“Liar Loans” Return

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When it comes to dealing with risk, America’s housing market struggles with balance. How can lenders offer affordable home mortgages for more Americans and still maintain proper safeguards?

The Great Recession was driven in part by overly risky loans that were packaged as securities and sold to investors who were unaware of the underlying risk. The resulting housing market collapse led to the Dodd-Frank regulations that regulated mortgage lending and applied credit-tightening safeguards.

Most of those safeguards are still in place, but loan offers are starting to creep back into risky territory – and investors are happy to buy up those loans looking for returns.

Dodd-Frank instituted qualifying mortgage rules – a set of lending restrictions that must be met before loans can be purchased by the mortgage loan backers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Riskier unqualified loans may still be granted, but lenders don’t receive protections associated with qualified …

Consumer Credit Inquiries Declining – What Does It Mean?

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Have We Finally Hit the Debt Wall?

According to the old saying, the two certainties in life are death and taxes. Maybe we should add debt to the list.

The New York Federal Reserve’s latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit shows that household debt rose by $869 billion in Q4 2018 to hit $13.54 trillion. That’s the 18th consecutive quarterly increase – but the trend may be nearing an end. Over the same time period, new credit extensions for auto loans and mortgages slowed and the number of new credit inquiries over the previous six months fell to the lowest level – fewer than 145 million – since the New York Fed’s database began in 2003.

Have Americans concluded that they have too much debt – and, if so, is that a good or bad omen?

Good News, Bad News

Credit inquiries are credit report requests from lenders, also known as “…

Are You Easily Fooled Online?

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You’re a pretty tech-savvy person. You know how to avoid common scams. You can spot phishing e-mails a mile away – even spear phishing e-mails tailored specifically to fool you.

Would you like to put your skills to the test?

Jigsaw offers an online quiz to test your phish-detecting acumen. The quiz, based on the results of multiple worldwide security training sessions, features eight modified examples of real-life phishing scams – including the infamous attack that tricked John Podesta into allowing Russian hackers access to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. All quiz questions are challenging and relatively subtle – there are no stereotypical Nigerian princes here. Since Jigsaw is a division of Google, you can trust that it’s legit; Google probably already knows more about you than you suspect!

You’re presented with a fictional e-mail and asked to determine whether it’s legitimate or a phishin…

Nearly 3 Of 4 Won’t Date People In Significant Debt

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Are you having trouble getting a date? Could be your rap, your looks, or your excessive debt.

According to a recent survey by Finder.com, 72% of respondents say they would re-think a relationship with a partner in significant debt. (That’s similar to the percentage in last year’s Finder.com survey, so don’t expect debt to become a desirable trend.)

“With 72% of Americans saying they’d reconsider a romantic relationship if the other person was in debt, singles with unsettled loans might want to sort out their balance sheets before hitting the dating scene,” says finder’s Consumer Advocate Jennifer McDermott.

According to the survey, “While debt is undoubtedly a turn off, not all debts are viewed as equally unappealing. For example, credit card debt is the number one …

Will New Congress Oversee Credit Bureaus More?

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After the 2017 announcement of the Equifax data breach that potentially compromised the personal information of almost 150 million consumers, you’d probably expect Congress to take significant action to prevent future breaches. To date, you’d be wrong – but that may change with a Democratic House eager to address consumer protection issues.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has authority to review credit reporting agencies (CRAs) like Equifax, including assessing their ability to handle data breaches. The Trump administration has shown little interest in regulating the credit reporting agencies (although, in fairness, Obama administration oversight didn’t raise sufficient alarm bells, either).

Legislative efforts didn’t fare any better. Shortly after the breach announcement, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) introduced the Comprehensive Consumer Credit Rep…

Replacing Your Expired Equifax Credit Monitoring

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So Long, Free Credit Monitoring

Were you one of the nearly 148 million consumers affected by the 2017 Equifax data breach? You may have taken advantage of Equifax’s free one-year offer of their TrustedID Premier service, extended to all affected consumers.

TrustedID Premier allowed consumers to lock their Equifax credit report, provided identity theft insurance, provided copies of their Equifax report and monitoring services for all three credit reporting agencies (including Experian and TransUnion), and checked the Internet for misuse of their Social Security numbers.

We use the past tense because the free service expired at the end of January. Any lock that Equifax applied as part of the service is now removed.

Unfortunately, while the service has expired, the threat has not. Identity thieves can strike years after the original br…

Almost 2 In 5 Don’t Know How Credit Is Scored

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Are credit scores a mystery to you? Do they seem like random numbers generated by bureaucrats armed with dartboards and Ouija boards?

A new survey by CompareCards.com finds that 37% of Americans have no idea how their credit score is calculated. Worse yet, another 14% wouldn’t indicate whether they knew how their credit score worked – meaning that just less than half of Americans have confidence that they properly understand credit scores.

If you don’t know how a credit score works, how can you tell whether you’re doing the right things to improve your credit standing? You can always try a tool that Americans used before the invention of the credit score – common sense. A different survey question suggests that most Americans still grasp good credit principles, even if they don’t fully understand credit scores.

When asked what the biggest factor was in determining a credit score, nearly half of respondents correctly chose how often you

IdentityTheft.gov 101

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The news seems to be filled with stories about hackers and identity theft these days, and rightly so. According to the 2018 Identity Fraud Study released by Javelin Strategy & Research, there were 16.7 million victims of identity theft in 2017, racking up a total of $17 billion in damages. Identity fraudsters successfully netted 1.3 million more victims as compared to the previous year. So, why haven’t you joined MoneyTips to protect yourself yet?

As a victim of identity theft, you can feel completely helpless and violated — not to mention aggravated at the hassles involved in restoring your identity and challenging fraudulent charges. You were already busy before the…

How To Avoid Being A Tax-Scam Victim

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To paraphrase the old adage, there are only three absolutes in life: death, taxes, and the rise of scams during tax season.

A major tax scam since 2013 involves phone calls by fictional IRS agents that demand immediate payment for alleged tax debts, threatening lawsuits or even jail time to those who refused to comply. The more sophisticated version of this includes spoofing a legitimate IRS phone number to fool caller-ID systems. The callers also have Social Security numbers and enough personal information to convince the taxpayer that the call is legitimate.

From October 2013 to March 2018, the Treasury Inspector General’s office identified 12,716 confirmed victims, who were swindled out of $63 million through this particular scam.

Other scammers use a carrot instead of a stick. Another significant scam claimed that consumers had been awarded a government grant for h…