HERE to access a video with some great tips.
Also, you should be traveling with two sets of earphones (in case your main one breaks), a charging cable, and a preferably a portable battery pack.