Fraud Protection

Business man receiving a fraud alert while at work.

Credit Fraud Alert: Do You Need One?

By | Fraud Protection

A credit fraud alert can be placed on your credit report to alert lenders that you may be a victim of identity theft or fraud when they are reviewing an application done in your name. It tells them they need to take additional steps to verify that you are who you say you are before they can issue you any credit.

It’s additional security in an increasingly insecure world.

So do you need a credit fraud alert? Does it actually work? Our simple answer is yes; read on to learn why.

Why Do You Need a Credit Fraud Alert?

Why or when do you need a credit fraud alert? To answer those questions, consider the following information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics:

  • In 2016, 10% of people 16 or older experienced identity theft
    • Up from 7% in 2014
  • 14% of households that made $75,000 or more were victims of identity theft
  • 12% of victims in 2016 had to pay out-of-pocket expenses to resolve the matter
    • Total losses for all victims in 2016 amounted for more than $17.5 billion

According to a report from Javelin Strategy and Research, over one million children in 2017 were also victims of this crime. Even worse? About two-thirds of them were less than seven years old.

Identity theft continues to grow year over year. Every time you hear about a data breach or a company being hacked, the data stolen is often sold on the black market via the darknet for identity theft. For those willing to commit this illegal and harmful act, the learning curves are minimal and the rewards are many.

To get a credit fraud alert, all you need to do is call one of the three credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, Equifax) and tell them you want one placed on your report. They’ll verify your information with a series of questions, and once they’ve determined that you are indeed you, they’ll place a fraud alert on your report. It’s placed at the top of your credit report and is one of the first things companies or lenders see when viewing your report.

By law, the credit bureau that receives your request must tell the other two bureaus to also place credit fraud alerts on their reports for you as well. This means you don’t have to go through the process of requesting a credit fraud alert more than once.

Fraud alerts tell companies they must take additional steps to verify your identity before they can issue you any credit. The additional steps usually vary, but a common one is calling you at a designated number you’ve provided before they can move forward with an application in your name.

Are There Different Types of Fraud Alerts?

There are two different fraud alerts you can choose from unless you’re in the military (in which case, there are three).

1. Initial Fraud Alert

An initial fraud alert only lasts for one year. It’s easy to place on your report and can be done by calling one of the three credit bureaus. You can request to have a credit fraud alert placed on your report as often as you like, year after year. You just have to remember to make the request.

2. Extended Fraud Alert

Extended fraud alerts last for up to seven years. However, to place an extended fraud alert on your credit reports, you must be able to provide a police report or a Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Report to the credit bureau you contact. This is obviously one you don’t want to qualify for!

3. Active Duty Alert

For military service members, this credit fraud alert only lasts one year. As with the above options, credit companies must take extra steps to verify your identity before they can open a new account with you. If you are already deployed, you can still get an active duty alert, but the person who signs you up must have power of attorney.

Want to Learn More?

At Ovation Credit, we can answer any questions you have about fraud alerts, as well as review your credit report with you to place you on the path to a stronger credit score. Schedule a free consultation with us today!

Bank with Your Phone? Watch out for this

By | Fraud Protection, Personal Finance

The majority of us do it, bank with our phones, but it can open you up for fraudulent activity. Banking with a mobile device has become common place – it’s quick, simple and efficient, but it’s also easier for hackers to steal your information and make purchases using your funds.

With your mobile device you can manage your checking accounts, transfer funds to other banks and even pay for purchases at your favorite store. However, increased exposure has some experts worried, warning consumers to follow precaution when banking with mobile.

Here’s a list of things to watch out for when banking with your mobile device:

Don’t go public

Going public with most things signifies achievement, but don’t go public when banking with your mobile device. We all want to restrict data usage and take advantage of public Wi-Fi networks, but they pose a significant risk when mobile banking. “Mobile banking apps are connected to wireless networks, and these networks are inherently insecure as they broadcast their messages into the open air,” Ron Vetter, co-founder of the technology company Mobile Education LLC told the U.S. News.

To avoid this danger change your Wi-Fi settings when entering public places. Many of us have our Wi-Fi settings set to automatically connect to available Wi-Fi networks, which must be switched off if banking in spaces like coffee shops, airports and other public environments. There’s no way to control who’s accessing the network and who may be looking to steal your banking information.

Don’t auto-save

Auto-save is a great convenience. It allows you to make purchases and log in to portals without having to type all your information each time. It’s also one of the best ways to open yourself up for fraud. Anyone who has access to your phone can access your banking information and commit bank fraud. That applies to strangers who come across your phone, but also friends and family members who have regular access.

Password protect

Which brings us to our next tip – keep your phone protected by adding a password or better yet your finger print. Many mobile users for-go password protection for convenience. It can be annoying to have to log into a device each time you want to access it, but that annoyance can prevent someone from making purchases with your credit or banking account. Many phones now offer finger print protection, which prevents anyone but you from accessing your device and the information stored on it.

Beware of apps

Unfortunately Google and Apple don’t have the capability to vet each app owner before offering their app to the public. By allowing apps to access your information you’re opening yourself up for hacking. There’s no way to control how an app user chooses to use your information once accessed. If using an app to manage your money choose those from established financial institutions, preferably those you bank with currently.

Banking with your mobile device is fast and convenient. When used properly and with the right safety precautions it provides consumers with a better way to bank.

Was this article helpful? How do you protect yourself against bank fraud? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.

The Scam of Mobile Cramming Could Be Hurting Your Credit

By | Consumer Rights, Credit Repair, Fraud Protection

Have you been suspicious lately of the size of your phone bill? You may have accepted that hefty bill as a necessary evil of being connected to the outside world, and just paid it with a shrug. But when was the last time you checked through your bill line by line to see where those charges are coming from? If you haven’t, it is a good idea to start doing that from now on, especially if you have been working hard on repairing your credit. You could be the victim of mobile cramming.

Mobile cramming is a scam that has gained the attention of consumers, their carriers, and even lawmakers. It is the practice of companies adding innocent-looking fees to your bill, and Americans are overpaying by the billions because companies are charging for services we didn’t agree to use. According to the Federal Trade Commission, these may show up as generic fees, such as “Activation” or “Subscription”; they are often under headers consumers don’t check, such as “Miscellaneous fees”. They can cost just a couple of dollars a month, but they tend to add up. So, what can you do about it?

Confronting Mobile Cramming

The FTC recommends paying close attention to your bill, as well as unsolicited text messages you receive from third parties, such as horoscopes or romance tips you don’t remember signing up for. Scammers are hoping you won’t notice and will just pay out. The first step is to call your carrier and ask them to explain questionable fees. Some carriers will refund you the money, and some will even cease doing business with the third parties that are caught scamming their customers. You can ask them if they offer a blocking service against third party charges.

Whether or not you get the resolution you desire, the FTC requests you file an official complaint, so they can crack down on this scam. Be a responsible consumer and be on the lookout. Demand an answer about the money you are paying if you don’t understand where it is going.

If mobile cramming has contributed to your financial problems, follow the FTC’s guidelines, and consider a credit repair company like Ovation to help you get back on track. We’re here to offer a free consultation and answer your credit questions. Contact us for a free consultation today.


Tax Identity Theft: What it Is and How to Protect Yourself

By | Credit Repair, Fraud Protection

The sheer thought of identity theft is frightening. Tax identity theft, in particular, is increasingly popular and becoming a growing problem. According to an IRS watchdog, in 2013, more Americans’ identities were stolen in tax refund crimes in the first six months of the year than in all of 2012. It is estimated that 1.2 million taxpayers were victims of tax identity theft last year.

Tax identity theft defined

Tax identity theft occurs when someone else uses your social security number to obtain a tax refund or to get a job.

Uncovering tax identity theft

You are more than likely a victim of tax identity theft if you receive a notice from the IRS stating you earned wages from an employer you don’t recognize or if more than one tax return was filed using your SSN.

The effects

If someone falsely uses your SSN to report wages before you do, they may receive your refund first. When you file your return at a later date, you will receive notification from the IRS that more than one return was filed for you. If someone falsely uses your SSN to get a job, then that employer will likely report that person’s earnings to the IRS using your SSN. After you file, you will then receive a notice from the IRS stating that you did not report all of your earnings. The IRS doesn’t know that you don’t recognize this false employer.

Repairing the damage

If you receive a notice from the IRS stating that more than one return was filed under your SSN, or that you did not report all of your wages, it is critical you contact the IRS immediately because you may be a victim of tax identity theft.

The IRS employs specialists who will work with you to file your appropriate return, get  you a correct refund, and protect your account in the future. You should also file a police report to report the fraud. Finally, you need to send a copy of your police report to the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit along with proof of your identity. It’s also important to keep track of the dates you made calls to the IRS and sent letters. You should always keep copies in your files for your reference.

Protect yourself and stay educated

Once you have contacted the IRS, it’s important that you take additional steps to minimize any potential damage. You should order credit reports and set up fraud alerts with all major credit reporting agencies. You should also file an identity theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. It’s important to stay educated on how to protect yourself and to tell your friends and family. Tax Identity can happen to anyone. To help raise awareness, the FTC instituted a national Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, January 13 – 17, to raise awareness about this crime and to educate consumers.

Tax identity theft can cause multiple problems for you aside from your taxes. If your credit is ever damaged as a result of tax identity theft, you should consider credit repair solutions.  Let us at Ovation help you. We offer a wide range of credit repair solutions that are customized to meet your unique needs.

Contact us today to see how we can help.


Credit Monitoring: What, How and Why

By | Fraud Protection

We can’t all go to the extreme measures Jason Bateman takes in the movie “Identity Thief.” While it might be nice to think about personally chasing down the person who steals your hard-earned credit to go on shopping sprees, the likelihood of ever discovering who the culprit is may not be as easy as Hollywood makes it look. Of course, if Bateman’s character had a credit monitoring service, he might have known much sooner about his stolen identity.

Credit monitoring gives you the opportunity to monitor your finances proactively, so you know before something or someone ruins your credit entirely. Identity theft can happen very quickly, often without you noticing. Rather than keeping constant tabs on your credit report, a credit monitoring service will monitor financial activity for you and trigger alerts if something happens out of the ordinary.

You should monitor your credit for the same reasons that you don’t purchase that brand new car that you can’t quite afford: A new credit card or loan opened in your name, likely without any payments made toward the debt, can wreak havoc on your credit score. Without credit monitoring, you may not discover that anything is awry until a legitimate application of yours is denied.

Even if there has been no fraudulent activity credit, monitoring will notify you of any mistakes on your report, which could also harm your credit. If there is incorrect information, you have every right to dispute. Credit monitoring reduces the impact of any identity theft that does transpire, and it alerts you to account fraud much sooner than you would discover it on your own. By monitoring all three credit agencies, you gain access to information more frequently than your yearly free credit report.

There are multiple types of credit monitoring services, all with the same goal of detecting and preventing any fraudulent activity. One-bureau credit monitoring keeps tabs on one of the consumer credit reporting companies, and three-in-one credit monitoring tracks information reported to all three major credit bureaus. We now offer credit monitoring through our Essential Plus program, which is all the benefits of the Essentials program, in addition to TransUnion credit monitoring as well as additional advantages.

Since each credit reporting agency operates independently of the others, it is more beneficial to you to take advantage of the option to monitor all of them. Cost will vary depending on how often you want your report scanned, what kind of alerts you would like, and other additional benefits.

Credit monitoring is your opportunity to protect your credit. With all of the hard work you’ve done to build your credit score, it would be devastating to discover that someone else has gone on a shopping spree with your name on the card. Take charge of more than just your spending, and protect your information with the tools available to you.

What to Do When a Company You Do Business with Has a Security Breach

By | Ask a Credit Expert, Fraud Protection

The cleverness of the criminal mind never ceases to amaze. Recently, it was reported that thieves targeted Barnes & Noble, stealing consumer credit card data by rigging the POS PIN pads (the machine where you swipe your card to pay for your purchases) at more than 60 stores across the country.

If you shopped at one of the affected Barnes & Nobles stores, your credit card data, and even your identity, might be at risk for theft. Barnes & Nobles is only one of many companies to have had a data security breach, putting consumer credit card data at risk of theft. The question is: What do you do to protect yourself after the fact?

Carefully review your credit card statement every month

When your credit card statement becomes available, carefully review it to make sure the information on the statement matches the purchases you actually made. Better yet, if you have online access to your credit card accounts, don’t wait for the statement. Log in right now to review recent purchases and make sure all of them are legitimate.

Monitor your credit card usage going forward

Check your credit card usage regularly, and if you have a PIN associated with the account (a debit card or a credit card that allows you to obtain cash using a personal identification number), change that PIN with your credit card company right now. You should also (whether or not your account has been compromised) change the passwords you use to access your online billing regularly. Secure passwords should contain a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special symbols.

Request a copy of your credit report

It is a good idea to review your credit report regularly anyway, but any time you’ve conducted business with a company that has experienced a security breach, you should request a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, to make sure there is no fraudulent activity. If you are a victim of identity theft, report it to the police immediately.

Managing your credit reputation requires taking a proactive approach, to minimize potential risk. Ovation can help; contact us today for a free consultation.

Holidays and Fraud

By | Fraud Protection, Personal Finance

As the holidays approach, a certain joy fills the air. It is the season of giving and a reminder to appreciate all that we hold dear. Unfortunately, the Grinch isn’t the only one known for stealing Christmas. It is also the season of fraud, and with this sharp increase in illegal practices, it is important to keep your finances secure, because fraud can happen to anyone.

Criminals often take advantage of this time of the year, simply because their target population drastically increases with holiday shopping. There is much more of an opportunity to commit fraud, because there is such a rise in credit card activity. People tend to use their cards more than usual, sacrificing security for the sake of convenience.

Additionally, technology has made it easier than ever for someone to commit fraud without physically taking your credit card. Devices known as “skimmers” can be used at any location where you swipe your card, and small devices within an ATM can record your pin numbers as you enter them. Thousands of people are victims of fraud each year through methods such as these.

Luckily there are ways you can protect yourself this holiday season. Before you even venture into retail establishments, make certain that you know the location of your cards. Additionally, do not carry around more credit cards than is necessary. If you do decide to leave your purse or wallet in the car, place it somewhere that is not visible, such as the glove compartment or trunk. With fraud at such a high rate this time of year, any tempting item left in sight on the passenger seat is an invitation for someone to take that item.

If you don’t have your credit card and bank account information written down already, that should be on your to-do list. If you are the victim of fraud, you can immediately notify the proper authorities and likely reduce or even prevent heavy financial losses.

Another thing you should keep track of is your receipts. As tedious as it may be, balance your checkbooks! If anything does appear to be amiss, you can be aware of it very quickly and can possibly identify who is committing the crime. Protection of your passwords and pin numbers can also ensure the safety of your accounts, as long as you have made your pass codes more difficult than your last name.

These safe practices can keep your financial information safe from criminals trying to reap the benefits of your increase in spending. Be cautious with where you are providing credit card information, and keep track of what you purchase. Don’t let credit card fraud prevent you from having a budget-friendly and happy holiday.

How Many Credit Cards Are in Your Wallet?

By | Credit Cards, Fraud Protection, Personal Finance

Credit card offers are everywhere: in your mailbox, at your favorite retail establishments, from your bank and essentially any other public venue in which credit card companies can gain access to you. Their offers are also incredibly convenient. As sensible as it may seem to sign up for a credit card at those stores where you are most likely to make purchases, there are many downfalls to accumulating an array of credit cards.

Obtaining a location-specific credit card only encourages spending. The so-called benefits of credit cards entice you to make purchases that you would not have originally made, and credit cards may possibly promote spending at other establishments as well. Unfortunately, no reward is going to cover the cost of the interest you’ll pay for the debt you incur.

Your wallet can quickly become overloaded with credit cards, but if you’re not using them, what is the problem? Cards may be reserved for “emergencies” or “special occasions,” but if you are not a daily or even a weekly user, it is entirely possible that you would never know if they were missing. Others will have no qualms about making purchases with your credit card, and by the time you get the bill at the end of the month, the damage could already be done.

The solution to both the aforementioned problems is simple: Credit cards should not be carried with you unless you intend to use them. Rather, they should be stored safely where they can be easily accessed only by you, such as in a lockbox or a small locked cabinet. A wallet or purse is not considered to be safe storage, because credit cards can be lost, stolen or misplaced all too easily. Having a safe location for your credit cards ensures that you will not make poor spending choices, but it will also help prevent your cards from being stolen.

If you have not done a credit card check of your wallet or purse, do it now. Make certain that you have all of your credit cards. Then take a moment to make a list of the appropriate numbers to call if you do need to report a card lost or stolen. If a credit card is missing, immediately contact the issuing company. Cancel the card and alert all three credit bureaus. If you don’t regularly pay with the cards, don’t put them back in your wallet.

There is no need to regularly carry multiple credit cards with you. It places you at risk for impulsive spending as well as loss of property. It is highly unlikely that you need all of your credit cards for your daily purchases, and if so, we need to have a serious talk about managing your credit. Save yourself the trouble and store credit cards somewhere safe.

Don’t Fall Prey to File Segregation Scams

By | Bankruptcy, Credit Repair, Fraud Protection

Filing for bankruptcy is a last resort for those struggling with debt. It is a difficult decision to make, and this choice subsequently drops your credit rating with a resounding crash. There is relief in the fact that creditors are no longer banging at the door, but they are quickly replaced by a different kind of predator. There are several fraudulent credit repair companies peddling scams that will promise a clean slate, taking advantage of those desperate to escape bad credit.

The most important thing on your list right now is repairing your credit, and although quick fixes such as file segregation sound great, they are definitely too good to be true. File segregation is the practice of creating a new consumer credit file by applying for an Employer Identification Number. This number is then used on applications in place of your social security number, essentially falsifying your personal information. The fact that it is illegal puts a damper on things.

These scams often target those who have filed for bankruptcy. They claim that you will not have access to any line of credit, such as credit cards and loans, for the next ten years, and they promise to hide adverse credit information. For a fee, this supposed credit repair company will tuck away your bankruptcy and provide you with new information to use on applications. You might also be asked to use a different mailing address. If there weren’t red flags flying up before, they definitely should be at this point.

As if bankruptcy wasn’t bad enough, falling for this scam could make matters so much worse. If you happen to miss the warning signs, you will have committed a federal crime, and it is possible that you will be prosecuted. However, you also have rights to fight against the company that committed fraud. It is against the law for any credit repair company to provide services without clarification, and they are not within their rights to accept payment beforehand, even if what they were doing was legal.

People responsible for file segregation scams will do everything they can to convince you of your credit inadequacy and their own legality, but both claims are completely false. Yes, your credit is damaged, but you can still recover from bankruptcy. Of course you will not be approved for all credit lines, but you will still have options once you show that you are stable financially. The fast track to credit repair is tempting, but you are better off with a diligent payment plan and frugal spending habits.

Safe Summer Travel: How To Protect Your Credit

By | Credit Cards, Fraud Protection, Your Credit

The sun is shining, and it’s time to head to the beach. Summer is a great time to travel, and with the warm weather, you may be itching to head out for adventure. However, as exciting as travel can be, it can also have its tribulations. A road trip with friends or family may start out fun, but tight spaces for long durations can bring out the worst in people even if you do enjoy their company most of the time.

If you’re planning a trip, you’ve probably discovered that traveling is the one time when using a credit card can be a good idea. In fact, it may even be a requirement for many hotel and car reservations, as well as a handy way to keep from having to carry a lot of cash, which can be easy to lose. Unfortunately, having that credit card handy for travel can lead to its own trouble.

Protecting your credit card while you travel is essential, and there are several steps that you can take to protect your credit before departing on your journey. First, begin by placing important information such as account numbers and phone numbers in a safe place so that you can notify credit card companies if your card is lost or stolen.

Second, make note of the due dates on your credit card. Most credit card companies will not be forgiving if you forget to make your payment on time because you are on the beach. Either create a secure account to be able to pay the bill online while you are gone, or send the payment early.

Most credit cards have security in place that will prevent you from using the card if they see a trail of purchases moving across state lines. You will need to notify your company before you travel so that you don’t suddenly try to buy gas and have the card declined for a fraud alert.

Although a limited credit card is a hassle, a maxed out card is even worse. It is still important to be careful with your spending. Experiences and memories are priceless, but the damage to your credit can leave you wishing you’d never left home.

Successful travel takes a little bit of planning, and while it’s inevitable you’ll forget something, being mindful of your credit obligations is one thing you should prioritize – before, during, and after the trip.



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