A wall has been erected to hide a slum from athletes’ eyes, black boys are screened from the beaches, and buses for poor people to the games have been cut off. But heavily armed police have made sure protesters don’t stand a chance.
The tax season is upon us. Yes, tax preparation time. By now you should have received all kinds of fun forms such as your W-2’s,W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, donation receipts, interest and dividend statements, tax credits/exclusions,etc…
And if you’re anything like me in regards to a pile of cryptic paperwork, you will then proceed with the following steps:
1) Stare at it – try to make it disappear at will.
2) Blink very rapidly with the hopes that the next time you flutter your eyes, the entire pile will have magically organized and completed itself.
3) Wait for a phone call from an imaginary third cousin who you expect will say they’ve just graduated with an advanced Mathematics degree – and would just love to do your taxes – for free – in their spare time.
Unfortunately, all of the above methods have been tested – and failed. However, one big thing I have learned (especially if you tend to be a little scatterbrain like me) – is to make sure to gather all forms together – and into ONE accessible PILE !
Ok, so you don’t have a ‘family accountant’. Your friends are employed in various fields that don’t include working for the IRS. What is a person to do? There are a few options, but the main two seem to be: You get your taxes done by a firm like H&R Block, or you prepare them yourselves online by using software like TurboTax.
Now, TurboTax has had some issues this year due to fraud. This WSJ article more than a little annoyed me. It shows that even though the fraud is due to multiple points of failure – the blame, prevention & resolution has totally been placed upon the shoulders of the consumer. Doesn’t really seem fair . I am sharing the article with you because it does have a lot of helpful information in it. http://www.wsj.com/articles/fraud-alert-what-turbotax-users-need-to-know-now-1423847170
Anyway, whichever method you do select in getting your taxes done should be fine – just make sure they are done by April 15th !!
Good luck everyone!!
Annette Bongiorno (Bernard Madoff’s former secretary) is the main subject in this article [http://money.cnn.com/2014/02/28/news/companies/bongiorno-madoff-trial/ ]. Since reading it a few days ago I have been in a state of suspended disbelief. I want your thoughts. No. I need your thoughts – because I’m truly stumped.
What do YOU believe – based on your opinions and your personal experiences?
Do you think she’s telling the truth or is she making Pinocchio look like the stalwart of truth? Could it be a mix of the two?
Here are my thoughts:
1) TRUE: I can believe some of Ms. Bongiorno’s points. For example, where she says that she was only doing “data entry” and “typing”, and that she did whatever her boss told her to do. She worked for Madoff for 46 years – and as she is now 65 – we calculate that she started working for him back in 1968 at the age of..19. The workforce (and the world in general) was a very different place back then (AAkk!! No internet! No computers!)
I can also believe that she didn’t read the Wall Street Journal as she probably didn’t need this tool to do her daily functions. Also, as dishonest as Madoff was – based on Ms. Bongiorno’s recollections – he seemed to treat his employees well. Very well. Do you know of ANY employers that will pay for your honeymoon or that will help your elderly, stroke-ridden mother get a room in a nursing home?
2) FALSE: I don’t believe Ms. Bongiorno’s statement of “not knowing what the S&P 500” was. The S&P 500 was created back in 1957 – relatively new at the time when Ms. Bongiorno started working for Madoff. I would think that she would have had SOME form of exposure to it, SOME form of understanding or comprehension even if she was just following his instructions, typing documents and performing admin work.
In her chosen field – it would be hard to avoid being exposed to certain industry “staples” such as the S&P 500, and I would imagine, that even with limited exposure – one tends to have SOME form of awareness of systems and functions and indexes/guides/markets/rules in one’s field – even if there were a few degrees of separation outside of their immediate role. There is no way that Madoff didn’t at SOME point say something like, “Hooray!, the S&P is doing great! Dinner’s on me!” or “Booo! I lost lot’s of money today because the S&P tanked. ” And so, are you really going to tell me that in response, she just stared at him with a blank look in her eyes with NO idea of what he was talking about? For 46 years? hmm… I don’t believe that.
Now, I also think that most people in the workforce have peers, colleagues, friends, mentors (whether at their firm or at other firms). Many people will chit-chat, make small talk, share stories. So, tell me – In 46 years – how did she not realize at SOME point that what she was making in terms of salary / was able to own was a little… different from what others had? For example… the BENTLEY? TWO MERCEDES? TWO HOMES? MAKING PLANS FOR EARLY RETIREMENT? (who does that anymore??), the $6.5 MILLION DOLLAR Florida condo?? Oh.. and let’s not forget the $50 MILLION DOLLARS IN HER INVESTMENT ACCOUNT. Didn’t she think that was somewhat of an anomaly? Her peers and/or friends couldn’t have been making the same. Unless she thought she had somehow really super-duper lucked out – I don’t understand how she could have thought that what she had was NORMAL at any point in time. She is not “dumb as a doorknob”, or else she couldn’t have done the work. This can only mean two possible things: 1) She must have been completely deluded into thinking her exemplary daily work and years of employment gave her these benefits; or, 2) She’s lying.
There is also no way she can say that she doesn’t understand financial terms as she had a personal brokerage account. She was utilizing Bloomberg to input trades such as short sells, for her own personal account. I would think that someone that doesn’t understand financial terms related to trading would be somewhat intimidated (by the unknown) and therefore not have a stock account. Why on earth would you have something under your name – that utilizes your salary/money – and not know a single thing about it? Nope, sorry – I call BS.
She also must have realized she was doing SOMETHING shifty when she was told to backdate Lehman trades – only for Madoff, herself, and for her family Hhhmm…did she do this for anyone else then? Wouldn’t you think she’d question WHY ?
So for me, I’m stumped. I say it’s a mixture of truth and lies. What do you think?
Cyber Monday is upon us for the 2013 season.
Everyone is very much aware of the safety issues and incidents surrounding Black Friday. Though there may not actually be any physical violent acts on Cyber Monday doesn’t mean there aren’t any threats present.
I received a phishing email which made me think about computer safety in general. Though this particular email was readily identifiable, as senders are finding smarter ways to get their thieving intentions out to you, some of these types of emails are becoming harder to recognize.
I thought about some of the most used words in describing email security issues. Words such as spam, phishing, spoofing – as well as their definitions. I realized I was a bit hazy on recalling these definitions (and couldn’t even remember ever having heard the word ‘spoofing’!).
As Cyber Monday is looming, here is a quick review on such types of threats, thought you might find it useful as well.
1) SPAM – Emails which include words like [Free Viagra ! Miracle Fat-Burner! Hot Singles!] Easy to remember fix: DELETE SPAM – NOTHING is a miracle, NOTHING is free. You know what they say… if something sounds too good to be true – then it usually is. Get rid of these emails, don’t waste your time.
2) PHISHING – Emails (usually in the form of a letter), made to look official – as if being sent from a bank, the government or an entity such as the FBI, that requests you confirm sensitive information (your name, address, bank, credit card number, etc..). Once your identity is “confirmed” with the source, these emails explain, you will then be entitled to receive xxx million of dollars – perhaps from a long-lost uncle or someone you’ve never heard of before. Another explanation may state something like they (whomever they might be) need your help – they’re receiving money, but there’s an issue and if you help them out, they will give you half the money.
The tone of the letter can range anywhere from inquisitive (Please confirm your social security number, your bank information, your address, etc..). to threatening (If we don’t receive this information from you, we will send the xxx million dollars to …someone else). Typically the grammar is incorrect, words are in the wrong order and there can be many misspelled words.
The “sender” of these emails may make you think you’ve somehow made a Special VIP list. For example, some emails I’ve received in the past were “from”: the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Citibank, Bank of America, and the White House. Think about it, unless you perhaps have an active role working for the government, then why on earth would the White House want to send you, me, us – any type of personalized daily email correspondence?
Easy to remember fix: Do not click on any link found in the content of these emails. ** Do NOT confirm ANY information with these frauds. They are out to rip you off, steal your identity as well as your hard-earned cash. Do not fall for these! As wonderful as it sounds to have a complete stranger just drop 10 million dollars in your lap, it’s NOT going to happen – so you can stop booking your dream vacation to Bora Bora right now. . However, once you can identify these emails – read a few, just for entertainment’s sake – as they can be quite amusing.
3) SPOOFING – Website looks legitimate to user, however, IP address has been hijacked for the purpose of stealing sensitive information. Easy to remember fix: Two ways to prevent this. 1) Type in the actual web address in the address bar. 2) If clicking on a link from within another site, move your cursor to the link and hover for a moment before clicking. Now, look at the bottom left hand-side of your screen. The website address you want should be reflected (for example, if you want to buy Tiffany’s jewelry, make sure the link you hover over states http://www.tiffany.com)
Here is a terrific example:
Fake site: http://lvfull.com/
The fake site looks amazing, right? If you scroll to the bottom and see the phone number provided and copy/paste that into google – you will see customer complaints that links this phone number to other websites. You can research a little more and see it is linked to country code 51 (which is Peru).
All counterfeit merchandise. Be careful !!!!!
****Good tip: Always go to the “About” section and read out loud – the fake sites never sound quite right.
Have a great, computer-safe, Cyber Monday Shopping Day !