Consumer Information Safety Tips
Know Your Credit Report
In today’s world, credit is a privilege. It is important to have good credit as several decisions can be based on this statistical number.
1. Monitor your Credit Report. The three national credit reporting agencies offer free credit reports every year. Take advantage of this and order a report from a different company every four months to monitor any new activity year round. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to get your free credit report.
2. Improve your Credit Score. If your credit score isn’t as high as you’d like it to be, take these steps to improve your credit score: Pay bills on time, keep credit card balances low, consider close unused accounts, and pay off debt.
3. Correct your Credit Report. When looking at your credit report, verify that all information is correct. If you notice something that is wrong on your credit report, you have the right to dispute any discrepancy. Credit bureaus are required by law to investigate any written complaint within 30 days.
Save Time When Paying Bills
There are two advances in electronic banking that will allow you to save time and pay bills faster and easier.
Direct Payment- Bills are paid automatically every month from your bank account to the company you wish to pay.
- Contact your bill companies in which you have a reoccurring monthly bill and tell them you want to set your bill up on direct payment
- Give them your account number and bank’s routing number
- Authorize the amount and payment date
By setting your monthly bills up on direct payment, you not only save valuable time, but you will no longer have to pay for postage, checks, or late fees.
On-Line Bill Payment- Pay bills by using your computer.
- Go to a company’s website that allows you to pay bills online
- Enter in your bank account information and the amount you wish to pay
- Your payment will be automatically deducted from your account upon your approval
By paying your bills online, you save money on postage and checks.
Warning Signs of Financial Stress
Here are a few warning signs that show you might be in financial stress:
· You pay the minimum payment amount each month. (This includes credit cards, bills, and loan payments.)
· Important payments are late. (Like your mortgage payment.)
· Taking out a loan to pay-off another loan elsewhere.
· Taking cash advances for everyday living expenses.
· Getting a new credit card because your other credit cards are maxed out.
· Running out of cash before your next payday.
To help get back on track, sit down and write out your budget so you know where your money is going and see what areas you can maybe cut back on. It is important to seek professional help if you believe your finances may be in trouble.
It’s that time of year again to be thinking about your upcoming holiday budget. Here are a few tips to help you get through this holiday season.
· Make a list of all the people to plan to buy a gift for. Next to each name make a note of what you plan to buy that person and how much you want to spend. This will help you keep track of what items need to be bought and the amount you will be spending.
· Once you have your list made, start watching for sales. Look at different stores and compare prices on different items. If shopping online, purchase multiple items from one online store to cut down on shipping costs.
· Review your receipts from last years purchases. This will give you an idea of how much you spent last year, so you can better calculate your spending for this year.
· Save your receipts from your purchases made for this holiday season and add them up to see if your spending is on track. By totaling your receipts weekly, it will help you keep a better grasp on the amount you have spent.
· And finally, start saving for next year. It’s never to early to get ahead on your holiday budget.
It is important to take certain precautions when shopping during the holiday season to avoid being a victim or identity theft or fraud.
· Look at your bank and credit card statements every month to make sure each transaction was authorized by you. If not, contact your bank or credit card company immediately.
· If shopping online, use a secure site, which is indicated with a lock symbol or https in the url address.
· Only give out your checking or credit card information if you initiated the transaction. Do not respond to e-mails or phone calls asking for your billing information.
· Shred information that has your name, account number, or other personal information to avoid identity theft. It is also important to get a free copy of your credit report to check for fraudulent activity and that accounts are being reported with the correct status.
Stop Identity Theft
With identity theft on the rise, here are three important things to remember:
1. Never provide personal information to someone if you did not initiate the contact, including over the internet and telephone. If someone does call you requesting personal information, do not feel pressured to give them the information even if they claim dire consequences. Get the name of the company and verify their phone number, the key is that YOU should be the one to initiate the contact.
2. Never click on a link in an e-mail from an unknown source, it could contain a virus or steal your personal information. Type in the company’s website or use a previous bookmark instead if you are unsure of the legitimacy.
3. Report lost or stolen checks immediately so your bank can put a watch on your account and block payment on the checks. Guard your ATM PIN number and ATM receipts and shred any bank statements before throwing them away.
4. Watch your mail for any suspicious activity. If you do not receive a bill contact the company and place all outgoing mail in a secure collection box.
5. Act immediately if you fall victim to identity theft. Contact your financial institution, place fraud alerts on your credit files. Report any suspicious e-mails or calls to the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/, or call 1-877-IDTHEFT
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