Almost You is NOT You – Debit or Credit Card Compromised?

So you went shopping for the holidays and now you found that your debit or credit card number has been exposed in a data breach.  The problem is you can be vulnerable to this type of fraud whether you are shopping online or in person.  Here is a checklist provided by the Federal Trade Commission of what to do if your debit or credit card number is compromised: Contact your bank or credit card company to cancel your card and request a new one. Review your transactions regularly.  Make sure no one misused your card.  If you find fraudulent charges, call the fraud department and get them removed. If you have automatic payments set up, update them with your new card number. Check your credit report at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action. Do not throw good money at stolen accounts. Your credit may be compromised if an ID thief gets your personal and/or financial information.  Protect your credit by addressing any form of identity theft.  For other checklists on various types of information exposure, go to the Federal Trade Commission’s website at https://www.identitytheft.gov/info-lost-or-stolen.html.       Read More

Rapunzel’s Credit Folley

Once upon a time there was a beautiful girl named Rapunzel who had exquisite credit.  She had spent years growing her credit score so it was large enough for her to go to college, or buy a car or even a house.  But she was still young, and her mother did not want her to run off and get married and spend all her credit on a house and husband before she had had a chance to get a college education.  So her mother locked Rapunzel away in a high tower with only a computer so Rapunzel could go to school online. Every day suitors would come to the tower and cry, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!”  But Rapunzel was taught well by her mother and knew better than to let these young men get to her lovely credit score.  And so she kept to herself and her studies, and her credit continued to grow. Then one day Rapunzel received a call from a young man who said he was from Technical Support.  He warned her that without his help, her computer was in security danger.  For fear of losing her one link to the outside world through her […] Read More

Online Calculator for Credit Card Purchases

Paying with a credit card may cost you more than you think.  Depending on how fast you pay off your credit card bill, the interest could exceed the sale or coupon you used in the purchase.  Find out exactly how much that credit card annual percentage rate (APR) will cost you with this easy online calculator. This free online calculator is provided by Jeff Atwater, State of Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, on his website http://www.myfloridacfo.com/YMM/Calculators/CostOfCredit.aspx.  Enter the purchase price, APR, and amount you plan to pay each month, then the calculator will show you how much total interest you will owe, and how many months it will take to pay off the purchase with interest. You may want to adjust how much you are willing to spend on the initial purchase (get a less expensive item), or be more aggressive at paying your credit card bill (pay more each month).  Knowing how much (and for how long) you will be paying can help you make better budgetary decisions for your financial fitness and overall purchasing power.   Read More

Almost You is NOT You – Online Login or Password

Had your online login or password exposed in a data breach?  Here is a checklist of what to do, provided by the Federal trade Commission: Online login or password Log in to that account and change your password.  If possible, also change your username.  If you can’t log in, contact the company.  Ask them how you can recover or shut down the account. If you use the same password anywhere else, change that too. Is it a financial site, or is your credit card number stored?  Check your account for any charges that you don’t recognize. Do not throw good money at stolen accounts. Your credit may be compromised if an ID thief gets your personal and/or financial information.  Protect your credit by addressing any form of identity theft.  For other checklists on various types of information exposure, go to the Federal Trade Commission’s website at https://www.identitytheft.gov/info-lost-or-stolen.html.     Read More

Cyber Monday Tips

In 2014, the Monday after Thanksgiving was the biggest online shopping day ever (the first to tip over the $2 billion mark sales).  For those who do not cherish large crowds, sore feet, or a marathon of waiting in line, may the peace of the season rest at your fingertips.  Here are some online shopping guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission to help you deal with legitimate retailers…and avoid those who are not. Shopping Online Follow these tips for hassle-free online shopping: get the details, pay by credit card, keep records, and protect your personal and financial information. Get the Details Pay by Credit Card Keep Records Protect Your Information How to Report Online Shopping Fraud Get the Details Know who you’re dealing with. Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name. Confirm the online seller’s physical address and phone number in case you have questions or problems. And if you get an email or pop-up message that asks for your financial information while you’re browsing, don’t reply or follow the link. Legitimate companies don’t ask for information that way. Know what you’re buying. Read the seller’s description of the product closely, especially the fine print. Words like […] Read More

Holiday Budget

Holidays can be hard on your good spending habits.   Generally, you do not want to max out your credit cards or open new lines of credit when you are trying to build credit (as for a home, auto, or student loan in the near future).  Minimize the holiday hangover on your credit card bills by building a budget. A budget can help you stay on track for your spending and saving goals.  If you can talk, text, and wrap presents, you can make a budget.  The Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater has a free online holiday budget calculator at http://www.myfloridacfo.com/YMM/Calculators/Holiday.aspx. …And remember to pay your bills on time every time.   Read More

Cinderella’s Sad Story of Garnishment

Once upon a time, Cinderella had a money judgment entered against her.  She thought nothing of it at the time because she could no more pay her debt than go to the ball.  Then along came her Fairy Godmother and next thing you know, Cinderella had won the Prince Charming lottery. Right in the middle of happily ever after, a creditor garnished Cinderella’s newfound wealth.  Her brand new great big mound of money was swept clean from her account, just like that—poof!—it was gone.  “Surely you would not take my good fortune from me!” Cinderella protested. “The judgment is good for 20 years,” replied the creditor.  And thus Cinderella went from rags to riches and back to rags again.   A Money Judgment is just a piece of paper, EXCEPT a creditor may watch your bank account over the next 20 YEARS.  If your credit score goes up, that creditor might reappear.  With a Money Judgment, he may get your car, your real estate (except homestead), or garnish your bank account without prior notice to you, freezing any good fortune you come into. Everybody should pay their debts; however, certain incomes are exempt to prevent a choice between paying the […] Read More

Attention Veterans: Pension Poaching Scam

Yes, sadly even our Veterans get scammed.  Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater warns on his website (http://www.myfloridacfo.com/SAFE/stories.asp) against scammers who try to convince Veterans to purchase unnecessary products or transfer pension funds to an annuity or trust that supposedly “will enable” the veteran to qualify for additional pension assistance or enhancement, but which may do just the opposite. Consider carefully any changes to your pension.  You can research veteran’s benefits on your own for free or at no cost from any party accredited through the US Department of Veterans Affairs.  Also, you can check the valid license status of anyone assisting you in financial services through an online search with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at https://www.myfloridalicense.com/wl11.asp.  Again, Florida’s CFO gives the reminder:  “No one accredited through the VA is allowed to charge you for their services.” Thanks to those who have served in the US military.     Read More

What To Do About Unwanted Calls

There could be many reasons you receive unwanted calls:  (1) Wrong Number (including for debt collection), (2) Debt, (3) Sales Calls, and (4) Donald Trump wants your vote.  While there is not much you can do about political campaigns and wrong numbers, you may be able to reduce the number of calls for debt and sales calls with these options: Option 1:  Pay Your Bills On Time Generally this prevents creditors from picking up the phone in the first place; it also helps to build your credit.  BUT if that ship has already sailed… Option 2:  Ask Collectors to Stop Calling You can ask the debt collector to stop contacting you.  You still owe the debt, but you do not have to deal with all the calls and letters while you work out your repayment. Just because you owe money does not mean you lack rights. Write a letter to the debt collector or creditor asking them to stop contacting you, make a copy of that letter, and send the original to them, certified mail with “return receipt” so you will have a record of their receipt.  That should stop contact, with the exception of a communication to let you […] Read More

Fraud & Credit Repair

So your credit was trashed when your file was “blended” with another person’s of a similar name or Social Security number, and then a scammy credit repair service charged you an exorbitant upfront fee and did nothing.  While mistakes do happen, fraud and credit repair also occur.  You may be able to take action on your own in the case of a credit report inaccuracy and avoid being a victim twice from the same incident. No credit repair service can erase bankruptcies, judgments, liens, or band loans, nor can they create a new credit identity legally.  Only time heals accurate negative information in your credit report; however, the bankruptcy you did NOT file…that is an error you can report. Tell the credit reporting company about the inaccuracy.  The Federal Trade Commission offers the following sample letter to help you communicate your dispute.   [Your Name] [Your Address] [Your City, State, Zip Code] [Date] Complaint Department [Company Name] [Street Address] [City, State, Zip Code] Dear Sir or Madam: I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. I have circled the items I dispute on the attached copy of the report I received. This item [identify item(s) disputed by […] Read More