Answers to Ask Post questions about personal finance: crypto scams, I-Bonds and interest rates

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There is so much we need to know about money that many people could use a personal assistant to help them manage their finances.

My husband and I regularly have a finance meeting on Monday evenings. We rarely get through the list of agenda items, which grows longer every week. We have so many things to put on the table because we have to look for an answer before making a decision.

That’s the idea behind our new toll-free ASK POST hotline (855-275-7678). I think I can help you find answers to your most pressing personal finance questions.

While I can’t answer every question that comes in, I will pull out a few from time to time to address in a column. Or I use some to write about a specific topic, as I did recently when discussing the problems 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 about cryptocurrency scams, high-yield I-Bonds, and savings interest.

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

I’ve been stressing myself out for the last few years trying to protect people from cryptocurrency Ponzi and Ponzi schemes.

So many people suffer from FOMO, or the fear of missing out on what they believe to be the next big crypto-related investment opportunity. People are becoming more and more reckless when it comes to getting rich by buying Bitcoin and all other types of cryptocurrencies.

Do what I do. Point them to the Federal Trade Commission’s online post: “What you should know about cryptocurrency and scams.”

You can also share this cautionary tale from my colleague Helaine Olen and stories of crypto-related scams.

Six-character crypto investments are a classic Ponzi scheme

Then wait to provide emotional support when the scheme robs them of their hard-earned money.

What should I do if I can’t reach someone at TreasuryDirect with a question about I-Bonds?

Move, cryptocurrency. Series I inflation linked bonds are the hot new investment right now. The inflation rate of these bonds pays 9.62 percent by the end of October. Due to the safety of these bonds and the incredible interest rate, interest rates are extremely high.

In order to purchase and own an electronic I-Bond, you must create an account with TreasuryDirect.gov. But many people have problems with new and existing accounts. The TreasuryDirect website crashed the day after the new interest rate was announced.

One reader reported being put on hold for four hours.

The Treasury Department has acknowledged that the call center that handles requests for bonds is overwhelmed.

“Call center staffing is based on past call volume trends,” a Treasury Department spokesman said. “As call volume has increased, we have expanded capacity by shifting agents to support the call center.”

The spokesman recommended trying to call as soon as the phone lines are open. The current call center number is 844-284-2676 and hours of operation are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

Customer service representatives can answer questions about all Treasury securities and transactions. This includes assisting an account holder who is having difficulty navigating the TreasuryDirect application or website. They also provide guidance on how to interpret and fill out the required forms.

US inflation-linked bonds crashed TreasuryDirect website

Can I buy I-Bonds over the phone?

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

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

Now is a good time to buy this inflation-linked savings bond

Can I expect higher interest rates on my savings account?

As the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to fight inflation, savings accounts at some banks and credit unions have increased the amount they pay for cash parked with them.

“Savings rates are already going up if you look in the right place,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. “We’ll see those payouts continue to increase as the Federal Reserve hikes interest rates.”

The highest-yielding savings accounts available nationally, offering yields of 0.8 percent to 1 percent, are on the rise, with online banks often offering the best rates, McBride said.

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

The average savings account at major banks is a meager 0.06 percent.

“The bigger banks that already have a bunch of deposits won’t be in a hurry to raise rates and bring in more,” McBride said. “The moral of the story is that you want to put your savings where they are wanted and will be 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 goes on, you’re going to see more and more of these savings accounts with returns above 1 percent,” McBride said. “By the fall we will see some touch the 2 percent mark.”

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