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Protect Against Wire Fraud

Jul 13
9:00
AM
Category | General
Mortgage wire fraud occurs when a criminal impersonates a real estate closing firm, a lender, or a real estate agent and provides false wiring instructions to a borrower. The goal of this fraud is to have the funds wired directly to the criminal instead of to the closing firm. Borrowers are often contacted close to their closing date with updated or corrected wiring instructions. These can be provided via email or verbally. This is a sophisticated type of fraud, and some wire fraud criminals are very good at impersonating others. Borrowers should take the following precautions to prevent wire fraud. Identify Two Trusted Contacts at Closing Firm Early in the home buying or refinancing process, identify two contacts at the closing firm that can securely confirm wiring instructions in case of a scam attempt. Write down or save contact information for these individuals, including their names, phone numbers, and email addresses. Only use this contact information to confirm wiring instructions. Review Closing Procedures with the Closing Firm In advance of closing, discuss by phone the closing process with one of your trusted contacts from the closing firm. This conversation should include how you will obtain wiring instructions. Be cautious about discussing the closing process and wiring instructions via email. Save Contact Information for Other Involved Parties Make sure you also have contact information for everyone else involved in your closing transaction, including your real estate agent and your lender. As with the closing contacts, make sure you have names, phone numbers, and email addresses. If you receive suspicious emails ...

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If you purchased a home in 2017, you may be eligible for a Homestead Exemption. This valuable exemption reduces the taxable value of your home, provided the following: - The home is occupied by the homeowner on January 1, and - The homeowner applies for the homestead exemption in the county in which the property is located. The home must be your legal residence for all purposes including the registration of your vehicles and the filing of your Federal and Georgia income tax return. For most counties in Georgia, the deadline to file for a homestead exemption is April 1 . Failure to file on time for the Homestead Exemption will disqualify you for the exemption for this tax year. Application is not automatic, nor does a mortgage company or closing attorney complete the application for you when the home is purchased. Once granted, the exemption is automatically renewed each year you continually occupy the home under the same ownership. In many counties, the tax assessor’s office is the designated office to receive homestead exemption applications. Please note that in order to file, you may need to provide the following: warranty deed book and page, proof of residence, social security number, driver's license with correct home address and/or car tag information. We’ve put together a list of the top counties in which our customers purchased homes in 2017 and included links to each counties’ homestead exemption application page and the address to each Tax Commissioner or Tax Assessors office. Simply click your county below for more information or to complete your application, where applicable. Editor's Note: ...

General

Get Organized in the New Year

Dec 26
10:00
AM
Category | General
With the New Year just around the corner, it’s time to take stock. Another gym resolution? Forget it. This year, resolve to get organized. All the gifts you’ll acquire over the holidays will need a place to live, and you’ve probably got plenty of items you can get rid of. No matter how big (or small) your house is, one thing people always seem to want is more storage. So, give the following ideas a try to maximize your space and head into 2018 feeling a little bit lighter — and a lot more organized. Kitchen If opening your pantry feels like stepping into chaos, it’s time to pull everything out, sort, toss, and reorganize. If it’s expired, throw it out; if you haven’t used it in a year, donate it. Do the same for your junk drawer. Everything left can now be organized. In the pantry and cupboards, items you use all the time should be at eye level. Put less-used specialty items on top shelves and recycling bins on the floor. Use clear, labeled containers for sugar, flour, and cereal, and group like items in baskets, such as bags of beans and rice. Empty big boxes of individually packaged items, like snacks, into labeled tins. Closets Up, up, up: To keep your closet uncluttered, you need to keep things off the floor. Unless you’ve got labeled bins with lids, everything should be on a hanger or a shelf. For the ultimate in organization, switch out your clothing seasonally. When spring arrives, pack away sweaters, scarves, and gloves, and in fall, your swimsuits and shorts should be neatly folded into their labeled bins in the basement, garage, or attic. This way, you’ll have more room to see and ...

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year — but for people trying to balance work, home, and a slew of holiday commitments, the holiday season may not be so jolly. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath, grab an eggnog, and follow these steps for de-stressing your holidays.  1. Make a list and check it twice. To-do lists are an amazingly simple and straightforward way to stay on task and make sure nothing gets missed. Review your list every morning and evening, and be sure to cross off the tasks you accomplish — you’ll see that things are getting done, even if you’re too busy to feel it. 2. Use your vacation time. This is what it’s for! Plan a lunch date with friends, set aside a day to get your last-minute shopping done, or reward yourself with a day for just relaxing. You'll enjoy the season more if you know you've got a full day coming to get personal holiday tasks completed. 3. Give yourself a break. It’s just not possible to accept every invite, handmake gifts for everyone on your list, and keep your home and work organized. Remember, everyone else is wrapped up in the holiday chaos too, and this is a time of forgiveness and understanding. The first person to offer understanding to is yourself!  

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During this time of year, we all need a reminder about the true spirit of the holidays — giving. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the consumerism of the holidays, giving back is a great way to bring some balance into your life, while spreading a little bit of joy to others. With a plethora of worthy nonprofits out there, how do you choose the right one? If you feel inspired to give back this holiday season, use the following tips to help you find an organization and cause that you care about. While researching charities, here are three questions to ask yourself. 1. Is the charity fiscally and ethically responsible? Find out how the organization manages their finances. Reputable nonprofits should be transparent with this information and make sure their practices are in line with how you want your dollars to be used. 2. Are they a true nonprofit? For your contribution to be tax-deductible, make sure the organization is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. The IRS has an online tool you can use to check if an organization is eligible. 3. Do their values align with yours? Aside from the cause itself, research the organization's background and beliefs. Be sure to ask not just about what they do but why they do it to ensure your donations are powering the kind of change you're passionate about. Once you know your criteria for choosing a nonprofit, it's time to narrow it down to the specific cause. If you're not sure where to begin, here are just a few types of charities that you can seek out.  Animal Welfare:  Animal shelters, animal cruelty prevention, veterinary science Arts ...

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