Tag: credit report

How to Build Credit with Fingerhut

If you’ve been wanting to make a big purchase, but your credit is less than spectacular, you might have looked into Fingerhut as an option. 

Fingerhut is an online catalog and retailer that showcases a multitude of products. On this website, customers can shop for anything from electronics to home décor to auto parts. Fingerhut offers financing through their own line of credit, making it appealing to shoppers with poor credit or a nonexistent credit history. Many consumers have a better chance of getting approved by Fingerhut, than they might have of getting approved through most other credit card companies. It’s an option worth looking into if you want to improve your credit score through credit utilization.  

The major difference between Fingerhut and credit cards that cater to low credit scores is that Fingerhut credit is exclusively available for use with its own company’s products and authorized partners. You’ll also find that the company’s products are pricier than they would be through most other retailers, while also bearing the weight of higher interest rates. While it might seem like a good idea if you don’t have good credit, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the company beforehand so that you know what you’re signing up for. 

How Fingerhut credit works

When you apply for a Fingerhut credit account, you can get approved by one of two accounts:

  • WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account.
  • Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan issued by WebBank.

As it happens, by submitting your application, you are applying for both credit accounts. Applicants will be considered for the Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan issued by WebBank as a direct result of being denied for the WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account. In other words, you won’t have a way of knowing which one you will be approved for prior to applying. Both credit accounts are issued by WebBank and are set up so that customers can purchase merchandise by paying for them on an installment plan with a 29.99% Annual Percentage Rate (APR). These are the only things that the different Fingerhut credit accounts have in common.

The WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account

The WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account works very much like an unsecured credit card, except that it’s an account that you can only use it to shop on Fingerhut or through its authorized partners. 

This credit account features:

  •  No annual fee.
  • A 29.99% interest rate.
  • A $38 fee on late or returned payments.
  • A possible down payment; it may or may not be required. You won’t know prior to applying. 

If you get denied for this line of credit, your application will automatically be reviewed for the Fingerhut FreshStart Credit Account issued by WebBank, which is both structured and conditioned differently.

Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan issued by WebBank

If you get approved for the Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan, you must follow these three steps to activate it:

  • Make a one-time purchase of no less than $50.
  • Put a minimum payment of $30 down on your purchase, and your order will be shipped to you upon receipt of your payment. You may not use a credit card to make down payments, but you can use a debit card, check, or a money order. 
  • Make monthly payments on your balance within a span of six to eight months.

You can become eligible to upgrade to the Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account so long as you are able to pay off your balance during that time frame or sooner without having made any late payments. Keep in mind that paying for the entire balance in full at the time you make your down payment will result in you not qualifying for the loan as well as being ineligible for upgrade. 

How a Fingerhut credit account helps raise your credit score

The fact that it can help you improve your credit is one of the biggest advantages of using a Fingerhut credit account. 

When you make your payments to Fingerhut in full and on-time, the company will report that activity to the three major credit bureaus. This means that your good credit utilization won’t go unnoticed nor unrewarded. If you use Fingerhut to improve your credit score, you will eventually be able to apply for a credit card through a traditional credit card company—one where you can make purchases anywhere, not just at Fingerhut. 

Additional benefits of a Fingerhut credit account

Besides using it as a tool to repair your bad credit, there are a few other benefits to using a WebBank Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account such as:

  • No annual fee.
  • Fingerhut has partnerships with a handful of other retailers, which means you can use your Fingerhut credit line to make purchases through a variety of companies. Fingerhut is partnered with companies that specialize in everything from floral arrangements to insurance plans.
  • There are no penalties on the WebBank Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account when you pay off your balance early.

How to build credit with Fingerhut

Fingerhut credit works the same way as the loans from credit card companies work: in the form of a revolving loan. 

A revolving loan is when you are designated a maximum credit limit by your lender, in which you are allowed to spend. Whatever you spend, you are expected to pay back in full and on-time through a series of monthly payments. This act of borrowing money and paying off bills using your Fingerhut account causes your balances to revolve and fluctuate, hence, its name. 

Your credit activity, good or bad, gets reported to the three major credit bureaus and in turn, will have an effect on your credit report. Revolving loans play a large role in your credit score, affecting approximately 30% of your score through your credit utilization ratio. If your credit utilization ratio, the amount of available revolving credit divided by your amount owed, is too high then your credit score will plummet. 

When using a Fingerhut account, the goal is to try to keep your amounts owed as low as you possibly can so that you can maintain a low utilization ratio, and as a result, have a higher credit score.

Alternatives to Fingerhut

If you’ve done all your research and decided that Fingerhut isn’t the right choice for you, there are other options that might serve you better, even if you have bad credit. There are a variety of secured credit cards that you can apply for such as:

  • The OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card: You will need a $200 security deposit to qualify for this secured credit card, but you can most likely get approved without a credit check or even a bank account. It can also be used to improve your credit, as this card does report to the three major credit bureaus. While this card does come with an annual $35 fee, you can use it to shop anywhere that will accept a Visa. 
  • Discover it Secured:  For all those opposed to paying an annual fee of any sort, this card might just be the one for you. With a $0 annual fee and the ability to earn rewards through purchases, there’s not much to frown about with this secured credit card. One of the best perks, is that it allows you the chance to upgrade to an unsecured card after only eight months. 
  • Deserve Pro Mastercard: This card is a desirable option for those with a short credit history. There is no annual fee and no security deposit required and, if your credit history isn’t very long-winded, that’s okay. The issuers for this card may use their own process to decide whether or not you qualify for credit, by evaluating other factors such as income and employment. This card is especially nifty because you can get cash-back rewards such as 3% back on every dollar that you spend on travel and entertainment, 2% back on every dollar spent at restaurants, and 1% cash back on every dollar spent on anything else. 

Final Thoughts 

Fingerhut is an option worth looking into for those with bad credit or a short credit history. If you want to use a Fingerhunt credit account to improve your credit score, be sure to use it wisely and make all of your payments on time, just as you would with any other credit card.

Even though it might be easy to get approved, the prices and interest rates on items sold through Fingerhut are set higher than they would be at most other retailers, so it’s important to consider this before applying. 

There are a ton of options available, regardless of what your credit report looks like, if you are trying to improve your credit. If the prices of Fingerhut’s merchandise are enough to scare you away, you might want to consider applying for a secured credit card. 

How to Build Credit with Fingerhut is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

6 Damaging Side Effects of Having a Bad Credit Score

Side effects of a bad credit score

As you make another large purchase against your credit card, inching closer towards maxing out, you might not realize the negative ramifications this activity will have on your credit score. The same goes for making the odd late payment on your hydro bill or car loan payment. Mounting debt that is not paid off in time or in full can have a major impact on your credit score.

A bad credit score can have more negative consequences than you may think

So what’s the big deal about having a low credit score? These days many institutions – from loan officers, to businesses, to insurance companies – look to your credit history before making a move. You could find your low credit score putting you in a position where you can’t get approved for a loan, get a job, or even find a place to live. Here are 6 damaging side effects of having bad credit.

1. Your Loan Applications Might Not Be Approved

Lenders and creditors see borrowers with poor credit as high risk, which means they’ll be less inclined to lend you the money you need. Whether you’re looking for a mortgage to buy a home, or a loan to finance a new car, you might find your loan applications being denied.

2. You’ll Be Subject to High Interest Rates

If you do get approved for a loan, you’ll most likely end up being stuck with a really high interest rate. Since lenders see people with a poor credit score as risky business, they’ll make you pay for it by attaching your loan with a sky-high interest rate. The higher your interest rate on your loan, the more you’ll be paying towards interest rather than the principle over the long run of your loan period.

3. You’ll Be Subject to Higher Insurance Premiums

Even insurance companies check background credit scores. Their claim is that poorer credit scores are associated with an increased number of claims filed. This theory prompts insurance providers to check a person’s credit background. If they find that you’ve got a credit score that’s less-than-par, you’ll most likely be charged a higher premium, no matter how many claims you’ve actually filed.

Do you know the ramifications of having a bad credit report?

Fixing a bad credit score

4. You Might Have a Tougher Time Landing a Job

Many jobs – especially ones in upper management or in the financial industry – have specific criteria that potential employees need to meet, including having a strong credit score. You might find it a lot more challenging to land the job you want because of your bad credit history, particularly if you’ve got exorbitant debts amounts outstanding, or even a history of bankruptcy.

5. Starting Your Own Business Might Be a Challenge

Not only will finding a job be more difficult with a low credit score, but even starting your own business might be a challenge. Many new businesses need the assistance of a bank loan to get started. With a low credit score, banks will be less likely to approve your loan application, even if your business idea is a great one.

6. You’ll Have a Harder Time Getting Approved for an Apartment

Even landlords check the credit history of potential tenants. If you’ve got bad credit, the landlord might be less inclined to approve a lease, and will sign it over to a tenant with good credit instead. Landlords, much like insurance companies and banks, make the assumption that those with poorer credit are more likely to be delinquent on monthly payments, which puts them at a greater financial risk.

The consequences of having poor credit may be a lot more extensive than you may have thought. Your best bet is to do everything you can to get your credit back into shape, which can be done a lot more easily with effective tools like those at Mint.com.

You can quickly and easily put your finances in order, with Mint doing all the organizing and categorizing of your spending on your behalf. By being able to see where all of your spending is going, you’ll be better able to make better spending decisions, which will only have a positive impact on your credit.

Click here for a free trial.

The post 6 Damaging Side Effects of Having a Bad Credit Score appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

The Best Things to Charge on Your Credit Card When You’re Rebuilding Credit

Charging a few small, easy-to-pay-off items to your card each month can help you rebuild credit.

If your credit needs rehabilitation due to late payments, accounts in collections or other negative items, it might be time to rebuild. Rebuilding your credit requires an understanding of your current situation, identifying past mistakes and implementing the right strategies going forward.

Wise use of a credit card is one way to start. Surprising, right? But if you use that plastic correctly, it really can help you. Good credit card strategies include keeping a low balance, making payments on time and paying your balance in full each month. To do that, it’s best to start small and only charge things that won’t kill your credit building project before it takes off. (You can check on your progress with a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.)

Here are a few things you can charge on your credit card to help you boost that score.

Gas

The cost of gas can add up, but if you already have room for gas in your monthly budget, you can charge your gas expenses and pay them off in full using the funds in your bank account. Some credit cards offer special cash back rates on gas purchases so you can earn a little money back in your wallet (although getting a new unsecured credit card might not be the best move for you at this stage as the inquiry will cause your score to take even more of a hit).

Groceries

Groceries are another staple you likely already have built into your budget. Instead of handing over cash or a check when you pick up the necessities for the week, charge your groceries to your credit card and pay those purchases off in full each month. There are several credit cards on the market that offer special cash-back rates on groceries, as well.

Streaming Services

Monthly streaming services usually cost less than $20 a month. You could conceivably set up your credit card to pay for a streaming service, pay it off in full each month and never use it for anything else.

Balance Transfers

If you have a large balance on a high-interest credit card, it could be damaging your credit score and affecting your ability to make your payment. If you have a lower interest credit card, you can transfer the balance and reduce the interest. If you can qualify, a card with a long 0% intro APR period can help you pay your balance off interest-free.

(Cheap) Dining & Recreation

It’s probably not a good idea to use your credit cards at the club or restaurants, as it’s easy for costs to spiral out of control. But if you’re on a date at the movies or taking the kids out for mini golf and milkshakes, low-cost dining and recreation purchases might be a safe bet.

Small Everyday Expenses

Sometimes you have to run into a local store for a roll of duct tape or some socks. Small everyday purchases can be fairly easy to pay off in full.

Using Your Credit Card Wisely to Build Credit

For the most part, small purchases you can afford to pay off each time the statement arrives are the best things to put on your credit card, as payment history is the biggest influencer of your credit scores. Plus, carrying a balance means you’ll be hit with interest and it will take you longer to pay down your balance.

But even relatively small purchases can threaten your credit if they pile up too quickly. (Credit experts recommend keeping your credit utilization ratio — that is, your amount of debt in relation to your credit limit — at 30%, ideally 10%.) So, a good practice is to treat your credit card like cash and only purchase things you can cover with available funds.

Have any questions about improving your credit? Ask us in the comments below and one of our credit experts will do their best to help.

Image: bowdenimages

The post The Best Things to Charge on Your Credit Card When You’re Rebuilding Credit appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Why is a disputed collection account still on my credit report?

Reader Alesia writes, “I disputed a collection account from 2016 on my credit report with all three bureaus. Two of them deleted the account. However, Experian did not and the creditor has updated the date of collection to November 2020. Does this mean it will now stay on my report until 2027? And why did the two delete it and not the other? I still dispute the account. What can be done in these situations?”

When you don’t pay your credit card bill or loan payment on time, the creditor eventually declares it delinquent. And typically six months after the time you first stopped paying your dues, it will either write it off or send it to collections. If it’s the latter course of action, the delinquent account becomes a collection account.

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Ask Poonkulali a question.

Each credit bureau has its own processes

Alesia, the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – are all independent of each other and have their own processes. That’s why you rightly disputed the collection account with all three of them individually.

Equifax, one of the three credit bureaus, advises in online commentary, “It’s important to remember that disputing information with one credit bureau may not impact information on credit reports from the other two bureaus. Also, dispute procedures may not be the same at all bureaus, so be sure to follow the procedure with the bureau where you’re filing a dispute.”

When you file a dispute with a credit bureau, the bureau will contact the creditor and ask it to look into the information and check its records. The creditor then has a 30-day time frame to respond to the credit bureau with accurate information. If the creditor does not respond by this deadline, the credit bureau can then act on any information the consumer has provided to update the account or remove it.

It may be that the creditor did not get back to Experian in time with the relevant information, and the credit bureau did not make any changes on your account. Or it may not have responded to all three of them in time, and each then acted on its own information (each has its own input on your credit history) and processes in dealing with the account. It could also be that the lender did not provide the same input to all three credit bureaus, for whatever reason.

Also note that the coronavirus pandemic has upset these dispute investigation timelines, and the CFPB has even said it will be lenient in allowing the stretching of this time frame somewhat for lenders and credit bureaus that are looking into disputes.

See related: A collection agency is pursuing me for an old debt I don’t recognize. What to do?

Date of first delinquency is what’s important

Alesia, you report that the creditor updated the date of collection on the account with Experian to November 2020, whereas this collection account goes back to 2016. One important date related to delinquent accounts and collection accounts is the date of first delinquency.

This is the date on which the debt first went delinquent. The debt will be reported on your credit report for seven years after this date. In the case of a collection account, it will be on your credit report for seven years after it went into collection, which is typically six months after the date of first delinquency.

This means it will show on your credit report for up to seven-and-a-half years following the date of first delinquency. The creditor’s updating of the date of collection to November 2020 would mean there is a change to the date of last activity on the account. It does not change the actual date of first delinquency. So the debt will be reported through 2023 and not 2027.

See related: What should I do if my debt’s date of first delinquency is incorrectly reported?

You could initiate another dispute

The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to initiate a dispute with the credit reporting agency or the creditor that furnished the information to an agency if you don’t agree with what’s in your credit report. Alesia, you have gone through this process with all the credit bureaus, but you don’t agree with the result provided by one credit bureau.

You should contact the collection agency that provided the input to Experian to find out how this happened and see if you can sort out the issue. If there is a mistake it agrees to rectify with the credit bureau, don’t forget to get written input about the resolution for your records.

If that doesn’t work, you have the option of filing another dispute with Experian, and also with the furnisher of the information. Make sure to provide any additional and relevant information that could boost your case, such as updated credit reports from the other two credit bureaus.

If you don’t agree with the dispute resolution, you could also have a statement added to your credit report providing your account of the dispute.

Another course of action is to file a complaint with the CFPB, using its consumer complaint database. In case you don’t get a desirable outcome after all this, you  could even talk to a lawyer specializing in FCRA matters to get more detailed assistance on your particular situation.

Alesia, I hope the matter is ultimately resolved to your satisfaction!

Source: creditcards.com

Auto Loan: New Car vs Old Pros and Cons

There are over 25 million auto loans every year in the United States, with the majority of drivers using finance to pay for new and used vehicles. Car loans are some of the most common secured loans in the country and for many Americans, a car is the second most expensive purchase they will make in their lifetime.

But shopping for a new car and applying for a suitable car loan is a stressful experience filled with uncertainty and difficult decisions. One of the most difficult decisions is whether to opt for a new car or a used one. In this guide, we’ll showcase some of the pros and cons of both options, pointing you in the right direction and helping you to make the right choice.

Reasons to Buy Used

It is satisfying to own something that is brand-new. It’s fresh out of the factory—you’re the first to use it, the first to experience it. 

Consumers are prepared to pay a premium just to be the first owner. iPhones and other tech are great examples of this. You could save 30% on the price of a new phone by opting for a refurbished model. The screen and case will be near-perfect, the hardware and software will be fully functional, and everything will be backed by a warranty. However, you don’t get the satisfaction of peeling back the protective stickers and being the first to open the box.

It’s a similar story with cars. There are no stickers to peel and boxes to open, but you can’t beat the new car smell or the way the steering wheel feels in your palms.

That’s not all, either. There are many other benefits to owning a brand-new car and using your auto loan to acquire one.

New Cars Depreciate Fast

A $200,000 mortgage acquired today might cost you $300,000 or more over the lifetime of the loan. However, in a couple decades, when that mortgage is in the final stretch and you own a sizeable chunk of home equity, you’ll likely have something worth $250,000, $300,000, or more.

If you get an auto loan on a new car, it’s a different story. As your interest increases and your payments exceed the original value, the current value nose-dives. At the end of the term, you could have something that is worth a small fraction of what you paid for it.

As an example, let’s assume that you purchase a $40,000 car with a $10,000 down payment and a $30,000 loan. With an interest rate of 6% and a term of 60 months, you’ll repay just under $35,000 over the lifetime of the loan.

However, as soon as you drive that car out of the lot, the price will plummet. At the end of the first year, it will have lost between 20% and 30% of its value. If we assume a 20% loss, that car is now worth just $32,000. The irony here is that you will have paid just under $7,000 in that year, and as the years progress, you fall into a pattern where the more you pay, the less it’s worth.

In the next 4 years, the car will experience an average deprecation of between 15% and 18%. Again, let’s assume a conservative estimate of 15%. That $40.000 purchase will be worth $27,200 at the end of year 2; $23,120 at the end of year 3; $19,653 in year 4, and $16,705 at the end of the loan.

And don’t forget, that vehicle cost you $45,000 in total.

Unless you’re buying a rare car that will become a collectible, all cars will depreciate, and that depreciation will be pretty rapid. However, used cars don’t suffer such rapid deprecation because they don’t have that inflated sticker price. If you take good care of them and pay a good price, you won’t stand to lose as much money.

Used Cars are Cheaper

As stated above, all cars depreciate, but if the first year suffers the biggest drop then why not buy a car that is just a year or two old?

It’s the same car and offers many of the same benefits, but you’re getting it for up to 30% less on average. For a $40,000 car, that’s a saving of $8,000. Once you add a 20% down payment, your loan only needs to cover $25,600. For a 6% loan, that’s just $495 a month, compared to the $619 you’d pay on a $40,000 new car with the same 20% down payment.

That puts more money in your pocket and less debt on your credit report. That’s a double-whammy well worth sacrificing a new car smell for.

It’s Still Nearly New

If you buy a used car that is just a couple of years old, you can still get something that has been well maintained and is just as impressive as it was the day it rolled off the lot. 

Think about the last time you bought a brand-new car, computer, phone, musical instrument—or anything else that came with a premium price tag. You probably kept it in perfect condition soon after buying. Everyone goes through a period of doing their utmost to keep a new purchase immaculate and the more they pay, the longer than period lasts.

Most consumers will keep a car in perfect condition for at least two or three years, but no matter what they do, they are powerless to the depreciation. This means you can get an almost-new, perfect car that is nearly a third cheaper than it was when it was new.

Reasons to Buy New

Α used car doesn’t provide you with that enjoyable, tactile experience. You can’t enjoy the ubiquitous new car smell and you won’t be the first owner. However, there are numerous benefits to buying used instead of new, not least of which is the amount of money you will save now and in the future.

More Finance Options

You have a few more options at your disposal when it comes to financing a new car. Many dealerships offer low-interest and even no-interest financing to encourage you to sign on the dotted line. 

These deals often have hidden terms, penalties, and other issues, and if you fail to make a payment, they won’t hesitate to take your car from you. However, if you’re struggling to finance elsewhere and have your heart set on a brand-new car, this could be your only option.

Make sure you read the terms and conditions closely and don’t let them bombard you with small print and sales talk. They are there to sell you a car. All they care about is your signature on that contract and if that means glossing over a few of the terms, they won’t hesitate.

More Customization and Better Features

Technology is advancing at a tremendous pace and this can be felt in all industries, including the automotive sector. A lot can happen in a few short years and if you buy a used car as opposed to a new one, you could miss out on a host of electronics, safety features, and more.

Customization is also possible with new cars. You can request colors, fabrics, and other aesthetic changes, as well as additional features relating to the power and performance of the vehicle.

Better Cover

New cars offer bumper-to-bumper warranty cover, which means that you’re covered in the event of an issue. If major repairs are needed, you won’t be out of pocket, and these warranty plans tend to offer roadside assistance as well.

This can be true for used cars as well, with the manufacturer’s warranty being transferred when the car is in the hands of a new owner. However, the warranty is at its longest and most useful when the car is first purchased.

Cheaper Maintenance

The warranty won’t cover everything, and you will still be responsible for normal wear and tear. However, because the car is new, it should require less maintenance and may take several years before you need to make significant purchases.

Surveys suggest that new car owners pay anywhere from $0 to $300 for maintenance during the first 12 months, with this fee spanning between $300 and $1,100 once the car is a decade old.

Simpler Process

Used car purchases take time. You need to find the vehicle, inspect it, negotiate with the seller, and then hope you can agree to a price and payment plan. If you want something specific with regards to colors and features, you may have to search many inventories and individual sellers before you find something that fits.

With a new car, you simply agree to a budget and see what’s available. If you need any tweaks or changes, you can request them directly from the dealer.

Summary: New vs Old

There are two ways at looking at this. Firstly, there are more advantages for buying a new car and these include some pretty important ones. However, the advantages for buying used are much bigger and if your bank balance or credit score is low, that could be the deciding factor. 

In any case, it’s important to look closely at the pros and cons, evaluate them based on your personal situation, and don’t rush this decision.

Auto Loan: New Car vs Old Pros and Cons is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Financial Scams That Target the Elderly and How to Prevent Them

financial scam targets elderly

A 2015 study found that older adults lose more than $36 billion every year to financial scams. Unfortunately, con artists see the elderly population as an easy and vulnerable target.

The American Securities Administrators Association’s President, Mike Rothman, explains that scammers take this approach because the current elderly population is one of the wealthiest we’ve seen with such hefty retirement savings. Where the money goes, the con artists follow.

With so many scams targeting older adults, it’s essential to make yourself and your loved ones aware of the different types of cons. Here is a list of common financial scams that specifically target the elderly and how you can prevent them:

The Grandparent Scam

The grandparent scam is common because it appeals to older adults’ emotions. Scammers get the phone number of a senior and they call pretending to be a grandchild. Making their lie seem more believable, the con artist will playfully ask the older adult to guess what grandchild is calling. Of course, the first reaction will most likely be for the senior to name a grandchild and then the scammer can easily play along, acting like they guessed right. Now the grandparent thinks they are talking to their grandchild.

The scam artist will then begin to confide in the grandparent, saying they are in a tough financial position and they need the grandparent’s help. Asking them to send money to a Western Union or MoneyGram, they plead for the grandparent not to tell anyone. If the grandparent complies and sends the money, the scammer will likely contact the senior again and ask for more money.

Avoid this scam:

  • Never send money to anyone unless you have 100 percent proof that it is who you think it is. Scammers can find out quite a bit of information from social media and other methods, so don’t think that just because they know a couple pieces of information about you and your family that it is legit.
  • Verify that it is actually your grandchild on the phone by texting or calling the grandchild’s real phone number and verifying if it is him or her.
  • Call the parent of the supposed grandchild and find out if the grandchild really is in trouble.
  • Talk to your family members now and compile a list of questions only you and your family know the answers to. If a family emergency really does happen, you can ask the questions and know if it is your family member based on the answers.

“Claim Your Prize Now!” Sweepstakes Scam

The sweepstakes scam is when con artists contact the elderly either by phone or email and tell them they have won something, whether that be a sum of money or another type of prize. To claim the prize, scammers tell them they have to pay a fee. Once the senior agrees, scammers send a fake check in the mail. Before the check doesn’t clear and seniors can realize it is a scam, they have already paid the “fee.”

Avoid this scam:

  • Do not give out any financial information over the phone or email.
  • Practice Internet safety by protecting your passwords, shopping on encrypted websites, and avoiding phony emails.
  • Be skeptical of any message that says you have randomly won a prize and you must do something before you can claim it. Unless you specifically enter a contest, you most likely aren’t going to randomly win a monetary prize.

Medicare Scam

Because of the Affordable Care Act that allows seniors over the age of 65 to qualify for Medicare, scam artists don’t have to do much research about seniors’ healthcare providers. This makes it simple for scammers to call, email, or even visit seniors’ homes personally and claim to be a Medicare representative.

 

There are a variety of ways these con artists use this Medicare scam to target the elderly. One way is telling seniors they need a new Medicare card and to do so, they need to tell the “Medicare representative” what their Social Security number is. An additional way is they can tell seniors there is a fee they need to pay to continue their benefits.

Avoid this scam:

  • Do not give out any information to someone you have not verified is from Medicare. Real Medicare employees should have your information on file so if you are skeptical, ask the person some questions to verify it is legitimate.

The “Woodchuck” Scam

A common scam to target seniors who live alone is the “woodchuck” scam. Scam artists will claim to be contractors and will complete house projects if seniors agree to let them.

The scammers will gain seniors’ trust and eventually come up with a variety of fake repairs that need to be done, such as a roof repair. This often results in seniors giving the fake contractors thousands of dollars.

 Avoid this scam:

  • Make sure the person doing your home repairs is a professional. Find out what company they work for and call and verify they are indeed a legitimate contractor.

Mortgage Scam

Con artists are using senior homeownership to their benefit. The mortgage scam is when scammers offer a property assessment to seniors, telling them they can determine the value of their home. This scam has become increasing popular as housing confidence is hitting record highs and people are putting a large chunk of their income towards saving for new homes.

The scam artists make the process look legitimate by finding the home’s information on the Internet and sending seniors an official letter detailing all of the found information. The scammers do this because it is an easy way to con seniors into paying a fee for the requested information.

 Avoid this scam:

  • Ensure the property assessment is legitimate by asking what company they work for and following up with the real company to verify.

Talk to Your Loved Ones

Older adults are often too embarrassed to tell authorities or a family member they have been scammed. Talk to the seniors in your life and let them know they can confide in you and let you know if they have been scammed. You can also have them read through this article and make themselves aware of the scams that could potentially target them in the future.

Check Your Credit Regularly

Check your credit regularly so you are aware of any suspicious activity with your accounts. You can check your credit for free on Credit.com and receive a free credit score updated every 14 days along with a credit report card, which is a summary of what is on your credit reports.

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The post Financial Scams That Target the Elderly and How to Prevent Them appeared first on Credit.com.

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All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt

All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt

Paying off debt can be an excruciating process, depending on how much money you owe. But your debts may not haunt you forever. Most consumer debts have a statute of limitations. That means that after a certain amount of time has gone by, collectors can’t sue you for failing to pay off outstanding debts. Here’s everything you need to know about the statute of limitations on debt.

See how long it’ll take to pay off your credit card debt.

Understanding the Statute of Limitations on Debt

You can be taken to court for not paying off certain debts. But there’s a limit on how long debt collectors can chase after the borrowers they want to sue.

The period in which someone can take legal action against you for owing money is known as the statute of limitations. In many cases, that time period either begins on the date you last made a payment or when your account becomes delinquent (which usually happens 30 days after a borrower fails to make a payment). But sometimes, the statute of limitations begins whenever you last used the account, acknowledged that you owed debt or agreed to make a payment (more on that later).

Statutes of limitations offer consumers with old debts some protection from debt collection agencies. After the statute of limitations on a debt expires, that unpaid debt is considered to be time-barred. At that point, borrowers no longer have a legal obligation to pay off their debts.

Different states have different statutes of limitations. And there are different rules attached to different types of debts. In Iowa for example, the statute of limitations on credit card debt is 10 years. In Alaska, Alabama and Washington D.C. it’s only three years.

Not all consumer debts have a statute of limitations, however. Federal student loans, for example, haven’t had a legal expiration date for over two decades.

What to Do With Time-Barred Debts 

All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt

While you may no longer be legally responsible for your time-barred debts, you’re not totally off the hook. Most negative credit information – like unpaid debts – can stay on your credit report for up to seven years. But tax liens can remain on your credit report for up to 15 years and bankruptcies can be reported for 10 years.

Not repaying the old debt you owe after the statute of limitations expires could hurt your credit score. And you could have a hard time trying to buy a house or take out a new loan.

Related Article: The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

If you decide to pay off an old debt, it’s important to make sure you have documentation confirming that the debt is yours before making a single payment. You may have to pay off your debt in full in order to avoid restarting or extending the statute of limitations on your debt. So talking to a lawyer before making a single payment is a good idea.

When a Collector Asks About Your Time-Barred Debt

Even though you can’t be sued for your time-barred debts, a debt collector may try to come after you anyway. Bill collectors are required to follow certain rules under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). But they have the right to contact you even after the statute of limitations on a debt runs out. If a debt collector threatens to sue you for a time-barred debt, he or she could be violating the FDCPA.

Statutes of limitations can be tricky. So if you’re not sure whether your debt is past its legal expiration date, it’s a good idea to ask a debt collector who contacts you if your debt is time-barred. If he or she says no, it’s best to ask for the date of the last payment and request written proof that the debt they’re trying to collect is actually yours.

You’ll need to be careful when speaking to debt collectors, especially when dealing with a debt you believe is time-barred. If you say the wrong thing, the statute of limitations could be restarted or extended and you could end up having to pay a bill collector what you owe. The debt collector could also sue you and win.

The clock on your debt can restart if you admit to owing a debt, promise to start paying it or attempt to start repaying it by sending money to a debt collector. But the guidelines associated with extending and restarting the statute of limitations vary depending on where you live.

Related Article: Understanding Debt

Final Word

All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt

If you don’t know if the statute of limitations on your debt has expired, you can check with someone from a local legal aid society, an attorney or your state attorney general’s office. Or you can figure it out yourself by finding out when the statute of limitations begins and looking up your state’s laws regarding the statute of limitations on debts.

After you can confirm that the statute of limitations on your debt has in fact expired, you’ll have to decide what to do with it. You can pay off the debt and improve your credit score or ignore it and wait until it disappears from your credit report. You could also dispute the old debt or try to work out an agreement so that you end up paying less than what you owe your creditor.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Geber86, ©iStock.com/fstop123, ©iStock.com/ozgurdonmaz

The post All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Freezing Your Credit

In the age of paperless transactions, identify theft is something that virtually all of us are susceptible to. If your identity is stolen, the consequences can be severe, and in some cases, can take years to recover from. One way to be proactive against fraud and defend yourself from identity theft, is to freeze your credit report with each of the three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. 

Placing a credit freeze on your credit report will stop identity thieves from being able to open new accounts, lines of credit, or make any large purchases in your name, regardless of whether or not they have your Social Security number or any other sensitive information. 

What a credit freeze means

A credit freeze is a process that shuts off access to your credit reports at your request. Without your verified consent, your delicate information cannot be acquired. This means that if someone were to attempt to apply for credit in your name, your report would come up as “frozen,” and therefore the creditor would not be able to see the information needed for the application to be approved.

You can unfreeze your credit at any time by using a PIN or a password. 

Reasons to freeze your credit

It might be a good idea to freeze your credit if you’re experiencing any of the following situations:

  • Your data has been compromised in a data breach: It happens. If you’ve been a victim of a data breach and personal information related to your identity has been leaked or made vulnerable to cyber criminals, a credit freeze can offer you some extra protection. 
  • You have reason to think you’ve been a victim of identity theft: Perhaps you’ve checked your credit recently and noticed open accounts that you don’t recognize. Maybe you’ve been getting phone calls from collections agencies requesting payments from accounts you know you didn’t open. While a credit freeze won’t be able to stop them from using accounts a thief has already opened, it can stop them from opening any more. 
  • You want to protect your child from identity theft: According to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, parents and legally guardians of children 16 years old and younger have the right to open a credit account for their child with the sole purpose of putting a freeze on it to protect them from identity theft. 

How to freeze your credit 

The process of freezing your credit is simple but does require a few steps. You will need to get in touch with each of the three major credit bureaus one by one and request a credit freeze:

  • Experian: Contact by phone at 800-349-9960 or go to their website.
  • Equifax: Contact by phone at 888-397-3742 or go to their website.
  • TransUnion: Contact by phone at 888-909-8872 or go to their website.  

The credit bureaus will ask you for your Social Security number, your date of birth and other information to verify your identity.

Once you freeze your credit, your file will be unattainable even if a thief has sensitive information such as your social security number or date of birth. If you need to use your credit file, you can unfreeze your credit report at any time. 

How to unfreeze your credit

Once you’ve frozen your credit file, it will be remain blocked until you decide that you would like to unfreeze it. You will need to unfreeze your credit report in order to open a new line of credit or make a major purchase. 

Unfreezing your credit file is simple. All you will need to do is go online to each credit bureau website and use the personal identification number (PIN) that you used to place the freeze on the account. If you don’t want to complete this task online, you can also unfreeze your credit file over the phone or through postal mail. 

When the unfreezing process is done online or by phone, it is completed within minutes of submitting the request. However, if you send your request via mail, it will take much longer. 

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to unfreeze your credit through all three of the major credit bureaus if you don’t want to. For instance, let’s say you plan to apply for credit somewhere. You can ask the creditor which credit bureau it will go through to pull up your report, and only unfreeze that one credit bureau. 

You may also have the option to unfreeze for a specific amount of time. Once the time is up, your credit file will automatically freeze again. 

Credit freeze pros and cons

There are a few reasons why you might want to freeze your credit in this day and age, but just like with anything else, there are pros and cons to credit freezing. Here is a general breakdown of the benefits and downfalls of putting a freeze on your credit report:

Pros:

  • It prevents thieves from opening new lines of credit: With a credit freeze placed on your account, no one will be able to open a new line of credit or any other type of account requiring a credit check using your personal data. Anyone trying to commit fraud will be stopped in their tracks as soon as lenders notice that the report is frozen. 
  • It won’t affect your credit score: Freezing your credit report will not damage your credit score. Additionally, if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, freezing your credit report could actually protect your credit score from being damaged due to fraud. 
  • It’s free: It used to be the case that some credit freezes would cost a fee, but that is no longer the way it works. 

Cons

  • It requires some effort: Putting a credit freeze on your credit report takes some effort. You will need to get in touch with all three credit bureaus. 
  • You will need to remember your PINs: A PIN is required to lift or freeze your credit report. If you lose it, you will need to jump through extra hoops to create a new one.

It can’t stop thieves from accessing your existing accounts: Credit freezes can only stop fraudsters from opening new accounts using your information. If you’ve already been a victim of identity theft, a credit freeze can’t block thieves from committing fraud with your current accounts. This means that thieves can still make a purchase using a credit card they stole from you.

Freezing Your Credit is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com