Entries in Tips (8)


Beef Prices Rising as Farmers Deal with Demand, Drought

Ciaran Griffin/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It’s that time of year when Americans start firing up the grill, but the sound of sizzling beef burgers seems to be fizzling, thanks to a rise in the cost of beef.

A ground beef burger now costs $3.26 per pound, up from $2.99 a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And a sirloin steak now costs $6.86 per pound, up 7 percent from last summer.

“I’m buying less beef because prices … seem to be going up,” Meltin Escoboza told ABC News today.

Experts say the growing demand for U.S. beef from around the globe, including China, as well as a drought in the Southwest, are pushing up the price of beef.

Last year’s drought — the worst in U.S. history — dried up grazing grasses and sent the costs of corn and soybeans, both used in cattle feed, soaring. The current drought in the Southwest continues to wipe out the feed and makes it very expensive to raise cattle.

In response, ranchers slashed the size of their herds. The U.S. now has the smallest number of cattle since 1952.

Wally Weaver, a chef at the 3 Forty Grill in Hoboken, N.J., advised families to go for smaller portion sizes, rather than a lower quality beef, as well as bigger sides — a restaurant trick.

“That way you save a little money and you still get what you want to eat,” Weaver said. “We have awesome sides that we serve with the steaks and the other dishes. You don’t really notice.”

He also suggested using a portobello mushroom rather than meat because they are meaty and can be added as a side or stand in for a burger. Weaver said that if cheaper cuts such as flank and skirt steaks are used, they should be marinated for 24 hours in a vinegar-based liquid.

Lynn R. Russo-Talbot of Washington state said that turkey would be the new T-bone steak of the summer for her family.

And Kathy Robertson of Martinsville, Va., said that she mixed black beans and bread crumbs with her ground beef to stretch it longer.

Agriculture traders told ABC News Saturday that higher beef prices would remain high because, as ranchers increased the size of their herds, demand continues to grow, canceling out the extra supply.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


SEC Receives Nearly 3,000 Whistleblower Tips in Year

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It’s only been a little over a year since the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launched its Office of the Whistleblower, but it has already received almost 3,000 securities law violation tips.

In a speech this week, Sean X. McKessy, chief of the Office of the Whistleblower, said the SEC receives an average of eight tips a day, “rather than the avalanche of poor quality, frivolous tips that were predicted.”

The Office of the Whistleblower was formed as part of the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010.

“As we considered the contours of the rules to implement the Whistleblower program, we heard repeatedly that the implementation of this program would overwhelm the commission and literally shut our program down,” McKessy said, addressing the inaugural Securities Enforcement Forum in Washington, D.C. on Thursday. “We also heard that corporate compliance departments that had been built out as a result of Sarbanes-Oxley, would no longer be able to function.”

As of Aug. 8, 2012, McKessy said the office had received received 2,820 tips from people in the U.S. and from at least 45 countries.

Last year, McKessy said the SEC has “already seen an increase in the quality of the tips we have received since the passage of Dodd-Frank in July 2010.”

The SEC has said only one award has been paid. In August, a whistleblower who did not want to be identified received a payment of almost $50,000 for helping a court demand more than $1 million in sanctions in a securities fraud case.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


How to Protect Yourself From Fake Debt Scammers

Eyecandy Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- "You will be behind the bars for six months and once you go behind the bars, you will lose your job. Once you are behind the bars, you won't get a single drop of water."

That's the message received by just one of hundreds of thousands of cash-strapped Americans who authorities say have become the targets of a "phantom" debt collection scheme in which victims are bullied and threatened into paying conmen money they do not owe, as reported in an ABC News Nightline investigation.

"They call up and they pretend to be policemen... sometimes they've been from the FBI or the Department of Justice," said Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. "So it is just a hardcore kind of scam and we're beginning to see more of it."

WATCH FULL REPORT: Phantom Debt Collectors From India Harass Americans, Demand Money

But there are steps consumers can take to make sure their money is safe the next time the phone rings. Check out the tips below and head to the Federal Trade Commission website for more.

Spotting a Potential Conman

Just because the caller says he's an authority figure, that doesn't mean he is. According to the FTC, there are several ways to tell if someone may be trying to pull one over on unsuspecting callers. Keep a lookout for the following red flags:

  • First, does their story make sense? Are they asking you about a debt you don't recognize in the first place?
  • Be suspicious of anyone claiming to be law enforcement. "The police, the FBI, the Justice Department probably never enforces payday loan collection," Leibowitz said. "They're not debt collectors."
  • The caller won't give you ways to reach him such as a mailing address or phone number.
  • The caller asks you for personal financial information -- that a legitimate figure would likely not have to ask for -- or threatens you with legal action if you do not pay.

If You Think You're the Target of a Scam...

  • First things first, the FTC says to ask for the caller's name, company, address and phone number and for a "validation notice" detailing the debt owed. "If a caller refuses to give you all this information, do not pay!" the FTC says.
  • Do not provide any personal information over the phone. If you do, that information could be used by thieves for identity theft.
  • Tell them to stop calling and, if you have an address for them, ask them to stop calling in writing. By law, real debt collectors must stop calling if you request that in writing, the FTC says.
  • The most obvious course of action, Leibowitz said, is to call up your actual creditor. "If a consumer knows they have debt, call the debtor up. The debtor can can you, 'Yes, I called.' or 'No, that was somebody else,'" he said.
  • Report the call to the FTC and state authorities. "Many states have their own debt collection laws" in addition to federal ones, the FTC says. "Your Attorney General's office can help you determine your rights under your state's law."

"The thing we wanted to do first and foremost was we wanted to shut this operation down," Leibowitz said.

CLICK HERE to visit the FTC's website.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Shopping for Tech Lovers? Tips to Avoid Buyer’s Remorse

PRNewsFoto/Microsoft Corp.(NEW YORK) -- Christmas is just days away. If you’re still shopping and you’ve got tech lovers on your list, you may be feeling overwhelmed about some of your purchases. If you are thinking about buying a tablet like the iPad, some of those fancy headphones like Beats by Dr. Dre, or a gaming system like the Xbox, ABC News technology contributor Becky Worley offers this advice to avoid buyer’s remorse:

You may want to wait before you buy, especially when you consider that a new version of the hot “it” products could be released just after the holidays.

Apple is expected to sell 13 million iPad 2s this season.  Are they fun?  Yes. Are they a great gift? Yes. Are they about to be replaced with the iPad 3? Yes.

The iPad 3 is expected to be thinner and lighter, and have an eye-popping, high-resolution screen. Better camera, and maybe, just maybe, come in a bunch of different colors. It’s expected to be released sometime in spring 2012.

So what about the year’s other hot tablet, the Kindle Fire? It enjoyed a blazing debut, but user complaints have poured cold water on the tablet’s sales. They say the screen’s too small and that the controls and touch screen aren’t as responsive as they need to be. Even worse, there are rumors that there will be two new models coming out this spring.

Gaming Systems:  No groundbreaking new products were introduced this year, so the hottest item on the market is still the Kinect for Xbox 360.  There are no major changes expected in this console, so you should feel totally confident buying an Xbox or the Kinect add-on.

But you should know that the Nintendo Wii is getting a big upgrade in 2012. It will have a tablet-based touch screen controller and a whole new style of game play.

Headphones:  What’s all this noise about headphones for $200 or $300?

Teens have become connoisseurs of headphones the way previous generations fawned over muscle cars and The Beatles. So now Beats by Dr. Dre cost $300 and your kid wants them. What do you do? Don’t sweat it. There are cheaper alternatives out there.

Skullcandy has lots of fashionable choices for under $30, including Rasta-flavored uprock models. Sennheiser and Koss are other options. Both have models for under $25.

Don’t be confused, though. If your teen wants a specific set of headphones and he or she’s already articulated exactly which pair, you’ve either got to pony up the money or manage expectations. Headphones are the new designer jeans.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Dollar Store Secrets: What to Buy, What to Skip, How to Save

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- America has become a dollar store nation. No matter how much we earn, we all want to save. Dollar stores are booming in these tough economic times, attracting shoppers looking for low prices on necessities and the occasional small splurge.

In the past, people believed that dollar stores did not carry quality goods, but more and more people are discovering the incredible savings to be found at dollar stores.

With everything from cleaning supplies to baby clothes to food items, the dollar store is no longer a place to find knick-knacks and surplus goods. Good Morning America's Lara Spencer visited a local dollar store to show you how to save. This dollar store had all the same items as local competitors, but for 20 to 50 percent less. In a couple rare examples, the prices were the same, but nothing was more expensive.

Here are nine tips on how to stretch your dollar on your visit:

1. Make a List

Before you head out for your shopping trip, make a list of the things you need.

2. What Items to Buy

Paper products, household cleaning items, seasonal items (decorations, candy), craft items, baby clothes and non-perishable pantry items are some of the best things to pick up at dollar stores at a deep discount.

3. Ditch the Name Brands

Generic Brand vs National Brand. Many dollar stores carry the same national brands found in your grocery store or big box retailer. (Laundry detergent is one example.) Some generic brands found in dollar stores can be just as good as leading brands, especially for things like sponges or cleaning tools.

4. Cut Your Coupons

A lot of dollar stores honor manufacturer coupons, which is savings on top of savings.

5. Check Expiration Dates

Be sure to check expiration dates.

6. Avoid Tampered Packaging

Over-the-counter drugs are a real bargain at the dollar store. It is extremely important to always check the label and to make sure there are the appropriate vitamins and ingredients in the medicines. Also, be sure to take a look at the packaging and that it hasn't been tampered with.

7. Get the Best Batteries

When looking for batteries make sure to note that the best batteries have lithium.

8. Think Before Buying Electronics

Be careful of electronic equipment at dollar stores. Look for the UL label, which stands for Underwriters Laboratories Inc. UL is an independent product safety certification organization. If the product does not have the UL label, it could cause fires or other damages.

9. Leave the Kids at Home

Don't take your kids with you to the dollar store. It is hard to stick to a list with so many great deals as it is, and your kids will tempt you to buy even more things that you don't need.

The neighborhood dollar store may become one of your favorite places, and will save you a lot of money.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


10 Tips for Selling Your Gold for Cash

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In today's swerving economy, stocks are out, and gold is in.

The price of gold is up 20 percent since the beginning of 2011, and by mid-August gold was going for over $1,700 per ounce. At times on Monday, its spot price hovered near $1,900 per ounce.

So how do you cash in? If you're like thousands of Americans, you go to a gold party, the hottest trend on the block, where you can have your jewelry appraised and get paid cash on the spot.

But not so fast. With every good deal comes a case of buyer's and, in this case, seller's beware, a reminder that consumers should do their homework before selling their jewelry at gold parties or in a local jewelry store.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers that while gold parties may be a fun and convenient way to make some cash, they may not provide you the best deal.

Follow these tips from BBB to make sure you're getting the best value for your gold.

1: Understand the Scales:  The weight of gold helps determine its value, but keep in mind that jewelers use a different measurement standard called a Troy ounce. U.S. scales will measure 28 grams per ounce, while gold is measured at 31.1 grams per Troy ounce. Some dealers may also use a system of weights called pennyweight (dwt) to measure a Troy ounce, while others will use grams. A pennyweight is the equivalent of 1.555 grams. Be alert that a dealer does not weigh your gold by pennyweight but pay you by the gram, a sneaky way for the dealer to pay you less for more weight of gold.

2: Know Your Karats: Pure gold is too soft to be practically used so it is combined with other metals to create durability and color. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that all jewelry sold in the U.S. describe a karat fineness of the alloy. One karat equals 1/24 of pure gold by weight. So 14 karats would mean the jewelry was 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metals. It is illegal for jewelry to be labeled "gold jewelry" if it is less than 10 karats. It is important to know the karats of your gold to make an informed decision on the scrap value of your jewelry.

3: Keep Your Karats Separate:  Don't let jewelry of different karat value be weighed together. Some dealers will weigh all jewelry together and pay you for the lowest karat value. Separate your jewelry by karat value before attending a gold party.

4: Know the Value:  Call a local jewelry store or check with an online source, such as, to verify the current market price for gold before you sell. Some dealers know people are just looking for quick cash to put in their pockets and will offer you money for your gold that is lower than the actual value.

5: Know Your Buyer:  Check out jewelry stores and gold buyers registered with BBB at A BBB Business Review tells basic information about the business as well as any complaints and whether the complaints have been resolved when presented to the business by BBB.

6: Know What You Are Selling:  Some gold items may be worth more when sold as they are, rather than if they are melted down. If your gold necklace or bracelet comes from a well-known designer or maker, it may have a value to some buyers beyond the gold it's made of.

7: Know the Fine Print:  If you choose to use a mail-away service, make sure you understand the terms and conditions. Send the items insured. Find out how long before you get reimbursed, how long they will keep your gold before melting it down, and how many days you have to turn down the offer. Take photos of your items before sending and make sure you hold on to all relevant paperwork and filings.

8: Shop Around:  Remember, you don't have to jump at the first offer for your gold. Shop around for a few different bids. To ensure you are really getting the best price for your jewelry, have it appraised before selling. This may cost you more up front, but your jewelry may be worth more than its weight when you include workmanship, artistic value, and embedded gems for the piece as a whole.

9: Be Realistic:  Keep in mind that gold parties, often hosted by friends and neighbors, are really more about fun than value. Taking all factors into consideration, sellers at gold parties will likely get between 70 and 80 percent of the real value of their item.

10: Bring Your I.D.:  Gold buyers are required by law to ask sellers for government-issued identification. This requirement is designed to protect consumers by helping police investigate the sale of stolen property and prevent money laundering. All reputable gold buyers comply with these rules, so if you don't get asked to show your I.D., be warned.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tax Tip: Before All Else, Prepare the Necessary Paperwork

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When it comes to filing your taxes, take the Boy Scout motto and be prepared. As you begin to get your paperwork together for your 2010 taxes, it may help to first look at your 2009 tax return.

“Seeing what your sources of income were and what type of deductions you had,” can give you a ballpark of what to expect this year, accountant Janice Hayman said.

Another tip? Make sure you have the right documents for both sides of the ledger.

“You say, ‘Here's how much I’ve earned’ and then you say ‘Here are the deductions that I can take to reduce my taxable income,’” said H&R Block’s Kathy Pickering.

Obtain your W-2 forms from all of your employers, your bank and investment statements, and any paperwork to support your deductions.

Note that it’s possible not everything will come in the mail, according to Kiplinger’s Mary Beth Franklin.

“As more and more of us are receiving documents electronically, certain things will no longer be in the mail. So make sure you're reading your e-mail inbox as well for those important documents.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Holiday Tipping Guide: Don't Forget the Mailman and Babysitter

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- 'Tis the season to show your appreciation to everyone that makes life easier.

"Tipping is for the services you received through the year and a way to guarantee good service throughout the year," says Laura Rowley, a Yahoo! Finance columnist.

Despite an economic climate that has sent the real estate and job markets spiraling downward, holiday tipping is recession-proof. Tipping the babysitter or newspaper carrier is a way of showing your appreciation for services received. It's an act of appreciation that does not depreciate because of economic stressors.

"There's no one more important in a parent's life than the person taking care of a child when they're not home. You don't want to be a Scrooge when it comes to holiday tipping," says Wendy Sachs, editor-in-chief of, a family care organization. And that's even if you don't celebrate Christmas.

So who do Sachs and Rowley advise you tip this time of year?

The nanny, the babysitter, the teacher, daycare provider, hair stylist, newspaper carrier, the doorman, the office assistant, the mailman, the dog walker, housekeeper or cleaning lady, senior citizen care giver, and the garbage collector should all be on your ‘approved’ list.

Who don’t you need to tip, according to the experts? First, there’s the dry cleaner. "That's their business,” Rowley said. “If you want to give a gift, then give a card."

And then, of course, there’s your boss who Rowley says you should avoid giving a gift. She says it could look too much like a bribe.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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