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A perfect environment for fraud

Here are three of the week’s top pieces of financial insight, gathered from around the web:

Home-buying for unmarried couples
With mortgage rates at a record low, many couples are looking to purchase a house before they are married, said Veronica Dagher at The Wall Street Journal. However, there are “a different set of risks, both financial and practical,” for unmarried partners to consider. “How the house is titled is critical,” and couples can choose sole ownership, joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, or tenants in common. The last is popular among younger couples, because it gives each an ownership stake. But if a partner dies before naming the surviving partner as the beneficiary of the house, “the survivor could become a co-owner with the late partner’s relatives.”

A perfect environment for fraud
The pandemic has created “the greatest environment for business fraud in decades,” said Geoff Colvin at Fortune. Experts point to three elements working in conjunction for corporate scammers: pressure, opportunity, and rationalization. The bad economy is creating the pressure. Companies that find themselves “unable to meet Wall Street’s expectations” are more inclined to resort to trickery. The pandemic’s work-from-home environment has also contributed to less oversight, less security, and fewer examiners able to “travel and interview people in person.” Investigators complain that on Zoom they can’t judge who is lying. “Our fraud examiners want to see whether interviewees are closing their arms, for instance,” says the president of an association of fraud examiners. “What about micro-expressions in the face and how muscles in the face contort?”

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An explosion of Medicare options
Medicare’s expanding marketplace is becoming overwhelming, said Mark Miller at The New York Timesbut it’s worth investigating your choices. Because of efforts to privatize the medical safety net for seniors starting in the 1990s, recipients today have “plenty of options.” A typical enrollee who shops for 2021 coverage “will be able to choose from 57” different plans that include drug coverage. Proponents say this “keeps prices down and encourages innovation.” But a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 57 percent of people “didn’t review or compare their coverage options annually,” because many found them too “confusing” to wade through. Insurers are taking advantage. Many plans have lowered their premiums, but 86 percent now have a deductible — usually the maximum amount ($445) the government allows.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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