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

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

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

Steps to Better Credit

Are you receiving calls from creditors and collection agencies?  Working overtime to try to keep up with your bills?  Using your savings to cover daily expenses?  These can be signs of bad credit.  While bad credit is a problem—it makes getting a new loan more expensive or impossible—there are steps you can take to improve your credit score. The basics are basics include pay your bills on time, pay down outstanding balances, and stay away from new debt.  Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi offers these further tips to personally manage your debt: Set up a household budget to guide your spending patterns. The budget should detail your monthly income, as well as your monthly expenses. Your budget should outline a spending plan which insures that your income will exceed your expenses each month. Don’t go any deeper in debt! Put your credit cards away and make a concerted effort to refrain from accumulating any more debt in the coming months. Pay cash or use a debit card. If you must charge something in an emergency, use the card with the lowest interest rate. Use daily money-saving strategies to free up more money. Cut out needless expenses and save money where […] Read More

Who Has Your Number

The four questions to ask when someone requests your Social Security Number are:  (1) Why do they need it?  (2) How will it be used?  (3) How will they protect it?  And (4) What happens if you do not give them your number? Banks and employers need your Social Security Number (SSN) to report on wages and taxes.  Creditors and lenders may ask for it so they can check your credit score to help determine how much they are willing to loan you and at what rate.  Landlords and utilities are also asking for SSNs. Some groups have better reasons than others to ask for your SSN.  (Some have better protection too.)  Be mindful of sharing personal information, such as your SSN, to help prevent identity theft.  Read More