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Tuesday
Oct232018

What to know about the new rules to get your credit score in shape

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A big change is coming up in the new year that could boost your credit score, making it easier for you to buy a home, a car, or other big purchases.

Starting in 2019, the new opt-in ultra-FICO credit score system will start rolling out, and could make millions of people eligible for loans which they currently might not have access to, according to ABC News' Chief Business Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis.

Currently, your FICO score is a number that predicts how worthy you are as a borrower. Many lending organizations such as credit cards, mortgages and car loans are based on your FICO score.

A huge change is coming in 2019, however, that will likely mean that about 7 million people who can't get a loan today should be able to get one under the new scoring method. Plus, they might even pay less for that loan too.

The change will effect anyone who has a credit score in the low to mid-600's.

Essentially, you can apply for credit in the same way, but if your application gets rejected, you can ask for an "Ultra-FICO" score. This grants permission to check your savings, checking, and/or money market account.

The system should have a soft launch in January of 2019, and be widespread by the summer.

This will especially help those who are young, or who've had debt problems in the past, but who have money in the bank and aren't bouncing checks.

To improve their Ultra-FICO score in the new model, the two most important things a consumer can do is keep over $400 in the bank, and don't overdraw your account, according to Jarvis.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct222018

Just before midterm elections, Trump claims he'll propose cutting middle class taxes 10 percent

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly one year after he signed the Republican tax cuts into law, President Donald Trump has now repeatedly floated another round of tax cuts -- this one just for middle-income Americans, he claims -- just two weeks from the midterm elections.

While he acknowledged at the White House on Monday that the proposal wouldn’t receive a vote from Congress before the midterms, Trump said he would send the proposal to Capitol Hill before the midterms.

“We’re putting in a resolution sometime in the next week-and-a-half, or two weeks,” he told reporters as he left for a campaign rally in Texas.

Trump said the proposal would aim to give “a middle-income tax reduction of about 10 percent. We're doing it now for middle income people. This is not for businesses."

"We will do the vote after the election," Trump said, after reporters questioned how he could make the claim when neither the House nor the Senate will be in session until one week after the midterm elections on Nov. 6.

Trump’s remarks – coming after saying he and GOP lawmakers were working on “a very major tax cut” in Nevada on Saturday – appeared to catch Capitol Hill off guard.

Aides to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady referred questions about Trump’s comments and any proposal back to the White House.

Nicole Hager, a spokesperson for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a statement to ABC News that the senator “welcomes efforts to build on tax reform’s success and will work with the administration and Finance Committee members about how to best proceed.”

Democrats criticized Trump’s comments, with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, suggesting on Twitter that the president was making up the tax proposal.

The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, blasted the president's tax cut talk.

“This empty rhetoric is an admission by Donald Trump that his tax law only helps corporations and the donor class. The middle class will see straight through this scam just like they did with Trump’s broken promise to deliver $4,000 wage increases.”

The $1.5 trillion tax cut passed by Congress and signed into law by Trump last December.

Republicans and the administration have said the cuts would pay for themselves over time through economic growth. The Treasury Department said last week that the federal budget deficit reached $779 billion in fiscal year 2018, up from $666 billion in 2017.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct222018

Mega Millions Lottery: Benefits and drawbacks of office pools

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While there is always the dream of winning the historic $1.6 billion Mega Millions jackpot all by yourself, many Americans are also turning to office pools as a way to potentially increase their odds.

The prospect of having a share of a larger pool of lottery tickets is one compelling reason to go in on an office pool. But there are others, too.

Carole Bober Gentry, a spokesperson for the Maryland Lottery and Mega Millions, said that office pools are extremely popular ahead of Tuesday's drawing.

"People love to do office pools," she said. "When the jackpots get to this level, everybody is talking about it."

She added, "It's fun to talk about it with other people. It's the opportunity to dream.”

That said, there are certain precautions that experts urge office poolers to take before the winning numbers are chosen.

How to protect your group


Such situations require written agreements before the winning numbers are drawn, Tracey Cohen, interim executive director of DC Lottery, told ABC News back when the Powerball lottery hit a high of $1.5 billion.

"If that pool wins, you're going to want to keep your tickets safe and obviously it's a legal issue," she said.

Cohen urged pool organizers to make copies of the tickets for everyone in the group, write down a list of all involved and have one point person to sign the tickets when the winnings are collected.

For this Mega Millions round, Gentry echoed those warnings, urging poolers to appoint a responsible person in charge.

"You pick somebody you trust and people know who that person is, and as long as you follow a basic procedure, everything works perfectly," Gentry said.

Keep track of claiming periods

Cohen also said that it is important to keep the claiming period in mind: the length of time that winners have to claim their ticket varies by state and depends on the state where the winning ticket was purchased.

Cohen said that in the District of Columbia, the claiming period is 180 days from the drawing. Most states have similar or slightly longer drawing periods.

Past cases of pooling wins

There have been examples in the past of both situations. A group from a real estate company in Florida won $1 million in 2013. They split the winnings among the 12 employees who chipped in $20 for the pool and also gave a cut to an employee who had started just two weeks prior and hadn't contributed.

"The fact that we got to share in an experience that most never have in a lifetime -- winning a Powerball -- we grew closer," said Laurie Finkelstein Reader, who works at that real estate office.

While that situation worked out fine, there have been less positive examples. There was a situation in California in 2005 when a group of colleagues from Kaiser Permanente were sued by four of their fellow employees who said that they had oral agreements to get in on the winning lotto pool. According to a recent Orange County Register interview with the winners, the suits were dismissed.

"You can't believe people you worked with would do that," Brenda Heller, one of the "Lucky 7" who split the winnings and ended up with more than $20 million after taxes, told the paper.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct222018

Melinda Gates on the responsibility that comes with her name

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Robin Hood(NEW YORK) -- Throughout her life and career, Melinda Gates has strived to be a voice for marginalized people around the world, working to the bridge the gap of inequality, especially for women. For her it is a responsibility that comes with being Melinda Gates.

"I think you grow into a name over time. It's taken me quite some time honestly." Gates tells ABC News’ Chief Business, Technology and Economics correspondent, Rebecca Jarvis on an episode of the "No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis" podcast.

"I'm in this position by luck. No other reason. I fell in love with Bill [Gates]. He fell in love with me. We decided to get married ... if you're in this position you have to do something for the women that you've met."

Gates began her career at Microsoft in 1987 and worked her way up to become the General Manager of Information Products where she eventually managed a team of almost 2,000 people. It’s there that she met her future husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and the two were wed in 1994. When she decided to leave the workforce she says her husband was shocked.

"I actually shocked him when I told him I was going to leave. I had already made that decision and he was completely shocked because he knew how much I loved my career," Gates said.

Despite leaving Microsoft, Gates always knew she would eventually go back into the workforce in some capacity and she says it was her husband who actually gave her the push to go back "maybe even sooner" than she would have.

Today she is the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is one of the largest private foundations in the United States working to reduce inequality around the world. But it is her passion for helping women that led to the creation of Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company she founded three years ago to focus on women’s equality issues in the United States and to increase the number of women in the technology sector.

"I would often be flying home from these trips in the developing world thinking about equality and realizing we don't actually have equality for women anywhere yet in the world," she said.

Last year all-female led startups only received about 2.2% of the total $85 billion invested by venture capitalists, according to PitchBook. And for women of color that number drops to about 1%. Through Pivotal Ventures, Gates is hoping to raise that percentage by investing in VC’s who are increasingly supporting female and minority entrepreneurs such as AllRaise, Aspect Ventures and the Female Founders Fund.

Gates said that the low percentage says more about the investors than the founders.

"I have met women -- so many women who feel that they are voiceless; they're voiceless in their communities, sometimes in their families, they certainly are voiceless on the global stage, she said. "And so I just have decided that at some point I would have to step into this name and into this role and give them a voice."

"That's what I do almost no matter what room I walk into these days," Gates added.

Hear more from Melinda Gates on episode #106 of the "No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis" podcast.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct222018

If you win the Mega Millions $1.6 billion jackpot in some states, you can remain anonymous

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As the Mega Millions jackpot heads toward a record $1.6 billion drawing Tuesday, some ticket-holding hopefuls may wonder if they would be able hide their identities if they won.

The lottery prize is now the biggest ever in the U.S.

Some financial experts advise winners of big lottery prizes to try to remain anonymous.

But only a handful of states allow winners to decide whether they want to stay anonymous. Some states have a law explicitly requiring that lottery winners be publicly identified.

Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina all allow lottery winners to remain anonymous if that's what the winners prefer, according to Maryland Lottery and Gaming.

Arizona lottery winners of $600 or more can remain anonymous for 90 days after winning their prizes, according to Maryland Lottery and Gaming. After 90 days, the winners’ identities become part of the public record meaning the information about the winne 's identity and the amount of the winning prize is subject to a public records request. Those in the interest of the information could find out by filing a request with the lottery that sold the ticket.

In Georgia, winners can choose against having their identities released publicly if their prize is larger than $250,000.

Most states have laws allowing the lottery that sold the ticket to make such information public.

In Michigan, Mega Millions and Powerball winners must step forward publicly, but winners of other state lottery games can remain anonymous should they choose, according to Maryland Lottery and Gaming.

Some states allow winners to claim their prize through a trust to avoid publicity.

In Maryland, however, a lottery winner can choose to remain anonymous only if they don't claim the prize through a trust, Maryland Lottery and Gaming said.

New Hampshire requires winners to go public. However, a judge in Concord, New Hampshire, in March allowed the winner of a $560 Powerball jackpot to keep her identity private despite her having signed her ticket with her actual name.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Oct212018

Powerball jackpot rises to $620M, third-largest in game's history

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The day after nobody won a $1 billion Mega Millions jackpot, the numbers were drawn for a relatively paltry Powerball prize of $470 million. But, like Mega Millions, no one took home the Powerball, and the pot continues to rise.

The winning numbers for Saturday's drawing were 16, 54, 57, 62, 69 with a Powerball of 23.

With no one claiming the big prize, the Powerball drawing on Wednesday -- one day after a $1.6 billion Mega Millions drawing -- will be $620 million. The cash payout is approximately $354.3 million. The Powerball is the third-largest in the game's history and sixth-largest in U.S. lotto history.

There were a number of runner-up prizes. There were $2 million winners in Florida and Tennessee, and $1 million winners in Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Washington.

The first five balls were drawn from a pool of 69 and the Powerball from a pool of 26, making the odds of getting all six numbers correct 292,201,338 to 1, according to the Powerball website.

A single winning ticket on Saturday would have been eligible for a cash payout of $268.6 million.

Combined with a new Mega Millions jackpot of $1.6 billion, there is more than $2 billion in top-prize money between the two lottery games -- and millions more available for subordinate prizes.

The Mega Millions top prize of $1.6 billion has a cash payout option of $904 million, but both can grow depending upon the volume of ticket sales.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Oct202018

No winner means Mega Millions rises to record $1.6B jackpot

Emilie Richardson/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- If you're checking your numbers Saturday morning for the $1 billion Mega Millions jackpot, you're not a grand-prize winner. But neither was anyone else.

The next Mega Millions jackpot will be an estimated $1.6 billion -- the highest total in U.S. lottery history. The cash payout is $904 million.

"We're in unchartered territory," Gordon Medenica, Mega Millions lead director and the director of Maryland Lottery and Gaming, told Good Morning America on Saturday.

The drawing will be Tuesday at 11 p.m.

And the record jackpot can increase between now and then.

"Hold on to your hats," Medenica said. "It could go up even further."

When asked if the grand prize could hit a shocking $2 billion, Medenica said, "Anything's possible."

"I don't want to jinx it," he added.

The numbers drawn Friday night for the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. history were 15-23-53-65-70 and a Mega Ball of 7. A single winner taking the cash lump sum would have received about $565.6 million.

There were a number of smaller winners in Friday's drawing, including 15 people who won at least $1 million for matching each white ball. New York had the highest number of second-prize winners -- with four. One ticket in Texas was worth $2 million for matching all five white balls and doubling the total with the Megaplier.

The Mega Millions jackpot has skyrocketed since the July 24 drawing when a group of 11 co-workers in Santa Clara County, California, shared a $543 million jackpot, the game's fourth-largest.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct192018

Marijuana company heads to New York Stock Exchange

rgbspace/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The New York Stock Exchange is about to get greener. Canada-based Aurora Cannabis plans to start trading on the NYSE on Oct. 23, the company announced Thursday.

The move comes in spite of the fact U.S. financial institutions are still barred from doing business with marijuana companies, be it financing the businesses or accepting deposits or allowing employees to open personal bank accounts.

Aurora Cannabis is allowed to be listed in the U.S. because it's not an American firm. A weed company in, say, Colorado wouldn't be permitted to list shares because of federal law.

"The Exchange has broad discretion regarding the listing of a company," Lisette Kwong, a spokeswoman for the NYSE, wrote in an email to ABC News.

Canopy, based in Ontario, became the first weed producer listed on the NYSE earlier this year under the ticker CGC. It also trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange as WEED.

Canada legalized recreational marijuana use for adults this week. It remains illegal in the U.S. under federal law, although many states have decriminalized it in some form.

Because the U.S. federal government still classifies pot as an illegal controlled substance, U.S. banks cannot technically accept deposits from marijuana businesses and are subject to money-laundering rules. However, a growing number of state-chartered banks and credit unions are experimenting with cannabis businesses.

Experts have said Canada's legalization may spur more investment into the cannabis industry as a whole.

"U.S. institutional investors who have not understood the industry, or had concerns about the regulations, now that we're ready to go, you might see more institutional investors, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world, start to allocate money or capital into the sector," said Jesse Pytlak, an analyst with Cormack Securities.

As a result of U.S. federal law, most marijuana is purchased with cash, not credit cards, causing a problem for dispensaries that end up hoarding greenbacks until massive deposits can be made.

"Previously, these businesses have literally laundered their money, whether it's using a product like Febreze or some other scent-covering agent to try to deposit these large sums of cash," Amanda Avret, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Bankers Association, said. "Tellers have stopped those deposits by literally smelling the money."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct192018

Amazon reviews: Inside the murky world of pay-to-play 

Poike/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Jeff, a home builder in Lasalle, Illinois, said he bought a battery adapter for his cordless drill on Amazon, and it worked for about an hour before it broke.

So Jeff, who asked that his last name not be used in this story, wrote a review saying just that.

He said the third-party seller emailed him later, asking him to delete the review in exchange for a $30 Amazon gift card. The seller also asked how to improve the product, according to emails Jeff shared with ABC News.

"I figured, Why not? That would cover my loss on the adapter," Jeff wrote in an email. "I ended up changing it to a positive review because I couldn’t delete it. Seller did thank me and sent me a code for Amazon. Sure enough there was a $30 credit in my acct. I was leery of this somehow being a scam but figured I could always put a bad review back up."

Amazon has been criticized over the credibility of customer reviews as the number of third-party sellers using its platform has skyrocketed, creating a potential cottage industry of fake reviews.

The third-party seller who supplied Jeff's battery adapter didn't immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Recently, Amazon fired an employee for sharing customers' email addresses with a third-party vendor, though it didn't provide details on who the seller was or where it was located. In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, the company also said it was "supporting law enforcement in its prosecution."

It's unclear how questionable such pay-for-play tactics are in the world of e-commerce, assuming they don't explicitly violate the terms and conditions laid out by a company like Amazon, whose Anti-Manipulation Policy states that "any attempt to manipulate reviews, including by directly or indirectly contributing false, misleading or inauthentic content, is strictly prohibited."

"When you hear about a commercial reaction like that, it sounds shady," said Simeon Siegel, an analyst at Instinet, a tech-focused firm that's part of Nomura Securities. "But would we feel the same way if a restaurant manager comped a meal after someone complained? Should we be thinking about it through an old-school lens, when some sort of compensation would be implicit?"

In September, Amazon confirmed the company was investigating a Wall Street Journal report that employees had offered to disclose sales data and delete negative consumer reviews for third-party sellers in exchange for payment. It's unclear whether the recent termination was related to that investigation.

Amazon didn't respond to a request for comment, but the company's Anti-Manipulation Policy also states: "Customers trust that they can shop with confidence on Amazon. Reviews provide a forum for sharing authentic feedback about products and services -- positive or negative."

The company also told the Journal that sellers found to be in violation of its customer review policy would face discipline. "We have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behavior, we will take swift action against them," a company statement read.

"Reviews allow e-commerce to bridge the gap of brick-and-mortar stores -- it allows customers and brands to reach a larger audience," Siegel said. "But one part of the equation is the ability to try to make it right."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct192018

Mega Millions prizes keep skyrocketing as 'people want to see bigger jackpots'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The record $1 billion Mega Millions jackpot is the latest prize to balloon to astronomical figures -- and officials say they're giving people with dreams of winning exactly what they want.

“People wanted to see bigger jackpots,” Carole Gentry, a spokeswoman for the Mega Million Group and managing director of communications at Maryland Lottery and Gaming told ABC News.

The drawing for the Mega Millions prize will be Friday night.

The prizes for lotteries have jumped recently, officials said. Gentry said starting jackpots also increased to $40 million from $15 million last year to "allow for bigger, faster-growing jackpots.”

Lottery players used to pick five numbers from 1 to 75 and one Mega Ball number from 1 to 15, with nine different prize levels ranging from $1 to the jackpot available for the players to catch.

The odds of winning the jackpot prize were 1 in 258 million, and the overall odds of winning a prize at any of the nine prize levels was 1 in 14.71 million.

As recently as last year, the price for the ticket was $1.

But that all changed last year.

The odds of winning the second-tier prize of $1 million were improved by the matrix changes, Gentry said.

Before October 2017, the odds of a $1 million prize were 1 in 18.49 million. Since October 2017, the odds of a $1 million prize are 1 in 12.6 million.

And the ticket price is now $2.

Players now pick five numbers from 1 to 70 and one Mega Ball number from 1 to 25 with nine different prize levels, now ranging from $2 to the jackpot.

The odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 302 million, and the overall odds of winning a prize at any of the nine prize levels is 1 in 24 million.

"Longer odds for the jackpot and better odds for all of the other prize levels,” Gentry said. “It increases the chance of winning the second tier million dollar prize and the lower prizes. And it allows the jackpots to increase at a faster larger rate.”

The modification also was made to attract players from all walk of life.

“We also know that when the jackpots are larger, we start seeing many groups of co-workers, friends or relatives buying tickets together. It becomes something that people share with others around them,” she said.

Before the drawing Tuesday, the previous Mega Millions record jackpots was $656 million, which was shared by winners from Kansas, Illinois and Maryland in March 2012.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







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