Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Be Wary of Mortgage "Specials" Sent to Your Home after Applying for a Loan

Be Wary of Mortgage "Specials" Sent to Your Home after Applying for a Loan

Privacy laws and requirements have become a hot topic in recent years, resulting in consumers’ growing awareness of the need to protect their personal information from computer hackers, perpetrators of fraudulent scheme, and other criminals.

Most people do not understand that when you apply for a mortgage loan and then receive advertisements and targeted letters touting “special promotions” and “special rates,” it is because their private data has been sold. But it is not the lender that you have to watch out for!

Instead, it is the very same organizations that consumers tend to believe are the watchdogs of consumer protection, the credit bureaus.

What happens when you make a loan application? First your application is reviewed by one of the lender’s loan officers, who runs a credit report.

This credit report informs the credit bureau(s) that you have applied for a mortgage. Your information is then earmarked by lenders who buy targeted lead information from these companies.

No matter how hard consumers work to protect their personal information, this is the harsh reality. The credit bureau codes your information and, if a lender or other organization requests a list of leads that have applied for a similar loan product, you will receive their junk mail (and legitimate offers), regardless of whether you are approved for your loan.

The technical term for these targeted lists of information is a “trigger list”. A trigger list is sent to the requester with the promise to forward new additions to the list within a specific time period following the credit check. This could be as little as an hour, but it is usually within two business days.

You need to watch not only your mailbox, but also your telephone and email inbox. You will receive ads there as well if you provided that contact information in your application. You may receive calls to your home from soliciting lenders, emails from these lenders and even, in rare cases, a home visit.

Unfortunately, there is more bad news. Trigger lists do not stop with your name and contact information. Requesters may also receive information from your credit report, such as the details of student loans, credit cards, revolving charge accounts and car loans. They have access to almost unlimited information about you, despite all your efforts to keep such information private.

Consumer watchdog groups are trying to limit or eliminate credit bureaus’ ability to release this information to anyone who offers to pay. The National Association of Mortgage Brokers is one group that is disheartened by current practices. It is working to protect the interests of consumers while also maintaining its own wellbeing.

What about legitimate lenders who purchase leads from credit bureaus? Most industry experts believe that unless a lender has enough information to make a firm offer of credit, it should not be allowed to contact consumers on the trigger lists.

Under fire, the credit bureaus defend the practice and claim that their activities comply with all the regulations imposed on them by consumer-protection programs.

Why is the largest consumer of trigger lists the vast collection of internet companies that specialize in producing lead lists for their clients? Again, the argument is raised that if the leads are not going to a company that is prepared to make a genuine and firm offer of credit, the consumer should never be contacted.

Fortunately, consumers have a way out of this situation. Your personal information can be excluded from these trigger lists. A simple call, letter, or email to the credit bureaus will place a note on your record that your information may not be released to any third party without your explicit permission.

Hopefully this information has been enlightening and you will never become a victim of a scam related to trigger advertising. You have a choice. By opting out of prescreened advertising and trigger lists, you can secure your personal information and protect your privacy.

Recipe 1

Amazing Carrot Cake


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
3 (4 ounce) jars carrot baby food
1/2 cup grated carrot
1 cup flaked coconut

Preheat the oven to 350˚F (175˚C). Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the oil and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture. Stir in the chopped pecans, carrot baby food, grated carrots and coconut. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Springtime Gardening and Landscaping Safety in Wisconsin

Spring in Wisconsin is a great time for outdoor projects. The arrival of warm weather may make you want to get outside and moving. However, spring projects and spring weather come with some hazards. Here are some ways to protect yourself and your home.

Call Before You Dig: In most areas, an organization or public official needs to give approval to excavate even the smallest areas. This is because of the damage and destruction that can result if an unaware homeowner compromises a natural gas or electrical line.

Major utility providers will almost always send a representative to the proposed dig site to evaluate the safety of the proposed location. Utility lines and pipelines are often located deep underground, often with a marker indicating their depth. If the proposed excavation is extremely dangerous, a building inspector or code enforcement office may become involved and deny the necessary permit.

Never dig without notifying the utility providers. Otherwise, you could experience tremendous loss and put other people in danger.

Keep an Eye out for Dangers: Gardening is a favorite spring pastime, but beware of potential dangers lurking in your lawn and gardens. Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are dangerous plants that can cause life-threatening reactions in many people. Know how to spot them and safely remove them from your property.

Also, keep an eye out for pests. Moles, chipmunks and other small animals present little threat to your family, but if you find a nest of field mice, a litter of baby raccoons, or any other potentially dangerous animals, call the local authorities to request traps or removal services.

Insect threats are also common in the spring. If you notice a beehive, wasp hole, or termite nest, call the exterminator or carefully remove the hazard on your own. Wear protective gear and a mask if you are working with dangerous chemicals. Spring is a good time for this extermination, because in many areas of the country the fledgling insects have not yet hatched or are still docile and harmless.

Don’t Overdo It: Most people have limited physical activity during the winter. Therefore, be extremely cautious when starting outdoor projects in the spring. Just because you could easily lift your mower over a walkway in September does not mean that you won’t hurt yourself in April if your muscles are out of practice.

Take your projects slowly. You do not want to spend the rest of the spring recovering from a muscle injury that could have been avoided easily.

April Showers: The old adage is true – April showers do bring May flowers, but they can also bring dangerous conditions in some areas. Spring storms may cause flooding or power outages. If you live in a flood-prone area, be prepared. Keep your basement clear and keep your belonging off of the floor as much as possible. Most items damaged by floodwaters become unsafe and need to be replaced.

Power outages are almost always uneventful, but it is best to be prepared. Candles are an excellent source of light, but they should never be left burning unattended. Avoid accidental fires by being vigilant when burning candles during a power outage.

Unplug your electrical equipment. A single power surge can destroy computers and stereo equipment. Once the power is on again, plug in only one item at a time.

Spring is a wonderful and beautiful season. It is the perfect time to pay attention to your home and garden and ensure that the rest of your year will be free of danger. Protect your assets against the damage caused by springtime storms and heavy rainfall that are common in many areas during April and May. If you take preventative measures now, you can relax knowing that you have taken the necessary steps to increase the beauty and safety of your home and garden.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rural property, an American opportunity.

Real Estate… That term in itself means so much to so many people, yet means different things to each. There are investors who put their money in REIT’s, other types of investors who purchase rental properties both commercial and residential. There are the middle class working people who may want to realize the American Dream of home ownership, and possibly a second home on a lake or maybe some hunting land. There are farmers who need land to make a living. And there are real estate developers who buy large tracts of land and sell individual lots to people who want to build. This is not all the ownership types or even close to all of the reasons to invest in real estate. For the purposes of this story it will set us up for the next part of the discussion which is buying and selling rural properties.

Rural property and rural property owners are much different than property in town and the reason is primarily you can have more land for the money in the country, as well as more land altogether. They are sports men and women who are out on the land, they know the rural areas where they work, because they not only work with the land, they hunt it, fish the lakes, and help their neighbors with their land. You see this in areas that practice various forms of Whitetail deer management…one landowner puts up a sign and tells all of his neighbors that he is not going to harvest an animal unless it meets his specific criteria. Then all of the neighbors start talking about this to their friends and neighbors, then next thing you know you have entire townships which all practice harvesting deer the same way, and if that way is good for getting deer to be more mature and have larger antlers its considered by many to be successful. With real estate, it’s important to have a model that puts people in the best possible places for success. Rural property owners have special needs, and knowledge that their realtors must posses in order to be able to professionally do their jobs. Take a realtor from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and ask him to explain a “septic” system. Vise Versa, there are many things that people in real estate in the country don’t particularly know about city property.

The other thing that works so well for this type of scenario is that with rural people who only practice in a rural area, you begin to develop a special symbiosis which can lead to a fantastic buying or selling experience. As far as specific knowledge goes certain real estate companies have sprung up to specifically work these areas and provide service to ONLY rural property owners. This is specialization of the highest order and will prove to be the way rural property gets purchased or sold. You don’t hire an insurance claims lawyer to sell your business, you could…but what would the point be? You will then be paying for them to learn how to sell a business. It’s not their specialty; they are not the best at it. Look at rural property specialists when you need rural property information and I promise you will be much better off when you need to buy or sell.