Finders keepers, losers weepers

Stephen McDow is in a load of trouble.

The Los Angeles man is facing up to four years in prison for spending a tax refund of $110,000 that was electronically deposited into his checking account by mistake.

As the Orange County Register reported, a 67-year-old Los Angeles woman who was owed a refund inadvertently provided the IRS with a Citibank account number that had been closed in 2004 and was subsequently reassigned to McDow. After figuring out her mistake she contacted McDow, but she was too late. He had spent almost $60,000 on car and student loans and to keep his home out of foreclosure.

McDow ignored several attempts by the victim to get her money back. What would you do if you found that kind of money in your bank account?

Me, I wouldn’t spend a penny until I had double and tripled checked that the money was mine. It’s just never worth it to do the wrong thing even if you’re in financial straits. It’s like when people get more money back from a cashier and never say a word. I believe you will get a payback in kind eventually.

The IRS says if you incorrectly enter an account or routing number that belongs to someone else and your designated financial institution accepts the deposit, you must work directly with the respective financial institution to recover your funds. The agency says it assumes no responsibility for taxpayer error.

Dude, Where’s My Raise?

A newly released OfficeTeam survey found that more employees are getting promoted but without a pay raise. Findings from the poll show that more than 50 percent of employees will take on a greater workload without a higher salary.

What gives?

“Chalk it up to a rough economic climate where businesses are too nervous to commit to higher payroll, or too greedy to pay up when they know there are about seven job seekers for every job opening,” writes Carla Fried for moneywatch.bnet.com.

 “Professionals should think carefully about taking on increased responsibilities if a raise isn't in the offering,” said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Before accepting a new role, workers may consider requesting a compensation review in six months or discussing other perks."

Hosking encourages employees to negotiate other options such as more vacation time, bigger bonuses or flexible schedules.

What would you prefer if you got a promotion that didn’t come with more money? Has this happened to you lately? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “Dude, Where’s My Raise” in the subject line. Be sure to include your full name, city and state.

Consumer Complaints

The Post’s Ylan Q. Mui has reported, that when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opens for business officially next month, it will begin to take over many of the tens of thousands of phone calls, e-mails and letters that flood government regulators each week on topics such as aggressive debt collection and credit card interest rates.

Part of the purpose of the new consumer bureau, which was created as part of Congress’s sweeping overhaul of the nation’s financial system last year, is to consolidate the responsibility for protecting consumers that had been spread across seven agencies.

Here’s something you can weigh in on. How much of the information that the bureau gathers from consumers should be made public?  Consumer advocacy groups have pushed for the agency to create a searchable database of complaints that the public can use to research trends and companies. But businesses worry that unverified complaints could harm their reputation.

What do you think? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state.  Put “Consumer Complaints” in the subject line.

Comments for Summer Camp Conundrum

MP Dunleavey, editorial director for Dailyworth.com, wrote a blog about finding and paying for summer camp. I wanted to know how you have cut down on the cost of summer camp. Here are some of your comments:

“I was able to deal with the bridge between end of school and camp starting by hiring a young Spelman College student to sit with my 5-year-old at my house,” said Janet Johnson of Decatur, Ga. “It cost a bit more than I’d wanted to pay, but I got the added benefit of personal tutoring for him, and she helped him start whittling down that big ‘summer bridge packet’ of school work he was sent home with.”

Some parents are thanking the heavens for grandparents.

“I’ve been dealing with it for the last three years with my now 7 and 9 year old kids,” writes Cheryl Gorham of East Hartford, Conn. “When I recently became divorced, the problem magnified even more. This year they are only going to camp for five of the nine weeks of summer and will stay home with grandma for the first two weeks after school and the last two weeks before school starts in the fall.It’s all I can afford with my limited income this year. I figure just when they start to get bored at home, camp begins and they will welcome the break before school starts.  Hopefully they won’t drive grandma too crazy and I can take a day here and there from work to do some day trips.”

“This summer my granddaughter is attending an all day summer school for five weeks,” says Barbara Kirchofer of Omaha, Neb. “She was not happy about it, but has adjusted. It keeps her skill level up and they do fun things so it is much more laid back than a regular school day. The rest of the summer I will have her with me on the days I don't work and she will be at daycare when I do. It is not ideal, but at least her parents will not have to pay for full-time daycare. It truly is a problem for working parents. I don't envy them.”

I love how Nancy Nusser of Midlothian, Va. is handling her summer camp conundrum. What a great idea. She writes: “I’m sending my 13-year-old son around the country to visit relatives this summer. He stays busy and gets to know his cousins. It's perfect.”

Tia Lewis contributed to this e-letter.

 You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to singletarym@washpost.com . Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested. 

 

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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