Can you really avoid an IRS audit? (Or at least reduce your chances?)

Yes and no. Great accountant answer, huh? The truth is that the Internal Revenue Service has some special red flags in place that help flag your tax return for an audit. Those super-secret red flags are revealed to no one. Apparently the IRS system takes your tax return data, runs its super-secret algorithm, and decides if your tax return is a high risk for problems. ...more

Bank of America cheating 80-year-old woman out of her money

When I first saw headlines about this case, I was sure there must be a whole lot to the story and that the bank would have laws and documentation on their side. Wrong! The story of the fraud is recounted by Greg Miller, the son of Bette Miller, the woman being fleeced. He wrote the narrative for Consumerist.com, the site giving this story a lot of publicity. Here is a summary of the main facts: ...more

Credit monitoring services doing more harm than good?

With stories of identity theft surfacing daily, it's no wonder that consumers want to be able to keep an eye on their credit reports from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. But there can be a hidden problem with these credit monitoring services. Each time your credit is checked by a third party, it lowers your credit score a little. If you personally check your credit, there is no impact. ...more

Lowe's tries to shut down Lowes-sucks.com

This was reported on Ars Technica, and the writer is pointing out the misuse of intellectual property laws in attempting to shut down Lowes-sucks.com. ...more

Apple warning consumers about iPhone hacks

There was jubilation amongst current and future iPhone users when it was announced that techies had created hacks to get around some security features. One of the more popular hacks was one to help iPhone users be able to use wireless networks other than AT&T (the only “authorized” provider of iPhone service right now). Well, Apple is saying that this hack can damage the iPhone. The “unlocking” programs run the risk of damaging the software in the phones, and making them permanently inoperable once new software updates from Apple are downloaded to the phone. ...more

A Follow-Up on the WSJ story about the Hutterites and cell phones

A couple of weeks ago, I did a post on a story in the Wall Street Journal about the Hutterite community and the use of cell phones and text messaging. I wrote the post not because it has anything to do with fraud, but because I was just interested in the story. It's never a bad thing to learn about other cultures and communities. ...more

Okay, I did it. I watched Kid Nation.

A month ago, I did a post on the new reality television show called Kid Nation. I was basically horrified as I learned that the children on this show were exploited by their parents, who signed lengthy contracts allowing their children to participate. The kids were given little supervision, and the parents agreed to not hold the show’s producers responsible if the children got sick or injured. The show may have violated labor and safety laws. Yikes. ...more

When Jimmy said he thought there were going to be adults, I cringed. I'm very sure his parents ...more

Arbonne: Just another cosmetics MLM

Arbonne International is another skin care and cosmetics multi-level marketing company (MLM). They are nowhere close in size to the big two, Avon and Mary Kay, but they have been experiencing pretty rapid growth in the sales force. In 2005, they had around 350,000 independent consultants. Like other MLMs, Arbonne has a bona fide product offered, but the “big money” comes via recruiting. However, the money doesn’t seem so big. The average commissions earned by the majority of the sales force are well under $1,000 per quarter per person. ...more

Working with Pyramid Scheme Alert

Late last year, I became a member of the Board of Advisors of Pyramid Scheme Alert (PSA). PSA is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating consumers about multi-level marketing companies and pyramid schemes. ...more

Being indoctrinated into the Mary Kay world

When I first became involved in Mary Kay Cosmetics, I had no intention of making it a career or anything close to it. I saw it merely as a way to make some extra money with a flexible schedule that was under my own control. I thought it would be fun to sell cosmetics and lead these “skin care classes” where women tried before they bought. ...more