Mary Mastroeni
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Mary Mastroeni

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How to Protect Your College Student from Identity Theft

August 30, 2011 5:03 pm

As millions of teenagers start their educational journeys in college this fall, thousands risk identity theft. During their early adult years, they are building one of the most important financial aspects of their life--their credit scores. But with their naive approach to finances and their inattentiveness to protecting their most personal information, many college students fall victim to identity theft because of their lack of knowledge and follow-through in identity theft protection. Identity Theft Labs, an evaluation and review websites for identity theft protection companies, helps college students reduce their risk of identity theft with a few simple tips for parents: 

Educate your child on phishing scams
With schools offering student emails, many students will become a victim of phishing scams. This is where a bogus email is sent to the student, which looks official and appears to come from a financial institution. This email will ask for personal information, such as "verifying your account," in which sends your student to a false website for them to enter in this data. As soon as this information is obtained by the third party, their personal data is at risk, as are their financial accounts. Remind your student never to send personal information through the internet, and to contact their financial company through their customer service number if being requested to send this data. 

Warn of credit applications
Many college students are bombarded with credit card applications in the mail and on campus. Each time they apply, they give out their Social Security numbers, income, and personal data. Remind your student not to apply for credit cards, and to bring home any credit card offers that they receive so you can look them over and help them make a good choice for their first credit card. Or add them as an additional cardholder on one of your own credit cards to assist them in starting to build their credit without putting them at risk for identity theft. Also, send them to college with a shredder to shred any credit card applications they receive on campus that they don't plan on applying for. Identity thieves can use these tossed applications to create a credit card under a student's name and start racking up fraudulent purchases and ruining their new credit scores. 

Enroll in a monitoring service
Enrolling your student in a credit monitoring service can help you and your student keep track of what is going on with their credit score and financial happenings. Each time they come home (for school break--or laundry!), sit down with them and view their credit reports through the service. Talking about finances with your child will not only help them understand the importance of building their financial future at a young age, but can give you the opportunity to talk to them about saving money, spending wisely, and donating to their local community. 

Teaching your child financial responsibility is one thing, but letting them know the ways to protect themselves from identity theft is another. Talk with your child about the dangers of identity theft on their financial future. 

For more information, visit http://www.IdentityTheftLabs.com.

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Word of the Day

August 30, 2011 5:03 pm

Fannie Mae. Common name for the Federal National Mortgage Association, which buys and sells loans in the secondary mortgage market.

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What to Do after the Disaster

August 29, 2011 5:03 pm

The Restoration Industry Association (RIA) has these tips for individuals impacted by Hurricane Irene and now cleaning up in the aftermath:
• Notify your insurance company of any losses.
• Keep a notebook to track dates and times of conversations with individuals pertaining to your claim.
• Save receipts for meals, hotels, toiletries, replacement clothing, prescriptions, etc.
• Take photos of each room for future reference and insurance claims. This will provide a digital inventory of some visible contents.
• If electrical appliances—including televisions and computers—are damaged by water, do not turn them back on when power is restored. This can result in electric shock and/or do further damage to the appliance. Electronics can often be cleaned & restored by contractors who know what they're doing.
• Drywall, insulation and carpeting/padding impacted by the muddy water will probably need to be removed and replaced.
• Beware of scammers offering restoration services.
• Wear heavy rubber gloves or work gloves and thick-soled shoes, preferably not tennis shoes.
• Wash your hands frequently—especially before touching your face or eating.
• Be careful of muddy water —there can be sharp items such as broken glass, nails, etc.
• Avoid cross contamination—don't wear dirty clothes or shoes to the clean part of the house.
• Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
• Don't use bleach to disinfect since it is corrosive and can react with other substances. Use household disinfectants.
• Open windows to ventilate the area. Open drawers and cabinets for interior drying, but don't force them open.
• Remove standing water from flat surfaces by sponging and blotting.
• Hard surfaces can be disinfected as well as some soft goods, depending on washability.
• Transport computers and musical instruments to a dry environment.
• Remove lamps and other items from wet furniture tops.
• Dry out as much as you can to prevent further damage. 

More information is available on the RIA website: www.restorationindustry.org.

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Protect Your Deck Now, Enjoy It Later

August 29, 2011 5:03 pm

Colder temperatures, snow, and ice can do some damage on the exterior of your home, especially to wooden decks. Harsh winter weather can deteriorate the wood, ruin the look, and depreciate the value of your deck. Take extra care of it now so that your deck is in tip-top shape for backyard BBQs in the spring. There are three steps to winterizing your deck: 

First, you should give your deck a good wash. There are a number of substances that can get on your deck during the summer that could cause problems during the winter. For example, mold and mildew can cause erosion on various types of wood. Cleaning the deck can also prevent dry rot, which is wood decay caused by fungi. Start by removing furniture and planters for storage. 

Moisture between caught between the deck and planters or furniture can seep into the wood during the winter and stain the surface. Sweep off dirt and debris while making sure to clear the space between the planks for ventilation. A leaf blower can help you clear the surface quickly. Then wash your deck with deck soap—you can find specific formulas for each type of wood. After washing, give it a good rinse with the hose. 

The next thing you want to do is restore the deck by stripping and refinishing the wood. It is important to strip and refinish the deck before staining to ensure sealants adhere to the wood and cover evenly. Power washing the deck is recommended to remove old paint and stains. Make sure to maintain a consistent distance from the surface of the deck at all times to produce a smooth surface. 

The last and most important step is protecting the deck with water repellant stain. Stains or sealants prevent water, snow, etc., from penetrating the wood and causing decay. Ask your hardware or home improvement store about the best high-quality stain for your type of deck. 

Using a paint sprayer can make staining faster and provide a professional finish. A paint sprayer can also help you cover those hard to reach areas like railings, posts and underneath the deck. Spray on a non-windy day to prevent overspray, keep a consistent distance away from the surface, and maintain a steady speed while spraying. 

The deck is one of your home's greatest assets. Prolong the life of your investment by winterizing it each year.

For more project tips and information about what tools to use, visit www.wagnerspraytech.com.

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Product Trend: Energy Efficient Fridges

August 29, 2011 5:03 pm

According to the Alliance to Save Energy, New Department of Energy efficiency standards will cut energy use of many new refrigerators by 25%. This will help consumers save money as well as reduce pollutions and encourage investment.

The latest standards are based on a joint recommendation filed in 2010 with DOE by the groups and refrigerator manufacturers represented by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.
A typical refrigerator in 2014 will use about one-fifth as much electricity as one from the mid-1970s, and they cost about 60% less comparatively while also growing up to 20% larger.

Additionally, DOE estimates that these new fridges will cut CO2 emissions by 344 million metric tons over 30 years—which is equal to the annual emissions of about 67 million cars.

For more information, visit www.ase.org.


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Budget-Friendly Family Fun

August 29, 2011 5:03 pm

These days, enjoying one another's company on a budget is even more important for families. So take a break from the ordinary and settle into the comforts of the best playground around—the home.
Remember that family time should be silly, lighthearted, and above all, about creating special bonding moments with the kids. Following are a few entertaining at-home activities the entire family can enjoy without dipping into savings. 

Explore the great indoors. Everyone loves a good scavenger hunt. Divide the family into teams and race to see who can find the most items on the list first. Don't forget to have prizes for the winners. Better-for-you treats make for the perfect scavenger hunt prize or for snacking on-the-go. 

Switch it up with backwards day. Shake up the evening routine by doing everything backwards. Put on your comfy pajamas right after school and even flip them backwards or inside out. Get together for a board game with a twist and move the pieces from finish to start. Make your end of day meal more festive by serving breakfast for dinner or eating dessert as the first course. The kids will certainly get a kick out of bending the rules. 

Create a backyard obstacle course. Collect some old produce boxes from your local grocery store; they're usually available free of charge. Then, stagger the boxes on your lawn for the kids to run through in different patterns. Set up a backyard bowling game with recycled empty bottles just before the finish line. You can add other obstacles such as a limbo stick, hopscotch with ropes or anything else you like from materials around the house—the sky is the limit. 

Make dinner a family affair. Research consistently shows that families who regularly eat together are closer and happier than those who don't. 

For more budget-friendly family recipes and activities, visit www.Meals.com.

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Word of the Day

August 29, 2011 5:03 pm

Exclusive-right-to-sell listing. Listing that gives the broker the right to collect a commission no matter who sells the property during the listing period.


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Question of the Day

August 29, 2011 5:03 pm

Q: Is a home equity line of credit similar to a second mortgage?

A: A home equity loan, like a second mortgage, lets you tap up to about 80 percent of the appraised value of your home, minus your current mortgage balance. But because it is set up as a line of credit, you will not be charged interest until you actually make a withdrawal against the loan, although you will be responsible for paying closing costs.
The withdrawals can be made gradually as you begin to pay contractors and suppliers for handling your remodeling project.

The interest rates on these loans are usually variable. Of particular importance: make sure you understand the terms of the loan. If, for example, your loan requires that you pay interest only for the life of the loan, you will have to pay back the full amount borrowed at the end of the loan period or risk losing your home.

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The Pros and Cons of Plastic Storage Space

August 26, 2011 5:03 pm

I recently began researching space—not the cosmos, but the appropriate type of lawn shed for storage of outdoor garden equipment, tools, potting supplies and other related items. Below are some of the pros and cons of buying a plastic shed, as reported by carportstentsandsheds.com:

Pros:
â—Plastic sheds are typically lower in price than similar style sheds constructed from wood or metal.
â—Plastic sheds will last for years with virtually no maintenance required except maybe an occasional spray with a hose to clean them off. Wood sheds must be painted or stained and resealed periodically to avoid wood rot, and you must check for insect or water damage. Metal sheds are durable but must be checked for rust, which can occur if an area of the shed is dented or scratched.
â—You can find a plastic shed in almost any size and any style. They come with different styles of doors and some even come with shelves or other accessories that can be added. They also come in different colors and different finishes to add to the variety of options.
â—Plastic sheds are easy to install. Most plastic sheds assemble with ease and only come with a few parts. They are also relatively lightweight so they are easy to transport if you purchase them from a store and if you order a plastic shed online, the lighter weight of the sheds will cost less to ship.

Cons:
â—Plastic is not as attractive as wood. While plastic sheds have come a long way when it comes to aesthetics, and many are made to resemble wood grain and come in a variety of colors, a plastic shed doesn’t have the same charm and beauty in your garden or yard as a wooden shed does.
â—Colored plastic can fade over time if left in the sun, so when it comes to plastic, it is not worth buying cheap. 

Purchasing a plastic shed from a reputable manufacturer is a wise choice to ensure that you will enjoy years of use from your shed. Some large shed manufacturers even offer warranties with their products.

If you are in the market for a plastic shed, companies including Duramax, Sentinel, Arrow, and Suncast may provide some ideas on how to get the best plastic shed for your money.

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Travel Insurance Tips for Hurricane Season

August 26, 2011 5:03 pm

After the first official hurricane of the Atlantic season, flooding, power outages and worse all along the East Coast as far north as Maine, may be impacting residents and summer vacationers alike. 

"Now is a good time to get reacquainted with your travel insurance policy," says Jim Grace, president and CEO of InsureMyTrip. "

This month marks the beginning of the peak of hurricane season, which runs through November, so if you don't have coverage for Irene, there's still time to protect your future travels from any yet-to-be-named storms.

"Trip cancellation and interruption protection is based on the occurrence of unforeseen events," explains Grace. "Once a storm has been publicly identified, it can only spell trouble for travelers without insurance protection. You need to purchase travel insurance coverage before a storm is predicted and named, not when it's bearing down on you or your intended destination."

Coverage for weather-related trip cancellations and interruptions differs by insurance company and plan. The covered cancellation reasons can include:
• Cancellation due to Weather: when common carriers such as airlines and cruise lines cease service due to weather
• Cancellation due to Hurricane Warning: cancellation of your trip if your destination is under a NOAA-issued hurricane warning
• Destination made Uninhabitable: if your hotel, resort, or vacation rental is devastated by a storm
• Primary Residence made Uninhabitable: if your own home sustains destructive storm damage
• Cancel For Any Reason– an optional benefit that allows you to choose whether or not to cancel.

To learn more about protection plans for travel during hurricane season, visit www.insuremytrip.com


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