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John F. O'Hara

John F. O'Hara
731 W Skippack Pike  Blue Bell  PA 19422
Phone:  610-277-4060
Office:  215-643-3200
Cell:  267-481-1786
Fax:  267-354-6973

My Blog

Student Loan Borrowers: 4 Tips to Avoid Scams

March 18, 2016 1:36 am

To date, there are over 43 million student loan borrowers in the United States, owing a total of nearly $1.3 trillion dollars of debt. Many of them, who are already at risk financially, could become targets of debt relief scammers.

“It’s hard enough to finance school, get through it and then manage your debt load once you leave,” says Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®). “Unfortunately, being targeted for student loan-related scams is one more thing graduates may have to deal with.”

To fend off these types of scams, McClary and the NFCC advise the following guidelines:

1. Remember looks can be deceiving. Official-looking emails or websites are intended to lead people into thinking they are legitimate. One way to verify that correspondence is from a reputable organization is by checking their Web addresses and looking for reviews or complaints online.

It’s also worth noting that the Department of Education’s Web pages end in .gov, not .com. Bear in mind, also, that the government doesn’t send out email or use advertising to encourage students to take out loans or borrowers to consolidate debt.

2. Verify before trusting. The same rules for protecting personal information in all other aspects of life also apply to student loans. Don’t provide information, especially a Federal Student Aid PIN, to someone who calls or writes. Instead, ask for a case number, then call the creditor, bank, credit union, credit card company or lender using their published number. This verifies that they are actually trying to reach out regarding a problem with an account.

3. Urgency is a red flag. Whenever pressed to make a quick decision involving a “special offer,” step away and take a hard look at the deal and who is presenting it. Scammers use urgency the same way magicians use distractions—to focus attention away from what they don’t want others to see.

4. Don’t buy into “instant” solutions. While there are many programs that offer debt forgiveness or cancellation, borrowers need to apply to them directly. There aren’t any middlemen who can negotiate special deals.

However, there are certified counselors, like those who work with nonprofit NFCC member agencies, who can help identify opportunities for debt relief and provide guidance toward the right option based on an individual’s unique financial situation. Anyone seeking assistance with student loan debt is encouraged to reach out for counseling by contacting the NFCC at 877-406-6322 or online at

If you suspect that your student loan information has been compromised, call the Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General Hotline 1-800-MIS-USED.

Source: NFCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Prevent Tree Roots from Damaging Your Property

March 18, 2016 1:36 am

Trees are hardy plants, and their roots fight back against man-made limits around them. In urban and suburban landscapes, tree roots are often forced to grow between buildings or under driveways and walkways—and they can cause costly damage if left unchecked.

“Before you plant a new tree in your yard, you need to understand how a tree could damage your property, and take appropriate measures to prevent that damage,” says Tchukki Andersen, a board-certified Master Arborist and staff arborist with the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA).

Woody tree roots thicken as they grow, gradually pushing shallow roots toward the surface. Since soil near the surface is best suited for root growth, most tree roots are just below the surface, placing them directly in conflict with man-made obstacles. Where the soil is covered by a solid driveway or patio, upward growing roots will grow against the underside of the pavement or pavers.

“Most damage is found six feet or less from the tree, since roots become smaller and less damaging the further they are from the trunk,” says Andersen. “Keep this in mind before you plant. That small sapling could become a large shade tree with roots spreading 30 or 40 feet outward from the trunk.”

Some homeowners, masons and landscapers manage intrusive roots by grinding down or removing them. This can be expensive, and is harmful to the tree. Wounding a tree's roots creates points of entry for pathogens, leaving a tree vulnerable to disease. Cutting major roots also reduces a tree's ability to absorb nutrients and water, leaving it more susceptible to drought. In addition, cutting roots can reduce a tree's structural support, which increases the danger the tree will topple onto your house in high winds.

When cutting problem tree roots, remember:

• The farther you cut from the trunk, the less threat to the tree’s health, and the less danger of creating a hazard.

• Avoid cutting roots greater than 2 inches in diameter.

• Prune roots back to a side or sinker root (one that is growing downward) when possible.

• Roots recover from being severed when you cut them cleanly with a saw, instead of breaking them, and mulch and water well after pruning.

• Consult a qualified arborist when cutting within a distance equal to five times the trunk diameter to the trunk.

To avoid cutting tree roots altogether:

• Installing physical root guides and barriers that redirect tree roots down and away from hardscapes with minimal impact on the tree.

• Curve new hardscape features, such as a driveway or patio, around the tree roots.

• Suspend hardscape features on small pilings to bridge over roots.

Ultimately, the best way to keep the trees and their roots on your property from causing damage is to select species that match site conditions, Andersen says, and to avoid planting large shade trees within 12 feet of hardscapes. In areas within five to seven feet of a paved area or structure, plant trees that grow to a mature height of less than 30 feet. In areas within seven to 10 feet of a paved area or structure, plant trees that grow to a mature height of less than 50 feet. Reserve trees that mature to higher than 50 feet for areas with at least 12 feet of clearance around the trunk; this allows adequate space for the roots.

A professional arborist can assess your landscape and work with you to determine the best trees to plant.

Source: TCIA

Published with permission from RISMedia.