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

Budgeting & Bankruptcy

Budgeting is a big part of bankruptcy.  You have to set your monthly expenses and stick to them, with a bankruptcy trustee to oversee your every monetary move. Bankruptcy is not the end of the world, but it is not necessarily the only resolution to your financial problems.  Depending on your situation, you may have other legal choices available which could bring you a better benefit.  You are not going to see those possibilities if you file bankruptcy yourself or pay a non-attorney service to fill out the forms for you. There are long-term consequences you need to know and understand before you file, plus there may be a better option for you, depending on your circumstances.  You would not take chemo if you did not need it.  Why file bankruptcy if another resolution will bring you a better outcome?  Seek competent legal counsel to discuss your specific situation and to help you decide if bankruptcy is the right choice for you. In the meantime, if you are trying to get a head start on your new year’s resolution towards better wealth management, the Federal Trade Commission has a free online budget calculator to help you balance your monthly expenses […] 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

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

Almost You is NOT You – Social Security

Had your Social Security number exposed in a data breach?  Here is a checklist of what to do, provided by the Federal Trade Commission: IdentityTheftFTCgov   Note that in some cases the Social Security administration may issue a new Social Security number, but that can create new problems as follows: The credit bureaus may combine the credit records from your old Social Security number with records from your new Social Security number. A new Social Security number may give you a blank credit history, making it difficult for you to get credit.  While a new number may erase the bad credit an identity thief gave you, it may also erase the good credit you had. Just because you have a new Social Security number does not mean it is immune from theft.  The new number can be stolen, just as the old one was. Despite the problem of bad credit on your old Social Security number, you may be better off to keep it rather than to request a new number, depending on the circumstances. Your credit may be compromised in a data breach if an ID thief gets your personal and/or financial information.  Protect your credit by addressing any […] Read More

Hide & Seek with a Free Offer

As a consumer, you are “it.”  Close your eyes, count to ten, and then go shopping for goods and services.  But as a consumer, you are also the one being sought by companies offering goods and services.  You may find a free trial offer—delightful!  You can sample a product or service on a limited basis without obligation, allowing you to decide on the merit of the product or service firsthand instead of relying on the basis of advertising.  Is the game really in your favor? Some free trial offers come with the caveat that the offer is only free for a specified time, after which, if you fail to cancel the promotion, you could be obligated to pay.  That is not necessarily bad because it makes it convenient for you to continue receiving the product or service, but that might not be what you want.  Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission to help you avoid costs hiding in free trial offers: Research the Company – Google the company name and see if your screen fills with complaints from other customers who have already discovered “catches” in this offer, or if there are other complaints about the company. […] 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

“Free” Means Free

Gifts do not come with a price tag for the recipient, and a free offer means that you can sample the product or service without economic impact on your part. A free trial offer is a legitimate marketing technique whereby a consumer may be allowed to sample a product or service on a limited basis without obligation.  A free trial lets you decide on the merit of the product or service instead of relying on the basis of advertising. However, some free trial offers come with a caveat that the offer is only free for a specified time, after which, if you fail to cancel the promotion, you could be obligated to pay.  That is not necessarily bad because it makes it convenient for the consumer to continue receiving the product or service.  But that might not be what you want. Be careful what you sign up for…and watch your calendar. A free trial offer may lead you to discover something you really want…or something you really do not want, like a duty to pay.  To learn more about being a savvy shopper, the Federal Trade Commission has a free online video at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0101-free-trial-offers.   Read More

General Tips for Consumers

If you can avoid filing a lawsuit against a goods or services provider, that is usually easier (and less expensive) than going through the litigation.  To help you be a more savvy consumer, the Federal Trade Commission offers these general tips: (1) Know who you’re dealing with.  Do business only with companies that clearly provide their name, street address, and phone number. (2) Protect your personal information.  Share credit card or other personal information only when buying from a company you know and trust. (3) Take your time.  Resist the urge to “act now.”   Most any offer that’s good today will be good tomorrow, too. (4) Rate the risks.  Every potentially high-profit investment is a high-risk investment.  That means you could lose your investment—all of it. (5) Read the small print.  Get all promises in writing and read all paperwork before making any payments or signing any contracts.  Pay special attention to the small print. (6) “Free” means free.  Throw out any offer that says you have to pay to get a gift or a “free” gift.  If something is free or a gift, you don’t have to pay for it.  Period. To learn more about consumer rights and how […] Read More