7Q Financial Services Review Is 7qfs.com Legit Or Scam

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Top Financial Advisor Scams and How to Avoid Them

Bernie Madoff, the once highly regarded investment advisor turned Ponzi swindler, exemplifies the dark underbelly of the financial advisor field. At first, Madoff appeared to be the perfect financial professional for his clients. The rich and elite had no idea their stellar returns were funded by incoming Madoff investors. If the wealthy elite can get snookered by a financial advisor, what’s to protect the average individual from the same fate? Beware of financial advisor scams and learn how to protect yourself.

Key Takeaways

  • While there are many honest financial advisors, there are also many unscrupulous ones engaging in fraudulent behavior; it’s important to know the most common ones to look out for.
  • Bernie Madoff has become synonymous with the Ponzi scheme, in which the payment of returns to current investors come from money deposited by new investors; meanwhile, the advisor siphons off some of the money.
  • The affinity fraud targets a group, often in combination with a Ponzi scheme, such as a religious organization or friend group, by convincing the group to go along with a scam because their friends are involved.
  • Other scams include misrepresenting qualifications, such as claiming experience or certifications you don’t have or promising unrealistic returns, such as claiming an investment will generate huge numbers.
  • With a “churning” scam, the advisor makes lots of unnecessary trades, which costs the customer in commissions and often results in less-than-stellar investment returns.

Ponzi Scheme

According to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), “A Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors. Ponzi scheme organizers often solicit new investors by promising to invest funds in opportunities claimed to generate high returns with little or no risk.” The Ponzi scheme is a classic scam and incorporates components of other scams as well. The investment proceeds in this classic scam are simply the new investors’ monies doled out to existing clients. Without fail, the initiator of the Ponzi scheme siphons money off to fund an extravagant lifestyle.

Affinity Fraud

The affinity fraud targets a particular group with its ploy, frequently in conjunction with a Ponzi scheme. This scam is effective because we tend to trust other members of our “tribe.” The cohort group might share the same religion, cultural background, or geographic region. This affinity targeting makes gaining new participants in the scam easier because there is a built-in level of trust. To further con the participants, the scammer might belong to the group or pretend to be a member.

The following affinity scam-Ponzi scheme targeted Persian-Jewish community members in Los Angeles. Shervin Neman raised more than $7.5 million for investment in his so-called hedge fund. He promised that the fund invested in foreclosed real estate which would be quickly bought and then resold for a profit. In reality, Neman used the money raised to fund his extravagant lifestyle and pay off new investors.

Misrepresentation Scam

Misrepresentation of credentials is another way financial advisors scam the unsuspecting public. The field of financial planning is ripe for malfeasance because there is not one particular credential or licensing requirement to practice. In fact, there are dozens of financial planning designations such as certified financial planner (CFP), registered investment advisor (RIA), certified public accountant (CPA), chartered financial analyst (CFA) and many more. The public may not be aware of the designations, ethics, or requirements for certification and thus may be receiving advice from someone with no education, experience, or background in the investment advising field. It’s quite easy for someone to hang up a shingle and start doling out advice. The scammer can then close up shop and walk away with the proceeds or swindle the unsuspecting clients with fake products.

Unrealistic Returns

Promising or even guaranteeing higher than market returns for your investment is a common trick. The popular axiom, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t” is usually accurate. It is unlikely that an advisor can offer a client returns that are unavailable to the rest of the world. This scam preys upon the clients’ greed and dreams of easy money. If an advisor offers or guarantees returns higher than 12-15%, it is likely a scam. For example, over the last 85 years, the U.S. stock market has averaged approximately 9.5%. This return is not a “safe” return, but quite volatile, meaning there were many negative return years over the decades.

In 2020, owners of a Dallas, Texas-based voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) offered Christian investors, affiliated with a private school, returns as high as 1,000% per year to invest in their company, Usee, Inc. As one would expect, they have been prosecuted by the SEC.

Churning

Many stockbrokers have been charged with the “churning” scam. Since traditional stockbrokers are paid when their clients buy or sell a security, they can be motivated to make unnecessary stock trades to pad their own pockets. The churning scam involves the financial advisor making frequent buy and sell trades, which not only costs the customer in commissions but usually results in sub-optimal investment returns.

There are many other investment scams as well as additional varieties of the schemes mentioned above. Next, find out how to avoid falling prey to a shady investment advisor.

Protecting Yourself

Vet and verify the financial advisor’s background. Find out if the advisor has received any disciplinary action or complaints. These websites help uncover unscrupulous advisors: www.finra.org/brokercheck, www.adviserinfo.sec.gov, www.nasaa.org, www.naic.org, and www.cfp.net.

Ask how the advisor is compensated. Is it by the commission, assets under management, fee, or a combination of payment structures? If the potential financial advisor is unclear or hedges when asked about fees, walk away. Ask for the advisor’s ADV Part II document which explains the professional’s services, fees, and strategies.

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When discussing investment ideas and strategies, ask about the advantages and disadvantages of each recommendation. There are no perfect investments, and every financial product has a downside. If the advisor is unclear or you don’t understand the investment, it may not be for you. Although, you may consider gathering a second opinion.

Do not give the financial advisor a power of attorney or ability to make trades without first consulting you. Require every financial action to be cleared with you first. Further, make certain you receive statements not only with the advisor’s letterhead, but also from the custodian, or financial institution which holds your money and investments.

When vetting a potential advisor, it’s important to ask for names of satisfied, long-term clients. However, while this is a good idea, in theory, this protection has a downside, as the referrals could be prescreened or friends of the advisor.

The Bottom Line

Do not act in haste. Always take time to think about or “sleep on” a financial decision. An attempt to rush you should be a red flag. If there’s a good opportunity today, it won’t go away tomorrow. Don’t be afraid to walk away if an offer doesn’t seem right.

Quizzle.com Review Scam or Legit Site For Free Credit Scores?

Quizzle was launched in 2008 and is owned by Dan Gilbert (who also owns Quicken Loans). They claim to be the first consumer website to offer completely free credit scores (although Credit Karma launched one year earlier).

In this review we look to see if Quizzle is a legit site to get a free credit score and credit report, or if it’s just another scam site that’ll take your credit card details and charge you.

Quizzle Credit Scores

Is It Really Free?

Yes, the score they provide you with is free. There is no need to enter your credit card information, unless you want to upgrade to one of Quizzle’s paid plans (which we don’t recommend doing as they don’t represent good value for money).

The score is updated whenever you update your credit report (which can be done for free once every 180 days or you can pay to do it at any time)

Is The Quizzle.com Score Accurate?

The quizzle credit score (which is now V3 of the VantageScore) when compared with a FICO score is usually on the low side. For example my FICO score is 821 and my Quizzle (or VantageScore) score is 746 which is difference of 75 points. So if you’re quizzle score is quite low, don’t worry. It’s not a score lenders look at and most consumers have a score which is

50 lower than their actual FICO score. If you are on the lookout for a new credit card, auto loan or mortgage or want to refinance it’s a good idea to know what you’re FICO score is before doing so.

How Is The Vantage Credit Score Calculated?

This score is calculated by using 6 different categories: Payment history, Age & Type of Credit, % of Credit Used (also known as credit utilization ratio), Total Balances/Debt , Recent Credit Behavior and Inquiries Available Credit.

Our Thoughts

Overall the score they provide you with is pretty useless. It’s a VantageScore which is used by lenders, but not in many lending decisions. Because of the big differences that can occur between the scores, it can be extremely hard to compare.

Quizzle Credit Reports

One great feature about Quizzle is that they give you access to two free full Equifax reports (unlike Credit Karma & Credit Sesame who only offer access to partial reports). One complete report is given to you upon sign up and then you can access your second report after a period of 180 days.

Quizzle Credit Tools

Quizzle offers a number of credit tools freely, which allow consumers to better education themselves on how credit scores are calculated and how to improve these scores.

Credit Analysis

The credit analysis tool shows a breakdown of your credit score, this shows both the positive and negative factors affecting your score. Areas that are effecting your score the most are highlighted.

It’ll also show you the potential improvement points you have in each category. For example, if you have a high credit utilization (e.g 80%) it may say you have a potential 30 points in that area and then tells you how to realize those points (in this case by paying off your credit utilization ratio to a more manageable level under 10%).

Credit Comparison

This tool allows you to compare two credit reports to see the key differences and how these differences have affected your credit score.

It’ll also highlight each difference as either a positive or negative and explain why this is the case.

Credit Timeline

The credit timeline shows key events over your credit history and allows you to see if these events were positive (causing your credit score to climb) or negative (causing your credit score to fall).

This’ll only show major events that have caused a big impact (e.g applications for new credit, late payments, etc), but can be useful to see where you’ve had financial trouble and where you’ve had financial success.

This allows you to see how your credit utilization, VantageScore, available credit & balances have changed (or trended) over time.

Credit Monitoring

Credit monitoring allows you to be notified by e-mail whenever a major change was made to your credit report (e.g an application for new credit, bankruptcy etc etc). This can be useful for watching out for credit fraud or identity theft.

Identity Theft Protection

Quizzle offers $1,000,000 in identity theft protection insurance for individuals on one of their paid plans. It should be noted that like most ID theft insurance policies, this only covers expenses that are incurred in recovering a stolen identity and not funds that were stolen due to identity theft.

Tool Overview

This tools can be useful in educating yourself how certain credit decisions affect your VantageScore, but as we discussed previously most lenders don’t use the VantageScore and as such most of the educational value is worthless.

Other features such as identity theft protection are only available to those on the Quizzle paid plans and don’t provide the protection you’d expect.

Our Final Thoughts

It’s worth signing up to Quizzle purely to get access to the additional two Equifax credit reports they provide you with each year. We’d suggest skipping their over priced paid plans though.

The credit tools they provide are much better than those provided by Credit Sesame, but not as robust as those provided by Credit Karma.

At the end of the day, it’s another free credit monitoring service that doesn’t require a credit card to join and provides you with another two free credit reports which can be extremely useful for those trying to repair their credit.

I just want to put out an alert. My identity info was stolen (from the theft of a laptop from my doctor’s office) and the DAY that someone started to open credit cards in my name, the THEIVES pulled my Quizzle report — so they can check my credit worthiness before they began to open cards in my name. I did have credit monitoring and received alerts immediately and also by the good graces of kind and honest people (God bless them), the theives were unable to open accounts and I was able to freeze my credit reports and stop it — but not before QUIZZLE handed it to them. But I only saw this inquiry after Equifax had to provide a WRITTEN credit report to me after my credit freeze was placed from my police report. Quizzle showed up as a soft inquiry that I did not ask for — I did not even know what it was. It was not on the online version of my credit report from Equifax (which I find very disturbing), but Equifax, unlike Experian, does not give you that soft inquiry info. HOW can you prevent an unauthorized person from requesting your report? How many other companies are out there doing this? They do not know it is not me, but my credit report was pulled by CRIMINALS and Quizzle just handed it to them so they could see my credit score and that it was worth it for them to continue (I have spotless credit.) FREEZE your info so Quizzle (or anyone else) cannot pull it! Has anyone else ever thought of this problem — besides identity theives?!

Thanks for your story. Quizzle didn’t exactly hand this information to criminals though, they require your personal information (e.g full name & address & SSN) before they hand any information over. This is the same information that is needed before you can be approved for a loan or new credit card.

The thieves would’ve been able to get new cards in your name regardless of the information they receive from Quizzle. The information that Quizzle gave them just allowed them to better work out which cards you would be approved for. The same would happen if they use any other free credit monitoring site (or paid monitoring site).

Like you said, if you’re worried about identity theft you should really have an security freeze or security alert placed on your credit reports. Did the doctor’s office alert you as soon as they knew about the data breach? Are they providing you with free credit monitoring?

Hopefully you’ve got the situation resolved and your identity restored.

Just an update regarding my entry from 2020 and what I have learned on my identity theft odyssey. I should clarify — the thieves did have my personal information OBVIOUSLY. But the problem with Quizzle is that to sign up for the service, you answer several “security” questions. Those questions are all bogus. They are basically public info that can be accessed with 2 clicks to reach Zillow — info about the year my house was built, what it sold for, etc. There is technically one “specific personal” question which was the type of mortgage I held — fixed rate, variable, duration, etc. Let me tell you that was also a big load. My spouse and I set up an account in his name and INTENTIONALLY entered the incorrect loan type information and lo, Quizzle laid open all of my spouse’s personal credit information — EVEN with patently INCORRECT information entered. Also there was the last four digits of every account held. Later in the travails of my theft, the criminals added themselves as authorized users to one of my store accounts — which they could only have done by having the account number which they clearly obtained from the Quizzle information. Also listed there is the amount of the credit lines — again a frequently used “security” question to validate your ownership of an account with a company — and so there it all was available over and above the information the ID thieves already had on me, courtesy of the poor security of Quizzle. By contrast, if you try to sign up for the other companies Like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame, you have to answer the same questions as you do access your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com which are not things things that you can glean from a web search. AND if you choose the wrong answer, those sites won’t allow access. You chose the wrong answer on 3 tries (each with different questions btw) and they lock you out for a month. Thank you also for the advice on my security — I now know very much more than I ever wanted and would now consider myself an expert due to trial by fire. I did have credit monitoring in place which quite frankly saved me — Experian Protect My ID was truly amazing and very supportive and the only one I would recommend. I still … Read more »

My identity was also stolen and I just found a quizzle request on the report that Equifax has given me. I tried to contact quizzle, but there doesn’t seem to be any good way to contact them. Have you been able to get in touch with them? I’m guessing the thieves also need to know my email address, because it said “welcome back” and I’ve never been to the site before. I would appreciate your thoughts on this.

Trim Review: An App That Saves You Money on Autopilot?

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Trim (also known as Trim Savings or Asktrim) is one of many new tools that promise to save you money effortlessly. But is it really as easy as signing up and letting Trim be your automated personal finance assistant?

To my surprise, the answer to that questions is “yes”—to an extent. The service’s automated features do have their limits, although Trim is expanding its offerings as part of its quest to help you make the most of your money.

In this Trim review, you’ll learn:

Trim App Review

How Trim Works

Financial tools like Mint have changed the way we manage our finances. We no longer need to break out a spreadsheet to budget, or log in to all of our accounts to see how much we’ve spent. We can see our cashflow in seconds just by opening a single app.

While these tools offer an array of useful features, they have their limits. And at the end of the day, these tools are not playing an active role in helping us make the most of our money.

That’s where Trim aims to fill a gap in the market. The service tries to actively help you manage your finances, even going as far as saving money through the use of artificial intelligence.

You get started by signing up for Trim through the company’s website and linking your bank and credit card accounts. Then, rather than using an app, you’ll communicate with Trim via text message.

What Trim Offers

The number of ways Trim can help you save money is growing. However, what the service is most well known for is its automated bill negotiation tool. It also has the ability to cancel unwanted and unused subscriptions.

This is a smart strategy for Trim, as negotiating your bills and cancelling subscriptions are small wins that deliver big results. The service can and has won users over with these quick wins.

Here’s how these features work:

Bill Negotiation

Trim can negotiate your bill with any internet, cable, or cell phone provider. After you sign up, you’re asked to link your service provider and, if not listed, upload your latest bill.

Trim will then use a chatbot (or someone from Trim will place a phone call) to negotiate.

What’s nice about Trim’s bill negotiation service is that it’s constantly monitoring your bills for ways to save money. For example, say in 12 months your cable bill goes up, or there’s a good limited-time offer that you weren’t aware of; in either case, Trim will attempt to negotiate a better rate.

While Trim explains the cost of this service upfront, it’s important to note that the company does charge up to 30 percent of the yearly savings it achieves on your behalf. (The fee varies depending on the service provider.) So, if Trim saves you $276 per year (the average annual savings of a user), its cut would be $82.80. That fee is charged up-front, not on a month-by-month basis.

If you’re the type who never negotiates, this fee could be worth it.

However, if I had a substantial bill I hadn’t negotiated in a while, I’d try negotiating myself first. Then, I’d sync the account with Trim.

Knowing this, I still gave Trim the chance to negotiate on my behalf. My issue was that I don’t have much to negotiate. My current breakdown of cell phone, cable, and internet service providers are:

  • Cable and Internet: I pay $54.99 to Comcast for limited basic cable, HBO, and performance internet
  • Phones: For two phones, I pay on average $24 per month for 2 GBs of data through Xfinity Mobile
  • Utilities: Local utilities are non-negotiable through the city

So in terms of large, recurring utility and service bills, there wasn’t much for Trim to do.

But one benefit of linking my accounts was that Trim is capable of getting credits from my cable or internet provider for any outages. This is where I’ve personally seen the most savings.

On three separate occasions, Trim has been able get a credit applied to my Comcast account.

A $10 credit negotiated in November of 2020:

A $20 credit negotiated for me in October of 2020:

The third time was in January of 2020. The message I received from Trim was that it was a $20 credit, but a $30 credit appeared on my Comcast bill.

Here’s the notification from Comcast:

I have to admit, these notifications are fun to get. I’d gladly pay 25% for this service, as most of the time I wasn’t even aware there was an outage. So in my situation, Trim’s bill negotiation service has resulted in a nice win and has been well worth the few minutes it took to sign up.

Cancelling Unwanted Subscriptions

The other feature that gets a lot of press is Trim’s subscription cancellation service. With a quick text, Trim can cancel certain subscriptions on your behalf.

Trim starts the process on its end, sending you a monthly update of any potential subscriptions.

Then, you can actually initiate the cancellation process by simply texting back “cancel.” Trim will take care of the rest.

There are a few ways Trim does this, including:

  • Sending an email
  • Placing a phone call
  • Sending a certified letter in the mail in cases where it’s extremely difficult to cancel (like gym memberships)

This feature is 100% free of charge.

Trim’s Other Features

Once you log in, there are more potentially-useful features.

While these don’t save you money directly, they can help you make better financial decisions.

Here’s what’s inside:

  • Spending analysis: Trim’s spending analysis lets you compare your spending month-by-month, by exact date, and by category. I found the exact date feature pretty useful for seeing if I have any big one-time expenses coming up.
  • Budget your spending: you can set a budget with Trim, and the service will notify you of your progress throughout the month.
  • Simple savings: a recent feature added to Trim is an FDIC savings account. Trim pays 1.5% interest. However, the account comes with a $2 per month service charge. I passed on this because there are better savings accounts out there.

How Trim Makes Money

Anytime I sign up for a service, I like to understand the business model behind it. Trim utilizes the popular “freemium” model.

Signing up is free, as are many of the services offered.

Trim’s free services include:

  • Bill cancellation: the ability to cancel monthly subscriptions with a simple text
  • Budgeting tools: Trim’s spending analysis and budgeting tools allow you to easily track how you’re doing for the month
  • Text alerts: notifications about monthly subscriptions sent via SMS, as well as notices about large purchases and whether I’m spending within my budget

As discussed, Trim makes money through its bill negotiation service, for which it charges 30% of the total annual savings.

Furthermore, like many other budgeting tools, Trim recommends certain financial products that it thinks might be a good fit for you. These include credit cards, home and car insurance, and clean utility providers (they recommend Arcadia Power).

Trim is also branching out into more “done for you” services. For example, it recently launched a financial coaching service that can help you pay off your debt.

This premium service runs $10 per month and comes with a 90-day money back guarantee.

The most interesting thing to note here is that Trim will actually negotiate your credit card APRs. For anyone in debt, this can be a huge win to help you get out of debt faster.

The idea of offering a financial coach is one that really intrigues me. People living paycheck to paycheck are an underserved market when it comes to financial coaching. More often than not, these individuals don’t know where to start, so a basic plan—even one generated by a robot—can go a long way. Add some constant goal reminders through SMS, and this feature has a lot of potential. I’m interested in seeing how this service takes off (and if you’ve tried it, let me know).

Is Trim Safe?

When setting up your Trim account, you can’t help but wonder if it’s safe. After all, you’re providing the company with your checking account and credit card details.

The access Trim has to your financial institutions is “read-only” access. That mans that no changes can be made (such as moving money around), and you can revoke this access at any time.

Furthermore, Trim’s website uses 256-bit SSL encryption and all server-side databases.

If you sign up through SMS, Trim uses two-factor authentication (which sends you a text to confirm your identity).

Trim doesn’t share your data, according to its FAQ:

Your data is only used for you: we don’t sell it or use it in any way other than what we’ve explained already. We safeguard your data using bank-level security at all times. We don’t ever share your data with third parties.

Trim Review Summary

I’m excited to see where Trim continues to go with its products. I love the idea behind these next-generation financial services that are taking an active role in helping people manage their money.

I’ve seen the most benefit from the bill negotiation service, and specifically from Trim’s ability to get credits for cable and internet outages. And the text/messenger alerts are a nice way to keep a close eye on whether my budget is out of whack.

One thing I’d look out for is if you pay hundreds per month for services. If Trim is able to knock $50 per month off your bills ($600 per year), you can get charged up to $180 upfront. While you’re no doubt saving money in the long-term, it’s best to negotiate the bills yourself first, then let Trim do the work from there.

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