How To Tell If Your ID Has Been Hacked

The 2013 Identity Fraud Report from Javelin Strategy & Research, Pleasanton, Calif., revealed that almost one of four consumers who received a data breach letter became a victim of identity theft. The same study revealed that consumers who had their Social Security number compromised in a data breach were five times more likely to be a fraud victim than the average consumer.

How can you tell if your identity has been compromised?
* Surprise! You’re denied. If your credit card is denied, find out why—especially if you always pay on time and haven’t reached your spending limit. Don’t shrug it off and assume your card will work the next time; investigate immediately.
* Unexpected increase in an account balance. This could be a sign that someone made changes in your name and went shopping, hoping to leave you with the bill.
* Unauthorized inquiries. If you see inquiries on your credit reports that you didn’t initiate, that’s a sign someone might be trying to open credit in your name.
* Sudden drop in credit score. An unexplained drop in your credit score is a sign someone is using—and trashing—your credit.
* Mysterious new account. The sooner you notice unauthorized accounts opened in your name, the faster you can shut them down.

Bottom line: Review your credit reports regularly. You can order one free credit report a year from each of the “big three” credit reporting agencies—Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian—at annualcreditreport.com. And keep an eye on your credit score. Ask at Hopewell Federal Credit Union for help, or visit myfico.com. Finally, contact one of the credit bureau fraud units about placing a fraud alert on your file. Find contact and phone numbers at ftc.gov/identitytheft.

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Smart Starts for Young Credit Card Users

While credit is a terrific money management tool, using it carelessly can affect your ability to get a job, lease an apartment, or buy a vehicle. Follow this advice from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Credit Union National Association for using credit cards:

Choose a low-rate, low-fee card. Make Hopewell Federal Credit Union the first stop. Credit union credit cards typically have lower rates and fees than other financial institutions.

Don’t charge daily living expenses. Refrain from using a credit card for daily living expenses such as groceries and gas. Consider using a debit card or cash instead, and monitor your account balance online to keep spending on track.

Don’t charge more than you can pay for when the bill arrives. Think twice about charging a vacation, a new wardrobe, or other items that won’t be worth the debt if you can’t pay for the items when the bill arrives. Instead, set up a special savings account for future purchases at Hopewell Federal.

Don’t let anyone else use your card. If you allow a family member or best friend to borrow your card, it’s still your responsibility to make payments and pay off the debt.

Protect your card. Identity theft often is committed by people the victim knows. Keep your credit card in a purse or wallet instead of lying around your apartment for all eyes to see.

Stop by or call today at 740.522.8311 to get more information.

Keep Credit Intact: Dispute Report Errors

An error on your credit report can cost you more than just the time it’ll take to correct it. That error also could result in a lower credit score, which could mean you’ll pay higher interest rates on loans or be denied outright. Getting slapped with an undeserved high-interest rate happens to about 5% of consumers who have credit report errors, according to newyorktimes.com.

Credit reports and credit scores, while different, work in sync. A credit report shows your credit activity over time. It shows if you owe money and to whom. It also shows whether you make payments on time or if you’re late; it shows if you’ve stopped making payments altogether. Based on information in your credit report, a credit score is a three-digit number lenders use to assess whether or not to offer you credit and at what price. Negative credit information, accurate or inaccurate, can result in a lower score.

If you have a low credit score, you’ll pay more to acquire a loan, but that’s not the only way a low score affects your finances. A low score also can result in not being able to rent an apartment, get affordable insurance coverage, or get a job.

The first steps in making sure your score is the score you deserve are to review your credit report for accuracy and to report any discrepancies, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), Silver Spring, Md. Follow this advice to make sure your report is clean:

* Check your credit report. You can request one free report a year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus by visiting annualcreditreport.com. This is the only website officially authorized to provide credit reports. You also can call 877-322-8228 or complete a request form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Stagger the reports every four months in rotation so you can keep tabs throughout the year. Review your report at least three months before you make a potentially affected financial move so you have time to dispute any errors and have them corrected.

* Review your report for accuracy. Look for errors, large and small, as well as omissions such as an account that you paid but didn’t get credit for. Verify the basics such as name, Social Security number, and address.

* Know your rights. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you free access to your credit report within 60 days if you’ve been denied a loan, insurance, or a job based on information in your report. It’s up to you to initiate the dispute process.

* If you find an error, file a dispute with the credit reporting agency. File the dispute in writing so you will have a paper trail. In your dispute, include your full name and address, what you want investigated, the disputed items, and an explanation of why you think the information is inaccurate. FCRA generally requires credit reporting companies to investigate items in question within 30 days to 45 days of when the dispute was filed.

* Understand that accurate negative information won’t be removed. Negative information that is true will stay on your report. Credit reporting agencies can report most negative information for seven years; bankruptcies can remain on your report for 10 years.

* Stay clear of credit repair companies. There is no such thing as a quick fix and there’s nothing that a credit repair business can do for you that you can’t do for yourself–for free. Most credit repair companies charge high fees and rarely deliver results.

For help reviewing your credit report ask the staff at Hopewell Federal Credit Union or call an NFCC member agency certified counselor. Call 800-388-2227 to be connected to an agency in your area, or visit DebtAdvice.org.

It’s Never Too Late to Spring Clean Your Financial House

It’s Never Too Late to “Spring Clean” Your Financial House
— Straighten up credit–order your credit report at annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228.
— Dust-bust your bills–do you really need those premium movie channels?
— Shred documents you no longer need.
— Buff up beneficiary forms if you’ve experienced a marriage, birth, divorce, or death in your family.
— Tidy up insurance policies–ask your agent if you’re eligible for lower rates or discounts.