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An Inside Look at Your Credit Report

Posted on 2015-05-13 09:00:50

Woman with cup of coffee and laptopIf you have ever used credit, chances are good that you have a credit report. Your credit report does not indicate whether or not you are a good credit risk; it presents data about your credit history for lenders (and others) to review. Let’s look inside your credit report. There are four main categories of information in your credit report: 1. Personal Information that identifies you including: • Your full name • Your Social Security number • Your current and previous addresses • Your phone number • Your date of birth • Your current and previous employers

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2. Credit History: A record of your accounts with banks, retailers, credit card issuers, utility companies and other lenders. These accounts are grouped by type of account such as mortgage, revolving credit or installment loans. The age of the account is usually noted as well as your credit payment history for each account. 3. Inquiries: A record of every time someone accesses your credit report. Hard inquiries result when you initiate a credit application and the potential creditor checks your credit report. The impact of hard inquiries on your credit score is usually not one of the more significant factors. Soft inquiries have absolutely no impact on your credit score. Viewing your own credit report is a soft inquiry. Other inquiries that you do not initiate such as an account review by an existing creditor or a promotional inquiry for the purpose of offering pre-approved credit are soft inquiries. Potential creditors do not see soft inquiries. 4. Public Records: A record of bankruptcies, court judgments and tax liens. Negative Information If you’ve made some credit mistakes, they will probably be on your credit report for a while. Federal law dictates how long negative information may remain on your credit report—generally seven years from the date of delinquency. Bankruptcies may remain for ten years and tax liens may remain seven years from the date they are paid. There is no legal way to remove accurate negative information sooner, but you should dispute inaccurate negative information with the credit bureau that is reporting the information. What Isn’t on Your Credit Report Your credit report does not include information about: • Race • Political or religious preferences • Sexual orientation • National origin • Medical history • Checking or savings accounts If it has been awhile since you took a look at your credit report, or if you have never looked at it, do it today. Only you will know if your credit report is telling the right story.

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Help Your Child Build a Good Credit Score

Posted on 2015-04-29 09:00:01

Portrait of teen girls shopping online in a bedroomUltimately, your child’s credit score is his or her responsibility. But as a parent, you can help your child get off to a good start. Getting credit can be a Catch-22. Creditors want to see your credit history. A child or young adult just starting out won’t have a credit history. Adding your child to one of your credit card accounts as an authorized user can be a good first step toward establishing a credit history and, ultimately, a credit score. Most credit card issuers will report credit card activity for all authorized users to the credit bureaus, thus helping establish a credit report for the child. An authorized user is just that—someone authorized by an account holder to use an account. The authorized user does not have to apply or qualify, but has full privileges for use of the credit card without any liability for the debt. Responsibility for the debt remains with the account holder.

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How It Works The account should show up on the credit reports of all authorized users. It is important to remember, though, that responsibility for the account remains with you, the primary cardholder. Never forget that you are responsible for all charges made by an authorized user. Know who you are trusting! Set limits up front, and if necessary, maintain control of the physical card. No Substitute for Education Don’t miss opportunities to educate your child on how credit works. It is amazing how many college students don’t have a basic understanding of finances including credit reports and credit scores and how they can affect their life for years. They need to know their credit report will be their new report card, and their credit score will be their new GPA. They need to understand that credit is not free money. If it’s not paid in full each month, interest usually accrues. Maintaining a Good Score Once your child gets started, stress the importance of maintaining a good credit score. It rarely happens by accident. Late payments—even just a single late payment--will knock a good credit score down in a hurry. And just as your child cares about what is said about him on social media sites, he should learn to care what his credit report says. Mistakes do happen, and it is ultimately his responsibility to ensure that the information on his credit report is accurate.
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6 Steps To Reduce Your Identity Footprint

Posted on 2015-04-22 10:00:52

Earth Day is April 22, a time when many focus on reducing their carbon footprint. There is another footprint that deserves your attention—your identity footprint. Your identity footprint includes all of the personal data you leave behind. It includes digital data, but also your identity paper trail.Portrait of a pretty student woman leaning on the tree trunk on foreground at summer park The reality is it doesn’t take much—just a few key pieces of information--for someone to be able to create an identity. Key pieces of information may include your Social Security number and date of birth. It makes sense to think about how you can minimize your risk of becoming an identity theft victim by reducing your identity footprint. Some things are beyond your control. Here are 6 steps you can take to control your identity footprint.

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Shred anything and everything with personal information before you throw it away—even solicitations for pre-approved credit cards. Dumpster diving continues to be a prime way for thieves to get information, yet it’s a simple risk to avoid. When in doubt, shred. Carry fewer cards. The fewer cards you carry, the less a thief will have access to if your wallet or purse is stolen. In particular, don’t carry your Social Security card. Social Security numbers are like gold to identity thieves. Pay attention to your bills. Check your accounts online between statements. The sooner you stop identity theft in its tracks, the easier it will be to reverse the damage. So take a look at your accounts mid cycle. If your statements don’t arrive on time, call the issuer. Better yet, go paperless to avoid statements going through the mail. Beware of phishers. People aren’t always who they say they are. Scammers are good at pretending to be a reputable organization such as a bank or government agency. Phishing emails usually convey a sense of urgency to verify your information. They often include a link that directs you to a clone of a legitimate site that will capture your personal information and passwords. Do an Internet search to find the legitimate site for an organization. When in doubt, make a phone call—but not to a number provided to you in an email. Don’t conduct personal business in public. Guard your privacy. You never know who is looking over your shoulder or capable of grabbing your information from an unprotected WiFi connection at a coffee shop. Never sacrifice privacy for convenience. Limit social media exposure. It’s nice to keep in touch with friends through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+, but don’t hand over pieces of your identity by posting personal information. If you wouldn’t want a stranger to see it, don’t post it. There’s a good chance your Friends list includes many casual acquaintances or even some you don’t know at all.
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Steps for Tax Identity Theft Victims

Posted on 2015-04-15 09:00:14

Tax season is just about over. Or is it? Does it end when you file your return? Is it over when you receive your tax refund? If you are one of the many who will become a tax identity theft victim this year, it may not be over for a long time, possibly in 2016! You may look back and think filing your return was a walk in the park compared to dealing with tax identify theft.woman-phone-worried Tax identity theft fraud is, unfortunately, an easy crime to commit. All it takes are a name, date of birth and Social Security numbers—all pieces of information that are fairly easy to find. Tax identity thieves are not procrastinators. They know they have to file a return before you do. They may file a return before you have even received an earnings record from your employer.

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How will you know if you have become a tax identity theft victim? If you are filing your return electronically, it may bounce if someone has already filed using your personal information. If the IRS suspects you may be an identity theft victim, they will mail (not email!) you a letter. Here are steps you should take if you may be a tax identity theft victim.
    Respond to the IRS. Be persistent even if it means a long wait on hold. If you used a tax preparer to file your return, notify the preparer unless you have reason to believe he or she may be involved with the crime. You may need to manually file your return. Complete and submit an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit (Form 14039). Contact one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion) to add a fraud alert to your file. (When a bureau is notified, it is required to notify the other two.) File an Identity Theft Affidavit with the (Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency that tracks and oversees identity theft. File a police report. Some police departments don’t want to take a report, but insist on it because it may come in handy as you continue to resolve the damage of identity theft.
A simple Google search should lead you to the forms referenced above. There is no foolproof way to avoid becoming a tax identity theft victim, but guarding your personal information—especially your Social Security number--can reduce your risk. Check your Social Security earnings report annually for incorrect data. Keep tabs on your credit report with a credit monitoring service that alerts you whenever there are significant changes to your credit report such as new credit being opened.
Improve Your Credit Score. Free Consultation. Proven Results. (877) 882-2256

Give Your Credit Report a Tune-up

Posted on 2015-04-01 09:00:58

Woman inspecting broken car engine.Your credit score is similar to the oil in your car. Your car may run when the oil is low or dirty, but it won’t run at its best, and it’s probably costing you more every time you drive it. In the same way, a neglected credit report can affect your overall credit performance and cost you more—month after month—in higher interest rates or missed credit opportunities. After all, it’s the information in your credit report that is used to calculate your credit score. And credit scores determine credit terms and more.

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Check for Accuracy First and foremost, make sure your credit report is free of errors. A lot of information is passed to the credit bureaus daily, and mistakes do happen. The reality is no one knows your information better than you do. It is your responsibility to ensure that the information on your credit report is an accurate reflection of your credit history. Unless you identify and dispute a credit report error, the credit bureaus will have no reason to suspect something is an error. Pay close attention to the account information on your credit report. This is where mistakes can really affect your credit score. Look for accounts you don’t recognize. Check for negative information that is inaccurate. Keep in mind that accurate negative information can remain on your credit report for seven years (or up to ten years for certain bankruptcies), but older negative information should be disputed and removed. If your credit report has errors, contact the credit bureau(s) that are reporting them. Keep a detailed record of your contacts. Review Your Credit Score Report Next, if your credit report includes a credit score (and not all do), look for a report that indicates factors that are negatively affecting your credit score. These are the areas to focus on for improving your credit report and, in turn, your credit score. MyFreeScoreNow includes such a report with its credit scores. Unlike a car tune-up that can usually be done in one day, a credit report tune-up takes time. It can take weeks for disputed information to be removed, and even longer to see the effect of changed credit behavior. But, a credit tune-up can reap rewards over time that can keep money in your own pocket.

Improve Your Credit Score. Free Consultation. Proven Results. (877) 882-2256