During my time as a real estate agent, I’ve learned that one of the best and most important things you can do is protect your assets, your investments and your finances. Even if you’re on a tight budget, it’s imperative to be aware and do your best to avoid those obstacles that can ruin your credit, or worse…seriously hurt you financially.
You might not think that those small dings on your credit report from those late payments or that little financial indiscretion in college mean much. But, having a poor credit score can reduce your chances of buying a new home or car, building a business or taking advantage of low interest rates. And, in the long run, it can end up costing you more than just a store credit card. It can affect your future.
To maintain a high credit score, make sure to pay your bills on time, keep card balances low, manage your debt and only apply for credit when you need it. Make sure to regularly check your credit report for inconsistencies.
But sometimes, we can do everything right and still find ourselves in financial turmoil. Some days, it seems like my inbox is brimming with scam emails and phishing attempts all aimed at stealing my personal information for ill-gotten gain. If you’ve ever been the victim of identity theft, I don’t have to tell you about the feeling of helplessness as you watch someone else destroy what you’ve worked so hard for!
- About 7% of persons age 16 or older were victims of identity theft in 2012.
- The majority of identity theft incidents (85%) involved the fraudulent use of existing account information, such as credit card or bank account information.
- Victims who had personal information used to open a new account or for other fraudulent purposes were more likely than victims of existing account fraud to experience financial, credit, and relationship problems and severe emotional distress.
- About 14% of identity theft victims experienced out-of-pocket losses of $1 or more. Of these victims, about half suffered losses of less than $100.
- Over half of identity theft victims who were able to resolve any associated problems did so in a day or less; among victims who had personal information used for fraudulent purposes, 29% spent a month or more resolving problems.
Those may seem like scary statistics. And, with so many stories in the news about security breaches and massive fraud, it’s easy to feel like you might be the next victim. While there are some wonderful companies out there that offer protection for a price, here are some common sense ways to help keep your information safe.
Guard your information online. Log out of your online accounts, clear and reset passwords regularly, and pay for purchases using a credit card since they have better guarantees than your debit card.
Monitor your bank and credit statements for purchases you may not have made. They’ll be easy to spot since they’re usually made out of town for things like gas or especially large purchases. Be sure to verify your mailing address as well. Thieves are likely to have changed it once they’ve stolen your information.
Shred sensitive documents. Don’t hold on to loose receipts and take all extra copies with you from restaurants. Make sure to include junk mail since it can often contain sensitive personal details and always check those credit card offers instead of just throwing them out.
If you still find yourself being worried about the potential of identity fraud, do your homework and look into taking advantage of a company that will monitor your credit for you. If you typically do a lot of shopping and banking online and don’t have the time or money to invest in recovering your information, check with your bank to see if they offer free monitoring. If not, perhaps the $150/year cost is your best bet!
And, if all else fails and you do find yourself with a bad credit situation, I have found that National Credit Care is a good solid company to work with in order to do credit repair. Drew Martinez and his team there have helped many of my clients get on the road home ownership. You can email him at [email protected] and tell him Kristi Fox Satsky sent you. He will get you taken care of!
Do your best to protect your credit! Setting up auto pay on bills sure helps me! Be safe out there! And don’t forget that I am never to busy for you or your referrals! Give me a call any time!