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Jan 15 2012

Job Hunting? You May Want To Look At Your Credit History

Q. Can having bad credit hurt my chances of getting a job?  Since I have been unemployed for almost a year now, I have had to max out my credit in order to stay afloat. I am pretty sure my credit is shot, what can I do?

A. First off I am sorry to hear about your current situation, and while yes it can hinder you job search it may not be as large as a factor as it once was.  Good news is that if you are being asked if they can pull your credit reports than you know you are a top tier candidate.  Pulling reports is time consuming and costs the company money, they generally will not do this unless you are in the top tier for the job you are trying to get. So that’s good news! Also since you did not say what field you are going into that it may never get pulled. In most cases the only time they will pull your reports is if you are working int he financial field or a similar field. So if you are not, then I think this will should be much less of a concern for you.

If you are in a position that you will be required to have your reports pulled then you should be prepared going in. The best way to get prepared is to view your credit reports, and as always if you just want to view a single report then head over to Annual Credit Report to get your free credit report once per year.  This will not tell your score, but will let you read what is on your reports. Personally in your situation that you are living on credit I think this would be the best place to start. If things pick up, then I would highly recommend signing up for our credit monitoring service. Credit reports are not static, and they can change on a daily basis, a monitoring service will be the best way to stay up to date on exactly what is on your report so you have no surprises when it comes to job hunting time.

Now that you have a copy of your report you will want to check it for any errors. Anything from your name misspelled to accounts or inquiry that are not yours. (Read all about inquiry’s) If you find anything out of place, then take the time to dispute it to have it removed.

This is where the concern comes in for job hunters, what if I do have bad credit, or it shows that I am late on my payments. This is what your potential employes will be looking at. Your reports show a file of how you have handled yourself financially over the years. And what they will be looking for is are you a stable person? Have you the track record to back that up. I would not be concerned about from the time you lost employment until now. Everyone out there knows we are in a deep rescission and that we are doing what we need to do in order to get by. Its the overall picture they will be looking at, if you do happen to have a history of late payments stretching out for years, then yes you do have reason to worry about being passed up on a job. The best thing you can do is to lay it on the line, and explain exactly what your side of the story is.

If you are turned down for a position for reason of credit, you have the right to ask for a copy of the credit report and a detailed explanation of why this decision was made.  So for the majority of us out there whose credit is in a bit of a down turn because of unemployment or underemployment  then I would not let this keep you up at night worrying. We are not living in a perfect world right now, and potential employers know this and should make a decision based on your long term credit history.

 

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Jan 10 2012

Is Credit Monitoring Right For You?

There is no doubt about it, credit monitoring is an expense and only you can decide if it is worth the cost or not. It seems only a few years ago many of us were unaware of what our credit scores were, or if we even needed to watch out for ID theft. It used be extremely easy to get credit and loans, but the times are changing and keeping a good credit score is more important than ever.

Many people will say you will not need a credit monitoring program because you can now get your credit report free once per year as a result of the FACT act. I think there is one flaw with that thinking, when you view your credit report once per year,  and everyone should do this! That is all you are getting a snap shot of where you are on that day. Your file is constantly changing and if you only take a snap shot of it once per year, you could be in danger of missing some critical items that get reported to your reports.

This is where a monitoring service comes into play, you are alerted on a daily basis to any change on your reports, and so you are far more protected in the event of fraudulent activity on your reports.  Unfortunately no matter how diligently you try to protect your credit there is no way you can stay on top if it 24/7.  Also the best way to handle a potential error, or ID theft is to take care of it before it gets started, and that is also where a monitoring service shines, as you will be alerted within 24 hours to any changes made to your report. I think these are the best reasons to enroll in a credit monitoring service.

I can also see the other side of the argument, that this is an expense per month, and for some it just may not be worth it. The is ultimately for you to decide. My guess though that if you are reading this, than you are trying to become more financially sound, or you feel you are in need of a service.

 

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Jan 3 2012

2012 Happy New Year! Lets Build Up Your Credit Score

2012 is here and along with all the other new years resolutions you have made, lets add increase our credit scores to the list. This will be a quick start guide to get you on your way to a great credit score early into 2012

First find out what your score is. You can enroll in our credit monitoring service and get your score today, and then track it over keeping a tab on your score. OK great, now that we have our scores its time to dig in and get to work.

Second. Get a credit card if you do not already have one. I know much of what we talk about on this blog is managing your credit, and not using a card unless you absolutely have to, but this is all about raising your scores, so we need some tools. There is evidence that carrying a small balance, 20-30% will increase your score faster than not having a balance. If you feel you do not want to carry a balance and pay any interest that is perfectly fine, you just want to make sure that you are using the card, and that you are paying the bill on time1

Third. Get an installment loan. These are loans you pay a set amount month after month until the balance is gone, like a car or a mortgage.  These types of loans show that you are responsible with both major kinds of credit, the revolving, your credit card, and the installment loan. I know many of you will have no need or want of a car, or mortgage, so what else can you do? You can go to a bank or credit union and apply for a personal loan. You can choose the amount you are comfortable with, and then pay it off over the length of the loan. I have to make this clear one more time, these tips are for increasing your credit scores, and getting you into a position for the best rates possible. You need these tools in order to increase your score to the maximum. You do not need to go further in debt if you already have these types of loans, or you want to build up your credit more slowly.

Fourth. If you have credit cards pay them down! If you can pay them down to below 30%, and even better down below 10%. There are a lot of false claims out there that paying off your credit cards can hurt your score in fact this can have the opposite effect. One of your scores factors is your available credit. So if you have maxed out cards your available credit is low, and this can hurt your scores. Pay down those cards!

Fifth. This goes hand and hand with number 4, just your cards lightly. Even if you are followed tip number 2 and got a card for the first time, do not go crazy with it! Keeping your balances low, and your available credit high will help raise your credit scores. I know its a viscous circle, you have to get/use a credit card, but you must not use to much of it. Its not a perfect system by any means, but its what we have to work with.

Sixth. Dispute any old items on your credit reports. If five years ago you had a cell phone bill go into collections, it is still not to late to try to have that removed. The easiest way is to simply mail the credit bureaus saying that this is not yours, and you want it removed. The older account the more likely it will be removed without an investigation. Even so many companies do not have the time or resources to track down old accounts and will more times than not just remove the item.

 

 

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Dec 29 2011

How To Handle The Holdiay Shopping Aftermath

The holidays are coming to and end, are you getting nervous to check the mail box for the bills? Are you now quite sure on how much you spent, or how much over budget you went this year? Don’t worry there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we can all get though this with a plan.

Once you have a solid plan in place, the overwhelming feeling will start to go away, and you can rest more easily knowing you have a plan. You should also keep in mind that if you have gifts spread across many different cards, it will be worth your time to check out the interest rates on all your cards. You may have one card that is significantly lower than your others and you could save money by transferring off the balances of your high interest rate cards to you lower cards.

The next big step is planning for next year. Look at what your budget was for this year, and then take into account how much you went over your budget and come up with your actual holiday expense for the year. Knowing this number will help you better budget for next years season. Once you pay off this years debts, you can then start your holiday fund by trying to put away enough money to cover your holiday expenses completely without having to go into debt.

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Dec 27 2011

Who Uses Credit Monitoring?

We see people from all walks of life who enroll in our services. It really is a broad spectrum of people from victims of ID theft, to a young adult who is curious about what there credits core may be. We also get people looking to improve their scores, or people who want to protect themselves from ID theft.  Then there are people who are preparing to make a large purchase such as a home.

Victims of ID theft often are advised to enroll in our service so they can monitor their reports for a year or so to make sure that no new activity appears, and if it does they can take care of it immediately. Often times if your a victim of a ID crime the company who your data was stolen from will provide you with a limited monitoring program, but in some cases they wont, or you just want a more inclusive service.

We also have a fair amount of students who have no credit at all, and are wanting to start to build up a thick credit file. They will often enroll in the service as its a first step on the long road ahead of them. I used to think this was a bit of overkill as the chances of you having your identity stolen was low because you did not have credit cards, or other easily stolen financial information. That has changed over the years as your social security number is now used so commonly that any of the databases that store this information could have been compromised.  In addition this demographic is big video game players, and to be honest so am I. And many of the online games are monthly subscriptions, and they require a debit or credit card to play. These databases are becoming common targets for hackers, and for this reason I now recommend it as a good practice to sing up for our service.

Then you have those people who are planning to make that large purchase. They want to know exactly what their credit looks like and exactly what they will need to do in order to get the best rate possible.  By monitoring your score, can know when you get to the score that you want, and at that time you can start to shop around for the best rate, and make that purchase!

The same goes for people who want to improve their scores. You can use the tool provided with the service to know which factors are have the most effect on your score in a positive and negative manor. With this information it makes it that much easier to fix the large problems first, the ones that will have the most effect on your scores, and then start to take care of the smaller items.

I have been in this business for over ten years now, and I have never been able to see a clear pattern to the types of customers we get. Like I said we get people from all walks of life, and from every economic group.

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Dec 23 2011

Fact’s about the FACT Act

The FACT act is short for the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions act. Its a mouthful, I know, but what does it mean, and why should you care about it? Good questions, and honestly its important and I wish more people knew about it and more importantly used it!  In a nutshell the FACT act is the legislation that enables all US citizens free access to there credit reports once per year. It also put in some provisions to help prevent identity theft.

This legislation was passed in 2003, and still only a handful of people know about it and take advantage of it.  There are a few very important sections of the FACT act here are the highlights. First is the creation of Annualcreditreport.com this is the site that was created to allow access to all three of your credit reports once per year. Consumers can log in and see their reports from Tansunion, Experian, and Equifax, what you do not get is your score. This is very helpful for those consumers who do not wish to sign up for a credit monitoring service or wish to monitor their credit using free tools available to them. Everyone should take advantage of this program!

The next important section of the bill is limiting printing of up to 5 digits of  any customers card numbers on any point of sale purchases. Before this it was common to print out your entire card number along with the expiration date, which made it extremely easy to have unauthorized use of your cards. This one provision has cut down small transaction theft considerably. It is very comforting to know that we do not have hundreds if not thousands of receipts floating around with our complete card numbers on them!

The FACT act also made it possible that consumers can place fraud alerts, or military personal can place active duty alerts on there credit reports. What this does is that if you think you have been a victim of identity theft, or you are active duty being deployed overseas, you can request to have a fraud alert placed on your reports. These fraud alerts remain in place for 90 days, but you can request to extend them. What this does is make it much tougher for your identity to be stolen or used. If someone tries to open an account with your information the lender will see the alert and is required to make contact with you to verify that you are truly trying to apply for credit.  If you are a current member of our credit monitoring service you can do this from within your account. If you are not a member, than you can do this by writing a letter to the credit bureaus explaining why you are the victim of identity theft, or you are active duty military and that you wish to have a fraud alert placed in your reports.

These are some of what I feel to be the most important parts of the FACT act for consumers. There are many more parts that are equally important, but we just do not have the space to cover in a short blog post. For a complete look go here. The FACT act is a very important piece of legislation that all consumers should be aware of, and take advantage of.

 

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Dec 22 2011

Your 5 Dollar Footlong Could Cost Much More!

sandwhichAccording to this story over at Gizmodo hackers have been targeting Subway brand point of sale machines. There is a slight chance that if you have used your credit card at a Subway restaurant that you may have had your card number stolen.  The hackers have managed to put 150 Subway locations at risk.  They have gathered 80,000 people card information and managed to rack up over $3 million in fake charges!

This happened because these stores were not updating their point of sale machines according to the franchise suggested upgrade schedule. As a result the hackers were able to install code in the point of sale machines that logged the card information and then sent it to a FTP server.  The thieves were blatant enough to print out there own credit cards with false names on them!

What is so scary about this kind of attack is that it is virtually undetectable by you or me. We are so used to paying with our cards that we never think our data could be stolen so easily. Keep in mind that this is extremely rare! So while it may be better to use cash in these small amounts, I would not really worry to much if I had to use my card.

In this case it does not appear these thieves were after you ID, and they did not seem to be trying to open new accounts in your name, so even being signed up with our credit monitoring service would not be able to protect you! So what can you do? Well not much unfortunately, you just have to make sure to keep an eye on your statements every month and look for unauthorized charges that you do not recognize.

What should you do if you find an unauthorized charge? You should contact the bank as soon as possible. In addition to calling you will want to write a letter documenting all the charges that you do not agree with. The bank or card issuer will then open an investigation to the charges, and will look at certain factors such as:

They will often request a written statement from you, and depending on the dollar amount they may ask you for a police statement. Card companies are very good at detecting fraud, and they will do everything they can to make the situation as easy as possible!

 

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Dec 21 2011

Offline Personal ID Security

We spend much of our time on this blog discussing ways that our credit report monitoring program can help protect your online identity. Our service is a great way to do that, but we need to also make sure that what we are doing offline is also working to keep our ID’s safe.  Offline ID theft is a very common problem, and while it does no pose as large as a threat as your data being stolen online, it is still a risk, and one that can easily be reduced. The reason why online occurrences are more common is just the nature of the way data is stored. Most databases online store all your personal information in one place, its a one stop shop for a ID thieve. Offline it is a bit more work for a potential thief to put together all the pieces in order to steal your identity.

We went over a few tips early this week, (read the post here) but I want to dig in a bit deeper and provide some tips for securing your offline life.

1. Do not carry around an excessive amount of credit cards in your wallet.  First it would be easy to lose one and not notice. Second if your wallet does get stolen (read here on how to handle that) having a ton of credit cards is going to slow down your process of getting them canceled and changed.

2. Do not carry your social security card in your wallet unless you need it for a particular reason. I know many of us have been in the habit of carrying our SSN cards around, but really it is so much safer to just keep it at home locked up than in our wallets.

3. Consider installing a locking mailbox. Your mail is a very easy place for a thief to get a hold of a treasure trove of personal information. Another great way to keep your mail safe is to use a PO box.

4. Shred anything with personal information on it, bank statements, credit card statements, cell phone bills, doctors or insurance bills, anything that has your personal information on it! The trash is one of the most common spots to have your identity stolen.  If you have cats, you can toss the shredded documents in with your cat litter, and I can almost grantee nobody will be going through your shredded papers!

5. When using an ATM be careful to make sure nobody is near by and watching for your pin numbers. Also use a pin number that is just a random assortment of numbers. Thieves are very good at guessing or finding out pin numbers that our closely related to you, such as your birthday or anniversary.

With a few simple tips you should be able to eliminate the most common ways that your ID can be stolen offline.

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Dec 20 2011

Credit Reports Without Monitoring

We get a few calls every month about people who just want to order credit reports and not enroll in a credit monitoring service. On our site we do not provide this services as you can go to Annual Credit Report.com to get a free copy of all three of your credit reports. This is a great way to take a look at your credit report for free, and you are eligible to check you reports once per year. Is there a down side? Not really, I would say the only major downside is you do not get your credit scores, but if you are just wanting your reports to verify all the information on them, this is by far the best way to go about it.

What about all those ads you see on TV for free credit reports?  You should not be seeing them anymore, there was a lawsuit brought against companies providing free credit reports, because like most things in life they were not free. In order to get your free reports, they enrolled you into a credit monitoring service. And then you will billed every month until you canceled. This brought about a lot of unhappy customers as it rightfully should! Around a year ago there was a large crack down on any site promoting these free offers, and they are not allowed to promote free credit reports anymore. If you do happen to come across one of these offers, I would stay away from it!

You can also purchase a 3 in 1 credit report from most of the bureaus websites. Just make sure when you are there you are not enrolling in a monitoring program to get them! The going rate as of today is about $30.00 for all three reports and scores, so if they are trying to charge you between $10 and $20 you are most likely being enrolled in a monitoring program.

So you might be thinking this is an odd post on a company that is promoting credit monitoring, well yes it is! Our goal though is to have 100% customer satisfaction and if you are looking for just your personal credit report and do not want to have credit monitoring, we want to make sure you get exactly what you need, and most important to make sure you are not signing up for something that you do not need or want.

 

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Dec 19 2011

No Cost Credit Monitoring

There are just times in our lives when we just can not afford to sign up for a credit monitoring service, we understand this very well. So what can you do to keep your identity safe?

The first thing I would recommend doing is head over to Annual Credit Report.com and order a copay of your credit reports.  You can order your credit reports for free once every 12 months from this site. Annual Credit Report.com was made possible by the Fair and Accurate  Credit Transactions Act, which made it possible for consumers to get a credit report from all three bureaus once per year.

Once you have all three credit reports, take a good look at them and find anything that is inaccurate or suspicious.  For inaccurate information write a letter to each of the three credit bureaus and explain to them that the information provided on your credit report in wrong and you would like to have it removed. They are obligated by law to research the items in question and have them removed.

If you find something that looks suspicious you will want to contact the company that is reporting the suspicious activity.  For example there may be a credit card account that you have no record of. You will want to contact the card provider, and find out when it was opened, and by who. If it was not you, you will want to have it removed and ask them to provide you a letter saying the account is closed, and that you were not the one who opened it.  Once you get the letter from the card issuers you will once again want to contact all three bureaus and have this account completely wiped from your credit history.

Next thing you will want to do is to make sure you are very diligent about destroying any pieces of paper that contain your personal data such as your social security number, address, and home phone number!  These pieces of information could be used to open account up in your name.

You will also want to protect your online identity. Make sure to change your passwords at least once per month. Make sure to use a strong password, one that contains both upper and lower case letters, and one that uses numbers.

In addition to your free credit reports from Annual Credit Report.com I highly recommend you purchase your credit reports at least once per quarter, that way you can have a much better chance of spotting identity theft, and taking the steps any thefts before they become a huge mess and consume much of your precious time and resources fighting.

 

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