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

MoneyTips

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

MoneyTips

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…

More Homebuyers Turning To Parents For Down Payment Help

MoneyTips

First-time homebuyers face many challenges, but the biggest task may be coming up with a suitable down payment. Consumers in the early stages of their careers often face a fresh set of bills – and in some cases, mountains of student loan debt. A National Association of Realtors survey found that over half of recent homebuyers age 37 and younger cited student loan debt as the main down payment obstacle.

How can young Americans save up for a conventional 20% down payment, or even the 3.5% minimum down payment for FHA loans? Many have concluded that they can’t – and are asking for help from their parents.

The recent annual report from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) shows that over one-quarter (26%) of homebuyers with FHA-insured loans received some payment a…

How To Avoid Being A Tax-Scam Victim

MoneyTips

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…

More of Us Focused On Losing Debt Than Losing Weight

MoneyTips

Which would you rather do in 2019 – lose the spare tire around your waist or the excess debt dragging down your finances?

Americans clearly struggle with both debt and obesity. In late 2018, NerdWallet estimated the average American credit card debt at $6,929 for households with any credit card debt – part of a staggering $135,768 average including all debts (led by mortgages). Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control’s most recent statistics from 2015-2016 lists America’s obesity rate at just below 40% – and if you think more recent data will show improvement, fat chance (pun intended).

A new survey by CompareCards.com finds that we’d rather have excess weight than excess debt. While 34% of Americans said losing weight was a 2019 priority, 41% said reducing debt was a higher priority. Perhaps the remaining one-quarter of Americans aren’t overweight or in debt – and if they are, they don’t mind being that way.

They’re also more likely to b…

Prevent Identity Theft From Affecting Your Taxes

MoneyTips

When your identity is stolen, you have so many potential issues to deal with — changing passwords, closing accounts, dealing with fraudulent charges, and placing fraud alerts with the credit reporting agencies — that you may forget about potential tax fraud. Armed with your personal information, identity thieves can file a fraudulent tax return in your name and receive a refund before you realize your information has been compromised. Sometimes taxpayers are unaware of the breach until they have problems filing their taxes.

What do you do if you fall victim to tax-related identity theft? Start by responding to any IRS notice as instructed. Your first hint that there is an issue could be a notice from the IRS asking you to verify your identity because of a suspicious tax return with your Social Security number.

Remember that almost all legitimate IRS contact will be through a letter in the …

How To Identify Tax Identity Theft

MoneyTips

Tax filing season is upon us. Soon you will be filing your paperwork and perhaps receiving a nice check — unless thieves file a return in your name first and falsely claim your refund.

Unfortunately, if a thief has your Social Security number and other relevant information, tax identity theft is very hard to prevent. Greg McBride, Chief Financial Analyst for Bankrate.com, notes that “somebody could have your Social Security number and they could have been sitting on it for a while… you would have no idea until they go and file a bogus tax return under your Social Security number. You only find out at the point where your legitimate return gets rejected.”

While recent IRS efforts have resulted in a 57% drop in confirmed fraudulent identity theft tax returns from 2015 to 2017 and a 65% …

Super Bowl Numbers

MoneyTips

Are you ready for Super Bowl LIII (or 53, if you prefer)? On Sunday, February 3, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA, the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots will meet to determine who hoists the Vince Lombardi Trophy as the champion of the National Football League – thanks to two thrilling overtime conference championship games, the first time that’s ever happened in the same season.

You could pronounce “Super Bowl LIII” or last year’s exciting “Super Bowl LII” as “Super Bowl Lies”, but MoneyTips has Super Bowl truths for your pre-game prep.

Quarterbacks – We could have been treated to the oldest quarterback matchup in Super Bowl history (41-year-old Tom Brady vs. 40-year-old Drew Brees) – or the youngest (24-year-old Jared Goff vs. 23-year-old Patrick Mahomes). Instead, we have a matchup of the young gun (Goff) versus the wily veteran (Brady).

Brady Again? – Will Brady ever retire… or stop winnin…