Shopping for a Mortgage? Avoid These Mistakes

Save money on your mortgage with these tips.

If you’re looking to buy a home, you most likely aren’t going to purchase it outright. You’ll need a mortgage to finance your home and pay it off over time.

But finding the right mortgage is easier said than done. Here are a few blunders to avoid in your search:

1. Not looking around for the best rate

Not all mortgages are created equal. Some mortgage interest rates are higher than others. And a higher interest rate means a more expensive loan.

If you’re a first-time homebuyer, you may be inclined to accept the first loan you’re offered. But before you do, shop around to ensure that you’re getting the best mortgage rate. Even a small difference in interest rate could save you a lot of money over time.

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Imagine you’re looking to take out a 30-year, $200,000 mortgage. You agree to a 4.25% interest rate. By the time you’ve paid off your house, interest alone will cost you $154,197.

Now, let’s imagine you score a 4% interest rate instead (for the same loan). Just a 0.25% difference — it doesn’t sound like much. But that tiny difference will save you $10,458 over the life of your loan. You could go for a vacation and have money to spare with that kind of savings.

To get an idea of how different interest rates affect the cost of a loan, use our mortgage calculator.

Better credit means a better interest rate. It literally pays to work on boosting your credit score in the weeks or months leading up to your mortgage application.

To start, get quick boost by paying off debt. Even if you can only pay off some debt, this should help bring your score up rapidly.

Next, check your credit report for errors. Correct any mistakes, and you’ll see your score rise. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report annually from the major reporting bureaus, so take advantage of it.

Check our guide to increasing your credit score for more strategies to improve your score.

3. Not paying attention to fees

Most people in the market for a mortgage know to pay attention to interest rates — but don’t forget about mortgage fees.

For example, your mortgage lender might charge you a mortgage origination fee that negates its competitive interest rate. An origination fee is an up-front fee charged by your mortgage company for processing your loan. It could be as high as 1% of your loan amount. This means you could be stuck paying a $2,000 fee on a $200,000 mortgage.

You may be able to negotiate this and other fees your lender wants to charge you

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Worcester officials advise residents to avoid in-person shopping, dining as new COVID cases surge to new highs

New coronavirus cases in Worcester over the last eight days eclipsed 1,000, officials said, surpassing the high-water mark from the spring which was 600.

Over an eight-day period from Thanksgiving through Thursday, Worcester saw 1,012 new COVID-19 cases, “a mind-boggling” number Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. said.

On Wednesday alone, Augustus said, the city saw 278 cases, the most since April 22. Overall the city has now seen 10,127 cases since the start of the pandemic. The city reported nine more deaths since last week.

The positivity rate in the city is at 22%, Worcester Medical Director Dr. Michael Hirsh said.

Augustus said the positive tests are “widespread” across the city coming from households to childcare to hospitals.

“The testing number, more than 1,000 cases in the last eight days, that’s just a staggering number,” Augustus said. “And that does not really reflect the surge that we’re expecting that came from Thanksgiving travel.”

With numbers rising to new highs, Augustus still declined to implement stricter guidelines for restaurants and retail.

While a mandate wasn’t implemented, Hirsh and Augustus advised residents to avoid indoor dining and work from home when possible. The two officials recommended shopping online and ordering takeout to limit contact.

“Every trip that you take outside of your bubble at home is a risk,” Hirsh said.

Augustus believes if a mandate came, it should be implemented at the state level.

”We’re certainly talking amongst ourselves about things we can do,” Augustus said. “I do think it’s challenging for one city to shut down restaurants or shut down stores where people can go the next town over. You don’t get the benefit of that. People are just going to travel to other places and then you hurt your businesses.”

Augustus and Hirsh each shared concerns about the number of health care workers infected by the virus during the last week.

Augustus said as the city braces for a second surge of the virus, the shortages won’t come from PPE but in the form of health care staff.

Health care workers at the city’s two hospitals, Saint Vincent Hospital and UMass Memorial Health Care, reported a combined 99 new cases – an average of more than 12 per day.

“If you’re not willing [to follow the safety protocols] for yourself, if you’re not willing to do it for your family members, let me ask folks to try to do it for our health care workers,” Augustus said. “If you look at the hospitals, if you look at the nursing facilities, look at the positive numbers for health workers, they’re exhausted.”

As high as the numbers are now, the city anticipates they will continue to increase due to Thanksgiving travel.

Hirsh said the surge from Thanksgiving is expected around the middle of December with another surge after Christmas.

On Sunday, the DCU Center is expected to open as a field hospital. Gov. Charlie Baker toured the facility in Worcester on Thursday. CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care Dr. Eric Dickson

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How to avoid online scams this holiday shopping season

There are 23 days left until Christmas and while Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, that doesn’t mean online shopping is over. 



a person using a laptop computer sitting on top of a keyboard: Working from home can complicate work and home. Here are tips for organizing workflows and personal spaces.


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Working from home can complicate work and home. Here are tips for organizing workflows and personal spaces.

Both the Better Business Bureau and Federal Trade Commission are telling consumers to be wary with online shopping this holiday season. 

“Ads for great online deals are everywhere, tempting consumers with great prices and free shipping offers,” the Better Business Bureau said. “Sometimes consumers find what they ordered is not what they get. Many ads pop up with enticing gadgets, cute merchandise or items with a subliminal ‘I gotta have it’ messages, making it irresistible to click and check it out.”

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The Better Business Bureau said that some deals really are too good to be true and to think before you click.

“Be especially cautious about email solicitations and online ads on social media sites. Many sketchy retailers advertise great deals or trendy clothing that don’t measure up to the promotional hype,” the Better Business Bureau said.

The Federal Trade Commission said to be sure to have updated antivirus software before browsing for the perfect gift. 

Tips on avoiding scams

Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission said to follow these tips:

  • To get the best deal, compare products. Do research online, check product comparison sites, and read online reviews.
  • Check out the seller and confirm that the seller is legit. 
  • Look for coupon codes. Search the store’s name with terms like “coupons,” “discounts” or “free shipping.”
  • Pay by credit card. Paying by credit card gives you added protection. Never mail cash or wire money to online sellers. If the seller asks you to pay this way, it could be a scam.
  • Use secure checkout. Before you enter your credit card information online, check that the website address starts with “https.” The “s” stands for secure. If you don’t see the “s,” don’t enter your information.
  • Keep records of online transactions until you get the goods, confirm you got what you ordered, and that you’re satisfied you won’t have to return the item.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: How to avoid online scams this holiday shopping season

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Online shopping soars as customers avoid malls | Business

NEW YORK – The viral pandemic is accelerating a transformation of America’s holiday shopping season.

Few people showed up at the mall this weekend, with millions of pandemic-wary shoppers staying home to shop online.

The result? Overall holiday sales are projected to rise a slight 0.9% in November and December – and even that modest gain will be due to an explosion in online shopping, according to the research firm eMarketer. It expects online sales to jump nearly 36%, while sales at physical stores fall 4.7%.

The online rush was on full display Monday, known as Cyber Monday, a day of sales promoted by retailers back in 2005.

Once the final numbers are tallied up, this year’s Cyber Monday is projected to become the biggest online shopping day in American history.

Black Friday, typically the frenzied kickoff of the holiday shopping season, was eerily quiet this year. Health officials had warned shoppers to remain home, and stores followed suit by putting their best deals online to discourage crowds.

Half as many people shopped inside stores this Black Friday than last year, according to retail data company Sensormatic Solutions.

“Black Friday was really Bleak Friday,” says David Bassuk, a member of the retail practice at the consulting firm AlixPartners.

Online was a decidedly different story. Sales hit a record $9 billion on Black Friday – up a sharp 22% from last year, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks online shopping.

Even though shoppers had weeks of online deals, many held out for bargains that they could get only on Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving. Amazon offered 30% off on board games and discounts on many of its gadgets. Target had 40% off Legos and robot vacuums for $75 off.

Cyber Monday was expected to generate as much as $12.7 billion in sales – a 35% jump from a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics.

A big unknown hanging over the shopping season is this: Will retailers be able to deliver all those online orders in time for Christmas? Retailers have been warning shoppers to buy early, because with far more people shopping online during the pandemic, shippers may become overwhelmed.

Prolonged delays could send people back to physical stores closer to Christmas, if many people decide that old-fashioned stores are a more reliable way to obtain their gifts on time, said Charlie O’Shea, a retail analyst at Moody’s.

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7 mistakes to avoid when shopping on Cyber Monday

During the Covid-19 pandemic, online shopping has been a blessing and also a curse. While services like grocery delivery add convenience, browsing online retailers is an easy habit to get into.



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With Cyber Monday approaching, you might be raring to online shop. Given the pandemic, many retailers have canceled or limited their Black Friday offers to prevent people from congregating indoors and potentially transmitting the virus. That means, you’ll likely see more online shopping deals from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.

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Here are seven potential mistakes to avoid while you online shop during Cyber Monday:

Shopping for the sake of a sale

There are three components that, taken together, make Cyber Monday sales seem intriguing: the limited time window, the depth of the discounts and the fact that it’s marketed as an event that only happens once a year, explains Priya Raghubir, a marketing professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business who specializes in consumer behavior and psychology.

It’s easy to get excited about a big discount: “The depth of the discount really attracts consumers,” Raghubir tells CNBC Make It. For example, if an item is marked with a flashy sign advertising a certain percentage off, it makes it seem more appealing, even though the discount may not result in such a drastic price difference. Make a list, and do a little research to investigate the actual price before you aim to buy, she suggests.

Ask yourself if you’re excited about the product or just the discount. “Just be aware of what is driving your shopping behavior,” she says. “If it makes you happy and you have the money, go for it.”

Acting on your FOMO

Often we make impulse purchases simply because we don’t want to miss out on an opportunity, Raghubir says. “Many times consumers may shop and buy things that they don’t need only to minimize regret that they didn’t buy when something was available at such a low price,” she says.

If you’re susceptible to shopping FOMO, Raghubir recommends making a list. “Once you make a list, you will be less likely to be tempted to go off that list, and make an impulse purchase of something that is offered at a great discount or appears to be a great discount,” she says. Buying yourself a gift card to use on Cyber Monday is another strategy to limit the amount of money you spend.

Counting on normal delivery times

At the start of the pandemic, when people were doing more of their shopping online, many retailers experienced shipping delays due to the influx of orders. For the most part, USPS, UPS and FedEx have said their shipping deadlines for the holidays track with other years. But “retailers have other challenges,” McGrath says. For example, warehouse staffing issues due to Covid-19 could impact the time that it takes to prep and get orders out quickly, she says.

Read the fine print about shipping and processing, Skirboll says. “Don’t forget that

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How to avoid getting scammed while holiday shopping online

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – From email hacks and data breaches to kids toys that can spy on your family, there’s no shortage of things to keep an eye out for while getting your holiday shopping done online this year.

With lightning deals on Amazon and other retailers, scammers are looking to take advantage of shoppers who are searching for the best bargains. Chris Freedman, co-founder of the cyber security firm OnDefend, said it’s a very dangerous time to be a consumer.

“Covid has created two things: more people than ever are shopping from home on Black Friday, which lends itself to cyber fraud right?” Freedman said. “The second thing is there is a lot of financial hardship right now, which can lead to snap decisions on deals that are too good to be true.”

For starters, Freedman recommends shopping directly through a retailer’s website instead of clicking on any links that arrive in an email offering a deal. He said those who are scanning through their inboxes for deals can avoid clicking on phishing scams by hovering over the hyperlink to make sure it’s a legitimate link.

Besides that, Freedman acknowledged it is true that some cameras, digital devices and even toys could be spying on your family. He said these gadgets are routinely manufactured offshore and then manufacturers collect that data offshore as well.

The Mozilla Foundation, the nonprofit organization behind the popular Firefox browser, released its annual “privacy not included” gift guide. The annual guide breaks down the security and privacy concerns related to some of the hottest gifts this year.

Take, for instance, the Nintendo Switch gaming console. According to the report, Nintendo in 2020 had a data breach in which 300,000 users’ birthdays and email addresses were exposed. But it’s worth mentioning that the company does not share your data with third parties and overall does a good job with cyber security.

But while the device itself doesn’t necessarily carry a privacy risk, some of the games might. In Mario Kart: Home Circuit, the game uses a real-life car to play and that car drives all around your home, mapping it and snapping pictures. And right now, we don’t know where that information is going.

“If you’re worried about technology sending your information off to other countries, your best bet is to buy from manufactures in the states,” Freedman said. If not, he said, do your research and ask yourself whether you’re okay with your information being collected — and potentially compromised.

Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.

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Shopping online? Here’s how to avoid porch pirates this holiday season

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Porch pirates are something nearly half of Americans worry about. (Photo: Getty Images)

While Americans hunkered down during the coronavirus pandemic, online shopping went up — way up — creating more opportunities for thieves to steal packages. 

“Porch pirates,” people who steal packages left unattended on doorsteps, are nothing new.

They’ve plagued online buyers waiting on deliveries, but now, more packages arriving to doorsteps mean more chances for them to be swiped. And companies moving to contactless deliveries only increases the chances of lone packages being stolen. 

Walmart reported that its online sales jumped 74%. Target saw a nearly 275% rise in April. 

According to research done by Value Penguin, nearly 20% of responders said they had a package stolen during the pandemic. 

Although package theft is something that can happen to anyone who purchases something online, little research has been performed on it. In fact, Middle Tennessee State University researchers are the first known to have produced a study on porch piracy.

Ben Stickle, a criminal justice professor at MTSU in Murfreesboro and an expert on package theft, has analyzed videos  and found that in almost every case, the item was visible from the roadway.

The research found that few offenders appeared to scope out homes beforehand. Porch piracy is “very opportunistic,” Stickle said. 

“I was surprised with how brazen the thieves were,” he said. “There was very little attempt to disguise themselves, very little attempt to case the place or look around.” 

But some thieves went the extra mile. They drove U-Haul trucks or had a dummy package or papers in hand to make it look like they belonged. 

“That’s very calculated,” Stickle said.

Some states such as Texas and New Jersey have cracked down on the thefts and made porch piracy a felony. Sen. Dawn White (R-Murfreesboro) attempted to do the same earlier this year, but the measure failed. 

Why such little research on a common problem? 

Stickle said while porch pirates aren’t a new problem, they’ve increased rapidly with the jump in online shopping. 

When researching package thefts, Stickle found that the first available YouTube video wasn’t posted until 2016 or 2017. 

The other problem is how police departments track this kind of theft. Stickle, who used to be an officer, said most departments don’t track package theft individually and rope it into “a catch-all theft” category.

“There’s not a defined category for this,” he said. ”I can’t call a police department and ask how many package thefts they had last month. They’ll have no idea.” 

The other thing to consider is that not everyone who has a package stolen, or suspects a stolen package, will file a police report, making it difficult to track the thefts.

Emilie Pagliarello, who lives in Murfreesboro, had a vase stolen from her front porch this year. She was on her lunch break when she received the package notification from Amazon, but by the time she was home just a few hours later, it was gone.

She didn’t file

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Don’t fall for the ‘Secret Sister’ gift exchange scam. Here are 7 reasons to avoid it.

Remember those chain letters of the past?

Don’t get scammed by ‘Secret Sister’ online gift exchange

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They arrived in your mailbox along with a promise of riches and a creepy warning of dire consequences if you didn’t immediately mail it on to 10 acquaintances.A new example of holiday fraud is making the rounds: the “Secret Sister” gift exchange. Like the old-fashioned chain letter, it’s still illegal – and it promises what it almost never delivers – but it’s arriving nowadays via social media, mostly Facebook.

The scam is targeted to women and goes mainly like this:

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“The Secret Sister gift exchange is back! I’m looking for six women who would be interested in a pre-holiday gift exchange. You only have to buy one $10 gift and send it to your secret sister. You will then received 6-36 gifts in return. Let me know if you’re interested and I will send you the information for your secret sister. We all could use some happy mail!”

Sometimes, the wording is changed to encourage people to exchange other gifts, including bottles of wine.

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Wow … this sounds harmless doesn’t it?

Not so fast.

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Why you should never participate in ‘Secret sister’

1. It’s a pyramid scheme. Basically, the first people to join the gift exchange may receive gifts back, but as later people respond, they get fewer gifts or no gifts at all. Only the person who started the pyramid scheme really benefits.

2. It’s illegal. They’re classified as chain letter, which are considered a form of gambling and are illegal if they request money or other items and promise a substantial return. “They don’t work because the promise that all participants in a chain letter will be winners is mathematically impossible,” the Postal Service said.

3. It’s nothing new. The first Secret Sister gift exchanges started circulating on Facebook around October 2015, according to Snopes.com. Don’t fall for it this time around.

4. You feel stupid. Nobody wants to waste time or energy waiting for something that never arrives. Or knowing that they fell victim to a scam.

5. Your friends will hate you. Honestly, who wants to be inundated with these requests – or worse, fall victim to one because a friend who you’re supposed to trust sent it to you.

6. You feel helpless. You won’t be able to warn others about the scam. Most of these gift exchanges warn naysayers and skeptics that their posts will be deleted from common threads, Snopes warns.

7. ID theft. You could be the victim of identity theft if you participate in a Secret Sister gift exchange. As part of the scam, you’re asked to provide an address, a

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What you need know to avoid being scammed this Black Friday

Falling victim to fraudsters is more common than you think (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

With more of us doing our Christmas shopping online this year due to lockdown, Black Friday on November 27 is set to be a huge spending occasion.

But police and banks are concerned that it will also be a huge opportunity for scammers to con people out of their hard earned cash, at a time when more people than ever are already falling victim to online fraud.

Figures from Barclays last week showed that Britons lost the biggest-ever amount of money to scammers in October this year, with more than half of victims suffering in silence rather than admitting that they have been defrauded.

‘An increasing number of us will find ourselves the victim of a scam or know someone who has been’ says Jim Winters, head of fraud at Barclays.

He adds that we are seven times more likely to admit to being burgled than to being a scam victim.

‘Being the target of a scam really is nothing to feel embarrassed about,’ Jim adds.

‘In fact, far from it, it is important people do talk about their experiences, in order to make others aware of what’s happening. The only way we can really take on the fraudsters is by sharing our experiences to help protect each other while eliminating the stigma associated with being scammed.’

Katy Worobec, head of economic crime at UK Finance – the trade association for Britain’s banks – adds that there has already been a huge rise in purchase scams, where customers pay for goods that are never received, while other types of scam are on the rise as well.

‘As consumer spending has shifted online, criminals have ruthlessly adjusted their approaches to pursue those shopping on the internet. With Black Friday and Christmas approaching, fraudsters are again stepping up their efforts to take advantage of consumers searching for bargains,’ she says.

‘Always take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information, and don’t let a criminal rush or panic you into making a decision that you’ll later come to regret.’

With increasingly sophisticated scammers, and many of us too busy and stressed, it can be easy to overlook warning signs. Here’s a guide to identifying fraud, and what to do if you become a victim…

There are many different types of scams and some are more common than others. Certain types of fraud are now becoming more prevalent in the current climate. These include:

Impersonation scams

Barclays’ most recent scam data suggests that impersonation scams, where fraudsters take advantage of consumers by pretending to be from a reputable organisation or the police, are up 21 per cent.

Jim Winters, from Barclays, says that impersonators appear to come from a variety of reputable places.

‘Impersonation scams may come from someone reporting to be from a utility company, a service provider or a government department such as HMRC. They may tell the victim to make

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7 reasons to avoid gift exchange scam

Dwight Adams, The Indianapolis Star
Published 5:00 a.m. MT Nov. 22, 2020

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Online sales are expected to surge this holiday season. So how do we gear up to keep our data safe and avoid holiday shopping scams?

Buzz60

Remember those chain letters of the past?

They arrived in your mailbox along with a promise of riches and a creepy warning of dire consequences if you didn’t immediately mail it on to 10 acquaintances.

A new example of holiday fraud is making the rounds: the “Secret Sister” gift exchange. Like the old-fashioned chain letter, it’s still illegal – and it promises what it almost never delivers – but it’s arriving nowadays via social media, mostly Facebook.

Holiday scams: Be sure to check those PlayStation 5 prices and pet adoption details, they top the holiday scam list

Social media scams: They skyrocketed during the COVID-19 crisis

The scam is targeted to women and goes mainly like this:

“The Secret Sister gift exchange is back! I’m looking for six women who would be interested in a pre-holiday gift exchange. You only have to buy one $10 gift and send it to your secret sister. You will then received 6-36 gifts in return. Let me know if you’re interested and I will send you the information for your secret sister. We all could use some happy mail!”

Sometimes, the wording is changed to encourage people to exchange other gifts, including bottles of wine.

Wow … this sounds harmless doesn’t it?

Not so fast.

Why you should never participate in ‘Secret sister’

1. It’s a pyramid scheme. Basically, the first people to join the gift exchange may receive gifts back, but as later people respond, they get fewer gifts or no gifts at all. Only the person who started the pyramid scheme really benefits.

2. It’s illegal. They’re classified as chain letter, which are considered a form of gambling and are illegal if they request money or other items and promise a substantial return. “They don’t work because the promise that all participants in a chain letter will be winners is mathematically impossible,” the Postal Service said.

3. It’s nothing new. The first Secret Sister gift exchanges started circulating on Facebook around October 2015, according to Snopes.com. Don’t fall for it this time around.

4. You feel stupid. Nobody wants to waste time or energy waiting for something that never arrives. Or knowing that they fell victim to a scam.

5. Your friends will hate you. Honestly, who wants to be inundated with these requests – or worse, fall victim to one because a friend who you’re supposed to trust sent it to you.

6. You feel helpless. You won’t be able to warn others about the scam. Most of these gift exchanges warn naysayers and skeptics that their posts will be deleted from common threads, Snopes warns.

7. ID theft. You could be the victim of identity theft if you participate in a Secret Sister gift exchange. As part of the scam, you’re

Read more