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Monday, April 20, 2015

How do I know if I'm a victim of fraud?

Read your financial statements

Banks and credit card providers will usually send their customers a detailed statement of financial activity once per month, covering payments and credits made within the past 4 weeks. Financial institutions that offer online banking or account management make it even easier for customers to view their financial history whenever they want, from anywhere with internet access. Despite this, as a nation we’re embarrassingly bad at keeping track of our balances.

A shocking 20 percent of us fail to check financial statements when they land on the doormat each month, and an estimated 80 percent are unable to accurately estimate their current balance to a figure within a £50 range. Any fraudulent activity made via a current account, savings account, or a credit or debit card will show on a monthly statement, so it’s vital to keep track of incomings and outgoings to ensure you know when something looks out of place.

Set up misuse alerts

If you use a credit card from a well respected bank, you may have noticed that you’ve been contacted by their fraud team in the past as a transaction had been flagged as being potentially fraudulent. Banks are often good at protecting their customers, but there are times when they fail in their responsibilities, and Sainsburys hit the headlines recently for approving an unusual £9000 transaction on a customer card that was the result of fraudulent activity.

It’s important not to rely on banks solely to protect your finances. Instead, take things into your own hands. Identity protection services allow users to set up misuse alerts, which sends an email or text message to the account holder should a questionable transaction - or a credit application - be made. This process is much more thorough, and allows users to quickly log in to their online account to see details of the transaction and take appropriate action.

Check your credit rating

If you apply for credit and are refused based on a poor credit history, despite always having kept up with past payments, you may have been the target of fraudsters. Any junk mail that you toss in the bin can be picked up by criminals, and if this mail contains personal details including name and address, it’s actually very easy for fraudsters to apply for credit in your name. So easy, in fact, that it’s estimated that 40 percent of us have been refused credit after falling prey to thieves.

You have a legal right to access your credit information, but keep in mind there can be a nominal fee for doing so. In spite of this, it’s important to check your credit rating regularly to ensure there are no unfair defaults on your file, which could affect your score. Experts recommend checking your credit rating once per year, but there are no penalties for checking more frequently, and this won’t show up in reports to potential lenders.

About the author: Harry Price is a full time writer and artist living in a small coastal village on the south coast.   He loves marathon running and his 3 dogs are the best training buddies ever!

Images: 1. Geralt/Pixabay; US-PD; 2. Author owned and licensed

Monday, April 13, 2015

Newsletter: Fundamental investment analysis

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How to ace math tests without learning much

By Marta Gromadzka
We all know people, who claim that they spend minimum time on learning math and yet they ace every math test they take. We often wrongly assume that those people must possess out of this world math skills, but the truth is that everyone can be better at passing math tests, if they follow these rules:

Behave like an exemplary student

Students, who are good at math are often really good in other disciplines as well. That is because they know the key to success: you should do everything as you are told. When your math teacher asks you to be more active during math classes, do it, instead of spending this time on daydreaming. Try to understand everything the teacher is talking about and if you have any doubts, ask as many questions as necessary. When your math teacher gives you homework to do, get to it right away, instead of waiting until the very last moment or not completing the task at all. If you do your homework on the same day when you had your math classes, chances are that you probably still remember everything you have learned and by practicing it right away, you are reinforcing your knowledge of math and building stronger foundations for your understanding of more complex problems in the future. Doing homework on time has one more advantage: if you have some problems with those exercises, you will know it right away and you can ask your teacher for advice on the next day.

Learn how to solve math tests

The ability to solve math tests is a skill on its own and that is because most math exercises are standardized: they follow similar patterns and often include hints, which can help you solve those problems. If you want to be better at solving math problems, start from improving your reading with understanding. It is the absolute basic skill for solving math problems, but, surprisingly, many kids do not know how to extract important information from the text. Every important fact given in the word problem can be translated into the language of numbers and symbols. At first, it might seem difficult, but if you analyze previously solved math problems, you will notice that certain phrases repeat and they are consistently translated as certain math symbols. Create a personal dictionary of these correlations and memorize it. The ability to translate word problems into math symbols is the first step to solving them and even if you do not know what to do next, you should still get points for trying.

Develop some serious math skills

If you want to improve your math knowledge and get ahead of other students in your class, try a different math learning method, like the Singapore math. You will be surprised how quickly you can hone your math skills with this method. Ideally you should be practicing Singapore math techniques at school, but if your school follows the traditional curriculum and you can’t find any Singapore math classes near you, look for Singapore math books and learn the basics of the method by yourself. 

About the author: Marta Gromadzka is a writer and editor with a wide variety of experience, including writing for websites internationally and editing books on many different subjects and in a variety of formats.

Image: Sandid/Pixabay, US-PD

Thursday, April 2, 2015

How to deal with debt

Being in debt is no one’s idea of fun. Yet it happens to plenty of us, and is easy to fall into when you are struggling with money. Facing the problem head-on is key to getting out of debt, so read on to find out the best ways to approach debt and what your options are.

List your debts

The first step in dealing with debt is facing up the problem. So you need to sit down with a pen and paper and list all the debts you hold, and how much you owe.

Make a plan of action

How you deal with your debts will depend on your available income. And if you have very little spare money to play with, then you need to focus on priority debts first. These include:
  • Council Tax
  • Rent or Mortgage
  • Gas and Electricity
  • VAT or Income Tax Arrears
  • TV Licence
  • Child Support Payments
The consequences for not paying these debts are very serious, and include bailiffs or even prison. If these creditors have already begun court action you should be able to come to an agreement with them for repayment. However, if your problem is long term and you still cannot pay, then you will need to seek help from a specialist debt advice team who will advise you on how to proceed.


If you do have an income that includes enough money to cover your debts, then sort out a budget working out what you can afford to pay. You can then approach creditors with an income and expenditure form listing your income and expenses, with an offer of repayment. This can be for as little as £5 per month. If they agree, be sure you stick to it or you will end up with worse problems.

Options for debt

If you feel that your debts are unmanageable and you do not have the income to pay them off, then you do have options other than bankruptcy. These include:

Individual voluntary arrangements (IVA’s),

An IVA must be set up by a qualified person, called an insolvency practitioner. However, it allows you to repay your debts at a manageable rate if you have some spare income.

Debt relief order (DRO)

If you owe below £15,000 a year, do not own anything of any financial worth, and have £50 per month or less left over after essential expenses, then a DRO allows you to be free of your debts after one year. This is a cheaper option than bankruptcy.

Consolidation loan

If you can afford the repayments, then taking out a loan to repay all your priority debts off with one single payment could be an option for you.

Credit records and debt

Debts can have a significant impact on your ability to borrow in the future, and you should remember that your debts will always show up on your credit record. Use a credit reference agency or online credit report checker to be sure that any debts you pay off are recorded as paid.

About the author: Harry Price is a writer from the south coast.  He lives with his wife and 3 dogs and takes his writing inspiration from his surroundings.

Images: 1. Chris Potter/Flickr, CC BY 2.0;  2. Author owned and licensed