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4 Steps To Protect Teens from Identity Theft

Posted on 2015-03-18 09:00:44

Forget about homeworkNo one is immune to becoming an identity theft victim—not even teenagers. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission reports a growing trend in identity theft victims under the age of 18. Teens may be targeted for identity theft because they usually have a clean credit record, and they are less likely to monitor their credit. That alone gives identity thieves a large window of opportunity. The crime may go on for years, discovered only when a young adult applies for credit or a student loan. Sadly, the identity thief may be someone related to the child. It may be a parent who is struggling financially and sees a clean slate by using his or her child’s Social Security number or personal information. Children are often reluctant to report the crime when the perpetrator is a relative—especially when it’s Mom or Dad. Another characteristic of teens that increases their vulnerability to become identity theft victims is their trusting nature. Teens are still figuring out life. One study reports that over one third of teens surveyed admit to sharing at least one username and password with someone other than their parents. This risky behavior can lead to identity theft and other crimes. Friends come and go. A friend today may be an ex-friend tomorrow.

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Teens, here are 4 steps that will help protect you from identity theft. 1. Shred. Shred. Shred. Don’t just toss documents with personal information; shred them. This includes credit card offers which contain enough information for someone else to establish credit in your name. 2. Limit sharing on social media sites. Don’t make your birth date public. Never reveal your address or phone number. You may be proud of getting your driver’s license, but don’t post a picture of it online. Assume that anything posted may fall into the hands of a stranger, and that stranger could be an identity thief. 3. Guard your Social Security number. Identity thieves have hit the jackpot when they score a Social Security number. Don’t make it easy on them. Ask “Why?” before giving your Social Security number to anyone—even schools. You may find it really isn’t needed. Also, don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet. 4. Be careful when using unsecured WiFi in public places. It may be convenient to catch up on things while enjoying a latte friends, but your information may be intercepted. Handle personal business at home with a secure network.
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5 Reasons Not To Ignore Your Credit Score

Posted on 2015-03-11 09:00:18

women shoes walking on broken glassMaybe you have no plans to make a major purchase, so you see no reason to think about your credit score. That could be a costly mistake. Here are five reasons not to ignore your credit score. 1. Lenders use credit score to determine your credit risk. You will likely be offered better credit terms, including a lower interest rate, if you have a good credit score. Over time, that means more money in your pocket rather than the lender’s. 2. Credit scores matter for more than credit. If you think your credit score doesn’t matter unless you are planning to apply for credit, think again. Credit scores are used by many entities to make yes/no decisions about you. Landlords review your credit when considering a lease agreement. Employers may look at your credit report as part of the application process, whether for a new position or a promotion. Utility companies, insurance companies and others may review your credit before offering service.

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3. Building a good credit score takes time. Your credit score is intended to measure your creditworthiness over time—not just over the last 30 days or 60 days. Increases to a credit score usually come slowly. It is credit foolishness to wait until you think you need a good credit score to work on getting one. It simply won’t happen overnight. 4. You can’t always predict when you will need a good credit score. You may be well established in life, and needing credit is just not on your radar. But sometimes life throws a curveball, and credit may be the only solution to get you out of an unexpected bind. When that happens, it’s too late to build a good score, and a low credit score can seriously hamper your access to credit or cause you to pay higher interest rates. 5. Ignorance is not bliss. Your credit score is based on the information on your credit report. The old adage, “Garbage in; garbage out” applies. Credit report errors can lower your credit score. It might be just enough to push you into a different bracket where you will pay higher interest. It could be enough to hamper your access to credit. You are the only one who will know if the information in your credit report is accurate. It only takes a few minutes to check your credit report for accuracy, but it could save you money every month.
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Credit Report Mistakes Can Pull Your Credit Score Down

Posted on 2015-03-05 08:00:46

Imagine this scene. You’ve been keeping your eyes out for a deal on a new car. You’re a savvy shopper, and you’ve finally found the one you want. It’s time to negotiate with the dealer. The negotiations don’t go as smoothly as you thought they would. You are offered a less-than-optimal rate on a car loan. How can that be?The happy woman showing the key of her new car It could be that a credit report error has caused your credit score to drop. Does that really happen? You bet it does. Credit report mistakes are more common than most people think. The Federal Trade Commission reports that 1 in 20 Americans has an error on at least one of their credit reports. Five percent have an error serious enough to affect access to credit.

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Think about the ways a credit report error can hurt you: • It can hurt your ability to get a credit card. • It can affect the interest rate you pay for loans. • It can hinder your qualifying for loans including mortgages. • It can affect your ability to rent. • It can affect your access to wireless service or utilities. • It can even affect your ability to get a job or promotion. Credit reports are dynamic summaries of your credit history. Creditors are routinely updating their information with the credit bureaus. What looks like a squeaky clean credit report today could have a mistake—or fraud--on it tomorrow. What is a consumer to do? Know what is on your credit report. Just about everyone who has used credit has a credit report, yet many people have never looked at theirs. Many others look once, then forget about it. There is too much at stake to not know what your credit report says about you. Credit monitoring offers an easy and affordable way to stay on top of your credit report. While you go about life, your credit report is monitored daily. Whenever there is a significant change that you should verify, you are alerted. If you are aware of the change, no action is necessary. If it’s a mistake or fraud, you have put time on your side for taking action to get your credit report back to a true reflection of your credit history. Don’t put off checking your credit report or credit score because you are afraid of what you will find. Knowledge is power. Maintain an accurate credit report to help you achieve your financial goals.
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Get To Know Your Credit Report

Posted on 2015-02-26 08:00:18

Happy woman with thumbs upDo you avoid your credit report like the plague because you think you won’t understand it anyway? You could be making a serious mistake. Whether you like it or not, others are using the information in your credit report to make decisions that affect your life, and it’s not just creditors. Landlords, employers, utility companies and insurance companies are among the other entities that routinely use credit reports. Get to know your credit report. The information is organized to make it easy to understand. Here are the four main categories of information on a credit report. Personal Information This information is intended to identity you and you alone. It includes your full name, your Social Security number, current and previous addresses, your date of birth and current and previous employers. Minor discrepancies in this section are not critical, but anything that could cause you to be mixed up with another individuals should be corrected.

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Credit History This is the heart of your credit report. It includes a record of your past and current obligations with creditors and lenders. Your payment history will indicate if you have been late on a payment. Your current balance on each account is usually noted along with the age of each account. You don’t want mistakes in your credit history! Inquiries Inquiries are a record of who has looked at your credit report. Hard inquiries result when you have initiated a credit application. Soft inquiries are for your information only. They have no impact on your credit score, and they are not seen by anyone else. Viewing your own credit report is a soft inquiry. Credit checks by current creditors are soft inquiries. Too many inquiries can have a negative impact on your credit score. Public Records Public records include bankruptcies, court judgments and tax liens. Most negative information must be removed after seven years, though some bankruptcies may stay on your credit report for ten years. Why Accuracy Matters The information on your credit report is used to calculate your credit score. Some creditors look no further than your credit score to make a yes/no decision about you. Mistakes on your credit report can affect those decisions or can cause you to pay a higher interest rate. Don’t be intimidated by your credit report. Dig in and check your report for accuracy. It could save you money.
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Identity Thieves Love Tax Season

Posted on 2015-02-19 08:00:52

Identity theft tax refund fraud is a growing epidemic with serious consequences. It now accounts for nearly half of all identity theft complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission. You become a victim of identity theft tax refund fraud when someone uses your personal information, such as your Social Security number, to file a fraudulent tax return in your name, claiming a tax refund. Confused-Woman Unfortunately, it’s fairly easy for anyone to file a fraudulent tax return with just a Social Security number. The IRS is in a constant battle to stay one step ahead of thieves who see tax fraud as easy money. Because it is so easy, it’s a crime that attracts drug dealers, gangs, prisoners and others who play it like a lottery. They may file 9 returns that get detected, but hit the jackpot with the 10th one. With e-filing, it’s easy to automate the process. By using bank accounts that are opened and closed with ease, it’s fairly easy to stay one step ahead of the law.

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The Consequences If an identity thief beats you to filing your tax return, your first clue may be receiving a letter from the IRS telling you that a return has already been filed. The nightmare has just begun. Your real return will have to be filed manually. You will eventually get the refund you are due, but it will take longer—much longer. It typically takes the IRS 312 days to resolve tax-related fraud cases. The nightmare may not end with your tax return. Your personal information may also be used to commit other types of identity theft such as obtaining credit in your name, taking out a mortgage, getting health insurance or a job, or even declaring bankruptcy. Your credit score can tank overnight. Precautionary Steps It is worth taking precautionary steps to reduce your risk of becoming an identity theft tax fraud victim. File early. Tax thieves know they have to file before you do. Don’t procrastinate. Bite the bullet and file your tax return early. File smart. If you mail your tax return, deliver it to a post office. Never leave a tax return in your mailbox for pickup by a mail carrier. If you file electronically, be sure to use a secured network. Don’t file from a public network such as a coffee shop. Be alert to scams. Don’t fall for fake communications from the IRS. The IRS will not email you asking for personal information.
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