25 Apr

Expert Witnesses and Social Media

Ask attorneys what they think of social media, and you’ll get a wide range of responses. Some are actively involved, others are avid readers, and some stay as far away from it as possible. There is still a fair amount of reluctance to get involved, whether it is a more “social” type of social media (like Facebook or Instagram) or a more professional one (like LinkedIn or possibly Twitter). Also included in social media is blogging, something that has been around since the late 90s, but which many lawyers and experts still refuse to be actively involved in.

Social media is an opportunity to write about what you know and promote your business and expertise. You can engage in dialogue with people people from far away places. There is so much that can be learned from interactions on social media, and so many relationships that can be developed (which would have previously been nearly impossible).

But of course, there are pitfalls. There is a common bias against social media: That it’s simply a waste of time because it is mostly about socializing and games. While there is definitely a very personal component to Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites, their utility goes far beyond being a neat way to kill some time.

Social media is being actively and aggressively used by people who have a business reason to be there. Many participate because they love the exchange of knowledge and are eager to fill others in on current events, industry happenings, or interesting news stories. Others participate mostly to promote their companies and brands in some way. Some join in the discussion to raise their professional profiles and to gain credibility in their fields. Read More

23 Apr

Top Earners in MLM Make Money Off the Backs of Others

Do you think it’s only the “bad” people who do bad things in multi-level marketing? Those who frontload new recruits, dial for dollars at the end of the month (i.e. get people to order products they don’t need), talk only about their highest commission check, lie about how profitable the MLM is for them, or hide the debt they incurred via their MLM?

Unfortunately, these problems are systemic in multi-level marketing. These are the things that must be done to get to the upper levels and to stay there. What about those “national sales directors” or “diamond executives” or “founders sapphires”??? They’ve just done more frontloading and general deception. They all lie. It is how things are done in MLM.

Listen to this former Mary Kay sales director, who was only a step away from becoming an national sales director when she walked away. On ABC’s 20/20, she explained how her “success” was at the expense of other women.

19 Apr

Divorce and Your Credit

The financial effects of divorce are far reaching. In a one-income household, it’s often even worse. It’s bad enough that one income now has to support two separate households, at least for a period of time. The non-moneyed spouse (the one who hasn’t been working and isn’t the source of income) has it especially tough.

Of course, there is often an expectation that the spouse who hasn’t been working will start to do so. This can be difficult if there is a gap in employment, which is common due to a spouse staying home to raise children. Earnings of that spouse are almost always much lower than the moneyed spouse (which is likely part of the reason why that spouse was the one who stayed home with the kids).

It may be difficult to get a job due to the gap in employment history, especially if there have been a lot of changes in the career since the spouse last worked. Employers may not be willing to bring someone up to speed if there are candidates who have been continuously employed int he industry and are up to speed on the new technology and trends. Read More

18 Apr

Protecting Yourself From Real Estate Fraud

No industry is immune to fraud schemes. Mortgage fraud and real estate fraud have been problems for a long time. Ups and downs in the real estate market can make developers desperate and may push them to engage in fraud in an attempt to keep their projects afloat.

Frauds related to real estate are often costly. The bigger the project, the more risk there is of fraud. What can those involved in real estate deals do to minimize their risk of fraud?

Use licensed professionals.
Whether we’re talking about a mortgage broker, a plumber, or a contractor, it is critical to do business with licensed professionals. The license itself doesn’t guarantee that the person is competent or ethical. But it provides at least a minimal level of confidence in the person or business. Consider the license to be a tool that weeds out the worst in the field.

Read More

10 Apr

Alternative Sources of Financial Information in Divorce

Everyone knows about the typical sources of financial information in divorces. Income tax returns, bank statements and related documents, brokerage statements, credit card statements, and business financial statements are some of the most common.

There are alternative sources of financial information that can be incredibly helpful in divorce cases, however. They are helpful because they can refute or support claims being made by one party about income and assets. They are particularly helpful because often, the other side isn’t prepared for these documents to become part of the divorce case. Read More

08 Apr

Social Media Influencers and Fraud

Promoting products and services via social media sites like Instagram and Facebook is big business. If you have hundreds of thousands (or millions!) of followers on Instagram, someone is probably willing to pay you to have you promote their products. There are lots of eyeballs looking at your posts, and that’s worth money. And so we call you a social media influencer.

But the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has rules about that.  If you’re promoting a product, it better be obvious to everyone that this is  the case.  More specifically, the FTC says:

In addition, the Guides say, if there’s a connection between an endorser and the marketer that consumers would not expect and it would affect how consumers evaluate the endorsement, that connection should be disclosed. For example, if an ad features an endorser who’s a relative or employee of the marketer, the ad is misleading unless the connection is made clear. The same is usually true if the endorser has been paid or given something of value to tout the product. The reason is obvious: Knowing about the connection is important information for anyone evaluating the endorsement.

And naturally, the rules are being ignored by lots of people. It is estimated that only about 25% of influencers are actually following the rules when it comes to sponsored content.

If someone is being paid to promote a product or service on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or some other social media site, they’re required to disclose it. If they don’t, that is fraud. Concealing the fact that a post is essentially advertising is dishonest because people may think you’re simply talking about something you like rather than talking about something you’re paid to talk about. Consumers need to know that you’re making a PAID endorsement.

Truth in Advertising (TINA) has been going after abusers of the rules, filing complaints with the FTC about this behavior. Sean “Diddy” Combs was on the receiving end of one of these complaints, and quickly deleted the hundreds of posts in question.

Keep an eye out for social media posts that seem to casually mention a product or service the celebrity uses. Chances are, the post has been paid for by someone and it’s nothing more than advertising.

28 Mar

Second Edition of Lifestyle Analysis in Divorce

Exchanging books with family lawyer Randy Kessler in 2016.

The American Bar Association has asked me to write the second edition of Lifestyle Analysis in Divorce Cases: Investigating Spending and Finding Hidden Income and Assets. It was (and still is) the only book on the market that details how to do a lifestyle analysis and how to use the results.

I do lifestyle analysis in very high net worth divorce cases, and the results are used to determine standard of living (which then helps calculate support), find sources of hidden income, and find hidden assets. Read More

26 Mar

Determining Income Using the Net Worth Method of Proof in a Divorce Case

iStock_000019355019XSmallHow can income be calculated in a divorce case when a spouse refuses to produce documentation or is suspected of concealing sources of income? One way is through the Net Worth Method of Proof, which is used to analyze income and assets when detailed documentation is not available, either because the opposing spouse is obstructing efforts to get data and documents, or because data and documents are legitimately not available.

This method of determining income is used by the federal government in criminal income tax cases. Because it is accepted in federal criminal cases, family courts often will accept this as a reliable method for calculating income.

A detailed analysis of expenditures is performed using any documentation available. Each expenditure for the period under review is captured from bank, brokerage, and credit card statements, and each item is categorized so that totals can be accumulated for the period under analysis. Read More

25 Mar

Internet Dating Scams

There’s no shortage of fraud surrounding dating these days, especially with online dating. It seems like such a great way to meet people with similar interests. Get on a dating site, they said. It’ll be fun they said. Until you find out the person you’ve been chatting with is nothing like they portrayed themselves to be.

Internet dating cost this woman $273,000.

A woman named Yin signed up for a six month membership with match.com. And she got catfished by someone using pictures of a U.S. Marine.  He told her his name was David Perez he was deployed in Afghanistan, and they exchanged a bunch of text messages.

They “fell in love” over text messages. He told her to keep things a secret because her friends would be jealous.

After 5 weeks, Yin’s online “love” asked her for money.  There was a big story about a secret mission in Afghanistan, a military attorney, a non-existent company in London, and a Chinese bank. She sent money totaling over $273,000. Read More