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Op/Ed

Could landlords illegally checking renters’ stimulus status lock folks out of the IRS portal?

(EDITORIAL) It’s wild that landlords are unethically and illegally using the stimulus check portal to check on renters, but could it also be locking people out of the system?

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As the IRS begins to issue the coronavirus economic impact payments, AKA stimulus checks, the scammers come out in full force. No, the IRS won’t call you to ask for your bank information. You won’t need to pay anything to get your payment, nor will you need to send back any money to the IRS because you were overpaid. You can check your payment status at the official IRS website “Get My Payment.”

All someone needs is your social security number, date of birth, street address and Zip code. Turns out, anyone with that information can access your stimulus payment status. Some people are reporting that their landlords are checking on their tenant’s status.

A viral post of a text exchange between an Oregon man and his landlord demonstrates that at least one person has used the Get My Payment website illegally.

The situation is being investigated by the DOJ and the tenant is working with a lawyer. Other users posted anecdotal stories about their landlords using the system, but there isn’t any data to know how many people are misusing the IRS’s payment status website.

We don’t know how widespread the problem is. As much as we’d like to believe that people are ethical, there are just too many examples of fraud and scams during any kind of crisis to assume that this may only be a few bad apples.

The system is poorly designed. There’s also no way to know who is accessing your information, nor is there any way to prevent it.

One of the executive team members at The American Genius reports that their family has been getting daily emails from property management reminding them that the stimulus payments are coming and by the way, rent is due. They were called by a leasing agent asking for their SSN and emergency contact information, ostensibly for a “file audit.” The team member declined giving out information over the phone. Because the information is on file in the office as part of the original lease, there is no reason for anyone to request that information. Our team member now assumes that the leasing agent was trying to access the stimulus check portal.

It is worth noting that many people still cannot see their payment status, and never have been able to retrieve it. The IRS has cited technical problems that have been solved, but many people still cannot get any updates, simply seeing this result:

Because the IRS portal lacks transparency, there is always a chance that perhaps some people cannot see their stimulus status because others have already checked it OR that it has been checked too many times!

Not just landlords, but auto lenders, ex-partners, or anyone that knows someone’s SSN. This could be way off, but the lack of transparency makes anything possible.

No matter what, using the IRS site to check anyone’s stimulus payment status is illegal, even if you don’t get caught.

The IRS site clearly states:

THIS U.S. GOVERNMENT SYSTEM IS FOR AUTHORIZED USE ONLY!
Use of this system constitutes consent to monitoring, interception, recording, reading, copying or capturing by authorized personnel of all activities. There is no right to privacy in this system. Unauthorized use of this system is prohibited and subject to criminal and civil penalties, including all penalties applicable to willful unauthorized access (UNAX) or inspection of taxpayer records (under 18 U.S.C. 1030 and 26 U.S.C. 7213A and 26 U.S.C. 7431).

Tenants may be behind on rent. Some tenants may even be abusing the moratorium on evictions.

Landlords and property managers should have a higher standard when it comes to housing practices. The actions of tenants should not dictate a landlord’s actions. If you’re a landlord, keep your integrity and talk to your tenants about their situation. Don’t use their private information to get information about their stimulus payment.

If you’re a tenant and suspect that your landlord accessed the IRS, contact a lawyer. The Federal Trade Commission offers this advice about avoiding a scam with your stimulus payment.

Dawn Brotherton is a Staff Writer at The American Genius, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. Before earning her degree, she spent over 20 years homeschooling her two daughters, who are now out changing the world. She lives in Oklahoma and loves to golf. She hopes to publish a novel in the future.

Op/Ed

5 side hustles that could turn into your new career

(EDITORIAL) With COVID throwing all jobs out of whack, maybe now you can explore something new and actually make a career change. Here’s 5 side hustles to try.

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When you think of finding a side hustle, you might picture yourself finding an obscure job as a bike courier three nights a week or maybe even walking your neighborhood dogs. Both of these positions can be fun and pay extremely well depending on who you work for.

There are endless opportunities for part-time, enjoyable, profitable side hustles. However, if you take on any of the following side gigs, you could end up with a new career.

1. Day trading

Day trading is the purchase and sale of a stock, bond, or security all within the same day. Many entrepreneurs are drawn to day trading because it’s fast-paced and risky, but with the right skills, day trading presents a potential for serious profit.

If you’re curious about day trading, RJO Futures published a guide on how day trading works. RJO’s article explains that whether you trade from a large firm or on your own, you’ll need three tools:

  • Access to a trade desk. This will give you instant order actions the moment your trades are placed.
  • Analytical software. Analytical software will help you identify key indicators to inform your next move.
  • Access to news outlets. Day trading – specifically day trading futures – is volatile. Prices move by the second and having access to news outlets will give you a heads up if your market might be affected.

Be aware that if you enjoy day trading and get good, you might want to go full-time. It’s possible to turn day trading into a career, but the learning curve is steep.

2. Investing in real estate

Real estate is a lucrative industry, but it’s not for everyone. Popular among entrepreneurs, investing in real estate requires long hours of study, extensive research, and getting your hands dirty.

Usually, real estate investors have side hustles to supplement their income. However, many people get into real estate as a side hustle and end up turning it into a career.

If you want to get started in real estate, don’t jump to investing right away. Take the expert advice from the folks at Bigger Pockets and start by learning about the industry. Get a part-time job as an assistant property manager to pick up industry knowledge and learn your local landlord-tenant laws. If you’re going to invest in real estate to rent out, you’ll be a landlord at least for a short period of time until you hire a property management company.

If you know someone who can help you make your first investment, you don’t need to wait. However, to be successful you have to think outside the box to gain a full spectrum of industry experience.

3. Content writing

Every business needs content writers and many are willing to settle for any level of proficiency. If you have any writing skills, you can easily pick up some content writing gigs on job listing sites.

If you love writing, you might start out writing one blog per week and decide you want to pursue writing full-time. If it’s truly your passion, stick with it and you’ll find the right clients who will pay you generously for your work.

4. Coaching

Whatever people are struggling with, there’s a coach to save the day. Life coaching and business coaching are the most popular, but you can coach people on anything you’re passionate about.

Being a coach isn’t easy. Even people who intentionally start a career as a coach struggle. What most people don’t realize about coaching is that passion does not equal profit. Coaching is a hard sell, but life coaching is especially difficult. Running a coaching business requires more than business skills – you need to be proficient at helping people solve their problems.

If you’re good at helping people solve their problems, there’s a chance you might get addicted to being a coach. There’s nothing more satisfying than helping people grow and transform their lives.

5. Thrifting

It’s not hard to find sellable items at your local thrift stores. However, you need an eye for what people want to buy. If you’ve got that eye, you could end up with a new career.

For example, Natalie Gomez, a former merchandise planner at Macy’s, took on thrifting as a side job and wound up making thousands of dollars. Gomez was interviewing for a new job when she realized she was already making a good living selling clothes.

Enjoy your side hustles

Even if you don’t turn your side gigs into a career, take on gigs you enjoy. Money is necessary, but it’s never worth sacrificing your happiness.

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Op/Ed

Want to move past your burnout? Stop using multiple lists

(EDITORIAL) How my evolving understanding of “burnout” helped me learn an important distinction between being busy and being productive.

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too busy to burnout

When I used to hear the word “burnout” I would picture the freaks from the gone-much-too-soon series, Freaks and Geeks, as they would bum around outside, smoking in between classes. Now when I hear the word “burnout,” I think of myself a few years ago as my brain was being fried by life.

I wasn’t smoking between classes, rather running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to figure out how to manage all of my tasks at hand. I’d make a to-do list, see everything I had to do, and drown in overwhelm.

I’d spend my days fretting over how busy I was, and nights catching up with friends via phone, talking about how busy I was and how there just wasn’t enough time in the day.

Notice that nowhere in here was I actually doing anything productive. I fell into a vicious hole of being so consumed with how much I had to do, I wasn’t taking the time to do anything but stress.

At first, it made me feel interesting and somewhat important that I had so much going on. I quickly realized that no one cares and it’s not that interesting (I also quickly remembered how much I love to just relax and not have something planned every day of the week).

This is where I learned the of the most important lessons to date – being busy does not equal being productive.

It got to a point where I was running on fumes and eventually had this epiphany that how I was operating was doing nothing to help me. This was in part brought on by seeing someone close to me behave the same way, and I was able to actually look at how defeating it was.

From there, I made it a point to change my tune. Instead of wasting time writing and re-writing to do lists, I challenged myself to make one master to do list and accomplish at least one item upon completion of writing the list. This helped shake off the cobwebs and I was able to feel a bit of weight off of my shoulders.

The ideas surrounding the hustle mentality had me so consumed and all I was doing was hustling my way to nowhere. After feeling the burnout, seeing someone else operate that same way, and seeing that hustle mentality mocked, I was finally able to break free and get stuff done.

And, guess what? I have even more to do now, but feel more calm and collected than ever. I just have to repeat the mantra: Being busy does not equal being productive. Being productive – especially in silence – is so much better and much more rewarding.

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Op/Ed

Morning rituals of highly successful people – do you have one?

(EDITORIAL) Success looks different for everyone. But even as an individual, there are some patterns you can incorporate in your morning routine that can get you started on the right foot. Let’s take a look at what successful people do in their morning rituals.

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Fleximize took a look at the morning habits of 26 of the country’s most successful individuals to include the President of the United States Barrack Obama, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steve Jobs and even Oprah Winfrey.

What was discovered? Well, each of the men and women on their chart start their day early with time blocked out for exercise and meditation, breakfast and family. In short, things that are important!

Someone, somewhere coined it best: “If it has to happen, then it has to happen first!” Everyone has an “it.” Anyone who has managed to find professional success is surely embracing this philosophy. The first hour(s) of the day are used doing whatever is one’s top-priority activity. And no sooner do you start you risk the priorities of everyone else creeping in.

Interestingly enough, exercising in the morning is one of the group’s top priorities. It’s been said many times that exercise helps keep productivity and energy levels up and better prepares us for the everyday challenge of achieving all we can.

From start to finish, the daily life of each successful person is very much dictated by their family and job. But there are definitely some patterns that we can all incorporate into our own lives to achieve higher success and order.

An Insider article found that “the most productive people understand how important the first meal of the day is in determining their energy levels for the rest of the day. Most stick to the same light, daily breakfast because it works, it’s healthy for them and they know how the meal will make their mind and body feel.”

The Fleximize chart demonstrates that successful people consider the quiet hours of the morning an ideal time to focus on any number of things: important work projects, checking email, meditation. And what’s more, spending time on it at the beginning of the day ensures that it gets complete attention before others chime in.

So check the chart and find someone you can relate to.

BI points out that planning the day, week, or month ahead is a crucial time management tool designed to keep you on track when you’re in the thick of it. Using the mornings to do big-picture thinking helps you prioritize and set the trajectory of the day!

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