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

Posted by CredZoo - Tame Your Credit in Tips For Good Credit.
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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It’s A Jungle Out There” May 19, 2011

Posted by CredZoo - Tame Your Credit in About CredZoo.
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Have you ever wondered why CredZoo uses the line, “It’s A Jungle Out There” when referring to the world of credit and credit repair? Well do a quick search on google and you’ll find out! People with bad credit are top targets for people and organizations looking to take advantage of someone in a tight spot, with limited (reliable) options. Search for ‘loans for people with bad credit‘ and you get over 25,000,000 results; everything from ‘bad credit daddy’ to ‘snappy money’ promising instant loan processing, no credit checks and unsecured loans with the highest approval rates. Does it sound too good to be true?

    It is! Rooting around through these 25,000,000 websites, trying to find a reputable company to help you repair and restore your credit so you can get a real, reliable loan is exactly why CredZoo says: “It’s A Jungle Out There!” 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.

Debt Collection Rules Tighten May 9, 2011

Posted by CredZoo - Tame Your Credit in New Credit Information.
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By Russell Grantham

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Last month, Hattie McKinney sued a collection agency that she said had been calling her Powder Springs home for nearly a year over a $300-plus cellphone bill that she disputes.

“They kept calling me and calling me, about 20 times a day,” said McKinney. “It kept me a nervous wreck.”

Finally, the 69-year-old woman sued the Minnesota-based agency, alleging violations of a federal law that bars collection companies from using harassing calls and other bare-knuckled dunning practices.

If she wins in the federal district court in Atlanta, she could collect at least $1,000 in damages, plus legal costs.

Meanwhile, the calls have stopped. That was “the best thing,” said McKinney.

Thirty-three years after the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was penned, skirmishes between debtors and collectors are being played out more than ever across the nation.

Consumer complaints about debt collectors rose 17 percent last year to 140,036, according to the Federal Trade Commission, the agency with primary responsibility for enforcing the law. The number of grievances have tripled since 2002, and are the most common gripe the agency hears, accounting for 27 percent of all complaints.

While the federal Fair Debt Collection law isn’t intended to block firms from collecting legitimate debts, it does aim to stop abusive practices, such as using harassment, lies or intimidation to bully people into paying.

This summer, debt collectors could come under even more scrutiny as a new agency joins the Federal Trade Commission in investigating complaints of violations.

Starting July 21, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will be looking into complaints about errant bill collectors. The federal watchdog agency was created by a law enacted last year.

“The agency will have all kinds of power to set rules,” said Emory Clark, managing partner at bankruptcy law firm Clark & Washington in Atlanta. The FTC can investigate complaints, but can’t write rules to address new technology, such as cellphones, e-mail and voice mail. Those conveniences allow collectors to communicate more easily with debtors and create more potential for abuses and violations.

The new bureau will have authority not only to write new rules on how debt collectors deal with consumers, but to hear and resolve complaints, said Valerie Hayes, general counsel for ACA International, a trade group representing about 5,000 debt collectors, attorneys and investors in the debt collection business.

“The collection industry is going to have two regulators,” she said.

Struggle on both sides

The new agency will be stepping in at a time when both debt collectors and their quarry have been facing some tough years recently.

Collection calls and complaints have soared for a variety of reasons, but that hasn’t necessarily translated into bigger collections, say consumer lawyers, the FTC and players in the collection industry.

Credit card companies, hospitals, cellphone companies and other creditors have increasingly sold their delinquent debts to outside firms rather than using their in-house staffs to collect old debts.

With that, debt-collection activity rose as more companies got into the collection business. Computer software made it easier for even small firms to pursue payment of old, charged-off bills that they often bought for pennies on the dollar.

At face value, collectors bought $110 billion worth of debt in 2005 — 90 percent from credit card companies, according to ACA International. In 2007, they recovered $6 billion on such debt.

But in the wake of the recession and financial crisis of three years ago, both debt collectors and consumers have struggled, and the debt market has stagnated.

The biggest factor driving growing complaints, say some, is increased desperation of both debtors and collectors.

“A lot more people are having to confront collectors,” said Kris Skaar, with Decatur law firm Skaar & Feagle. “Plus, people are much more aware of their rights because of the media and the Internet.”

Firms are chasing people who often have lost their jobs and have little money to repay old debts, said Clark. For now, he added, “the collection business is not all that good.”

The pressure on firms may, in turn, be driving some collectors and their employees to cross the line when calling debtors, he said.

Hayes, with ACA International, disagrees. Collectors need debtors’ cooperation, she said. “It isn’t in the debt collectors’ interest to bend those rules,” she said.

What’s at stake

Meanwhile, the stakes of the battle between debtors and collectors are rising.

In March, a Marietta collections firm reached a $2.8 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, one of the commission’s largest enforcement actions ever against a debt collection agency. The firm, West Asset Management, didn’t admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement, but agreed to extra monitoring and other measures for five years. A West Asset spokesman declined additional comment.

FTC said in court filings that the firm’s debt collection practices “generated thousands of complaints” with the FTC, Better Business Bureau, state regulators and the company.

The agency said the company, which employs about 1,500 debt collectors in 13 states and overseas, made repeated, harassing phone calls, often using obscene language; falsely claimed to be a law firm; and falsely threatened debtors with lawsuits, property seizure and arrest.

The company sometimes tapped debtors’ bank accounts and credit cards without their permission and ignored its own internal program that identified employees who were violating the law, the FTC said.

West Asset Management, which provides debt collection services for hospitals, telephone companies, consumer credit firms, government agencies and other clients, must send written notices to debtors, spelling out their rights under the federal law. It also will require its employees to sign notices acknowledging their duties and potential liabilities under the law.

The firm’s parent company, Omaha-based West Corp., reported a $34.6 million profit in the first quarter but also said its net worth is negative $2.5 billion.

In a filing earlier this month to the Securities and Exchange Commission about a planned initial public stock offering, West Corp. disclosed the FTC’s enforcement action, but not the $2.8 million civil penalty.

Installment Debt April 8, 2011

Posted by CredZoo - Tame Your Credit in New Credit Information, Tips For Good Credit.
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Part II in our “How to Manage Debt & Credit” posts: What is installment Debt? Is it good or bad?

Debt comes in many forms, and most types help us in our daily lives — when used responsibly. Most people cannot buy a home without some financial help, and many cannot buy a car (especially a new one) without some sort of financing. The money borrowed to purchase large-ticket items is called installment debt: The debtor pays a portion of the total at regular intervals over a specified period of time. At the end of that time period, the loan with interest is paid off.

Installment debt allows you to purchase items at a competitive interest rate: for example, 5% to 7% for a 30-year home mortgage and 8% or 9% for a car loan. The loan is paid back on an amortizing schedule, monthly payments of a fixed amount that remain constant over the life of the loan. At first, most of the monthly payment consists of interest. In later years, principal begins to be paid down.

Installment debt is easily budgeted and the debt is eliminated on a predetermined date. Even for those who may actually have the cash to purchase the desired item, installment debt can make financial sense if you can earn a higher return (after taxes) on your investment of cash than you must pay on your installment debt.

Having an installment loan can also help an individual establish credit. One factor considered by credit reporting agencies when calculating credit scores is how many types of debt a consumer has utilized. If a person has made timely payments on both a credit card and installment debt, he will receive a higher score than if he his only obligations have been revolving credit. While it is good to be cautious before entering into any loan agreement, an installment debt may be a good option. Handled properly, it is a way to acquire a large ticket item through budgeted payments. The lower interest rate and set term can be an attractive alternative to large credit card purchases.