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Decisions You Make Now Will Make or Break Your Credit Score in 2012

By | Ask a Credit Expert, Budgeting, Credit Cards, Credit Repair, Credit Scores, Revolving Debt, Your Credit

Christmas is just around the corner. Most of us who celebrate the holiday have our trees up, lights out, and wreaths on the door. If you’re really organized, you may even have Christmas cookies decorated. For the most part, most of us have done all the damage to our bank accounts that we can possibly do until next Christmas.

The kids may not yet be nestled all snug in their beds, but they are probably bouncing off the walls, filled with sugar, and getting excited about Christmas break. They are also being exposed to just enough TV and online advertising (not to mention the pressure from their peers) to come home every day from school with new ideas for gifts they forgot to ask Santa to bring them but absolutely must have.

This week, as you count down toward the magical day, the decisions you make can make or break your credit score in 2012. If you succumb to the desperate advertising of retailers and the adorable pleas of your kids and spend that extra $500 on your credit card – or worse yet, open a new card – you’ll pay for it throughout the year next year.

Retailers make a good majority of their revenues for the year between Black Friday and Christmas Eve, and they are counting on you to spend more than you have, to believe that you are getting a good deal when they mark items down 50%, and to take advantage of their in-store offers to “save 10% when you open a new credit card now.” The pressure, already high from about mid-September when the Christmas trees start showing up, gets cranked up a notch this week.

Our advice?

Just say no.

Remind yourself that your kids will be happy with the presents they already have under the tree, even if it doesn’t seem like it. And if they’re young enough, they’ll probably be satisfied playing with the packaging, boxes, and bows.

If you do feel compelled to do just a little more shopping, do yourself a favor and only spend what you can afford to pay for with cash. If you got a Christmas bonus or have a little extra cash after paying the bills this month, use that to round out your Christmas presents, but don’t put yourself in the position of having to pay off Christmas for the first half of the next year.

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.

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