How to Avoid Business Opportunity Frauds and MLM Scams

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In a past appearance on CNBC’s On the Money, Tracy Coenen talked about how consumers could protect themselves from business opportunity scams and multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes. MLMs parade themselves around as business opportunities, but they are nothing more than elaborate pyramid schemes that swindle millions of consumers each year.

Using Bank Statements in Child Support and Divorce Cases

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Bank statements can be a very valuable tool in child support and divorce cases, particularly when one party has not been forthcoming about income and expenses. We can look at deposits to draw conclusions about income, and the level of expenditures may also give us clues about the level of income. Tracy talks about some of the ways she analyzes the bank statement data.

Big Name Tax Prep Services Are a Waste of Money

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You need your personal taxes done and they’re not that complex, so you think you’ll just run right over to H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, Liberty Tax Service, or some other tax preparation franchise. It’s easy and they must be good or they wouldn’t have so many locations and be in business so long, right?

Wrong. The fact of the matter is that you’re taking a big risk if you have your taxes done at one of the large tax return sweatshops or a similar smaller service. These companies have a few major drawbacks that most consumers are unaware of:

The prices they charge are generally too high. Even the simplest of tax returns can cost you well over $100, and that type of fee is just too much. Add in some things like a rental property or an in-home business, and watch your tab for the tax return run up fast.

The name of the game at the tax return franchises is turning out as many tax returns as fast as they can, at the lowest possible cost. This means that most of the employees are inexperienced data entry clerks who really know next to nothing about the tax law. They couldn’t spot an opportunity or a problem with your tax situation if their life depended on it. Do you really want to risk having your taxes prepared by someone who took a day-long class to learn how to enter data into a computer program?

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West Allis School District Will Steal Your Money… Twice

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Years ago, I wrote regularly about Milwaukee Public Schools and their penchant for wasting taxpayer money. The district portrays itself as poor, with an annual budget of more than $1 billion and spending that exceeds $14,00 per child with horrible outcomes.  (In case you’re wondering, “rich” districts in Wisconsin spend much less per child, and have dramatically better outcomes.)

The West Allis-West Milwaukee School District is the focus of this article. The district has been overspending for years, and is now holding a referendum. The dishonesty surrounding the whole issue is astounding. But I can break it down easily for you: For years the district has been stealing from taxpayers by spending money foolishly. Now they are crying that they are broke, and they want to steal from taxpayers again. The message is “approve our referendum or else.”

Dan O’Donnell breaks it down nicely in this article. I’ll give you the highlights: Continue reading

LuLaRoe Fraud Complaints

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A recent article at CBS MoneyWatch exposes multi-level marketing company LuLaRoe and the alleged fraud being perpetrated on its consultants. You may remember that I criticized LuLaRoe and its MLM model a few months ago based on the false narrative that lots of women are getting rich by selling the leggings. One of my main criticisms:

Business Insider promoted the idea that LuLaRoe is making women rich. While there ARE a handful of women who are making a ton of money from the company, only an incredibly tiny fraction of participants can make this type of money. Why? Simple math. If you’re making a 3% to 5% commission on your downline (as you’ll see below), it takes $700,000 of wholesale purchases by your downline to earn $35,000 in a month. (I realize that various bonuses change the math, but I’m using these numbers to simplify things.)

Other problems that I have with this “business model”: Continue reading

Techniques to Reduce Employee Theft

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It might be hard to believe, but each and every day companies are losing money because they not only give employees opportunities to steal, they encourage it.

How? By not providing adequate oversight. A clerk, for example, sees that an error in an account wasn’t caught by anyone. A purchasing manager notices that no one is watching over his vendor relationships, and won’t know it if he establishes a fake account. Employees are not stupid. They know when they are being monitored and when their work is being checked. They know when they are working in an environment ripe for fraud.

But you have honest employees, you say? You’re probably right. If we thought job applicants were criminals, we wouldn’t hire them. But situations occur where the temptation to steal simply becomes too much. Imagine owing money to a hospital or having an expensive (and necessary) car repair that you can’t afford. What if your child needs clothing or food? There may come a day in your life when your morals are challenged because you have a financial need and an opportunity at the workplace that seems too good to pass up.

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Divorce Financials: Using a Tax Return to Find Income and Assets

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While consumers generally hate income tax returns because of their complexity, they can be invaluable sources of information in divorce proceedings. Not only do they provide insight into prior years’ earnings, they can also point to assets and sources of income. They may be used to unearth financial information that a spouse omitted from the financial disclosures, and can hold subtle clues to otherwise unknown financial details.

For example, assets are sometimes sold by the spouses to generate cash. Many times this may be a taxable transaction reported by the purchaser to the taxing authorities. Therefore, such a transaction will be required to be reported on the income tax return, and this may help unearth a hidden asset or provide clues to concealed cash.

Information on income and assets can be found within the personal income tax returns in the following areas: Continue reading

Lifestyle Analysis: Purpose and Process in Divorce Cases

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In this video, Tracy Coenen explains the purpose and process behind doing a lifestyle analysis in a divorce case. There are three main reasons why a lifestyle analysis may be done:

  • To determine the amount of money needed to continue living a lifestyle consistent with the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage (This relates to child support and alimony.)
  • To find hidden sources of income
  • To find hidden assets