RE/MAX 440
Maureen Fitzgerald
731 W Skippack Pike
Blue Bell  PA 19422
 Phone: 215-643-3200 1824
Office Phone: 215-643-3200
Cell: 215-530-6438
Fax: 267-354-6880 
mfitzgerald@remaxcentralinc.com
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Maureen Fitzgerald

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The Telltale Signs of an Uncle Sam Impersonator

August 17, 2015 2:15 am

Following the emergence of new variations of widespread tax scams, taxpayers should remain on high alert to protect themselves from the ever-evolving array of deceitful tactics scammers use, warns the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These schemes — which can occur over the phone, in e-mails or through letters with authentic looking letterhead — try to trick taxpayers into providing personal financial information or scare people into making a false tax payment that ends up with the criminal.

Scammers posing as IRS agents first targeted those they viewed as most vulnerable, such as older Americans, newly arrived immigrants and those whose first language is not English. These criminals have expanded their net and are now targeting virtually anyone.

In a new variation, scammers alter what appears on your telephone caller ID to make it seem like they are with the IRS or another agency such as the Department of Motor Vehicles. They use fake names, titles and badge numbers. They use online resources to get your name, address and other details about your life to make the call sound official. They even go as far as copying official IRS letterhead for use in email or regular mail.

Brazen scammers will even provide their victims with directions to the nearest bank or business where the victim can obtain a means of payment, such as a debit card. And in another new variation of these scams, con artists may then provide an actual IRS address where the victim can mail a receipt for the payment — all in an attempt to make the scheme look official.

The most common theme with these tricks seems to be fear. Scammers try to scare people into reacting immediately without taking a moment to think through what is actually happening. These scam artists often angrily threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation or other similarly unpleasant things. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests, sometimes through “robo-calls,” via phone or email. The emails will often contain a fake IRS document with a telephone number or email address for your reply.

It is important to remember the official IRS website is IRS.gov. Taxpayers are urged not to be confused or misled by sites claiming to be the IRS but ending in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov. Taxpayers should never provide personal information, financial or otherwise, to suspicious websites or strangers calling out of the blue.

Remember, the IRS will never:


• Angrily demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.

• Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

• Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.

• Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.

• Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

And if you think you’re the target of an IRS impersonation scam:

• If you actually do owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.

• If you know you don’t owe taxes or do not immediately believe that you do, you can report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484.

• If you’ve been targeted by any scam, be sure to contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

Source: IRS

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Homeowners: What to Do Before and After a Hurricane Hits

August 17, 2015 2:15 am

Though it is wise to brace your property against hurricane damage, the unfortunate reality is that many homes are not prepared. According to a recent ServiceMaster Restore Franchise Hurricane Preparedness Survey, 90 percent of hurricane restoration servicers surveyed believe homeowners are ill-prepared when it comes to hurricanes. The same amount agreed that homeowners can spend up to twice as much on repairs if they do not take simple precautions in advance.

"We can't stress enough the importance of having a plan," says Kim Brooks, president and CEO of ServiceMaster DSI. "Unfortunately, people often don't take weather warnings seriously, and once they do, panic sets in and they run out of time to take care of simple precautions to secure their property. Knowing what to do before and after a major storm, and knowing when to call in the professionals for assistance, including who to call, can help home and business owners avoid costly damage to their properties in the long run."

Ahead of and after a major hurricane or storm, Brooks and the team of experts at ServiceMaster Restore suggest a three-part strategy to help reduce potential damage, expense and inconvenience.

• Prepare in Advance – Don't wait for weather warnings to create an action plan. For instance, take steps now to fasten the roof to the frame of the home. Once severe weather is predicted, begin boarding up windows and ensuring rain gutters are clear. Secure loose outdoor items, have a fresh supply of batteries on hand, as well as emergency supplies such as water, medication and non-perishable food. Take photos and make lists to document essential possessions. Most importantly, have a plan for post-hurricane repairs and information on hand for professional restoration companies to help mitigate damages in a timely manner.

• Assess Hurricane Aftermath
– Safety after a hurricane or heavy storm is critical. Debris, live power lines and electrically charged water are just a few of the safety risks to keep in mind. Evaluate the situation and structural damage before entering the home or attempting DIY cleanup, which can cause more damage and lead to additional expenses. When possible, water cleanup should begin right away (within 24-48 hours) to avoid mold, rust and further damage. For instance, remove wet area rugs to prevent seepage of water up drywalls and discard damp, non-valuable items to help avoid potential mold contamination. To mitigate loss, contact a professional restoration company immediately.

• Recognize Lingering Problems – Be on the look-out for mold following excessive water or flooding. Mold needs wet conditions to grow and is most often detected by sight or smell. If you notice mold spores or a musty smell in a room or area, remove any lingering wet items. Don't rely on products that promise to kill mold, including bleach, as it only causes mold to go dormant. The only way to truly get rid of mold is to cut it out of an area - an undertaking best left to professionals to avoid further costly damage and inadequate cleaning.

Source: ServiceMaster Restore

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Patterns That Will Make Your Home Pop

August 17, 2015 2:15 am

(Family Features) No matter where you turn, pattern inspiration is all around you, from modern architecture and traditional flooring to animal furs, floral arrangements and fashion runways. As homeowners and designers look to personalize spaces and create impactful interiors, patterns are being replicated with paint on walls, floors, furniture and more.

"Pattern always catches my eye and is my go-to element for adding something special to a space," says Design*Sponge Founder Grace Bonney, author of the best-selling book "Design*Sponge at Home."

Here, Bonney and the experts at ScotchBlue and Patternbank share five up-and-coming trends in pattern for the home.

1. Striking Linework
The once simple stripe has found new life with a bold, modern twist. Sharp angles and a fractured, abstract look bring dimension to the standard stripe, and add strong visual impact to even the most awkward spaces around the home. Consider using neutral paint colors for more traditional and elegant looks or brighter colors to infuse energy into the space.

2. Mod Optic

Bold geometric designs are making their way into home decor with subtle shifts in scale and color. These strong three-dimensional patterns create a clean, modern style that communicates sophistication and audacity. Infuse contrast and depth to create a clean, modern backdrop for existing decor. The pattern allows you to play with a combination of light and dark colors as a way to add different levels of drama based on the space.

3. Geo Elemental
From north and south to east and west, global influences can be seen in architecture, interior design and on the fashion runways. Merging traditional shapes such as zigzags and diamonds with various color treatments adds a modern feel to deep-rooted tradition, creating a meeting point for contemporary and universal. The lively repetition of eye-catching, sharp lines is ideal for spaces that draw attention in one direction and evoke a strong sense of place. Using earth tones and natural colors add to the global feel of the pattern, while cool neutral colors provide a calming aura.

4. '70s Revival
With retro trends making a comeback in both fashion and design, modernizing retro-themed patterns energizes the home and carries a whimsical accent throughout the space. Give a nod to the stylish looks of the '70s by building on lavish shapes with modern styling and fresh forms. The combination of high-contrast colors and the big impact of the pattern help make the space feel dynamic and lively.

5. Found Fragments
Layering pattern on pattern gives you the creative license to have fun experimenting and showcasing your personal style. With clean lines or shapes juxtaposed against existing prints and designs, this pattern keeps your space down-to-earth while still being on trend. Diversify existing decor elements by layering multiple patterns and mediums to adapt any space to match your changing styles.

Source: 3M

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Are Back-to-School Sales Better than Black Friday?

August 14, 2015 12:15 am

When purchasing laptops and tablets, smart shoppers plan to take advantage of the year’s biggest seasonal sale – and it’s not Black Friday.

According to a FatWallet.com survey, back-to-school sales trump Black Friday and Cyber Monday when it comes to scoring the best deals on devices for students like laptops, tablets and smartphones. With almost half of parents agreeing high school students should have their own laptops (and nearly three-quarters believing teenagers should own a smartphone), saving big before the school year begins is much more preferable to saving during holiday sales.

Per the survey, approximately 90 percent of parents will spend the “same or more” on school-related products this year, including general school supplies, backpacks, clothes, shoes, and textbooks. More than half of parents will purchase back-to-school items online; just seven percent will purchase items online through a mobile device.

Source: FatWallet.com

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Mortgage Rates Slide to Two-Month Low

August 14, 2015 12:15 am

According to a recent Bankrate.com national survey, mortgage rates have declined to a two-month low, sparked by a surprise devaluation of the Chinese yuan. By itself, such an action has little effect on the U.S. economy, but the consequent drag on economic growth from a larger trade deficit and a further downward influence on inflation could prompt the Fed to delay the first interest rate hike.

According to the survey, the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate slid to 4.04 percent, and the average 15-year fixed mortgage rate ticked lower as well, to 3.26 percent.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) were on the downswing also, with the 5-year ARM dipping to 3.20 percent and the 7-year ARM dropping to 3.39 percent.

The larger jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage rate stepped back to 4.00 percent, still remaining below the smaller conforming 30-year fixed mortgage.

At the current average 30-year fixed mortgage rate of 4.04 percent, the monthly payment on a $200,000 loan is $959.45.

Source: Bankrate.com

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The Secrets to One-Room Living

August 14, 2015 12:15 am

(BPT) – As we seek to simplify our lives, the desire for small-space living–even one-room living–seems more attractive than ever. Whether you're ready to join the tiny house movement or just want to get the most out of a compact space in your home, there are easy things you can do to make a small space look, feel and function like a larger one.

"There's no need to sacrifice great design if you live in a small space. A few simple changes are all you need to make it feel bigger, more beautiful and a reflection of your personality," says Sherwin-Williams Director of Color Marketing Jackie Jordan (sherwin-williams.com).

1. Look Overhead and Underfoot – Consider using every conceivable space to please the eye–even the ceiling. "I love the idea of reflecting the shape of your dining room table with a bold accent color on the ceiling above it," says Jordan. Another idea: define a space at the floor level with an area rug beneath a couch and side table.

2. Integrate Multitasking Solutions – If you're always multitasking, your furniture can do the same. Place an ottoman with a hidden storage compartment or flip-top serving tray beside a comfy chair. Move a twin bed next to the wall and add big patterned pillows to create seating space by day and sleeping space by night. The pillows can also provide extra floor seating for entertaining.

3. Write It on the Wall
– Walls can also be multifunctional. Sketch Pad, a clear gloss coating, can turn any surface into a dry erase board, and goes over any paint color. Instead of cluttering up the walls with bulletin boards, write directly on the wall by a computer desk, or scribble messages and doodles in the kitchen. Simply wipe it clean with a dry eraser.

5. Find a Focal Point
– It can make a space feel larger. Try painting a corner, such as a reading nook, in a bright, bold color for a mini-room effect. Or paint a piece of furniture or picture frame and elevate it to something special.

6. Get Creative with Cabinetry
– Take advantage of cabinetry with built-in storage features, from pullout racks that create added pantry space to bathroom cabinets equipped with laundry hampers, hairdryer hooks and bins for grooming items.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Most Americans Favor Limits on Drone Use

August 13, 2015 2:12 am

Though the first FAA-approved drone delivery of a package has already taken place, more than three-quarters of Americans support restrictions on the use of drones, according to a recent survey by legal information site FindLaw.com.

The FindLaw.com survey found that Americans have mixed views on which specific restrictions they would like to see. These include:

• Drone operators must pass a knowledge test and obtain certification from the FAA (54 percent)

• Drones must always remain with the operator’s visual line of sight (37 percent)

• Drones cannot be flown over people who are not directly involved with the flight (36 percent)

• Drone flights must be limited to 500 feet in altitude and 100 mph in speed (31 percent)

The use of drones for business or commercial purposes, such as package delivery or news photography, is currently banned in the U.S. The FAA has proposed new regulations specifying how drones can be used in business.

“Commercial drones are an emerging area of regulation, and the FAA is trying to balance the commercial use of drones with the need for safety for people on the ground and nearby air traffic,” says FindLaw.com Attorney and Editor Stephanie Rahlfs. “The FAA is seeking public comment on its proposed regulations, and people are encouraged to voice their views on what level of regulation they feel is appropriate.”

Source: FindLaw.com

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4 Reasons Not to Be Your Own Chimney Sweep

August 13, 2015 2:12 am

Most homeowners who own a home with a fireplace don’t need professional help to build a fire. Maintaining the fireplace and chimney, however, is best left to the experts, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). If you’ve forgone an annual chimney inspection, consider these famous “last words” by do-it-yourself chimney sweeps.

“I’ve swept my own chimney for 25 years and we’ve been fine.”

Many homeowners don’t realize that a very thin, combustible layer of glazed creosote can build up over time. A qualified professional, such as those certified by the CSIA, has the knowledge to identify and the tools needed to remove this dangerous byproduct.

“That crack has been there for years! It’ll be okay.”

When a flue liner is cracked, these cracks open during the heating phase and may allow heat to be transferred to vulnerable chimney walls. One of the important functions of the flue lining is to serve as an insulator between the hot flue gases and the chimney wall.

“I heat with gas. I don’t need to have my chimney swept.”

Qualified professionals do so much more than simply run a brush up the flue. A CSIA-certified chimney sweep will identify and help address operational inefficiencies, installation or venting issues and provide needed maintenance.

“If I start a chimney fire, I’ll burn out all of the creosote.”

Chimney fires are no casual manner. Chimney fires can melt mortar, crack tiles, cause liners to collapse and damage the outer masonry material. Most often, tiles crack and mortar is displaced, which provides a pathway for flames to reach the wood frame of the house. One chimney fire may not harm a home, but a second can burn it down.

Source: CSIA

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Renting a Vacation Home? Consider Travel Insurance

August 13, 2015 2:12 am

As vacation rental sites like Airbnb and VRBO grow in popularity, new questions have arisen about how this type of expense can be insured. According to travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth, travel insurance coverage can apply to accommodation rentals in the following ways.

Vacation rentals often have a strict cancellation policy, sometimes offering little to no reimbursement, regardless of the reason for cancellation. Fortunately for travelers, the cost of rentals can be covered under a travel insurance policy, including any associated deposits, expenses and cancellation fees. The standard trip cancellation reasons still apply to travelers insuring a rental property. Common covered reasons include illness of a traveler, their family member, or weather preventing the trip. In the event of a claim, the traveler will need to show proof of their rental and their out-of-pocket expenses.

"In most cases, your email confirmation from your rental will suffice if it includes what you paid, your lodging dates, and any penalties you would incur if you cancelled," says Squaremouth Zero Complaint Manager Brandi Morse. Morse also says that the traveler must formally cancel their stay. “The first step of the claim would be to cancel with the owner of the rental property.”

Despite the benefits of choosing a rental property over other accommodations, travelers may feel they are sacrificing the reliability that comes with an established hotel.

"A common concern of travelers who choose a rental property is that the accommodations will be insufficient, different than were advertised, or the rental is a scam altogether," says Squaremouth Director of Marketing Megan Singh.

Unfortunately, these concerns are never covered reasons to cancel or interrupt a trip under a standard travel insurance policy. Even the catch-all 'cancel for any reason' policies can't offer help in these situations, as they require a trip to be cancelled days before reaching the destination.

"Situations that come down to fear or fraud typically aren't going to be covered under a travel insurance policy," Singh explains. "If that is a traveler's primary concern, it may not be worth the price of the policy."

Source: Squaremouth

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Traveling by Air? 4 Tips for Your Pet

August 12, 2015 2:12 am

Did you know that over two million pets and other live animals are transported by air every year in the United States? Whether you’re planning to fly cross-country or abroad, it’s important to make traveling arrangements for your furry friend before getting on the plane. USA.gov recommends:

Travelers ask their airline about requirements for and restrictions on traveling with a pet. Check with your airline to find out if they allow pets in the passenger cabin. If you can't bring your pet on your flight as checked or carry-on baggage, you might be able to ship your pet as cargo. You’ll likely have to provide a certificate from a veterinarian stating that your pet is in good health. Airlines may not, however, require health certificates for service animals used by people with disabilities.

Travelers make sure they bring an approved kennel.
The kennel for a carry-on pet must fit under the seat in front of you, and your airline will likely require your pet to stay in the kennel during the flight and in the airport. You'll want to de-clutter your pet's kennel before you get to the airport, in case TSA agents need to do a physical inspection of your pet's carrier.

Travelers carry a leash. Whether you need to walk Fido through a metal detector or carry him through, bringing a leash can help keep your animal under control in the busy airport environment.

Travelers take comfort into account.
Traveling, particularly loading and unloading, can be stressful for an animal, so you should always consider your pet's comfort. Try feeding your pet a light meal two hours before getting to the airport. Walk your pet before leaving for the airport, and again before checking in. While you should leave the sedatives at home, if you're thinking about giving your pet something to help it sleep easier on the trip, always check with your veterinarian first.

Source: USA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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