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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

 

What does the U.S. credit rating mean for me? August 11, 2011

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by Wes Moss – Certified Financial Planner & Blogger For The AJC (All Rights Reserved)

Last Friday night the Standard & Poor’s credit rating service lowered the U.S. government’s credit rating from AAA to AA+. This means there are about 18 other countries with a higher credit rating than the U.S., including France, Switzerland, Austria and the United Kingdom.

For decades the U.S. has not only been AAA-rated, it’s been considered the highest-rated of the AAA countries. Now, from a credit rating perspective, we lag behind countries like the UK and France, which have their own set of financial problems.

Here’s what all this means from a practical point of view. The U.S. has been like a household with a perfect 850 credit score. Now, because our “debt to available credit” limit is so high, our credit score has been cut. This means it may be a little tougher to borrow money, and those loans may come at higher interest rates.

What does this mean for you, the consumer?

Theoretically, it should mean higher interest rates for everything you need to finance. Because if a near-perfect borrower like the federal government, which has its own money printing press and the ability to boost revenue by raising taxes, will be charged higher interest rates, every other borrower in the world is going to see its rates jump too — from corporations to city governments to credit card users. But that’s not a certain outcome. Japan’s credit rating was lowered from AAA in 1998, and its interest rates are lower today than before the downgrade.

What about the stock market?

There are two recent examples I can point to — Japan and Canada. When Japan lost its perfect credit rating, its market was up 15 percent a year later. Canada was downgraded in1993, and its stock market was up 25 percent a year later.

What about our government?

S&P made it clear that the bickering and last-minute deal-making between the political parties in Washington was one reason for the downgrade. The other reason: spending cuts were not deep enough and revenue increases (i.e. tax hikes) were not included in the deal.

This means that the conversation about balancing the federal budget is just beginning. Both Democrats and Republicans must give up more ground in this debate. That means deeper spending reductions and changes in the tax code in the coming years. After being stripped of its AAA rating in 1993, Canada was fully restored to AAA by 2002 thanks to steep budget cuts and increases in tax revenue. The country is now considered to have the best credit in the world.

The S&P downgrade is troubling news, and financial markets today will undoubtedly be extremely volatile. It also doesn’t help that last week the Dow lost nearly 700 points. But after the initial shock, the market will at some point return to focusing on the fundamentals of what companies earn. And, based on the August earnings reports, those are hovering near an all-time high.

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.

Text To Join July 21, 2011

Posted by CredZoo - Tame Your Credit in About CredZoo.
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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

Not For Profit June 2, 2011

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 If you take a look back at our last blog, we talked about why we often use the phrase “It’s A Jungle Out There.” Sometimes it feels like wherever there is a need, there is also a person or a company looking to exploit it. (We’re not always cynical…just cautious) Would you even believe it if we told you there was a company that existed today, that could help you restore your good credit that was a member in good standing of The National Association of Credit Services Organizations and was a NON-PROFIT organization?

  Believe it.

   CredZoo is a 501C3 organization. While a 501C3 is generally thought of as a charitable organization, our mission is to help people with bad credit through our unique and effective credit restoration process. We care about our clients more than profits. Nothing is more important to CredZoo than your credit goals. CredZoo cares about getting results for our customers!

 We are so confident in our ability to help you, that we challenge you to put us to work for you. 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.

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

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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

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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.

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)

Using Credit Wisely April 14, 2011

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Part IV in our “How to Manage Debt & Credit” posts: Using Credit Wisely

To use credit intelligently, start by examining the terms of the card(s) you are currently using. Keeping track of your cards, their rates, and your current balances will help you to be aware of how you use credit cards. Increased competition in recent years has led some credit card companies to offer enticing features to attract new cardholders, including no annual fees and low interest rates for an introductory period. (And credit card companies sometimes will give their introductory rates to existing cardholders so that they won’t transfer their balances to another credit card company.)

CredZoo has written a lot on this subject, and has much to offer about credit, using credit wisely and – of course – repairing credit!