Answers to Ask-Post’s Personal Finance Questions: Crypto Scams, Bonds, and Interest Rates

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There is so much we need to know in relation to money that many people could use a personal assistant to manage their financial life.

My husband and I have a regularly scheduled financial meeting on Monday evenings. We rarely manage to scroll through the list of topics on the agenda, which gets longer every week. We have to put many things on the table because we have to search for an answer before making a decision.

This is the idea behind our new ASK-POST green line (855-275-7678). I imagine I can help you get answers to your most pressing personal finance questions.

While I can’t answer all the questions that come up, I will throw a few to address in a column every now and then. Or, I’ll use a few to write about a specific topic, as I did recently discussing issues with the TreasuryDirect website during the onslaught of interest in Series I savings bonds.

Here are some answers to recent reader questions left on the phone line about cryptocurrency scams, high yield I bonds, and savings interest rates.

What can I do to warn my family and friends about cryptocurrency scams?

Over the past few years I have been stressed trying to protect people from Ponzi and pyramid schemes involving cryptocurrency.

So many people suffer from FOMO, or the fear of getting lost, on what they believe is the next big investment opportunity involving cryptocurrencies. People are getting reckless in their quest to get rich by buying bitcoin and all other types of cryptocurrencies.

Do what I do. Direct them to the Federal Trade Commission online post: “What to Know About Cryptocurrency and Scams”.

You can also share this cautionary opinion from my colleague Helaine Olen and stories about cryptocurrency-related scams.

Investing in six-sign cryptocurrencies is a classic Ponzi scheme

So expect to emotionally support them when the plan robs them of their hard-earned cash.

What should I do if I cannot contact someone from TreasuryDirect with a bond question?

Move, cryptocurrency. Inflation-protected Series I bonds are the new hot investment right now. The inflation rate component of these bonds pays 9.62% through the end of October. Due to the safety of these bonds and the incredible rate, the interest is extremely high.

To purchase and own an electronic bond, you need to open an account on TreasuryDirect.gov. But many people have had problems with new and existing accounts. TreasuryDirect’s website crashed the day after the new rate was announced.

One reader reported being suspended for four hours.

The Treasury acknowledged that the call center handling bond applications is overwhelmed.

“Call center staff are based on past trends in call volume,” a spokesman for the Treasury said. “As call volume increased, we expanded capacity by moving staff to support the call center.”

The spokesperson advised trying to call as soon as the phone lines open. The current call center number is 844-284-2676 and the hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern time.

Customer Service Representatives can answer questions relating to all Treasury securities and transactions. This includes providing assistance to an account owner who has difficulty navigating the TreasuryDirect application or website. They also provide guidance in interpreting and completing the required forms.

US inflation-linked bonds brought down the TreasuryDirect website

Can I buy bonds over the phone?

Unfortunately, electronic savings bonds can only be purchased through the TreasuryDirect online application, according to the Treasury spokesperson.

Customer service representatives who answer the phone cannot open an account on behalf of an individual and make purchases.

Now is a good time to buy this inflation-indexed savings coupon

Can I expect a higher interest rate on my savings account?

With the Federal Reserve raising its interest rate to fight inflation, the savings accounts of some banks and credit unions have increased what they are paying for cash parked with them.

“Savings rates are already on the rise if you’re looking in the right place,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. “We will see these payments continue to rise as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates.”

The most profitable savings accounts available nationwide offer returns from 0.8% to 1% and are on the rise, with online banks often offering the best rates, McBride said.

CIT Bank, a division of First Citizens Bank, is advertising a savings account that pays 0.90 percent, according to a list compiled by Bankrate.com of the best savings accounts for May.

The average savings account in large banks is a measly 0.06 percent.

“Bigger banks that already have a lot of deposits will be in no rush to raise their rates and bring in more,” McBride said. “The moral of the story is that you want to put your savings where it is desired and welcomed with open arms and higher returns.”

And with the Fed expected to continue raising rates, competition for your money will increase.

“As the summer progresses, you will see more and more of those savings accounts with yields above 1%,” McBride said. “When we get into the fall, we will start to see some hitting the 2 percent mark.”

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