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

Sweet Home

Just as the Gator defense kept Alabama from gaining yardage in the SEC Championship game, foreclosure defense may be able to assist in loss of credit in a home foreclosure.  You are not going to win the case, but you are not going to lose as much credit as you would without a defense.  Furthermore, unlike the Florida-Alabama game, a legal defense may be able to bring about a different outcome. In court, there is a winner and there is a loser, just like a football game, but with a foreclosure defense, you may be able to achieve an alternative outcome before the foreclosure case has the chance to finish. A foreclosure defense addresses the legal aspect of the case, asking the plaintiff to prove their case, and while the plaintiff is occupied with that proof, the homeowner has the opportunity to pursue a foreclosure alternative, such as a mortgage modification or a short sale.  A foreclosure defense is not a denial of the debt, but it may be able to do something different with the way that debt is handled, something that brings a better benefit to the homeowner. “Sweet Home Alabama” is probably not the most popular song […] 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

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

Consult An Attorney Before You File Bankruptcy

When everything else goes wrong, talk to an attorney before you file Bankruptcy.  Yes, you can file Bankruptcy on your own.  Yes, there are non-attorney services that can help you file.  Yes, you can get a textbook and do your own brain surgery…but should you? “Bankruptcy” is best used as a term of recovery rather than an act of desperation.  It can give you a fresh start or reset.   Sometimes it is easier to rebuild credit from zero rather than to spend years paying off all the creditors.  Depending on your circumstances, Bankruptcy can help you rebuild quicker—it stops the bleeding and starts the healing. However, while Bankruptcy often takes care of immediate debts, it can create problems for your future in terms of your credit score.  Bankruptcy tends to limit more severely your ability to get a loan for a house, a car, or an education. Seek competent legal counsel to discuss the specifics of your situation and whether Bankruptcy is the best strategy for you.   Read More

Almost You Is Not You – Data Breach Drill

Not feeling like yourself today?  Or feeling a little less ‘flush’ than normal?  If you have been the victim of Identity Theft, the Federal Trade Commission has a data breach drill.  This online resource gives you a streamlined plan to address the problem. It is a one-stop online checklist that you can customize to your problem, depending on what information was lost or exposed—Social Security number, online login or password, debit or credit card number, bank account information, driver’s license information, children’s personal information.  Their idea is that recovering from identity theft is easier if you have a plan. The free online checklist is available at https://www.identitytheft.gov/info-lost-or-stolen.html.   Read More

Building Bad Credit Habits?

You’re never too old to learn something stupid. Sure, do not pay your bills on time…or at all.  Take on new debt as often as you can.  Bad habits can pile up like bills…and lead to bad credit. Your credit determines your purchasing power to buy items like a car, a student loan, and maybe even a house.  Credit also may affect your ability to get or keep a job.  Your credit history gives lenders and employers something to look at when they are deciding whether or not to give you a loan (and at what interest rate) and whether or not to hire you or give you a promotion. On the other if you can talk, text, and chew gum, you can improve your credit score with these basics: 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 Trade Commission at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-1020-make-budget-worksheet.pdf Be a credit to yourself!   Read More

Play Your Credit Cards Close to the Vest

If Data breach is not bad enough, criminals can also gain access to your credit card accounts the old-fashioned way:  from you.  Here are tips from the US Secret Service on how to protect yourself against credit card fraud.  Many of them are common sense, and common sense can save you a lot of cents. It is critical that you notify your bank or credit card company immediately if you lose your card. It may prevent someone else from using it illegally. Remember to get your card back after purchasing goods or services. Do not leave the card in hotel rooms or unnecessarily exposed for long periods of time. The number can be copied even if the card is not taken. Retain all carbon copies of your receipts when making a purchase and retain receipts from ATM withdrawals. If you don’t get a billing statement on time, notify the credit card issuer immediately. Check billing statements carefully upon receipt to make sure all charges are yours. Errors or changes that don’t belong should be reported as soon as possible. Do not put your credit card account number on checks used to pay your monthly bills. The credit card agency can […] 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