Identity Theft – Yes It Can Happen To You!

EveNCPW logory year, National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) encourages people and businesses to learn more about avoiding scams and understanding consumer rights. This year, NCPW takes place March 1-7, 2015. NCPW highlights free resources from government agencies and consumer organizations to help people make smarter buying decisions and spot rip-offs. Visit www.ncpw.gov to find out about consumer education materials available from NCPW partners, and order free FTC materials.

Tri-Town Apple Is On Board
We’re getting with the program and will publish four articles under the banner of consumer protection, beginning last week with an introduction to NCPW. This article focuses on perhaps the most important topic, Identity Theft.

It Can Happen
If you think it can’t happen to you, think again. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, there were 12 million cases of identity theft in the U.S. during 2012. If you do the math, that’s one every 3 seconds!

“Consumers and institutions are now starting to act as partners—detecting and stopping fraud faster than ever before. But fraudsters are acting quicker than ever before and victimizing more consumers. Consumers must take data breach notifications more seriously and maintain vigilance to safeguard personal information, especially Social Security numbers.” Jim Van Dyke, CEO of Javelin Strategy & Research

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) views Identity Theft as a serious threat:

Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. It is a serious crime that can wreak havoc with your finances, credit history, and reputation – and it can take time, money, and patience to resolve. – FTC Taking Charge

This can happen to you!

Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance. An identity thief might even file a tax return in your name and get your refund. In some extreme cases, a thief might even give your name to the police during an arrest. – FTC

So what should we do to protect ourselves?
The FTC provides a thorough list of steps that everyone should be aware of:

  • First of all there are a number of precautions that we all can follow to lower the risk of having our identity stolen.
  • Secondly, monitor key information:
    • Review Your Credit Reports – You have the right to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the 3 nationwide credit reporting companies.
    • Read Your Account and Billing Statements.
    • Review Your Explanation of Medical Benefits.
    • Respond Quickly to Notices from the Internal Revenue Service.
  • If it happens, you want to minimize the impact and rectify the damage as quickly as possible. The FTC has published a very complete booklet, “What to Do If Your Identity Is Stolen“. In it are critical first steps you should take:
    • Place an Initial Fraud Alert
    • Order Your Credit Reports
    • Create an Identity Theft Report
  • Beyond these very important first steps are many other actions you may want to take, for example filing a FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. There are sample forms and letters to help you communicate with the many financial institutions and agencies  if your wallet or other information

Obtain a Copy
It would not be a bad idea to have a copy of this document in your possession. They are available from FTC, free. Or the Tri-Town Teachers Credit Union has a supply. Stop by and pick up a copy.

Tri-Town Teachers Federal Credit Union
61 Jesup Road
Westport, CT 06880

Be Prepared
In a nutshell, Identity Theft is very real. It is very serious. It very well can happen to you, especially if you are not taking all precautions. But even if you do take the best precautions, it may still happen to you. So be prepared, obtain a copy of the FTC booklet “What To Do I Your Identity Is Stolen“.

Being prepared will cost you nothing. Being ill-prepared could cost you really serious time, money and worry.

Was This Helpful?

We hope this post helpful. Let us know, leave a comment. Tell us what topics would most help you. We’d love to hear from you.

Thank you for reading the Tri-Town Apple.

Your Credit – It’s Important II

Why It’s Important

Good credit is necessary if you plan to use credit to make a major purchase, such as a car or a home, or want to be able to take advantage of the convenience credit can provide. The importance of good credit also extends beyond purchases, in that it may be used by potential employers and landlords as part of the selection process.  Experian (one of the three national credit reporting companies)

Most people understand that good credit is important but often they do not know how lenders determine their credit rating or how to protect their credit. This article is the second of two addressing these two important issues:

  1. First Article: How is your credit rating determined and how can you secure a good credit rating?

  2. This Article: How can you protect your credit and your identity from mistakes, fraudulent use and theft?

FTC Consumer Information Web Site:

This web site offers a number of articles with useful information for consumers, including important information about personal credit. We’ll reprint the highlights here, but we strongly encourage you to visit the site, by clicking here.

In our first article in this series of two, we discussed the importance of credit reports and scores, and how to obtain a copy of your credit report on a regular basis, (click here). But suppose you find a mistake or inaccuracy in your credit report. It happens! And it could have a significant negative effect on your credit!  What should you do?

Continue reading

Your Credit – It’s Important I

Why It’s Important

Good credit is necessary if you plan to use credit to make a major purchase, such as a car or a home, or want to be able to take advantage of the convenience credit can provide. The importance of good credit also extends beyond purchases, in that it may be used by potential employers and landlords as part of the selection process.  Experian (one of the three national credit reporting companies)

Most people understand that good credit is important but often they do not know how lenders determine their credit rating or how to protect their credit. This article is the first of two addressing these two important issues:

  1. How is your credit rating determined and how can you secure a good credit rating? (this article)

  2. How can you protect your credit and your identity from mistakes, fraudulent use and theft? (click here to view)

How is Your Credit Rating Determined?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers a free 12 page document How Credit Scores Affect the Price of Credit and Insurance that explains the credit reporting and scoring process, and how you can maintain a good rating. That will give you a good understanding of credit reporting and the key factors that go into the process.

Here are some of the important points from the document:

Continue reading

How’s Your Credit?

It almost goes without saying, good credit is vital to enjoying many of the important things in life. Our homes, our children’s higher education, automobiles and many other purchases are quite often financed based on our credit.

So it is important to have and maintain good credit.  Of course, as part of that, you need to:

  • Buy only what you can afford
  • Borrow wisely
  • Pay bills on time

But there is something else you can, and should do… Continue reading

Borrow 101

Borrowing can bring a family the home of their dreams, college diplomas from the schools of choice, a ski house in Vermont, or any of the many dreams and goals we all have. But borrowing can also be disastrous. It can take away, or make unreachable, those very same  dreams and goals.

Which path a person or family follows depends on how careful and disciplined they are about credit and its use. There are actions you can take to keep your credit sound and those dreams and goals within reach.

Tri-Town Apple will stay on point for good credit discipline and sound borrowing practices. This post, our second in the “Borrow Category” (see Important Information About Credit Reports (FTC)will cover some of the basics for sound credit management from MyMoney.gov. To view this site go here.

“Borrow

“Sometimes it’s necessary to borrow for major purchases like an education a car, a house, or maybe even to meet unexpected expenses. Your ability to get a loan generally depends on your credit history, and that depends largely on your track record at repaying what you’ve borrowed in the past and paying your bills on time.  So, be careful to keep your credit history strong.

“Actions You Can Take

  • Track your borrowing habits.
  • Pay your bills on time.
  • When you need to borrow, be sure to plan, understand and shop around for a loan with a low Annual Percentage Rate (APR).
  • Learn about credit and how to use it effectively.
  • Pay attention to your credit history, as reflected by your credit score and on your credit report.

“Hints and Tips

  • Borrowing money is a way to purchase something now and pay for it over time. But, you usually pay “interest” when you borrow money. The longer you take to pay back the money you borrowed, the more you will pay in interest.
  • It pays to shop around to get the best deal on a loan. Compare loan terms from several lenders, and it’s okay to negotiate the terms.
  • When repaying a loan, it may be better to pay more than the minimum amount due each month, so you will have to pay less in interest over the life of the loan.
  • One of your most important aids when shopping for a loan is the APR – the Annual Percentage Rate. This is the total cost, including interest charges and fees, described as a yearly rate.
  • Paying your bills on time will help increase your credit score. Even if you fell into trouble with borrowing in the past, you can get on solid footing and rebuild your credit history by making regular payments as agreed.
  • You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus. Go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call toll free 1-877-322-8228 to order the free reports. Beware of imposter sites.”

Let Us Know

Tell us if this information is helpful Or let us know what would be more useful. Simply post a comment. We really would like to hear from you.


Important Information About Credit Scores from the FTC

Consumer Information from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

How Credit Scores Affect the Price of Credit and Insurance

“Ever wonder how a lender decides whether to grant you credit? For years, creditors have been using credit scoring systems to determine if you’d be a good risk for credit cards, auto loans, and mortgages. These days, other types of businesses — including auto and homeowners insurance companies and phone companies — are using credit scores to decide whether to issue you a policy or provide you with a service and on what terms. A higher credit score is taken to mean you are less of a risk, which, in turn, means you are more likely to get credit or insurance — or pay less for it.

What is credit scoring?

“Credit scoring is a system creditors use to help determine whether to give you credit. It also may be used to help decide the terms you are offered or the rate you will pay for the loan.

“Information about you and your credit experiences, like your bill-paying history, the number and type of accounts you have, whether you pay your bills by the date they’re due, collection actions, outstanding debt, and the age of your accounts, is collected from your credit report. Using a statistical program, creditors compare this information to the loan repayment history of consumers with similar profiles. For example, a credit scoring system awards points for each factor that helps predict who is most likely to repay a debt. A total number of points — a credit score — helps predict how creditworthy you are: how likely it is that you will repay a loan and make the payments when they’re due.

Some insurance companies also use credit report information, along with other factors, to help predict your likelihood of filing an insurance claim and the amount of the claim. They may consider this information when they decide whether to grant you insurance and the amount of the premium they charge. The credit scores insurance companies use sometimes are called “insurance scores” or “credit-based insurance scores.”

Credit scores and credit reports

“Your credit report is a key part of many credit scoring systems. That’s why it is critical to make sure your credit report is accurate. Federal law gives you the right to get a free copy of your credit reports from each of the three national credit reporting companies once every 12 months.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) also gives you the right to get your credit score from the national credit reporting companies. They are allowed to charge a reasonable fee for the score. When you buy your score, you often get information on how you can improve it.

To order your free annual credit report from one or all of the national credit reporting companies, and to purchase your credit score, visit www.annualcreditreport.com, call toll-free 877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to:

Annual Credit Report Request Service

P. O. Box 105281

Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

What can you do to improve your score?

“Credit scoring systems are complex and vary among creditors or insurance companies and for different types of credit or insurance. If one factor changes, your score may change — but improvement generally depends on how that factor relates to others the system considers. Only the business using the system knows what might improve your score under the particular model they use to evaluate your application.

“Nevertheless, scoring models usually consider the following types of information in your credit report to help compute your credit score:

  • Have you paid your bills on time? You can count on payment history to be a significant factor. If your credit report indicates that you have paid bills late, had an account referred to collections, or declared bankruptcy, it is likely to affect your score negatively.
  • Are you maxed out? Many scoring systems evaluate the amount of debt you have compared to your credit limits. If the amount you owe is close to your credit limit, it’s likely to have a negative effect on your score.
  • How long have you had credit? Generally, scoring systems consider your credit track record. An insufficient credit history may affect your score negatively, but factors like timely payments and low balances can offset that.
  • Have you applied for new credit lately? Many scoring systems consider whether you have applied for credit recently by looking at “inquiries” on your credit report. If you have applied for too many new accounts recently, it could have a negative effect on your score. Every inquiry isn’t counted: for example, inquiries by creditors who are monitoring your account or looking at credit reports to make “prescreened” credit offers are not considered liabilities.
  • How many credit accounts do you have and what kinds of accounts are they? Although it is generally considered a plus to have established credit accounts, too many credit card accounts may have a negative effect on your score. In addition, many scoring systems consider the type of credit accounts you have. For example, under some scoring models, loans from finance companies may have a negative effect on your credit score.

“Scoring models may be based on more than the information in your credit report. When you are applying for a mortgage loan, for example, the system may consider the amount of your down payment, your total debt, and your income, among other things.

“Improving your score significantly is likely to take some time, but it can be done. To improve your credit score under most systems, focus on paying your bills in a timely way, paying down any outstanding balances, and staying away from new debt.”

To view the article on the FTC web site, click here.

Good Advice for Young People Just “Leaving the Nest”

Setting Out on Your Own: Money Management and Credit 101

by Colleen Tressler
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC
Consumer Information Blog
August 20, 2013

Whether you’re heading off to your freshman year of college or getting your first apartment, preparing to be out on your own can be fun and exciting. It also means taking on new financial responsibilities. The decisions you make now about how you manage your money can affect your ability to get credit, insurance, a place to live, and even a job.

The first step toward taking control of your financial situation is to do a realistic evaluation of how much money you take in and how much money you spend. Start by listing your income from all sources. Then, list your “fixed” expenses — those that are the same each month — like rent, car payments, and insurance premiums. Next, list the expenses that vary — like entertainment, recreation, and clothing.

Writing down all your expenses, even those that seem insignificant, is a helpful way to track your spending patterns, identify necessary expenses, and prioritize the rest. The goal is to make sure you can make ends meet on the basics.

When you apply for a credit card, a personal loan, or insurance, a file about you is created.This file, known as your credit report, is maintained by credit reporting companies. Your report will grow to include information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve ever been sued, or filed for bankruptcy.

Credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, landlords, insurers, employers, and other businesses with a legitimate need for it. They use the information to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a place to live.

Order a free copy of your credit report to make sure the information is accurate, complete, and up-to-date before you apply for a loan for a major purchase like a car, buy insurance, or apply for a job.

You also want a copy of your credit report to help guard against identity theft. That’s when someone uses your personal information — like your name, your Social Security number, or your credit card number — to commit fraud. Identity thieves may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. Then, when they don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate information like that could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or a job… 

To view the complete article, please click here.