Protecting Yourself Against Fraud And Theft Beyond Credit Freezes

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Credit freezes are one of the strongest actions you can take to prevent damage from identity theft.

When you freeze your credit, lenders can’t access your credit report to assess the risk of lending you money. Even if they have your personal information, thieves can’t open new accounts in your name. You can’t, either – but you can thaw your account and re-freeze it once you’re finished with new credit applications.

Unfortunately, a credit freeze doesn’t cover all potential sources of fraud. Credit freezes don’t affect existing accounts. You must take separate steps to protect them.

To exploit existing accounts, thieves must have enough information to access them – such as log-ins and passwords. Start by assuming that your data has been breached and that you’re on the defensive.

Check all bank and credit card statements for any fraudulent charges and review a …

Is Your Credit Score As High As Your Peers’?

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You may think you have an average credit score – but do you really? How does your credit score compare to the national average? How about within your age group? Thanks to new information from FICO, you can see where you stand.

The average FICO score reached an all-time high of 704 this year– right in the middle of the good credit range (670-739) according to the credit reporting agency Experian. However, the average clearly shifts upward with age. The youngest age group (ages 18-29) has an average credit score of 659, while the oldest age group (age sixty and older) has an average credit score of 747.

The other age groups follow the same credit score pattern. The 30-39 age group averages 677, the 40-49 age group averages 690, and the 50-59 age group averages 713.

Why would credit scores increase with age?

Credit scores are based on risk assessment. The …

91% Of Us Have Taken Steps To Protect Against Identity Theft

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In September 2017, America learned about the massive data breach at the credit reporting agency Equifax that affected approximately 148 million consumers – one of the largest breaches ever. Identity thieves suddenly acquired a new batch of Social Security numbers, names, addresses, phone numbers, and other personal information.

Consumers were advised to take steps immediately to protect themselves against identity theft. Did they heed that advice? A new survey from CompareCards.com shows that the vast majority of Americans (91%) took at least one protective step against identity theft while the average American had taken at least three steps.

The most cited protective steps were reviewing online bank and credit card statements more often (65%), checking credit scores (51%), and setting up alerts to notify users when charges were made to their accounts (50%).

Video: Why Seniors Should Care About Their Credit Scores

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Do you know an older American who is struggling with credit? Or doesn’t have any? In our exclusive video above, Nav Education Director Gerri Detweiler explains why a good credit score is important even in retirement.

You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes by joining MoneyTips.

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Credit Checks And Jobs

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Finding a job can be a stressful and difficult task – and if you have poor credit, you may have an even harder time finding a job. A 2016 CareerBuilder study found that almost one-third of employers run credit checks on their potential hires, on the assumption that people with good credit are more likely to be productive employees.

That assumption may or may not be true – but, in most states, an employer is able to use your credit as part of the hiring evaluation process. The District of Columbia and eleven states currently limit the gathering or use of credit history in making employment decisions: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Aside from these states and a few cities in other states, including New York City, NY, and Philadelphia, PA, your credit history is fair game.

When credit is considered in the hiring process, the unemployed with low credit scores can fall into a “poverty t…

How Medical Debt Affects Your Credit

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The Crushing Effects Of Medical Debt

How pervasive is America’s medical debt problem? According to 2017 data from the credit bureau Experian, unpaid medical debt in America topped $127 billion. New data from Consumer Reports shows that almost 30% of insured Americans had unpaid medical debt turned over to collection agencies in the past two years. A 2013 analysis by NerdWallet Health found that unpaid medical bills were the number one cause of bankruptcies, surpassing unpaid mortgages or credit card debts.

Even if you aren’t driven into bankruptcy, unpaid medical debt will eventually show up on your credit report – resulting in a lower credit score that further degrades your financial health. The Consumer Reports survey found that nearly one in five Americans has suffered a credit score drop related to unpaid medical bills. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes by

Credit Freeze Vs. Credit Locks

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Thanks to large data breaches in recent years, both credit freezes and credit locks are gaining in popularity. What’s the difference between these two important identity protection tools, and which one is the best for you?

Both tools stop lenders from accessing your credit information – and lenders won’t extend credit if they can’t assess the risk that you won’t pay them back. In both cases, you can remove the tool to make legitimate credit applications and reapply the tool when you’re done. You have to apply either tool with each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to receive full protection.

However, there are a few significant differences between credit freezes and locks.

Credit bureaus are required by federal law to offer credit freezes. Each freeze and thaw at each credit bureau used to have a fee set by individual state laws – but as of September 21, all credit freezes are

More Than 1 In 10 Believe They Will Die In Debt

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We all incur debt during our lives, but will we ever become debt-free? A significant number of people say no. According to a new survey by Northwestern Mutual, 13% of Americans expect to be in debt until they die.

The Depths of Debt section of Northwestern Mutual’s Planning and Progress Study 2018 contains many other sobering debt statistics. The average debt among debt holders rose to $38,000 in 2018 – even though over half of respondents called debt reduction their top financial priority and approximately 20% of respondents allocate 50% to 100% of their income toward reducing debt.

It’s surprising that more people don’t expect to die with debt. Only 23% of survey respondents had no debt at all, down from 27% in the previous year.

Compare that with the 13% who expect to die in debt. Those figures imply that well over half of Americans expect to climb out of their existing debt and become debt-free before they die.

A 2017 survey by Credit.com …

3 Of 4 Know Their Credit Score… Do You?

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What’s your credit score? If you don’t know, you’re in the minority – according to the Chase Slate 2018 Credit Outlook.

The 2018 survey found that 77% of Americans know their credit score, an increase of ten percentage points in just one year. With that knowledge comes the desire to improve. Four out of five respondents are taking steps to improve their credit score in 2018, up from 72% in 2017. Are you?

Americans overwhelmingly understand the importance of good credit. Approximately 90% of respondents believe that access to credit is important. Similar percentages of respondents understand the importance of credit when it comes to purchasing a home or a car, applying for a loan or a credit card, or even starting a small business.

A poorer credit score can cost many thousands of dollars over a lifetime due to higher interest rates. You can negate this effect on a credit card by…