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

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

Free Annual Credit Report

Have you been to the doctor lately?  Had your car serviced?  Did you clean the gutters?  There are certain things you should do on a regular annual basis.  Checking your credit report is one of them.  Furthermore, it does not cost you. Consumers can check their credit report for FREE once a year at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action. This website gives you access to all three credit reporting companies.  Note that while your credit report is free, there is a cost involved to get your credit score. It is a good idea to make sure the information in your credit report is accurate and up to date.  This helps monitor for blended files, where someone may have a similar name or social security number, and helps monitor for identity theft. If you do find an inaccuracy, you can dispute errors with the credit reporting agencies.  There is more information provided by the Federal Trade Commission with sample letters at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0291-disputing-errors-credit-reporting-companies.   Read More

Retail Therapy & Your Credit Score

When living better through chemistry does not work, sometimes you need retail therapy. Last week I had a really rough day.  I turned into a crazy person.  I called my wife and she was at the Apple store.  Now I have an iPhone 6 and I am much better.  I understand the need for retail therapy and its benefits; furthermore, the more credit you have, the more therapeutic your retail purchases can be. Credit increases your purchasing power.  Good credit begets credit—the higher the credit limit or the more you can borrow.  Good credit also begets better cost to borrow—the better your credit, the smaller the interest rate on your loan to pay back the money.  It is good to have good credit because then you can have more things at lower costs to borrow to buy those things.  What if you have bad credit?  :0 Bad credit does not have to be terminal.  If you can talk, text, and chew gum, you can fix your credit score on your own.  Here are some starting blocks to build your credit: Pay your bills on time every time No new credit – do not open new credit accounts or take out […] Read More

Building Credit as a New Adult

Congratulations high school seniors…many of you may now be tried as an adult.  If you have reached the age of 18 (or older), you also have the opportunity to start building your credit. Why is credit important? Because I say so…and because creditors and lenders say so too.  Your credit determines your purchasing power to buy items like a car, a student loan, and maybe a house one day.  Credit also may affect your ability to get or keep a job. What do lenders look at? Your credit rating should how well you repay your debts—whether you are a good credit risk or a deadbeat.  When lenders are deciding whether to extend credit, they look at how well you pay your bills, your credit limit versus your high balance (as on a credit card), and your income. Build your credit from your budget up.   Make a budget. Stick to it. Pay your bills on time every time – from rent to credit card bills and all other bills, make sure you have paid by the due date.  By having a budget, you should know what bills are coming and when.  By sticking to your budget, you should be able to […] Read More

Annual Check-Up on Your Credit Report

Keep an eye on your financial statements, and check your credit report annually for free at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action.  If you want your credit score there is a fee, but it is free to look at your credit report from all three reporting companies so you can check to make sure the information is accurate. It is a good idea to monitor your credit report annually because as my colleague, Zach, points out, sometimes there are ‘blended’ files where a person’s name is similar to your name, or has a similar Social Security number.  And of course there is the possibility of identity theft. If you do find an inaccuracy, you can dispute errors with the credit reporting agencies.  There is more information provided by the Federal Trade Commission with sample letters at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0291-disputing-errors-credit-reporting-companies.   Read More

Recovery from ID Theft

Recovery from Identity Theft is not easy, but the Federal Trade Commission has tried to aid consumers by writing letters for them…all you have to do is fill in the details. Letters Ask a Business to Remove Fraudulent Charges From Your Existing Accounts Ask a Business to Close a New Account Opened in Your Name Ask Credit Reporting Companies to Remove Fraudulent Errors on Your Credit Report Ask a Business to Block Information on Your Existing Account Ask a Business to Block Information on a New Account Ask a Credit Reporting Company to Block Information Get Copies of the Documents the Identity Thief Used Stop Calls and Letters From a Debt Collector Memo from FTC to Law Enforcement [PDF]   Read More

New Year’s Resolution for Better Credit

It is 2015, how is your credit?  Building better credit takes time and effort, but if you can talk, text, and chew gum, you can fix your credit score on your own. Credit is important.  Your credit determines your purchasing power to buy items like a house, a car, a student loan. Creditors look at your bill-paying history, whether you pay your bills on time, collections actions against you, your outstanding debt, how many accounts you have and what kind they are, and if you have applied for new credit lately.  They use this information to determine if you would be a good risk for repayment, or if you are a deadbeat, and also how much they should charge you for the loan.  Creditors want their money back, and they want to make interest on the loan. Bad credit is a problem, but it is one that you can fix with these New Year’s resolutions: Pay your bills on time every time No new credit – do not open new credit accounts or take out new loans Pay down large balances Make a budget and stick to it – you can use the free online budget provided by the Federal […] Read More

Masquerading in Your Good Credit

Who is going trick-or-treating dressed as you—and so out of season!  An identity thief could be treating himself at the expense of your good credit.  The Department of Justice has a pneumonic to help you avoid becoming the victim of identity theft: SCAM. S is for “Stingy.”  Be stingy about giving out your personal and financial information. C is for “Check.”  Check your accounts regularly. A is for “Ask.”  Ask for your free credit report once a year at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action. M is for “Maintain.”  Maintain good records of your banking and financial information.  You should know what should be in there…and what should not. To view the complete article from the Department of Justice, visit their website at: http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft.html Read More