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

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

 

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Start Planning NOW For Holiday Spending September 9, 2011

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

Are Credit Cards Outdated? August 18, 2011

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How long will it be before you’re paying for purchases with a simple swipe or “bump” of your iPhone, or other mobile device? Experts say, not long!

The concept of credit has been around for centuries. Starting in the early 1800s, local merchants allowed trusted customers to make purchases without paying the total cost upfront. This intuitive concept allowed sellers to reach a larger base of customers who could then pay their debt over time. As the Internet emerged as a global marketplace where people can purchase goods and services without ever leaving their homes, the credit card, with its snazzy designs and black stripe on the back, has become outmoded.

Today’s savvy consumer expects a different experience, and the bottom line is the credit card wasn’t designed with the Internet in mind (and certainly not with an Internet-connected mobile device). Using a credit card to complete an online transaction is riddled with functional deficiencies. One of the most basic examples: we can all agree that it’s downright painful to have to repeatedly type in your credit card number and security code every time you go to make a purchase online, right? And from a merchant’s perspective, the cost of accepting credit cards — and the associated hidden fees — can make accepting payments online prohibitively expensive. Clearly it’s easy to see why credit-based products that were designed from the beginning for the online experience are rapidly gaining market share.

When it comes to mobile commerce the differences between credit cards and alternative payment methods are even more pronounced. Sure, a little device that allows you to take credit card transactions via a mobile phone is nice, but it’s far from revolutionary. Meanwhile, so-called alternative payment providers with their digitized, multicurrency networks are enabling consumers to transact by simply swiping a mobile device or even bumping mobile phones together. This is the notion of the “mobile wallet” starting to be realized.

The mobile device holds the key to the future of payments, for both consumers and merchants, because it blurs the lines between online and offline. Many predict it won’t be long before the credit card will be the alternative payment method and services that were designed for the online experience from the start will become the norm.

(Excerpts from an article by Bill Zielke; senior director of Merchant Services at PayPal, which recently announced the initial rollout of Mobile Express Checkout. Bill is responsible for the development and marketing of product strategies related to PayPal, and for counseling merchants with product recommendations.)

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.

Text To Join July 21, 2011

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It’s Never Been Easier To Start Restoring Your Credit

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Free Credit Score July 21, 2011

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Feds expand free credit score rules / By Janna Herron • Bankrate.com

The government’s new credit score disclosure rules mean more consumers will get a free peek at their credit scores starting July 21, 2011.

Under final rules issued by the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Reserve Board to reflect the requirements of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, creditors must disclose the credit score used and additional information related to the score if the consumer receives less-than-favorable loan terms as an applicant or existing customer. Consumers who are denied credit because of their score also receive the score and the additional information.

In most cases, terms refer to the annual percentage rate, or APR, says Rebecca Kuehn, assistant director in the Federal Trade Commission’s division of privacy and identity protection. If there is no APR, the next most significant term affected by the credit score applies, she says.

So what can consumers expect to see in the credit score disclosure? Besides the score, it will include the range of possible credit scores under the model, four key factors that hurt the score — the number of inquiries can be added as a fifth factor — the date the score was created and the reporting agency that provided it.

“In a world where credit requirements are tightening and more people are likely to be denied, the credit score disclosure will have a bigger impact for consumers,” Kuehn says.

Expansion of existing rules

Since Jan. 1, 2011, creditors have been required to provide a more general risk-based pricing notice to consumers who were extended credit on worse terms than other consumers, or a credit score disclosure notice to every applicant. Creditors supplied an adverse action notice if consumers were denied credit or experienced unfavorable changes to an existing account. Neither the risk-based pricing nor adverse action notice included a credit score. Only the credit score disclosure contained the actual score.

“The credit score is what people are most interested in,” says Nessa Feddis, vice president and senior counsel for regulatory compliance at the American Bankers Association.

Feddis points out that many lenders already send out credit scores and disclosures to every consumer to comply with the old risk-based pricing rules. It was easier (and cheaper) than parsing out who should receive a notice.

The scores could cause confusion among consumers since there are many scoring models available, and the credit reporting agencies often don’t have access to the models, says Maxine Sweet, vice president of public education at Experian. She recommends that consumers focus on where they fall in the range of risk rather than on the number.

“We worry consumers will be confused and frustrated by that because they will have expectations that we will know specifically about their score,” Sweet says.

Still, it’s a starting point.

“It will prompt consumers to get a copy of their credit report, address any errors or learn how their own financial behaviors affect their ability to get credit and the price they pay for it,” Kuehn says.

When to expect a free credit score

Click here to see a chart showing you when to expect a credit score disclosure

What Is The National Association of Credit Services Organizations? March 9, 2011

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First, you can call it NACSO for short. You may have heard of this organization recently in the news as NACSO officials recently met with members of the US House Financial Services Committee. It was reported that at the meeting representatives on both sides discussed the importance of accurate credit reports and how it relates to access to affordable consumer credit.  “Removing inaccuracies on credit reports and improving scores is critical to consumers often achieving the American Dream,” said NACSO Board Member Doug Parker and CEO of RMCN. “It was refreshing to hear from Congressmen and Senators who appreciate the role of the industry and how we benefit consumers.”

On it’s website, NACSO explains that the “National Association of Credit Services Organizations advocates industry standards and ethical business practices for the credit repair industry. Founded in 2007, NACSO services to streamline the industry through our Standards of Excellence seal. NACSO members promote compliance throughout the industry on national levels.

National Association of Credit Services Organizations’ members go through a certification enrollment process to aid in the prevention of fraudulent activity throughout the credit services industry. NACSO’s Standards of Excellence goes further than the Credit Repair Organizations Act and touches on items essential to the honest growth of this industry.”

CredZoo is proud to be a member of the National Association of Credit Services Organizations!

The NACSO Standards of Excellence is an honor – and not every company is eligible.  To read more about the Standards of Excellence requirements, click here. To learn more about how CredZoo applies these standards to helping our clients, click here.