Protecting Yourself Against Fraud And Theft Beyond Credit Freezes

MoneyTips

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’?

MoneyTips

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

MoneyTips

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%).

Zombie Debt 101

MoneyTips

Zombie debt refers to old unpaid debt, declared dead and uncollectable long ago, that rises from the grave to ingest the bank accounts of the living. Who are the mad financial scientists that create this zombie debt, and how can you thwart them when it comes for you?

The zombie masters, if you will, are third-party debt collectors who specialize in purchasing uncollected debt from a variety of vendors at huge discount. The vendors are eager to get the debt off their books and will gladly take whatever they can get – literally pennies on the dollar.

If you have any connection to this debt in the eyes of the collection agency, they will contact you and attempt to get you to pay. It doesn’t matter to them whether you really are responsible for the debt, whether the statute of limitations has expired, whether it was wiped out by bankruptcy, or any other story – their job is to convince you to pay up. It is not uncommon for zombie debt to be the result of identity the…

Video: Why Seniors Should Care About Their Credit Scores

MoneyTips

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.

Advertising Disclosure

Top Benefits Of Credit Cards

MoneyTips

What’s the benefit of having a credit card? That’s easy – it allows you to buy things with money you don’t currently have. (Of course, that may also be the biggest drawback of having a credit card, if you can’t control your spending.)

All credit cards allow basic purchases, but what specific benefits draw you to choose one credit card over another? A recent survey and report by Market Strategies International digs into the specific features that users prefer. Their #1 choice? No annual fee.

Given that 80% of card users aren’t clear about the benefits of their existing primary credit card, card issuers are better served by focusing on the top perceived benefits. The report suggests that card issuers must focus on the “must haves” and not depend on narrower benefits (listed in the survey as “tailored extras”).

Eighteen different credit card benefits were ranked and categorized into tailored extras, cost and value-related benefits, or baseline items that m…

Credit Checks And Jobs

MoneyTips

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

MoneyTips

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

MoneyTips

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