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Getting A Plan For Getting Out Of Debt September 29, 2011

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Once your credit has been damaged, it takes a plan of action to get it back on track again. Two important steps: 1. Enlisting the help of a professional NACSO Certified credit restoration service like CredZoo and 2. Get a plan for paying down your personal debt. So, here’s some help with both! First, contact CredZoo for your FREE Credit Consultation If you’re serious about discussing ways you can improve your credit score, we’re here to help. Our credit specialists are experienced, friendly, and will help you determine the best course of action to achieve your goals — all at no obligation or cost to you. Call us for your free consultation at 888-881-5333.

Second, order your debts from highest interest rate to lowest. You may find credit cards at the top of the list. It’s typical to see interest rates from 10% to 20% or more. Credit cards offered by stores often have the highest interest rates, so you might find these at the very top. Watch out for promotional rates ending, which they may do on the date promised when you enrolled, or earlier. Order your list from the highest interest rate (after tax) to the lowest. Pay the minimum to all debts every month. If you’re writing down your list, or using a spreadsheet like Excel, add a column next to each debt to list its minimum monthly payment. This is the amount you will pay towards each debt, except for the one account listed at the top of the list. To your debt with the highest interest, send all extra available cash.

Since it’s unlikely that you can earn more in savings than you can “earn” (reclaim) by paying off your debt, all your unused income after paying expenses (necessary and discretionary as you see fit) should be dedicated towards the debt account with the highest interest rate. Sounds simple, right? But sticking to it can be tricky. Make sure to repeat this each month – and keep yourself motivated to stay on the right track. Here’s a little interactive tool to calculate when you’ll be debt free: Getting Out Of Debt / Debt Reduction Calculator

 

Start Planning NOW For Holiday Spending September 9, 2011

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It sounds crazy, right? Starting in August or September to plan for things you won’t buy for months? But these days with pennies being pinched as tight as they are, planning ahead is the best thing you can do! Listen to financial expert Mike Brescione and get some expert advice to help you prepare for the most wonderful, and expensive, time of the year!

Click on this link for the video:
http://www.ksee24.com/v/?i=128243983

Quick Tip: Co-signed Contracts September 4, 2011

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When you agree to be a cosigner for someone else’s debt, you are guaranteeing to pay the debt if the primary borrower fails to pay the debt.  Think carefully whenever you cosign a contract because you may have to pay the full amount of the debt if the primary borrower does not pay even if they go through bankruptcy.  Additional late fees, collection costs, repossession fees are also guaranteed by you when you cosign.

   Example: You cosign a car loan with your child because they do not have the credit score needed to get the loan. A year down the road, the car is repossessed and there is a collection company calling you now for the remaining balance of the car. This is the first you will probably hear about the situation. You now have a repossession and a collection reporting and your scores have dropped 100 points. As a cosigner you are responsible for all balances and charges pertaining to that car loan.

Stay tuned for more great credit tips!

Brought to you by, our friend, Joe Farro, certified mortgage planner at Premier Capital Mortgage

Protect Yourself, LLC’s “Credit Card Skimming, The Facts You Don’t Know” August 2, 2011

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Written by Michael Gier- http://dailyblogma.com/featured/credit-card-skimming-facts-dont/


You may say that you would never hand your credit card over to a stranger and let them walk away but do you realize that every time you hand your credit card over to your waiter or waitress you’re doing just that.  There’s implied safety because you’re at a legitimate restaurant but you need to realize that your server very well may be a crook.

The same thing applies to anyone you hand your credit card to, a cab driver, a department store employee, a bartender, anyone.

You’ve probably heard about skimming but I’m writing about it because the problem is getting worse and there’s probably a lot on the subject that you don’t know that could create opportunities for thieves.

Skimming is when someone steals the credit card information while you are making a legitimate transaction. It is typically an “inside job” by a dishonest employee of a legitimate merchant. The thief uses a small electronic device, called a skimmer, to swipe and store hundreds of credit card numbers.

Once they download the information onto their computer, they can sell the information on black-market forums; they can purchase things online, or even create new credit cards with your information using blank credit card stock and a credit card encoder.

The crook may have the skimmer attached to the belt around their waist, or lay it next to the cash register and then swipe your card twice, once thru the skimmer and once thru the stores computer system.

Restaurants are high risk because you hand your credit card over to your server and let them walk away with it.  The skimming device is very small and fits in the palm of their hand, or it can be in their sock, or even their apron.  It’s quick and easy for the server to skim your card and collect the data needed.  If they’re working with a partner, they can even skim your card, have it duplicated, and start using the card to make purchases all before you’ve even left the restaurant.

When you pay with a card in Europe, they use pay at the table transaction devices where they bring the apparatus to your table so that your card is never out of your site.  For our safety, American restaurants need to start doing the same thing.  The portable devices are available, we just need them to start using them.

You may think that using an ATM would be safe but, ATM and debit-card fraud is the top area of concern for banks all over the world.  Privately owned ATM’s are the highest risk because a skimming device can easily be added inside the ATM where you can’t see it.  Or if the ATM is in an obscure place it can be easily tampered with.  But even your bank ATM is a risk because crooks add fake card readers, or skimmers, over the real card-entry slot.  When you put your card in the slot it first goes through the skimmer, where the information is collected.  Then they either use a pinhole camera or they attach a keypad overlay to record your PIN number.  To protect yourself, don’t use ATMs.  However, if have to use an ATM then be sure to use your banks ATM machine, check to be sure that a fake card reader or keypad overlay hasn’t been attached, and cover the keypad as you enter your PIN.

Gas pumps are notorious for skimming because they use a universal key allowing thieves to insert a skimming device inside the pump where it can’t be seen.  It’s a big problem everywhere but in a Northern Florida county and also in West Covina, California local law-enforcement officials suggested consumers use only cash to pay for gas after skimming attacks at gas stations surged.  To protect yourself, pay with cash.  If you have to use a card then be sure it’s a credit card and not your debit card.

The national craft store chain “Michael’s” was victim to a recent debit-card skimming scheme where thieves managed to hack the debit-processing equipment at 80 locations in 20 states.  They were able to instantly duplicate customers’ cards and begin making cash withdrawals.  The chain won’t give details on how it happened but they replaced all of their debit-processing equipment so it appears that the skimming device was added to the inside of the equipment where it wasn’t detectable.

Credit and debit card skimming is getting much worse here in the United States.  Currently, you have a one-in-five chance of being a victim, and this trend is continuing up because there is a migration of fraud from Europe here to the US.

Most countries have converted, or they’re in the process of converting, to using smart cards.  They don’t use magnetic-stripe technology on the back of the cards anymore like we do.  Instead, they use a card that relies on an embedded micro-chip for the storage of data.

Now that the cards in Europe are protected, criminals are increasingly targeting U.S. cardholders.  Although all types of cards are at risk, crooks more often target debit card holders.

Credit-card thieves use your card to purchase merchandise and then resell that merchandise so they can get cash.  However, debit card thieves get cash without the hassle of buying and selling merchandise.  So you can see why that’s more appealing.

By choice and sometimes by necessity, American consumers are increasingly relying on debit rather than credit cards.  As they use their debit cards and thieves continue to target debit card users, those consumers have a very high chance of becoming a victim.

When someone steals and uses your credit card, charges are made but no money comes out of your account.  When you get the statement you can call the credit card company and report the misuse and dispute the charges.  When you use a debit card, the money is immediately taken from your checking account and if you become a victim it can take as long as 30 days, and sometimes even longer for that money to get returned to you.  If you have no other money source, this can cause financial hardships and havoc in your life.

Here’s what you can do to protect yourself:

The best thing you can do is always pay with cash.  This alleviates all risk.  The next option would be to use your credit card because you can check your statement each month and dispute charges you haven’t made.  NEVER pay using your debit card.  If you do, thieves can easily clean out your account because the money is taken out right away.

If you must use a debit card, then create a checking account just for debit card use and then have the majority of your money in a different checking or savings account.  Just realize that any money that you have in that debit card account is at risk so only add what you are able to live without for a while if it is stolen.

Then when you use that debit card, always choose the screen prompt that identifies it as a credit card so that you do not have to type in your PIN.  The purchase amount will still be immediately deducted from your bank account, but it will be processed through a credit-card network, which will give you greater protection from liability if fraud does occur.

If for some reason you need to use you PIN, always cover the keypad with your other hand and your body so that no one, including small cameras, can get your PIN.

It’s a good idea to go online and check your bank and credit card transactions weekly, however, if you won’t do that then be sure that you at least check your statements once each month to spot and report any unauthorized credit or debit transactions as quickly as possible.

If your card is lost or stolen, you’ll usually get most of your money back, but only if you report it right away.  That’s why it’s important to monitor your credit card and bank accounts so that you’ll notice the problem and be able to report it right away.

If you’re going to give your card to anyone, be sure to keep an eye on what they do with it.

At restaurants, if you’re paying with a debit card and they need to take the card away from you, then go with them so that you can keep an eye on it.

Last, talk to restaurant owners and managers and encourage them to use pay at the table transaction devices where they bring the apparatus to you so that your card is never out of site.

Copyright © 2011 / Protect Yourself, LLC
Credit Card Skimming, The Facts You Don’t Know

Michael Gier

Michael Gier is a fraud prevention expert and the host of Protect Yourself TV, an internet TV show educating people on the day to day activities that put them at risk: http://www.ProtectYourself.tv. Michael Gier is a professional public speaker available for speaking events, the co-author of “Keeping A Lock On Your Identity – How To Keep What Is Rightfully Yours,” and is available to the media for television, radio, and newspaper interviews.

Every Credit Score Is Not Created The Same July 28, 2011

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By Sandra Block, USA TODAY

If you spend any time on the Internet, you’ve probably seen ads for “free” credit scores. They usually appear alongside ads promising to make your belly fat disappear.

There are two problems with these promotions. First, you usually have to sign up for credit monitoring, identity theft protection or some other service to get your credit score. These products cost anywhere from $15 to $18 a month.

But even more troubling, these scores could give you a distorted view of your credit standing, according to a report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That’s because these credit scores usually aren’t the same scores lenders use when they consider your application for a loan, the CFPB said. Credit scores marketed to consumers who order their credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com could also mislead consumers, the report said.

While consumers are often reminded of the importance of a good credit score, there are lots of different credit scores circulating in the marketplace. Some credit scores sold to consumers by the big three credit bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian — are “educational” scores that aren’t used by lenders, the CFPB says. The score you buy may be based on different information than the one used to consider your application for a car loan or home mortgage. Another possibility: The information used to calculate your score could change between the time you buy a score and the time you apply for a loan.

The discrepancy isn’t a problem for consumers with stellar credit, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for SmartCredit.com. “If you’ve got fantastic credit, you’re going to have a fantastic score regardless of what score is being used,” he says. Similarly, if your score is abysmal, there’s not going to be much difference between the score you buy and the one lenders see.

Most consumers, though, fall between those two extremes, Ulzheimer says. Here’s how differences between the score you have and the one your lenders use could cost you money:

•If the score leads you to believe your credit is worse than it is, you could end up settling for higher interest rates than you’re eligible for, or decide not to apply for credit at all.

•If the score causes you to feel overconfident about your credit, you could waste time and money applying for loans that won’t be approved. You could even end up in worse shape, because when you apply for a loan, inquiries from creditors show up on your credit report. Multiple inquiries could dent your score.

Knowing the score

Fortunately, starting this month, millions of consumers will get a look at the credit scores lenders use. A provision of the financial reform bill that took effect Thursday requires lenders to provide you with a free copy of your credit score whenever they turn you down for a loan or approve a loan with a higher interest rate than the one offered to their best customers.

Lenders must give you the score used to make a determination on your loan, not a generic or educational version. They’re also required to explain the factors that affected your score and show where it falls on the range of possible credit scores.

This is useful information, but it won’t help consumers who want to know where they stand before they apply for a loan. How to get a more accurate idea of what your lenders will see:

•Order your free credit reports. While scores differ, they’re all based on information from your credit reports. So at the very least you should check your credit reports to make sure the information in them is accurate.

You can get an annual copy of each of your credit reports from the three credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Information on your credit report can affect everything from your car insurance premiums to whether you get a job. Only 38% of consumers have obtained a copy of their credit report, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

•If you decide to buy a score, buy a FICO score. There are lots of credit scores out there, but the FICO score is the one the vast majority of lenders use. You can purchase a FICO score based on your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports for $19.95 each at MyFICO.com.

FICO scores based on Experian credit reports are not available to consumers.

•Use free scores to give you a general idea of where you stand. Websites Credit Karma, Quizzle, Credit Sesame and Credit.com provide free, no-obligation credit profiles.

This isn’t the same as a FICO score, but you’ll get a general idea of whether you’re an excellent, average or poor credit risk.

5 Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft While On Vacation June 8, 2011

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Contributed By: Kai Todd in: Identity Theft

The threat of identity theft never goes away — even on vacation. This year while taking time to relax, remember to follow these identity theft tips to avoid an unpleasant surprise when you get back home.

Tip #1 — Stop Your Mail

Thieves love your mail. Finding mailboxes stuffed while homeowners are away vacationing is like a dream come true for identity thieves. With the information found in your mailbox from everything from bills to credit card offers, thieves can piece together enough info about you to steal your identity.

Your first step to avoid identity theft while you’re on vacation is to have a neighbor pick up your mail or put a ‘stop’ on it at your post office.

Tip #2 — Beware of WiFi Hotspots

Most people take along a laptop while on vacation either to spend some leisurely time surfing the net or to keep in touch with family while they’re away from home. But before you go online, you need to be aware that most WiFi hotspots are unsecured and unencrypted. This means that others can see what you’re doing online. Go online only if you’re sure your connection is protected.

Tip #3 — Choose Your ATMs Carefully

Vacationers are carefree and having fun — the way they should be. Thieves know this and take the opportunity to steal your money or identity while you’re distracted. One of the most common places they do this is at ATMs.

You’re distracted. The kids see something fun they want to do. You run to the nearest ATM to get some money. This convenient ATMs are where thieves plant skimmers that can steal your information in a matter of seconds.

To avoid this from happening, go to ATMs at banks or credit unions. These ATMs are monitored and safer than those found in shopping malls or convenience stores.

Tip #4 — Take Stock of Your Wallet

In the event that you lose your wallet or purse or is stolen, the first thing a thief is going to go for is your personal information. Before you leave home make a copy of everything you keep in your purse or wallet: credit cards, social security card, driver’s license, insurance card, etc.

This way, if you do lose your information, you know exactly what you’ve lost and can cancel all cards immediately.

Remember it’s never smart to carry your social security card in your wallet. Leave it locked up at home. If you’re traveling with a spouse, it’s best if you each have a credit card. If one card is disabled or damaged, you’ll still have access to credit.

Tip #5 — Don’t Be to Sociable

Everybody is on some social network or another these days. You might be excited about leaving for vacation, but don’t post it on Facebook, MySpace or any other networking site. Thieves troll these areas to see when people are away from home and possibly break into their home while they’re away.

Vacationing should be a fun time — not a time spent worrying about theft. By following these tips, you’ll be able to relax knowing you’ve done your best to prevent identity theft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The WORST Credit Cards May 12, 2011

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 To identify the world’s worst credit cards, MSN Money writer Liz Pulliam Weston consulted with three of the countries top experts: Curtis Arnold of CardRatings.com, Justin McHenry of Index Credit Cards and Bill Hardekopf of LowCards.com

Their top nominations for the the WORST credit cards are….drumroll please….

  • Macy’s Card

Cards offered by retailers and specialty stores are usually a bad deal, but Macy’s still manages to stand out.

“Almost without fail, (retail) cards charge exorbitant interest rates. The worst offender I know of is the Macy’s credit card, with its 23.99% interest rate,” McHenry said, “but cards from J.C. Penney, American Eagle Outfitters, Gap, Brooks Brothers, J. Crew and Dillard’s all come in at rates over 20%.”

Many people apply for retail cards to get a discount on their purchases, typically 10% to 20% off. But you can often get the same benefits and a better overall deal by applying for a store card that’s affiliated with a major credit card brand.

“If you really want a store credit card, try to get a store card associated with Visa, MasterCard or American Express — those cards generally have interest rates lower than the store-only credit cards,” McHenry said. “For example, I just got a Banana Republic Visa with an interest rate of 14.24%. Compare that to Banana Republic’s store-only card, which charges a rate of 21.9%.”

  • Money Return Platinum Plus Visa from Bank of America

If you pay your balance in full, cards that offer cash rebates are usually a terrific deal… Not this one.

Oh, the terms look sweet at first: no annual fee, 0% for six months on balance transfers and a whopping 10% cash rebate.

You get the 10% cash back, however, only if you carry a balance. And the annual percentage rate for carrying a balance ranges from 9.99% to 19.99%.

“So you pay up to almost a 20% APR to earn (back) only 10% of your interest that you pay out of your pocket,” said Arnold, of CardRatings.com. “Doesn’t take a math genius to figure out that this is a lose-lose proposition.”

You can read more of Liz’s findings on her money basics blog, here!

Why Check Your Credit Report? And How? May 4, 2011

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Your credit report contains information about where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or arrested, or have filed for bankruptcy. Credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of the nation’s credit reporting companies. Some financial advisers and consumer advocates, like CredZoo, suggest that you review your credit report periodically. Why?

* Because the information it contains affects whether you can get a loan — and how much you will have to pay to borrow money.

* To make sure the information is accurate, complete, and up-to-date before you apply for a loan for a major purchase like a house or car, buy insurance, or apply for a job.

* 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 even a job.

How to Order Your Free Report

The three nationwide credit reporting companies have set up one website, toll-free telephone number, and mailing address through which you can order your free annual report. To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, 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. You can use the form in this brochure, or you can print it from ftc.gov/credit. Do not contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through annualcreditreport.com, 1-877-322-8228, and Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can order from only one or two. The law allows you to order one free copy from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies every 12 months.

You need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. If you have moved in the last two years, you may have to provide your previous address. To maintain the security of your file, each nationwide credit reporting company may ask you for some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. Each company may ask you for different information because the information each has in your file may come from different sources.

Obtaining your free credit reports for CredZoo professionals to review is the first step to improving your credit score! You begin by forwarding copies of your credit reports to us from all three of the major credit bureaus. Keep in mind that a recent law which aids in resolving inaccuracies of credit reports, forces the credit bureaus to correspond only with you, not your credit repair firm. Learn more about CredZoo’s credit restoration services right now by clicking here!

(Official Information Courtesy Of The Federal Trade Commission)

The Role Of Debt April 25, 2011

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The final installment – Part VI in our “How to Manage Debt & Credit” posts: The Role Of Debt

Today, carrying installment debt is almost a fact of life. Mortgages, car loans, or small-business loans (to name a few) are part of almost everyone’s life. On the other hand, carrying credit card debt is usually not a good idea. At interest rates of 16% and up, it’s hard to justify keeping savings that could pay off that 18% department-store credit card in the bank at 2%.

Debt and credit play increasingly important roles in our lives. As the aging Baby Boomers get closer to their peak earning years, many are realizing the need to reduce debt and increase savings. Even though analyzing your spending habits and creating a budget to address your debt may seem a little overwhelming, the simplicity of the philosophy of the Depression era still stands: Never spend more than you earn. Once you have come to grips with this basic fact, managing your debt will become far easier and more rewarding.

Summary

  • Installment debt means the loan is paid off in a specified period of time by making predetermined payments periodically.
  • Revolving credit is a line of credit that is instantly available through use of a credit card (and sometimes a check).
  • As you pay down your debt in a revolving line of credit, the minimum payment is also reduced, thus extending your payoff period and, consequently, the interest you pay.
  • Spending more than you earn in any given period is a dangerous practice at best, but doing it over an extended period of time can be financial suicide.
Thanks to Yahoo! Finance

Eliminating Credit Card Debt April 19, 2011

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Part V in our “How to Manage Debt & Credit” posts: Eliminating Credit Card Debt

If you think you may have too much credit card debt, begin to address it by honestly evaluating your spending habits. Examine your existing expenses to analyze how your money is spent. You will most likely be able to identify the problem areas where you are more likely to spend too much or too readily with credit cards. Then, based on your current spending practices, create a realistic budget to pay off your credit card debt in the shortest time possible while not adding any more debt to it. For assistance, you may want to turn to your financial advisor, who can help you to allocate your resources wisely to address your credit card debt.

Here are a few simple steps to help you make a plan to eliminate credit card debt:

  1. First, list each of your credit cards. You’ll want to include the outstanding balance, interest rate, and minimum payment. This information can easily be found on your last monthly statement.
  2. Order the cards on the list so that the credit card with the highest interest rate is at the top, and the lowest is at the bottom.
  3. Total the minimum payments.
  4. The total monthly minimum is your absolute lowest monthly payment, but remember, we want to pay more than the minimum in order to repay the debt quickly. So, take a look at your budget and see how much extra you can come up with each month in addition to the minimum. Whether it’s an extra $20 a month or $100, every little bit helps.
  5. As your payments come due, pay the minimum on each card except for the one at the top of your list. Remember, that one has the highest interest rate and it costing you the most money by maintaining a balance. So whatever additional money you budgeted in the previous step, apply that to that card.
  6. Continue this process until the first card is paid off. When that card is paid off, continue with the minimum payments on the other cards, but now take the amount you were paying on the first card in addition to the minimum payment and apply it to the second card on your list.
  7. Repeat this process until all cards are paid off.