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Fraud Protection

What Do I Do If My Identity Is Stolen?

By | Credit Repair, Fraud Protection, Your Credit

In the realm of science fiction and as a device in slapstick comedy, identity swaps often lead to hilarious adventures and comical misunderstandings. The humor in mistaken identity is a common plot element, even appearing in the works of Shakespeare. In the modern world of credit cards and digital money, however, the loss of or change in your identity is nothing to laugh about.

A stolen identity can encompass much more than just a stolen credit card. Identity theft includes personal information such as your name, address, and social security number, which allows another individual to make purchases or open accounts in your name. This is a serious crime, and it should be reported as soon as possible (even if it is a relative).

The first thing to do is to call the police, and file a report. Next, place fraud alerts on your credit reports by notifying all three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Each of these bureaus will request a copy of the police report; you should in turn request a copy of your credit report. Review your credit reports thoroughly, because it is important to identify which actions are your own and which are those of an imposter. By logging all your recent activity, you can successfully track what has been stolen from you. The credit bureaus can put a lock on your account, to prevent any further credit from being issued.

The next step is to close or change all of your accounts, in order to effectively lock out the individual who may be responsible. Contact each of your credit card companies, your bank and other lenders to let them know about the situation. This helps to ensure that the thief can no longer use your identity.  The last step is to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC employs nationwide resources to track down those who commit identify theft and works to help those who are victims of this callous crime.

Identity theft can effectively ruin your credit, and although the issue can be resolved, it is certainly not a pleasant experience. Take measures to protect yourself against identity theft by paying close attention to your credit affairs. If you are getting phone calls from debtors about items you never purchased or offers for credit cards that you never applied for, it might be a sign that someone has hacked into your life. Do not hesitate to investigate your credit, if you feel something is awry. Legally, credit bureaus are required to provide one free credit report per year upon request. Additionally, the credit bureaus also have to give you a free report if you feel you are a victim of identity theft. When it comes to identity theft, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

How Does a Short Sale Affect Your Credit?

By | Debt, Fannie Mae, Fraud Protection, Home Buying, Homeowner

In golf, the lower your score, the better. In bowling, a perfect score is a 300. When it comes to credit, the scores have to get much higher before you can win the game. Your credit score is the number that dictates your credit worthiness on a scale from 350 to 850, using a number of factors. Among them is your bill-paying promptness, your history of late payments and the credit card debt you’re carrying as compared to the card’s credit limit.

Your credit report contains additional information, such as the way your debts are handled. Some of the possibilities are: paid in full and on time or settled for less than the full amount. The report is important because it identifies areas where you’re financially vulnerable. In the case of a short sale, your vulnerability could be in a poorly-written settlement that leaves you liable for the difference between the mortgage balance and the settlement amount. That liability will appear in your credit report.

A short sale is a situation in which a lender agrees to close an outstanding mortgage for less then the full amount owed. This usually comes about because the real estate’s value has dropped below the balance due on the mortgage, and the property owner(s) can’t make regular payments. One of its effects, beyond the settlement terms, is its impact on your credit score and your credit report.

A short sale reduces your credit score by 100 to 200 points and credit scores after a short sale hover around the range of 420 to 520. People with high credit scores are particularly hard-hit when they go through a short sale, probably because a high score carries expectations of financial stability and responsibility. Most of the drop comes from the history of late payments and the short sale itself. A rule of thumb regarding points lost on your credit report is that you’ll get:

  • An 85 to 160 point drop for a short sale.
  • A 40 to 110 point drop if your mortgage payment is 30 days late.
  • A 70 to 135 point drop if your mortgage payments are 90 days late.

Those who are forced into a short sale may worry about the impact on their credit, but the impact on your credit from a short sale versus a foreclosure makes the short sale a better choice. A buyer who is current (has no late payments) can qualify for a loan within two years after going through a short sale while it can take seven years or longer after a foreclosure. In the credit score game, a short sale is a better bet than a foreclosure every time.

How To Handle Domestic Fraud

By | Ask a Credit Expert, Credit Laws, Fraud Protection

You hear about identity theft all the time. There seems to be tons of stories in the news these days about someone hacking into a business and stealing data on customers or their credit card numbers. It’s easy to know what to do when a stranger steals your information and commits fraud, but fraud can also be committed against you by someone you know.  It might sound more like something that happens in a movie, but maybe your brother-in-law dug that pre-approved credit card application that came in the mail out of your trash and helped himself to your better credit and opened the account.

At Ovation, we’ve seen it all – from clients whose family members have opened cable accounts and cell phones in their names without their knowledge to family members who rack up thousands of dollars in credit debt. Until you get a bill for a line of credit or a service you never opened, or you see a delinquent account on your credit report, you may never even know they’ve done it.

When a stranger commits identity theft, there is no hesitation about phoning the police and filing a police report (the surest way to protect your credit). With domestic fraud, it’s not always that easy to call and turn in your brother, mother, or nephew. Sometimes, you can handle the fraud privately between you and the family member responsible. Try talking with that person to see if you can work out a way to repay the debt that resolves the problem without impacting your credit score or sending your loved one to jail.

While some creditors may not even ask you who committed the fraud or care if you do know who was responsible, it’s likely they’ll ask for a police report. Generally it makes it easier to prove fraud if there’s a police report, but we understand it can be hard to file one against a relative, even if they are that black sheep of the family who always seems to be looking for a free ride at everybody else’s expense.

If the “figure it out between us” approach doesn’t work, you may be left with no choice other than reporting the abuse.  You can try to handle the debt yourself, and you may have the resources to do this, but if you don’t and you end up with a delinquent account on your credit report, then you’ll need to consider calling the credit bureau and telling them that the negative account on your credit report is the result of fraud. No matter who committed the fraud – friend or stranger – you have the right to dispute the charges and repair your credit score.

What To Shred – Reduce the Risk of Identity Theft

By | Ask a Credit Expert, Credit Cards, Credit Scores, Fraud Protection

Eleven million people a year and 54 billion dollars. That’s the hit that identity theft puts on us. And it’s mostly avoidable. How? Well, you can toss your personal and financial information in the trash and hope no one digs through it, or you can shred. But why take the chance? Thieves think nothing of rummaging through trash looking for valuable information. When they find yours, they’ll have everything they need to live their life on your dime. Shred and you cut them out of the picture. And you stay out of that statistic.

It only takes a few minutes a day to sort your discards. Set aside the documentation you should not shred such as recent tax information, and shred the items that contain potentially harmful information. Not sure what they are? It’s a fairly short list. Here’s ours.

Old Tax Returns. They contain your name, address, social security number, income, and your children’s names and social security numbers. The kids may not be eighteen yet, but people can still try and get credit in their name. Just be sure that you keep the most recent seven returns though, in case you get audited.

Credit card offers. You don’t want to leave them lying around and you don’t want to throw them in the trash. You never know when someone might see them and decide “Oh, I’m going to go get a credit card and they’re not going to know.” You will, when it’s too late.

Pay stubs. They have your name, social security number, address, salary and deduction information, and all kinds of employer information on it. So you definitely want to shred pay stubs.

Convenience checks. Let’s say you receive some from your credit card company, rip them in half and threw them in the trash. Then someone comes along, sees them, tapes them back together, fills them out, and sends them in. Yes, they could be honored even after being torn in half. You’ve just paid off their credit cards and added to yours.

Bank statements. They have your account number, name, address, and account balances on them. Even better than shredding is to go paperless with on-line banking.

Canceled checks. A lot of people think, “Oh, I wrote void on it, no big deal.” But it still has your routing and account number on it.

Canceled credit cards. Always shred a canceled debit or a credit card that so that no one can get the number. It’s a part of your credit history that could help a thief “prove” they’re you.

Outdated IDs. Items such as old college IDs, security badges, employee name tags, and photo IDs could be of value to a thief. There might be information on them that ends up on a fake ID. Shred them.

What Do Spielberg, Nimoy, and DeVito Have In Common?

By | Ask a Credit Expert, Consumer Rights, Credit Repair, Fraud Protection

Sorry to disappoint, but there’s no movie in the works. But Stephen Spielberg, Leonard Nimoy and Danny DeVito have more in common than you might think: They have all been victims of identity theft.

James Rinaldo Jackson enjoyed a spurious lifestyle by stealing the identities of these famous individuals. Jackson became privy to their most intimate information including social security numbers, bank and credit card statements and even credit reports.

The former identity thief describes his wicked gift in his book, “Your Evil Twin.” When recounting his misadventures Jackson said, “It is very easy to be anyone you please, on any given morning you awake.”  Jackson, who was quite good at thieving identities, has since gone straight. However, don’t take comfort in the fact that he is off the job or that when he was in the identity theft business he targeted the rich and famous.  Though Jackson has turned over a new leaf, there are countless criminals who would rather steal your identity than create a financial identity of their own.

Identity theft occurs when personal identifying information is accessed, without permission, and used to commit a crime. Stealing the information in the first place is criminal and the Federal Trade Commission indicates that at least nine million Americans are victimized each year. The sad fact is most of these people will not realize the violation until their credit report or credit score is negatively affected and they are turned down when applying for credit. Then where to turn?

The first thing a victim of identity theft should do is to file a police report. With the police report in hand, you can go back to lenders, requesting the account be closed as fraud and to write off the debt so that you’re not responsible. Go through reports of all three credit-reporting agencies with a fine toothed comb. It is extremely important to move as much damage away from your credit as possible. Many lenders will provide a fraud affidavit – a notarized form – which indicates you had nothing to do with the fraudulent account.

Figure out the extent of the theft – whether, for example, your social security number has been compromised. Monitoring programs that are in place for monitoring your credit reports can help you. Placing a fraud alert on your credit report will necessitate that the creditor contact you before any credit in your name is approved.  It will also assist you while cleaning up the mess left behind by the identity thief. There may be a number of accounts to dispute and a copy of the notarized affidavit and police report will go a long way as documented proof of innocence.

Fresh Start: Make Sure Your Credit Repair Efforts Count.

By | Credit Laws, Credit Repair, Credit Reports, Credit Scores, Fraud Protection, Save Money

Have you been turn down for a loan recently because your credit score is too low?  Don’t worry – it is very common.  It is also becoming very common for lenders to try to sell you on their own special credit repair programs.  Credit repair can be an extremely rewarding and beneficial experience if done the right way.  If you are seeking a fresh start and intend to embark on the credit repair journey, make sure your efforts count.

So how do you make sure that your credit repair efforts count?  For starters, be informed. If you do a little research, you will find many articles discussing credit repair.  You’ll see many articles that claim that you can do your own credit repair.  This is absolutely correct – you do not have to have assistance.  If you do a little more research, you’ll see that credit repair involves procedures that appear simple on the surface, but become more and more complex as the process unfolds.

Make sure your credit repair efforts count by only working with a professional that truly specializes in credit repair. How will you know?  Consider the following:

How long has the entity been offering credit repair services? It doesn’t matter how long an entity has been selling credit reports, or giving credit reports away for free, or making loans, it only matters how much experience the entity has when dealing with credit repair.   Ovation Credit Services has been addressing credit repair and credit report repair issues exclusively since 2004.  Ovation has extensive disputing experience – we have dealt with everything that you can imagine when it comes to credit reports and credit repair.

Does the entity have any expertise in credit repair? Claiming expertise is not enough.  Ovation Credit Services was founded by attorneys that understand the laws and regulations involved with credit repair.

Can you verify the credit repair services offered? Do a search on the company’s name on Google.   What do you see?  Can you find any information specifically addressing the credit repair services offered?  If you are considering spending money on credit repair services with a company that does not have a definitive and verifiable presence in regards to credit repair, save your money.  It is better spent paying towards debts.

Check the Better Business Bureau profile. If the company does not have a profile, has a poor rating, or does not list credit services and/or credit repair as a service offered, save your money.  Companies that offer synthetic secondary credit repair services as an alternative to their primary service rarely disclose these services to credible consumer protection type entities such as the Better Business Bureau.

If you are really looking for a fresh start, and you are considering hiring a credit repair company to assist you, be sure to hire a company that truly specializes in credit repair.  That is the best way to ensure that your credit repair efforts will truly count.

 

Credit Repair: The Sony Security Breach And Your Credit Profile

By | Consumer Rights, Credit Repair, Credit Reports, Credit Scores, Fraud Protection

Sony recently announced a security breach for users of the PlayStation Network.  Today, up to 100 million users may have been affected.  Data concerning credit card information, addresses, email, birthdate and more may have been compromised. The magnitude of damages caused by this breach has yet to be determined, but it is realistic to expect extensive damages related to identity theft. So what does a company as large as Sony do in response to such an unfortunate event? 

Sony announced that they took following steps:

1) Temporarily turned off PlayStation Network and Qriocity services;

2) Engaged an outside, recognized security firm to conduct a full and complete investigation into what happened; and

3) Quickly taken steps to enhance security and strengthen our network infrastructure by rebuilding our system to provide you with greater protection of your personal information.

Sony also provided some good general advice:

“For your security, we encourage you to be especially aware of email, telephone and postal mail scams that ask for personal or sensitive information. Sony will not contact you in any way, including by email, asking for your credit card number, social security number or other personally identifiable information. If you are asked for this information, you can be confident Sony is not the entity asking. When the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services are fully restored, we strongly recommend that you log on and change your password. Additionally, if you use your PlayStation Network or Qriocity user name or password for other unrelated services or accounts, we strongly recommend that you change them as well.”

Sony also provided some good advice about protecting against idently theft:

“To protect against possible identity theft or other financial loss, we encourage you to remain vigilant, to review your account statements and to monitor your credit reports. We are providing the following information for those who wish to consider it:

          – U.S. residents are entitled under U.S. law to one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus. To order your free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call toll-free (877) 322-8228. 

        – We have also provided names and contact information for the three major U.S. credit bureaus below.  At no charge, U.S. residents can have these credit bureaus place a “fraud alert” on your file that alerts creditors to take additional steps to verify your identity prior to granting credit in your name. This service can make it more difficult for someone to get credit in your name. Note, however, that because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you, it also may delay your ability to obtain credit while the agency verifies your identity.  As soon as one credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the others are notified to place fraud alerts on your file. Should you wish to place a fraud alert, or should you have any questions regarding your credit report, please contact any one of the agencies listed below: Experian: 888-397-3742; www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013.”

But the burden is on you to protect yourself.

While Sony provided some great advice, they seem to be pushing the burden of reducing the risks of identity theft to the consumer. Studies have shown that only about 10% of American consumers check their credit reports regularly. The reality is that consumers must take proactive steps to protect themselves.  If you think your information may have been compromised in this breach, and you are uncertain about how to protect yourself, give us a call at www.ovationcredit.com.  We’ll help explain the process to you.

Credit Repair: How Can You Tell The Good From the Bad?

By | Consumer Rights, Credit Repair, Fraud Protection

It’s a jungle out there! The following list identifies a few things you should consider when selecting a credit repair company:

1: Does the company identify their owners/attorneys, or addresses?
Unfortunately, the internet allows many scammers to appear as legitimate companies through legitimate looking websites. Before you give your hard earned money and personal information to anyone, make sure you can verify the company’s information and credentials. You can verify Ovation’s information from a number of independent sources including the Florida Bar, the Florida Department of State, and the Better Business Bureau.

2: Does the company have significant Better Business Bureau Complaints (or are not even affiliated with the Better Business Bureau)?
While any company can accrue a few random BBB complaints, significant number of complaints may be an indication that the company does not operate fairly towards its customers. Check BBB reports frequently and avoid companies that manage to accrue hundreds of complaints. To check for complaints, visit www.bbb.org and click on “Go to Local BBBs”. Question any company that chooses not to be affiliated with the Better Business Bureau; they may be trying to hide the truth about their organization. Our history with the Better Business Bureau dates back to 1976.

3: Does the company request fees in advance?
The Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA) requires that credit repair company charge for services only after they are  rendered. Requirements for large upfront payments are tell-tale warning signs of unethical companies. We only charge for work that has been completed in full. Learn more about the CROA in our Learning Center.

4: Does the company disclose your rights?
Consumers have the right to conduct their own credit report repair. You don’t have to hire someone to do if for you. For those that do, Ovation offers its services to individuals seeking legal professionals to manage their credit report repair. Ovation discloses your rights to you on every page of our website as well as in your signup package. We want you to be informed and you should steer clear of any company that doesn’t want you to know your rights.

5: Does the company advocate illegal tactics such as creating “new” identities?
Creating a new identity by applying for a Employer Identification Number to merge or replace a social security number is a serious crime and can lead to significant personal liability. To learn more about this type of illegal credit tactic, visit our Learning Center.

6: Does the company advocate fraudulent reporting of credit lines?
Purchasing a listing on someone else’s credit lines for the purpose of reporting a positive account is unethical at best. Trying to con the credit bureaus and your future and current creditors is a significant issue that can lead to personal liability. To learn more about this type of illegal credit tactic, visit our Learning Center.

7: Does the company simply dispute all your negative items without requiring any input for the client?
Regardless of how they market themselves, this is a key indicator that the company is a “rookie”. Not only are these types of companies violating federal law by disputing on your behalf in bad faith (which could lead to personal liability), these companies are making it more difficult for you to achieve sustainable results. To learn more about this type of illegal credit tactic, visit our Learning Center.

Tax Time means Credit Repair Time

By | Consumer Rights, Fraud Protection, Your Credit

Tax Time means Credit Repair Time

After you have completed your taxes and taken care of your tax requirements, it is now a good time to review your credit report. Finances are fresh on your mind and reviewing your credit report would be best served with your heightened awareness. You can order your credit reports once a year for free at annualcreditreport.com and only from that sight for free. There are plenty of other sites that will tell you they will give you the credit reports for free, but they will end up charging you for other things. Things that you simply just don’t need.

By going to annualcreditreport.com and providing them with some information, you will get your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus for no cost.

Then you can simply review your credit reports, dispute any inaccurate information and keep your credit history up-to-date. Simply reviewing your credit once and a while is not acceptable in today’s world. If you take the time once a year to review your report and then respond to anything that is incorrect, you will keep your credit history accurate and protect yourself from identity theft. If you see anything out of the ordinary or find that there are some things on your report that appear to be identity theft related, then you should immediately work on those issues.

Identity Theft is on the rise and people with good credit are more susceptible to theft than someone with a poor credit history. A thief wants to obtain things that someone with a poor credit history can’t so by finding someone who has a good credit score makes a better mark. But everyone can be a victim of identity theft so you should at least review your credit once year.

Some people will work on their credit once a year and resolve any issues that they find on their credit report. Then six months later will pay for a credit report from all three bureaus so that they can see if there are any changes to their credit report. If you have been victim of identity theft then monitoring your credit history should be a priority. This keeps your credit history updated and correct. Because you will never know when you need your credit. With credit becoming more and more important every day, it is becoming more and more important that it is accurate 100% of the time. Any inaccurate information can negatively affect your credit score and possibly impair your ability to get the best possible deals on most things that you want to buy. Things like homes, automobiles, insurance, and your credit score can affect all rental items.

Tax season is over but take the time to review your credit history and bring it up-to-date. Bad credit is not something that you want and finding things on your report that are inaccurate can lead to bad credit information.

Preparing for Bankruptcy (Part 2)

By | Bankruptcy, Consumer Rights, Fraud Protection

Now if you have spoke with a professional, followed that advice and have begun to prepare for bankruptcy, there are additional things that you should do. By gathering the paperwork and preparing to hand that over to your attorney, you are ready to continue on your path.

You need to begin to save some money so that you can pay for the bankruptcy. They are not free after all and the typical bankruptcy will cost you around $1500. You can save for this money by several methods. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Talk with your Attorney about which debts are likely to be discharged. Since they are going to be discharged you can stop paying those debts that will be erased in bankruptcy. If you are planning on giving up your home or automobile then you can consider those amounts as well. But talk with your attorney first about which debts you can stop paying.

2. Hopefully, you have already tried to correct your financial problems by managing your finances. If you have cut all of your extra expenses and are managing your budget well, then maybe you can have a garage sale. Cleaning out your clutter will help you with more than one problem, especially if you are planning on giving up your home.

3. Get some additional income at least temporarily by getting a second job or your spouse getting a job. It may be difficult if you have children but a little additional income can help you find the funds for the bankruptcy.

4. If you have a tax refund coming, then you can put that towards the bankruptcy.

5. You can ask for a gift from your family or friends. This may be difficult unless you have been completely honest to your friends and family because they may not know of your financial situation.

Be aware that if you have money in a bank that you owe money, you may want to move that to a bank that you don’t owe any money. Some banks will freeze the account and try to cover their losses when you file bankruptcy. 

Stop using your credit cards because you know that this is money you are not going to be paying back, it won’t look like fraud. By making any large purchases or using your credit cards prior to bankruptcy you make be accused of fraud and this could affect your bankruptcy. Again, talk with your attorney if you have any questions prior to doing anything.

Talk with your attorney if you plan to pay off any personal loans or transfer title on any properties that you have. Even if you are trying to do the right thing, you could be accused of committing fraud and then it might cause problems with your bankruptcy.

Finally, you will be required to complete a credit-counseling course. Talk with your attorney and see if you have a specific course outline that must be followed, then complete that course. It will be required before you can complete your bankruptcy so talk with your attorney and get that completed.

Bankruptcy should never be anything but your last option in correcting a financial problem. Although it might solve your current financial situation, you may not have learned your lesson. Learning what caused you to get into this position is the only thing that helps you in the long run. Do not repeat your mistake or you will end up here again. You will have to report if you have ever filed bankruptcy on many application and if lenders see that you have filed more than once, then you are likely to be denied no matter your credit at that point. Lenders can forgive a single bankruptcy because we all make mistakes. But if they see that you keep repeating your habits and have filed more than one bankruptcy then some lenders are likely to deny you based on that information.

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