Posts Tagged ‘money’

Lock, Stock & Money

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

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The idea of investing in stocks seemed like a bright prospect a few months back but now it sends shivers down the spines among prospective investors. Share investors have witnessed a tough time over the past six months. Investing in stocks or shares has always been a risky affair, but more so during the past few months as the stock prices went tumbling down, with a steep fall in the economy. Interestingly stock trading is not a new thing and its history can be traced back to the Romans, but the first company to issue stocks was the Dutch East India Company. They pooled in public investment and used it primarily for the building of ships.

Experts in the stock market claim that the one thing that is important for a person trading in stocks is his timing. Investors were quick to realize that they needed to be on the tip of their toes to trade effectively in the stock market. However in the olden days, not everybody had the time to keep a track on the stock prices on a daily basis, and that itself gave rise to a new profession- the Stock Broker. He kept a watch on all your stocks and helped you make a decision on what to buy and what to sell, and charged you a commission (called the brokerage) for his services.

With the advent of technology, the stock markets have seen a radical change over the years. Increasingly sophisticated broking software has not only made it easy for Stock Brokers to trade on the market, it has also meant that a newbie, with a little knowledge about the share markets can take a plunge. The internet has also made it easy for people to trade on stocks sitting at the comfort of their homes, with millions of dollars changing hands in a few milliseconds. Technology has made it possible for algorithmic trading to take place, wherein computer systems are programmed to buy or sell shares when a certain market condition is met.

As with all things related to money, the Stock Market has seen its share of financial scams amounting to millions of dollars. Among the various major scams that have hit the Stock Market hard, the earliest was in 1986 when Barry Minkow claimed to be building a multi-million dollar company and went public with a market cap of $200 million before being discovered that it was a mere scam. However the largest investor fraud ever committed by a single person amounting to a whopping $65 billion was the one orchestrated by Bernard Madoff. He introduced his Ponzi scheme, where instead of investing the money offered to him by his clients it was simply deposited to his business account in Chase Manhattan Bank.

A totally different form of stock scam came into picture in the form of the boiler room. A lot of people have been hit most by boiler room scams, where a smooth talking salesman calls up and tries to peddle worthless shares to unsuspecting customers. Police have called it the biggest threat to households, much bigger than credit card frauds. These are called boiler room scams because the people involved operate out of cramped office spaces with desks and telephones. Police have estimated that there are about 500 boiler rooms operating out of Spain, employing over 400 people. Other favourite Boiler room destinations are USA, Dubai, Berlin and France.

With the economy in recession, investors are thinking twice before plunging into the Stock Market. With statistical figures showing that approximately more than 50% of American households invest in the stock market, it is something that is still considered to be a good investment. It is just a matter of time before the Stock Market hits back with a vengeance. Better hold on to your money until then.

ATMs - those amazing telling machines

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

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Automated Teller Machines or ATMs have changed the way people do banking. Before the arrival of ATMs people had to wait for the bank to open, and stand in long queues to withdraw their own money, or just to know the balance on their account. Now ATMs are everywhere, in shopping malls, hospitals, offices and chances are that one is in your neighbourhood as well. Statistics have revealed that as of August 2006, there are over 1.5 million of these smart systems in operation.

Although the primary use of ATMs is for dispensing cash, these intelligent machines can be used for multiple purposes apart from bank-related functions. Since ATMs have a user interface at their disposal, they have been targeted by banks as a sales device, for displaying targeted advertising. Banks have recognized the huge potential for advertising of their own as well as third-party products and services on ATMs. In some countries ATMs are also used for purchasing commodities such as postage stamps, lottery tickets, train tickets, concert tickets etc.

ATMs as other technological devices have also been targeted by criminals to gain access to the cash lying inside these dispensers. Although ATMs are considered to be very secure, they have been subject to criminal attacks, with thieves attempting to get away with the entire ATM. Since ATMs are designed and constructed to be physically invulnerable, thieves resort to using construction machinery to demolish or uproot an entire ATM and steal any cash within. Criminals have also used explosives to blast open the ATM and get into its cash vault.

ATMs are quite secure for transactions, using advanced encryption techniques to encrypt sensitive information such as pin numbers, so that they cannot be sniffed across the network. To overcome this limitation, criminals have resorted to placing fake keypads on the ATM terminals to record the card number and pin. These are then used to gain access to an unsuspecting user’s accounts to withdraw cash or transfer money. High tech criminals also resort to a technique involving the installation of a magnetic card reader and a wireless surveillance camera to observe the user’s pin, and later use a fake card to dispense cash from the ATM.

Banks have resorted to various means to get around this of which the most successful have been the use of biometrics, where a user is identified using either one or a combination of his physical traits. Popular biometric techniques involve scanning of the iris or matching the fingerprints of the user with the ones stored in the bank’s database.  Other security techniques put in place by banks involve the development of intelligent sensors that detect the presence of foreign objects and trigger an alarm. Banks have claimed a 99% success rate, using these techniques.

In spite of a few shortcomings, ATMs continue to be a huge success and have proved to be highly popular thus making them a must for banks. However the future of ATMs remains uncertain. Although, statistics indicate that the numbers of ATMs are steadily on the rise and continue to make their presence felt at gasoline stations and shopping outlets, the advent of a cashless society and home banking can pose a serious threat to these marvellous machines. They also face fierce competition from an increasing rise of point-of-sale systems and smart cards.

Having celebrated their 40th birthday recently, these amazing machines could possibly be made extinct by paperless money in times to come.

Technology playing an important role in financial crimes

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

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Money related crimes have seen an increase in the past decade. This has been attributed to the recent technological advances that the world has seen. With the advent of the internet and wireless technologies, it has become more than easy to perform crimes. On the other hand, it has become more difficult for crime prevention units to combat them. Among the high tech crimes that have affected the society, Currency counterfeiting, money laundering, intellectual property crime, payment card fraud, computer virus attacks and cyber-terrorism have been named by the Interpol as few of the most dreaded crimes committed by criminals across the globe.

Money laundering and currency counterfeiting have the potential to destabilise national economies and threaten global security, as these activities are sometimes used by terrorists and other dangerous criminals to finance illegal activities or conceal their illegal money. Intellectual property crime has turned out to be a major financial concern for car manufacturers, luxury goods makers, media firms and drug companies to name a few, with the World Health organization claiming that more than 60% of the pharmaceuticals out in the market are fake.

Whilst new technologies benefit people in numerous ways, they open up many possibilities for criminals to carry out traditional financial crimes in ways never imagined before. One of the most widely used tactics employed by criminals over the internet is ‘Spam’.  Spam is used by criminals across the globe to fraud customers in increasingly sophisticated ways combined with ‘phishing’ to commit fraud and even money laundering.

Authorities in USA had busted up an international racket and charged a gang of 38 people who sought innocent parties’ personal information through phishing emails and smishing (sending SMS text messages via cell phones). The gang used phishing by luring users who clicked on links contained in spam e-mails into a fraudulent website – posing as a legitimate online bank, where they were tricked into entering sensitive information like passwords and bank details. This information was being sent into the gang’s personal database to be then later used for conducting frauds and money laundering.

Criminals can use another individual’s Internet access, which would guarantee the unauthorised user a great degree of anonymity. This can then be used to get into the individual’s bank accounts, or spy software can be installed on the computer to gather sensitive information like usernames and passwords for bank accounts. Hackers with an extensive knowledge of computers and networking can “hack” into databases and retrieve account information.

In the internet world, there is a high price for this kind of sensitive information. Information such as credit card numbers are traded over IRC channels on the internet, and they are bought by criminals. The hackers lack the skills to do anything with the data they steal and the old-time criminals lack the technical skills to get the data. The internet is the meeting point for these two different types of people.

Technology clearly has two faces. While one face of technology benefits people by making it easier to manage their finances, the other face of it is exploited by criminals to gain access to easy money. It is easily apparent that people are being increasingly exposed to the technological era of crime, and they need to be more careful than ever before, to keep their hard earned money safe from the hands of these high-tech money stealers.

How Much Cash do Americans Keep on Hand?

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

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What’s in your pocket?


Americans are losing faith in banks, period. That goes without saying and no explanation is needed. We all know this. The stock market is falling; banks are going down and receiving money just to keep themselves afloat. What is the average American doing? They are stashing their cash or carrying it with them! In the past year, since gas prices started skyrocketing, Americans have started looking twice at their bank accounts and getting nervous. Even then there was talk of there being a recession. People started withdrawing their money in a frenzy and selling their stocks, starting to stash it at home and carrying large amounts in their wallets. So how much money do Americans carry in their wallets, and how much money is stashed in American homes?

The amount of cash Americans carry on their person is directly affected by the area of the country they live in. People in New York and Los Angeles are going to carry way more money than someone who lives in a smaller town like Lorain, Ohio or El Paso, Texas. Since the cost of living is so different, the cash one carries for basic necessities would be much higher in New York City and way lower in Lorain, Ohio. The demographics on carrying money look like this:
The average purse or wallet in the United States contains about $104.

13% of Americans use a piggy bank.

28% of Americans have a coin jar.

15% if people in the U.S. have a large amount of cash hidden in their houses. Out of these people, half of them have it hidden and the other half hide it in plain sight.

1/3 of Americans keep a small amount of cash on hand for emergencies.

Finally, more than 50% of American’s don’t keep any cash at all in the house.

American’s carry cash so they don’t have to use credit cards, foregoing the interest usually incurred in that way. People carry cash because they don’t trust the banks and they haven’t been able to trust banks for at least a year or more. Some carry cash because that’s what they’ve always done and that’s what they were taught to do. Sure a lot of people go into a bank or through the drive through to cash their paychecks, in return getting their cash for no extra fees. What about those who don’t go to the bank and whose checks are automatically deposited? These people will usually hit up the ATM. It’s difficult if possible at all to not incur a fee when using the ATM so this way of obtaining your cash is costing you money. Is the tradeoff worth it?

Some might argue that we’re becoming a no cash society; using less cash and more and more debit and credit cards. I wonder if these people have taken a look at the economy lately because I think we may be going back to using as little plastic as possible.

The Value of a Dollar-It’s more than just 100 Cents

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

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The value of our dollar depends strongly on the values of the dollars of other countries, exchange rates and interest rates. The interest rate in the United States from the Federal Reserve dropped to 4.75% in September 2007. Other banks around the world did not follow when this happened. This means that the European Central Bank (the home of the euro) has a higher interest rate right now than the Federal Reserve. Basically holding a Euro in your hand would be worth more in interest than holding a dollar in your hand. At this time in the dollar’s life, which would you choose?

Because of this difference in interest rate, other countries around the world are thinking like you and I are. They’re diversifying their holdings from dollars to Eruos and even British pounds for this same reason. In a supply and demand aspect, this situation causes there to be a large supply of dollars making them worth less. This loss in value caused the oil industry to charge higher prices, hence the skyrocket this past summer. Other countries don’t want the dollars they get for oil so they exchange them for Euros. It’s an endless cycle that has only gotten worse, despite understanding the root of the problem.

The dollar dropping is a double edged sword. On one hand, many manufacturers want to produce their products in factories in the United States, bringing us jobs. The reason manufacturers want to bring their factories here because it’s so cheap to run because of the low dollar value yet they can sell them overseas for the value of the Euro. On the other hand, the low dollar causes inflation. We know how bad that can be. Everything becomes more expensive in order to make up for the dollar value going down. Companies still want to make a profit on their goods so the cost of everything rises.

In order to get bonds to sell, they will be cheaper and have higher interest rates. These interest rates correlate to mortgage rates which don’t seem to be dropping anytime soon. Our weak dollar is also scaring away foreign investors who are now afraid to own stock in US companies. Foreign nations who have a lot invested in the dollar have the ability to cause a nuclear financial meltdown for the United States. They could easily exchange their dollars for something else, releasing our money into circulation, causing the value to plummet.

All in all, yes the dollar is worth 20 times less than it was in 1913 but a year or two ago, we knew that and we were used to it. Right now, on top of the 20 times less, it is losing more value in front of our eyes. I’m no one to give financial information but now that you know about the value of the U.S. dollar, just watch what you do with it. Buy and sell carefully because this is a delicate time for our economy.

How and Why to Start a Savings Account

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

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Put your money where the bank is.


Get that cash out from under your mattress and your bra is not a good hiding spot. I’ve seen some funny and innovative places that people have hidden their cash but none of those places is safer than the bank. Does your mattress doesn’t pay you to put money under it? Well a bank does.

First things first, you want to find the bank that’s for you. If you’re a walk-in type of person, you’ll want a bank that has a branch in your area. If you’re internet savvy, you might want a bank where you can control everything online. Interest rate is also a big factor you should take into consideration when choosing a bank. The higher the interest rate, the more money you will make putting your money in that bank. Some banks require or “suggest” you start your account with a certain amount. This could be anywhere from $500 to $5000 to much more. Some suggest you keep a certain minimum balance your account. These are all things you want to know before you start putting your money anywhere and before you sign anything!

Next you should decide if you’re saving towards a purpose (like a home or car) or just to save for your future. Something like this can make a difference to the banker when you go to open your account. Decide on an amount from every paycheck that will go into your account automatically. Try not to deviate from this amount. A general rule is 10% of the money you bring in. You could also set up a change jar and save up extra change and dollars in between paychecks. You’ll be AMAZED how much change adds up. Once you’ve chosen your bank and you’re familiar with that bank’s practices, policies and interest rate go ahead and sign up. If you do this online you may have to send in a form with your signature or some official documents.

Why in the world would you want to start a savings account to begin with? Isn’t a checking account enough? Isn’t my pocket enough? Well, to tell the truth, the easier the access you have to your money, the more likely you are to spend it. That’s just a simple fact. You need to have some backup money that you have access to but that isn’t the easiest, first route you go through to pay for something. You need a savings account to save for an emergency. In case your car breaks down or you have something unexpected comes up from across the country. You don’t want to have to pull out a credit card if you don’t have to. Save for retirement, save for college, save up for a vacation. No matter what it’s for, even just a rainy day, even just a dollar here and there, SAVE your money. You’ll thank me later.

The Story of Change- No not President Obama, I’m talking about money here!

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

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The story of American money started more than three centuries ago. Before this, settlers mostly bartered goods for goods. Crops like tobacco and corn and pork and butter were widely used. Learning from the Native Americans who used stringed clamshell beads, or wampum, European colonists adopted the wampum among trades with the Native Americans and then, amongst themselves.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony contracted John Hull to begin minting coins. Hull set up a mint in Boston and began producing “NE” (New England) coins in 1652. The NE coins were very easy to counterfeit, only having NE on one side and XII on the other. The coin was redesigned from 1667-1682. Eventually as more and more people came to the New World and brought their money with them, the settlers and colonists relied on foreign money for buying and selling. Money from Europe, Mexico and South America could be found at any given time. These coins mixed in with the NE coins and wampum and were all used for purchasing, barter and trade.

Early in the 18th century, a large amount of copper coins were imported from England and Ireland for the purpose of making more coins for the colonies. In 1776, dollar-sized coins were produced with a sundial and the inscription “Mind Your Business” on the front and “American Congress We Are One” on the back. These pieces were struck in three different metals; those struck in pewter are scarce or rare, while the silver and brass examples as extremely rare. The Articles of Confederation, adopted on July 9, 1778, gave Congress the ability to place the value on the coins that were struck by each state. At that time, the states each had the right to strike their own coins, there was just no fluidity in their values until the Articles came about.

Finally in 1792 the U.S. Mint was established by Congress. The U.S. Mint makes all U.S. Coins and became an operating bureau of the Treasury Department in 1873. To this day, U.S. coins typically have a mint mark showing which mint it was produced by. The Philadelphia Mint has been the longest in continuous operation, since 1792. The Denver Mint began coin producing in 1906. The newest mints were the West Point, New York, and San Francisco which gained official status in 1988.

From 1965-1968 there were no identifications used to tell where coins were minted. In 1968 the mints resumed putting their initials on the coins. Coins minted in Philadelphia had a P or no letter, Denver has a D, West Point a W and S for San Francisco. To this day, look at your coins and right under the date there should be a letter telling you where that coin was minted and if no letter is present, your coin was minted in Philadelphia!

Coins’ designs and values have changed over the years from the half-penny to silver dollars. The designs will continue to change as society deems it necessary . For now, the coins in your pocket have come a long way to get there because there was a time when there was a lack of United States coins.

The History of the Paper Dollar

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

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The Massachusetts Bay Colony was the first of the thirteen colonies to issue permanently circulating banknotes in 1690. The reason behind this was because the paper could be more readily printed and circulated than gold coin. Many of these early bills were marked “Tis Death to Counterfeit.” In the early 1700s, each of the thirteen colonies had issued their own banknotes called “colonial script.” 1789 brought about the First Band of the United States which issued fixed denominations and printed banknotes until 1811 when it closed. From 1816 to 1841, the (you guessed it) Second Bank of the United States took on the responsibilities of printing banknotes.


The civil war, in 1861, needed to be funded with money that there just wasn’t enough of. In 1862, under Abraham Lincoln, the demand notes were issued, taking the place of interest bearing currency. Some necessities were added and changed in the next few years in order to stop counterfeiters. The new “Greenbacks” had an engraved Treasury seal and red and blue fibers in the paper which made them (at the time) very difficult to counterfeit which would cost the banks more money. Gold certificates were also issued against gold coin and bullion and were still in circulation until 1933 as well as silver certificates being issued for silver dollars until 1957. 1865 brought on the need for a Secret Service to police and control counterfeiters. How much was that really needed and how much of the US’s money was counterfeit? Oh only about one-third!


The one dollar United States Note was redesigned with a portrait of George Washington in the center and a vignette of Christopher Columbus. The back of the note also featured green and blue tinting. In 1880 the red floral design was added around the words “One Dollar” and “Washington D.C.” From 1890 to 1899 the gold and silver certificates were redesigned repeatedly in order to continue to make them harder and harder to be counterfeited. In 1910 the Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing took on all currency production functions including engraving, printing and processing. The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 created the Federal Reserve System. This means that the Federal Reserve became the central bank, regulating the flow of money. The Federal Reserve also became, to this day, the only authorized entity to issue Federal Reserve Notes (also known as, The Dollar(s)) which are the only U.S. currency produced and 99% of all currency in circulation!


“In God We Trust” No matter your religion, you know this phrase. This phrase was required by Congress in 1955 to be on every piece of currency and to this day, it still is. The last major change that was made was the microprinted security thread which was first introduced in 1990. It started with the $100 bills and the $50 bills, then eventually was introduced into the $20s, $10s, $5s, and $1s. Take a look at the money in your wallet. Now you know part of the long road traveled it took to get there.

The Color of Money: Why is a Greenback Green?

Monday, February 9th, 2009

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greenbackIn 1929, when the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing introduced the small-size note, that we currently use today, green pigment was readily available in large quantities.  The color was relatively resistant to physical and chemical changes, and the color was viewed to be psychologically identified with the security and strength of the United States Government.

More importantly, this newly developed ink had protective qualities that could not be easily “lifted” from the note itself, which had been a favorite technique of counterfeiters in the past.  Since the mid-1800’s, it had been customary to print bills in black, with different slight variants of color.  When photographed, the color variants would show only in black, since early cameras could only photograph in black.  Not to be outdone, the counterfeiter soon discovered that they could remove the colored elements from the Bill, photograph the remaining black ink elements, make copies, and then overprint an imitation of the colored parts on the newly made copies.

A new solution was needed, and was quickly developed. The development, as well as the patent purchase for this ink, was by Tracy R. Edson, who later Founded the American Banknote Company, one of the same firms that produced the first currency used by the United States.

The faces of these early notes that were produced under contract were printed with the newly patented green tinted protective ink.

When printing with oil-base type inks, like the new “patent green,” it is not unusual for the color to show through to the opposite side of the sheet.  Therefore, the backs of early notes were printed in a darker shade of green to make the “strike through” of the tint less obvious.

The transition to the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing was gradual, so the backs of the notes produced there during the intervening period were continued to be printed in green for the sake of uniformity.

Once the Bureau was in full-scale production, there was no reason to change the traditional color, and it was only logical that the practice continue.

Thus, the “greenback” was born!

The Bureau currently uses a technique called “Intaglio Printing,” which involves a revolving plate, filled with the grooves containing the design and wording.  These grooves are filled with ink and then wiped clean on the surface.  The paper is forced with approximately 20 tons of pressure onto the plate, picking up the ink contained within the finely recessed lines and grooves, leaving the surface of the newly printed currency with a slightly “raised” feel, while the reverse has a slightly indented feel.

Thanks to new technology introduced in the last few years, the newly redesigned, recently introduced United States Currency features some new splashes of color on the various denominations, using an “Optically Variable Ink” (or OVI).  This ink allows a shift in color variation when held at different angles.

A copy machine, for example, scans a document at ONE FIXED ANGLE, relative to the bill’s angle when placed on the glass, thus not picking up the color shift.

This ink, produced by a Swiss company called SIPCA, is not readily available and thus aids in deferring counterfeiting.

So, the next time you reach in your wallet and pull out a Greenback, you’ll know why it’s green!

How Technology Affects Our Money

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

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money technologyToday’s modern technology offers us a multitude of money management methods. We are constantly offered easier ways to pay at stores and while not as numerous, several options are available with regards to how we receive our money. We’ve always been able to pay with cash and checks as well as several forms of plastic including credit and debit cards. But today, new technologies are available that make paying even easier.

Imagine being able to pay for goods and services with just the touch of your finger! A company called “Pay By Touch” has developed a scanner that is currently being used in hundreds of supermarkets throughout the country. Customers do not have to carry credit cards, cash, or checks with them because they are conveniently able to go through the check-out line, scan their finger print, enter a phone number and select a bank account or credit card to pay for their groceries with. Customers do have to complete a short enrollment process prior to being able to utilize the program. Upon enrolling, their unique fingerprint is scanned, and an encryption program converts it into forty unique points and keeps the information confidential. When the customer touches the special scanner, the forty points are recognized and the transaction can take place easily and quickly.

Another new “contactless” technology called “Blink” makes it possible for customers to simply wave a card within four inches of a reader and within a second or two, receive a tone or a beep when their payment is complete. Nothing exchanges hands with anyone and no signatures or pin codes are necessary. The technology works by a Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) tag inside of the card. The tag contains information about its owner including account numbers and balances so that it can charge the correct account, similar to the way a debit card works. The cards contain the same security levels as a regular credit or debit card and special coding is used to scramble the customer’s information so it cannot be stolen. This new technology makes paying faster and easier by an estimated 53% in comparison to swiping a credit card and 63% faster than paying with cash. It has become popular with convenience stores and quick-serve restaurants as these stores aim to get customers in and out as quickly as possible.

Another way technology is affecting how we handle our money is in the ways in which we are paid. Today, most employers offer at least two forms of payment: Check or Direct Deposit. Another new technology gives yet a new option for payrolling employees, this is especially important in a nation where 12 to 15 million individuals still don’t have a bank account. Typically, employees who do not have a bank account are forced to go to a supermarket or check-cashing store to receive their pay. These stores usually charge a convenience fee for their services. In the 1990s however, Payroll Cards were invented. Similar in looks to a regular debit or credit card, these cards allow employers to send electronic signals to the cards which represent the amount of money the employee is supposed to receive. The card then works as a “pre-paid debit card”. Utilizing these cards are cheaper that issuing paper checks. It is also safer than a paper check because they are less likely to be lost or stolen and are easily replaced in the event of either of these options. In addition, employers are able to save money because they don’t have to pay for postage or other expenses associated with mailing paper checks to their employees.  

What Happens to Defaced Currency?

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

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defaced currencyIt is illegal to purposely deface, mutilate, impair, diminish, falsify, scales or lightens any coins minted or “coined” in the United States of America. However, the U.S. government will replace worn out or damaged money if three-fifths of it is still identifiable. Two-fifths will earn the bearer half the face value; less than that gets nothing. Every year, the U.S. Treasury handles over 30,000 claims of destroyed or badly damaged currency. But what happens to money that becomes unrecognizable or “mutilated” through unintentional means?

There are numerous ways that currency can become “mutilated”. The most common causes are fire, water, chemicals, explosives, animal, insect, or rodent damage, and deterioration from burying paper currency. If more than half of the money is identifiable and evidence relating to what happened to the remainder of the money indicates that it was completely destroyed, it is possible for money to be replaced however, special steps must be taken to ensure the authenticity of the currency and the condition of the remaining portions of the paper bills. Special experts are employed by the Treasury Department to examine mutilated currency. These individuals carefully investigate all mutilated money received and are responsible for okaying the writing of a Treasury check for the value of the currency as they determine to be redeemable.

It is important to note that paper money can become badly soiled, defaced, disintegrated, worn, and torn through the ordinary exchange of hands. If more than half of the original note is left and special examination of the note is not required, the money is not considered mutilated. These funds can be taken directly to a bank and exchanged for a replacement. The money is then sent to the Federal Reserve Bank to be exchanged for new bills. The serial numbers of the worn-out money are recorded and then the bills are destroyed. Damaged coins are returned to the Treasury for re-minting, meaning they melt them down to make new coins.  Mutilated currency however needs to be mailed or delivered to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C., with a letter indicating the estimated value of the currency and an explanation of how the currency became mutilated. Special care should be taken to ensure that the bills are left in the same condition they were in when found.

While it is comforting to know that there are measures in place to protect currency from losing it’s value through unintentional mutilation or defacement, one should take every precaution possible to protect our currency. After all, as taxpayers, we do pay for the minting and printing of all currency and coinage in the United States. Try to keep money safe by avoiding letting your wallet run through the washing machine, or leaving money lying around where it can be damaged. Also, please don’t write on bills ad this may cause them not to work in vending machines or not to be accepted meaning they will need to be replaced sooner than ordinary.

Thrifty or “Green”?

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

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greenFirst of all, I must confess. I try my best to save a dollar wherever I can. I clip coupons every Sunday. Shop when my local grocer offers double and triple coupons, try to eat out less, but the generic peanut butter, and lower my thermostat by a few degrees to save costs on heating. But has anyone other than me noticed lately how all of a sudden being cheap thrifty, can become trendy, if we call it “going green”?  I mean, have you heard some of the latest trends? Dumpster diving? You’ve got to be kidding me right? Thrift Stores are no back in style? Reusing another person’s trash has become a phenomenal feat because there’s less waste in the landfill.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against doing what’s good for the planet. I recycle my cans, my paper, my plastic and basically anything that my local municipality allows. I even have my own garden to grow vegetables free of pesticides. I switched my lightbulbs out for ones that supposedly use less energy and I’ve even stopped using the plastic bags at the grocery store when it’s not necessary. And while I accept that the days of just throwing everything away to end up in a landfill are over, I cannot help but wonder why there are those among us who seem to be taking this whole “green” thing to the extreme. However, it’s illegal to be caught digging through a dumpster. Besides, who knows what you could stumble upon in one of those smelly things!

This brings me to my next thought, is it possible that times have gotten so bad in the midst of our economy that ordinary working folks are actually being forced to search for items in the dumpster in order to make ends meet? I don’t want to seem insensitive as I know there are many Americans among us who have been forced out of their jobs through lay-offs and cutbacks and I sincerely offer them my condolences to them. I know that there are many others who have lost their homes due to foreclosure and again, I sympathize with this awful situation. Yet I cannot understand what motives other than sheer desperation would force someone who has a seemingly ordinary life with a job and a home and a family to search for their next meal in a dumpster.  Again, I don’t mean to sound insensitive as I know there are those who cannot afford to put food on the table and warm clothes on the backs of their family, but from the stories I’ve read online, many Americans are turning by night into dumpster diving savages! When asked why, they say they’re doing our planet a favor and keeping “perfectly good items” out of the landfill.

So my question to readers is: what’s driving perfectly sane people to jump inside of dumpsters? Is it really because they feel that their doing so is going to make the planet better for our children? Or is there another motive below the surface? Perhaps it curiosity of the unknown and bringing out their inner treasure-hunter. I’m eager to hear your thoughts. 

How to find your own hidden money?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

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hidden moneyDid you ever think that you might be able to find hidden money right under your own nose? What would you do with an extra $1,000-$1,500 per year?

America is all about convenience, but how much is “convenience” costing you? Little indulgences you enjoy on a daily basis might be putting a bigger strain than you realize on your wallet.  Here’s how to add an easy $1,000 to your bank account:

Skip the Starbucks: (okay, you can still have it on special occasions) But seriously, coffee you make yourself is nearly free in comparison to the high priced lattes. Skipping the expensive name even just one time a week can put an extra $200 per year right in your pocket!

Eat out less: I know it’s cliché, but the truth is, spending $5 a day on lunch at McDonalds really adds up. By bringing your lunch, it’s possible to eat for around $1.00 a day. If you work 200 days per year, this results in a savings of $600 per year right into your wallet! Not to mention the added health benefits by skipping the fattening fast foods!

No more bottled water: Not only is it bad for the environment, bottled waters costs $1 a pop or more. By installing a filter for your tap, you can save over $200 per year!

Get a library card: A new novel costs around $30 in the bookstore and can be bought in a used bookstore for $5 to $10. If you read a couple books a month, go to the library and check them out for free. Total savings of $500 per year or more!

Drink wine at home instead of the restaurant: You can usually buy the same bottle of wine for what restaurants/bars charge for the glass. Enjoy it in the comfort of your own home with friends and family and save big!

Clip Coupons: Coupons are easy to clip and many people are able to save big bucks by strategically using coupons for things they already buy. While savings will vary by the time you invest, simple changes like shopping on days when your local grocery store offers double and triple coupons can mean big bucks back in your pocket.

Save on Dry Cleaning: While some articles of clothing must be dry cleaned, the truth is, not everything has to be. Use your good judgment to determine what can really be washed at home. Another option is to wear things more than once before having them cleaned. Many people who work in an office don’t dirty clothing with just one wear. If a clothing article isn’t really dirty, why have it laundered at the price of several dollars per item?

There are many other ways to take a look at little indulgences that really aren’t necessary. Take a look at your weekly spending to determine what unnecessary spending you can cut back by keeping a log of all your expenses for at least one week and then evaluating what you really need versus what is a nice to have. You can thank yourself for your “sacrifices” by rewarding yourself in a year with a fantastic vacation or a great pair of shoes fully paid for by your savings!! 

United States Secret Service’s Role in Currency Counterfeit Prevention

Monday, December 15th, 2008

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US Secret ServiceMost ordinary U.S. citizens might not associate the Secret Service with our Nation’s currency. In fact, perhaps one of the best known services of the United States Secret Service is protecting our nation’s leaders, especially the President. However, the Secret Service plays a vital role in protecting our currency and in turn, our economy. Currently a division of the United States Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service is responsible for two very distinct areas of responsibility. First, and notably the most well-known, Secret Service Agents serve in protective roles as to preserve the safely of our nation’s leaders and their families. Second, and less publically noted, the Secret Service is responsible for the prevention and investigation of crimes involving US currency and treasury bonds.

In 1865, the U.S. Secret Service was first established for the specific purpose of combating the counterfeiting of money.  At the time, it was reported that one-third to one-half of all the currency in circulation in the U.S. was counterfeit. In fact, in the midst of the Civil War, with somewhere around 7,000 different bills in circulation, it became almost impossible to detect a counterfeit bill from a legitimate one. Therefore, the United States Secret Service was born in order to prevent any further damage to the nation’s struggling economy.  

In 1967, the agency took on additional responsibilities which included investigating those suspected of perpetrating frauds against the government and also served other role of investigating a broad range of crime areas including everything from robberies, murders, the Ku Klux Klan, non-conforming distillers, land fraud, smugglers all the way to illegal gambling.  

Today, the Secret Service is now a division of the Department of Homeland of Security and although the roles assumed by the Secret Service in its early days have since been passed on to other agencies including the FBI, ATS, and IRS, the Secret Service retains primary jurisdiction over all areas of counterfeit U.S. currency and treasury notes as well as its special duty of protecting the president, first lady, and other U.S. dignitaries. The agency also tracks suspicious individuals and steps in to access local crimes when necessary.

One of the oldest crimes in our nation’s history is counterfeit money. Although today’s money has many more preventative measures in place to protect our currency, counterfeiting remains a very real danger for our nation’s economy. In fact, due to modern technologies available to thieves, such as photographic and printing equipment, it has become easier and easier for thieves to commit counterfeiting fraud, therefore, requiring the Secret Service in combination with the U.S. Mint to enact more and more security features into our nation’s currency.

Due to the nature of its role, many details surrounding the Secret Service are kept “secret”. Many of the agents’ identities are kept confidential for their own protection as well as the protection of their job duties. In fact, even the wives and families of some secret service agents do not know their husbands and fathers as Secret Service Agents. Whereas, many agencies require uniforms of their agents, the Secret Service uniforms are designed to blend in with the role they are performing and can range from tuxedos to business suits to jeans.

In conclusion, the United States Secret Service plays a crucial role in the safety of our nation. It protects some of the most important persons in our nation all the way from the President and First Family, to other political figures and embassies. However, its role in protecting our currency is perhaps as crucial to our economy as any other role assumed by the agency. 

A Backyard Full of CASH???

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

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dollar cash goldAs we enter into what is expected to be one of the largest recessions in our nation’s history, individuals throughout the United States are faced with the question: “what should I do with my money”? During the Great Depression, many individuals hid cans of coins in their backyards due to their mistrust of the banking institutions. More and more individuals have lost confidence in our current banking system and have begun to question the safety of one of their most safely guarded possessions: money. But what is the best way to protect one’s cash?

Over the years, we’ve all heard of random places to hide money: under the bed, in the freezer, buried in the backyard, in the Bible but where is the best place to put it? My grandmother hid cash for years in the back of her closet between some old quilts that were never used. No one knew about this until after the passed. My husband’s grand-father hid his money throughout his home. He told his widow from his deathbed to throw nothing away in that house without fully going through it. Still to the day, she’ll be going through some old book or other item and stumble upon a $100 bill. Perhaps this was his way of always making sure she was taken care of, but more than likely; he felt it was safer than putting his money in a bank. A close family friend is said to have “millions” of dollars buried in his backyard under a fig tree and while I don’t know if it’s true or not, it does make for a good legend. I’ve often wondered if upon his death, anyone will visit his backyard with a shovel to look for buried treasure!

Of course, burying cash in the backyard is nothing new. During the Great Depression Era, it was common for folks to make “treasure maps” and place their valuables in the ground in coffee cans or old metal boxes. Today a “Ziploc” brand bag, placed in a piece of PVC pipe is a common way to bury cash five feet into the ground. In fact, there’s even an “invention” floating around on eBay called the “Midnight Gardner”. The device is actually a simple twelve by four inch capped, watertight PVC pipe which is said to hold as much as $4,000 in gold, silver, or cash.

Is it a good idea to bury cash? Some say it’s not as the paper money will lose value due to inflation. These individuals recommend investing in gold bullion and burying that as it will hold it value better than cash. There are those that say if the economy got to the point that money invested in banks was gone, that paper money would hold no value either. Others still insist that burying money/gold/etc is a bad idea because it can be easily forgotten or lost. Then, there are those that say that any attempt at “playing it safe” and pulling money out of the economy only worsens the effect of the recession.

In the end, I’m of the opinion that what to do with money is a personal decision and should be made by each individual with regards to what they feel is the safest route for them. As for me, I’ve got a personal stock of cash that I’m seeking a place to hide away for a “rainy day”.