Booster seats; bear-market funds; e-auction scams; FICO credit score; federal income tax records; stock turnaround
Using a booster seat rather than a seat belt alone for children ages 4 through 7 lowers their risk of injury by nearly 60 percent, says Partners for Child Passenger Safety, a project developed by State Farm and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Kids riding in booster seats that correct the position of seat belts had virtually no injuries associated with seat belt syndrome when involved in a car accident.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children use booster seats until they are at least 8 years old or 4' 9" in height. How many actually use them? Only 16 percent of 4-year-olds, 13 percent of 5-year-olds, and 4 percent of 6- and 7-year-olds.
Morningstar has rolled out a new mutual fund ratings category for funds that hedge against market declines. The new category for bear-market funds includes those that use short-selling techniques to make money for shareholders when stock prices are falling. Because of their unique trading methods, however, bear-market funds won't get star ratings.
The mutual fund rating company also created other new categories, including state-specific municipal-bond funds to help investors quickly find funds that invest in their state.
A growing number of online auction customers are getting burned by phony payment schemes that trick them out of money and merchandise, warns the FTC. Con artists are trolling auction sites such as eBay to lure buyers and sellers off-site with promises of better deals. Instead, victims are getting fleeced through bogus online payment or escrow services. The FTC has brought fraud charges against one alleged scam, Premier-escrow.
If you can't resist online auctions, be wary of sellers asking you to bid directly with them off the auction's Web site in return for a better deal. If a seller or a buyer insists on using an online payment or escrow service you've never heard of, do some research first. Check out the service's Web site. A poorly designed site with misspelled words or claims that it's government sponsored should make you suspicious. Check with the Better Business Bureau, state attorney general, or consumer protection agency in your state and where the service is based, but remember that a lack of complaints doesn't necessarily mean a lack of problems. For more tips on auction safety, go to the FTC's Web site at www.ftc.gov .
The company that sets your credit score wants to help you get a better mortgage deal. Fair Isaac is now offering a subscription service for homebuyers. For $49.95 for six months, you'll get your FICO credit score and advice on how to improve it. The FICO Saver for Homebuyers also gives you access to a virtual mortgage coach, which offers advice on how much you can afford, based on your credit score and current mortgage rates. The service also offers property profiles on three homes on the market, including information about its sales history, neighborhood schools, crime statistics, and nearby hazardous waste sites. For more information, go to www.myfico.com .
You're applying for a new mortgage and the bank wants a copy of your federal income tax records, but you haven't a clue where they are. You can get a paper copy of the tax forms you filed over the past five years for $23 per year from the IRS. Complete Form 4506, which you can download at www.irs.gov , but be prepared to wait 60 days for a response. Unfortunately, you can't get an e-copy online.
For the first time since 1999, nearly every category of domestic stock mutual funds made money in the second quarter, according to Morningstar. The average domestic stock fund gained nearly 15 percent for the 13 weeks that ended June 30. The only losers, in fact, were bear-market funds, designed to profit during market downturns.
Funds specializing in communications companies rose more than 21 percent, and technology funds gained nearly 20 percent.
Yvonne Wollenberg. Online UPDATES.
Jul. 25, 2003;80.