Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Act quickly to minimize the financial damage.

Your income tax bill is way more than you expected, and you can't come up with the money by April 15.

File your return by April 15 and pay as much as you can. Then wait for the IRS to send you a bill for the balance. That should take about 45 days, which will give you time to find some or all of the remaining amount. You'll get hit with a late-payment penalty of 0.5 percent of the unpaid balance per month, but that's a lot better than the failure-to-file penalty of 5 percent a month. Avoid the temptation to pay your tax bill with a credit card. You'll owe a "convenience fee" of up to 2.35 percent of the amount you charge, plus interest if you fail to pay off the balance by the due date.

After a trip abroad, you discover that you've run up an eye-popping cell-phone bill.

Call your provider and ask for a reduction. Be persistent, and remind the customer-service rep of your history as a loyal customer, says Logan Abbott, of If you were unaware of how much the extra minutes or data would cost, let the rep know. The good news is that overage charges, which can run up to 25 cents per minute or $10 per gigabyte, are easy to avoid. All major carriers must now provide text or email alerts to customers who approach or exceed their wireless-plan limits. Contact your carrier before heading abroad to see whether you can enroll in a prepaid international package, or consider buying an international SIM card. Otherwise, use Wi-Fi as much as possible for data and phone calls while you're out of the country and you won't be charged by your plan. You notice suspicious purchases on your credit card statement and suspect that a scammer got your number.

Contact the credit card issuer as soon as possible to dispute the charges and ask for a new card. Your liability is limited to $50 on a credit card, but American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa don't charge you at all. If you suspect that you have been the victim of ID theft, you could place a fraud alert on your account with one of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) so that lenders must take extra precautions before granting credit in your name. It also entitles you to a free credit report from each of the bureaus. The initial alert stays on your account for 90 days, but you can renew it.

(Susannah Snider is a staff writer at Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to And for more on this and similar money topics, visit

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