Freezing Your Credit

In the age of paperless transactions, identify theft is something that virtually all of us are susceptible to. If your identity is stolen, the consequences can be severe, and in some cases, can take years to recover from. One way to be proactive against fraud and defend yourself from identity theft, is to freeze your credit report with each of the three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. 

Placing a credit freeze on your credit report will stop identity thieves from being able to open new accounts, lines of credit, or make any large purchases in your name, regardless of whether or not they have your Social Security number or any other sensitive information. 

What a credit freeze means

A credit freeze is a process that shuts off access to your credit reports at your request. Without your verified consent, your delicate information cannot be acquired. This means that if someone were to attempt to apply for credit in your name, your report would come up as “frozen,” and therefore the creditor would not be able to see the information needed for the application to be approved.

You can unfreeze your credit at any time by using a PIN or a password. 

Reasons to freeze your credit

It might be a good idea to freeze your credit if you’re experiencing any of the following situations:

  • Your data has been compromised in a data breach: It happens. If you’ve been a victim of a data breach and personal information related to your identity has been leaked or made vulnerable to cyber criminals, a credit freeze can offer you some extra protection. 
  • You have reason to think you’ve been a victim of identity theft: Perhaps you’ve checked your credit recently and noticed open accounts that you don’t recognize. Maybe you’ve been getting phone calls from collections agencies requesting payments from accounts you know you didn’t open. While a credit freeze won’t be able to stop them from using accounts a thief has already opened, it can stop them from opening any more. 
  • You want to protect your child from identity theft: According to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, parents and legally guardians of children 16 years old and younger have the right to open a credit account for their child with the sole purpose of putting a freeze on it to protect them from identity theft. 

How to freeze your credit 

The process of freezing your credit is simple but does require a few steps. You will need to get in touch with each of the three major credit bureaus one by one and request a credit freeze:

  • Experian: Contact by phone at 800-349-9960 or go to their website.
  • Equifax: Contact by phone at 888-397-3742 or go to their website.
  • TransUnion: Contact by phone at 888-909-8872 or go to their website.  

The credit bureaus will ask you for your Social Security number, your date of birth and other information to verify your identity.

Once you freeze your credit, your file will be unattainable even if a thief has sensitive information such as your social security number or date of birth. If you need to use your credit file, you can unfreeze your credit report at any time. 

How to unfreeze your credit

Once you’ve frozen your credit file, it will be remain blocked until you decide that you would like to unfreeze it. You will need to unfreeze your credit report in order to open a new line of credit or make a major purchase. 

Unfreezing your credit file is simple. All you will need to do is go online to each credit bureau website and use the personal identification number (PIN) that you used to place the freeze on the account. If you don’t want to complete this task online, you can also unfreeze your credit file over the phone or through postal mail. 

When the unfreezing process is done online or by phone, it is completed within minutes of submitting the request. However, if you send your request via mail, it will take much longer. 

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to unfreeze your credit through all three of the major credit bureaus if you don’t want to. For instance, let’s say you plan to apply for credit somewhere. You can ask the creditor which credit bureau it will go through to pull up your report, and only unfreeze that one credit bureau. 

You may also have the option to unfreeze for a specific amount of time. Once the time is up, your credit file will automatically freeze again. 

Credit freeze pros and cons

There are a few reasons why you might want to freeze your credit in this day and age, but just like with anything else, there are pros and cons to credit freezing. Here is a general breakdown of the benefits and downfalls of putting a freeze on your credit report:

Pros:

  • It prevents thieves from opening new lines of credit: With a credit freeze placed on your account, no one will be able to open a new line of credit or any other type of account requiring a credit check using your personal data. Anyone trying to commit fraud will be stopped in their tracks as soon as lenders notice that the report is frozen. 
  • It won’t affect your credit score: Freezing your credit report will not damage your credit score. Additionally, if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, freezing your credit report could actually protect your credit score from being damaged due to fraud. 
  • It’s free: It used to be the case that some credit freezes would cost a fee, but that is no longer the way it works. 

Cons

  • It requires some effort: Putting a credit freeze on your credit report takes some effort. You will need to get in touch with all three credit bureaus. 
  • You will need to remember your PINs: A PIN is required to lift or freeze your credit report. If you lose it, you will need to jump through extra hoops to create a new one.

It can’t stop thieves from accessing your existing accounts: Credit freezes can only stop fraudsters from opening new accounts using your information. If you’ve already been a victim of identity theft, a credit freeze can’t block thieves from committing fraud with your current accounts. This means that thieves can still make a purchase using a credit card they stole from you.

Freezing Your Credit is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Business credit cards

If you are a small-business owner and cash is not flowing and bills are piling up, the most important thing to do is contact your card issuer.

Some banks are also providing assistance in case you can’t pay your business credit card bill.

Another coronavirus complication: Scams

As consumers wrestle with the impact of the coronavirus, scammers are trying to take advantage of the situation.

In a June 2020 public service announcement, the FBI warned that the increasing use of banking apps could open doors to exploitation.

“With city, state and local governments urging or mandating social distancing, Americans have become more willing to use mobile banking as an alternative to physically visiting branch locations. The FBI expects cyber actors to attempt to exploit new mobile banking customers using a variety of techniques, including app-based banking trojans and fake banking apps,” the PSA warns.

Scammers might also be capitalizing on health and economic uncertainties during this time. In one such scam, cybercriminals are sending emails claiming to contain updates about the coronavirus. But if a consumer clicks on the links, they are redirected to a website that steals their personal information, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).

Identity theft in 2020: What you need to know about common techniques

Bottom line

The outbreak of a disease can upset daily life in many ways, and the ripple effects go beyond our physical health. Thankfully, many card issuers are offering relief. If you’re feeling financially vulnerable, contact your credit card issuer and find out what assistance is available. And while data security may seem like a secondary consideration, it’s still important to be vigilant when conducting business or seeking information about the coronavirus online.

Source: creditcards.com

How to Start Building Credit Once You Turn 18

Good credit is crucial to unlocking many financial opportunities in life. When you have a great credit score, you can get lower interest rates on car loans, credit cards and mortgages. Some employers and landlords even check credit reports before they make a job offer or approve a resident application. While developing a solid credit history takes time, follow some of these tips on how to establish credit once you turn 18 to get started as soon as possible.

1. Understand the Basics of Credit

Make sure you understand the basics of how credit works. Your credit reports are maintained by three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. It contains data on your current and past debts, payment history, residential history and other facts. This data is supplied by lenders, creditors and businesses where you have accounts.

The information contained in your credit report determines your credit score. Higher credit scores are more attractive to lenders and creditors. The factors that influence your score include:

  • Payment history, which is whether you pay your bills on time
  • Average age of accounts, which is how long you’ve had your accounts open
  • Credit utilization ratio, which is how much of your open credit line you’re currently using
  • Account mix, which demonstrates that you can responsibly manage multiple types of accounts
  • Inquiries, which occur when you apply for new credit

As a new adult, some of these factors may not currently apply to you. However, they can all negatively or positively affect your score, depending on your behavior as a consumer. Educating yourself on credit now helps you avoid costly mistakes in the future.

2. Monitor Your Credit Report and Credit Score

Now that you understand the basics of building credit, you need to start monitoring your report and credit score. Monitoring your credit is one of the best ways to learn what will positively or negatively impact your scores. It also helps you catch inaccuracies or signs of identity theft sooner.

You can check your credit report for free annually with each major credit bureau. As you review your report, look for any negative or inaccurate information that could be screwing up your credit. You can also check your credit score, updated every 14 days, for free at Credit.com.

If you’re really serious about understanding your credit reports and scores, sign up for ExtraCredit. With Track It, you can see 28 of your FICO scores and credit reports from all three credit bureaus.

3. Sign Up for ExtraCredit

ExtraCredit does more than just show you your credit scores. Have you recently started paying rent or utilities? BuildIt will add them as new tradelines with all three credit bureaus. That means you’ll get credit for bills you’re already paying—building your credit profile each month.

Sign Up for ExtraCredit

4. Become an Authorized User

If you have a friend or family member willing to add you as an authorized user on their credit card, you can piggyback off their credit card activity to help establish your credit. Even if you don’t use the card, the account can still land on your credit report and potentially positively impact your score.

This method poses some risks to the primary cardholder and you, the authorized user. If you or the primary cardholder rack up too much debt or miss payments, that activity could end up damaging the credit of both parties.

You should also verify that the credit card company in question reports card activity to the credit file of authorized users. If they don’t, your credit won’t see any benefit.

5. Get a Starter Credit Card

Credit cards are one of the best tools around for building credit, but you might have trouble qualifying for one when you have no credit history. Luckily, there are a few credit card options for young people with little or no credit.

Unsecured Credit Cards: If you don’t have the money to make a security deposit, consider an unsecured credit card such as the Avant Credit Card. This card offers a process that presents you with a credit line based on your creditworthiness before you apply. It also has no penalty or hidden fees—a perfect fit for any young adult’s starter card. You do need at least some fair credit history to be approved, though.

Avant Credit Card

Apply Now

on Avant’s secure website

Card Details
Intro Apr:
N/A


Ongoing Apr:
25.99% (variable)


Balance Transfer:
N/A


Annual Fee:
$39


Credit Needed:
Fair

Snapshot of Card Features
  • No deposit required
  • No penalty APR
  • No hidden fees
  • Fast and easy application process
  • Help strengthen your credit history with responsible use
  • Disclosure: If you are charged interest, the charge will be no less than $1.00. Cash Advance Fee: The greater of $10 or 3% of the amount of the cash advance
  • Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC

Card Details +

Secured Credit Cards: A secured credit card requires an upfront security deposit to open. Your deposit will typically equal your initial credit limit. For example, a $500 security deposit would get you a $500 credit limit. These cards are easier to qualify for, and you can use them to make purchases, just like traditional credit cards, while also establishing some credit history.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Apply Now

on Capital Bank’s secure website

Card Details
Intro Apr:
N/A


Ongoing Apr:
17.39% (variable)


Balance Transfer:
N/A


Annual Fee:
$35


Credit Needed:
Fair-Poor-Bad-No Credit

Snapshot of Card Features
  • No credit check necessary to apply. OpenSky believes in giving an opportunity to everyone.
  • The refundable* deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your Visa card. Choose it yourself, from as low as $200.
  • Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.
  • 99% of our customers who started without a credit score earned a credit score record with the credit bureaus in as little as 6 months.
  • We have a Facebook community of people just like you; there is a forum for shared experiences, and insights from others on our Facebook Fan page. (Search “OpenSky Card” in Facebook.)
  • OpenSky provides credit tips and a dedicated credit education page on our website to support you along the way.
  • *View our Cardholder Agreement located at the bottom of the application page for details of the card

Card Details +

6. Make Payments on Time

Making timely payments is the most important thing you can do to build credit, as payment history makes up 35% of your credit score. This applies to credit cards, loans, utilities such as cell phone services and any other account that requires a monthly payment. No matter the account type, a late or missed payment that lands on your credit report can do significant damage to your credit score.

7. Maintain a Low Credit Card Balance

Your credit utilization ratio, or the amount of available credit you have tied up in debt, is another major contributor to your credit score. Most experts recommend keeping your credit card balances below 30% of the available credit limit. Ideally, you should pay your balance off in full each month to avoid interest and keep your utilization low.

8. Get a Loan

Getting a loan just to build credit is generally not a good idea, as you shouldn’t take on debt only for the sake of your credit score. But if you have a valid reason, such as needing a car or money for college, a small loan in your name can help you build credit.

As with credit cards, loans only build a good credit history if you pay them on time every month. You also want to ensure your creditor reports payments to the credit bureau. If you also have a credit card, getting a loan can help improve your account mix, which makes up around 10% of your credit score.

9. Keep It Simple for Now

The more credit cards and loans you open, the higher your chances are of falling into debt. When you’re just starting out, you should probably play it safe and manage one basic credit card and/or small loan until you get the hang of things. Trying to manage too many debts at once could get you in over your head.

Over time, you can start to add other credit cards or loans to the mix, diversifying your credit profile and adding more opportunities to build credit. And because the age of your accounts affects your credit score, just keeping accounts open will help you build credit history in the long run. When you’re starting to figure out how to build your credit, do it slowly, carefully and with a constant eye on your statements and credit reports.

The post How to Start Building Credit Once You Turn 18 appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Equifax Data Breach: Settlement Options

In the fall of 2017, Equifax experienced a massive data breach. Approximately 147 million people were victims of this data breach. Recently a federal court has purposed a class action settlement. If you are part of this data breach, you are able to file a claim today.

Was I Part of The Equifax Data Breach?

You can check if you are part of the Equifax data breach by going to Equifax’s data breach settlement website. You will need to enter your last name and last six digits of your social security number. After entering in this information on the settlement site, it will say if you were or were not a victim of the Equifax data breach.

Can I File a Claim?

You can file a claim if you if you are a victim of the Equifax data breach. To file a claim go to the Equifax data breach settlement site mentioned above to verify your eligibility. If you were a victim, the website will take you to a screen where you can file a claim.

What are My Claim Settlement Options?

Victims of the Equifax data breach, you can select from the following options:

  • A one-time cash payment up to $125 (if you already have credit monitoring)
  • Free credit monitoring service for 10 years. Which includes $1 million in identity theft insurance, identity restoration services (for seven years), and options to add more monitoring from Equifax.
  • Exclude yourself from the Equifax settlement

You can file a claim for eligible for reimbursement for time spent recovering from this incident if you were a victim of the Equifax data breach. You can also request compensation for reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses if you spent or lost money recovering from this incident.

Which Settlement Option Should I Pick?

A one-time cash payment of $125 sounds great, right? But the actual cash payment amount is expected to be much less. Equifax set aside $31 million for cash payouts. This means that if only 248,000 people select a cash payment, they will get the full $125. Don’t forget, there were 147 million affected by the Equifax data breach.

If you do the math and estimate 10% of the affected victims select the one-time cash payment, that is approximately $2.10 per claim. If 1 million people select the one-time cash payment, that is about $31 per claim.

Credit monitoring cost about $9 to $40 per month depending on the company you select and the credit-monitoring package. Estimating $15 a month for 10 years, this equals $1,800 – far more than a one-time cash payment of $125.

There has been a lot of publicity about the Equifax settlement. They are expecting a high rate of people filing claims. The FTC is warning victims not to expect the full one-time cash payment of $125.

What do you do if you have already selected the one-time cash payment but want to change to the credit monitoring option? You can contact Equifax to change your settlement option.

Changing Your Equifax Settlement Option

The Credit.com Editorial Team called the Settlement Administrator to find out. Settlement members can email Info@EquifaxBreachSettlement.com to change their settlement option. In the email to Equifax include the following information: your claim number, full name, and details about changing the settlement option. You only need to do this if you want to change your claim option.

Whichever selection you decide, make sure to do it before time runs out. You have until January 22, 2020 to file.

 Preventing Identity Theft

It may seem impossible to prevent your personal data, but there are steps you can take to be proactive. Here are some ideas:

  • Be mindful of what your share on social media. A data thief can find out a lot of information about a person on social media. Limit your exposure by limiting what you share and whom you share it with. Don’t give away your address, date of birth and mother’s maiden name on social media. Are you already doing this? It’s a good idea to check your security settings every so often.
  • Take outgoing mail to the post office or a collection box. When you mail your mortgage payment and put the flag up on your mailbox, it is an open invitation to thieves to come check your mailbox to see what they can find. You can put a stop payment on a stolen check but the thief now has your bank account and routing number, which is a much bigger issue. Go for online bill payments or dropping off at a secure location.
  • Keep your Wi-Fi secure. Make sure your home Wi-Fi is password protected. If you are using public Wi-Fi, be careful what information you enter and view while on a public browser as others could see this information.
  • Opt out of prescreened credit card offers. You can opt out for five years or permanently. If you go with the permanent option, you have to mail something in. The five-year option allows you to complete the request online. To opt out, go to optoutprescreen.com. This will also eliminate waste since you will not receive offers you are not interested in. Next time you are in the market for a new credit card, visit Credit.com’s Credit Card Marketplace to review top offers instead. It is a much easier way to compare various credit card offers.
  • Freeze your credit if you have been a victim of identity theft. Freezing your credit report makes it harder for a data thief to open an account in your name. You can place a fraud alert on your credit report by contacting the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

Final Thoughts

If you have been a victim of the Equifax data breach, or any other data breach, there are things you can to do to help prevent identity theft. Monitoring your credit report and credit scores are a very important part of preventing identity theft.

Make sure to review your personal data (bank accounts and other sensitive info), credit report and credit scores from the credit bureaus on a regular basis to help prevent identity theft. Consumers are entitled to a free credit every 12 months from AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also sign up with Credit.com to view your credit score. With Credit.com you get two credit scores every 14 days and a credit report card for free.

The post Equifax Data Breach: Settlement Options appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

How To Freeze Your Credit After The Equifax Hack

Here’s how you can freeze your credit to avoid fraudulent activity. This is especially important after a hack like the one experienced by Equifax recently.

The post How To Freeze Your Credit After The Equifax Hack appeared first on Bible Money Matters and was written by Peter Anderson. Copyright © Bible Money Matters – please visit biblemoneymatters.com for more great content.

Source: biblemoneymatters.com