Credit Monitoring for Baby Boomers

Senior couple on cycle ride in countryside

Baby Boomers are retiring at the astounding rate of 10,000 per day. That far exceeds the retirement rate of any previous generation. Baby Boomers are also far exceeding previous generations with the amount of debt they are strapped with as they enter retirement. Let’s take a look at Baby Boomers entering retirement today.

  • Nearly half of today’s retirees retire with debt.
  • About two thirds of those near retirement age expect to have a mortgage when they retire.
  • About 40% of those near retirement age expect to be paying on credit card debt during their retirement years.
  • Nearly 60% of Baby Boomers are providing financial support to their adult children. Many co-signed on student loans, auto loans or even mortgages, and are finding they are responsible for these debts.

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Keeping a Health Credit Score in Retirement

As far as credit scores, Baby Boomers have done okay as a group—not quite as well as the Greatest Generation, but significantly better than younger generations.

Hopefully Baby Boomers know that retirement is not the time to neglect your credit score! Your credit score will continue to drive the terms of any credit you may need—whether that is refinancing a mortgage at a lower interest rate, consolidating debt or paying for unexpected medical bills. Credit tips that are good for other ages continue to apply during retirement years:

  • Pay bills on time every time.
  • Keep credit card closing balances below 25% of their account limit—even if you pay them in full each month.
  • Maintain an accurate credit report. No one knows better than you if the information on your credit report is accurate.

Baby Boomers also need to be aware that seniors are often targeted for identity theft because they often have established a good credit history. It makes good sense to keep an eye on your credit report during your retirement years because that is often the first place where signs of identity theft show up. MyFreeScoreNow’s credit monitoring service checks your credit report daily for significant changes that should be verified by you including:

  • New credit accounts opened.
  • Change in credit accounts such as late payments
  • Address and employment changes
  • New inquires to your credit file
  • Public records such as liens and bankruptcies

Retirement should be a time to relax and enjoy life a little. Treat yourself to credit monitoring so there is one less thing to worry about.

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Credit Scores for the Graduate

Three young graduates pump their fists in the air outdoors and celebrate their achievement

If you are a 2016 graduate, you probably know your GPA. You may have seen it fluctuate during your school years, and there may have even been times when it was of concern to you. Was it too low to get you into a certain school? Was it going to limit scholarship opportunities? Could it affect you in ways you don’t even know?

With graduation behind you, thoughts of your GPA may be behind you also. But when you enter the post-graduate world, you have a new sort of GPA—your credit score. Like your GPA, it’s a number you should track and be aware of as it changes.

Information in your school transcript was used to calculate your GPA. The information in your credit report is used to calculate your credit score. Let’s take a look at both credit reports and credit scores.

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Credit Reports

Credit reports are maintained by credit bureaus (also known as credit reporting agencies). The three major national credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Credit bureaus are private, for-profit companies that collect information from creditors about how you pay your bills. They also gather information from public records, so things like bankruptcies and liens can show up on your credit report. Creditors are not obligated to report to the credit bureaus, but most are happy to do so because they also benefit from the information others provide.

Simply put, your credit report is a collection of information that tells the story of how you handle credit over time. It lists your accounts and how much credit is available to you, your outstanding balances and tracks whether or not you pay on time. Negative information can stay on your credit report for 7 to 10 years, though the impact of negative information should diminish over time.

Credit Scores

Your credit score is a three-digit number that sums up the information in your credit report. It provides lenders and others with a quick way to analyze your credit history and your predicted credit risk. As the information in your credit report changes, your credit score changes.

 
Why Credit Scores Matters

Credit scores give lenders a quick and unbiased way to make credit decisions. Your credit score can determine the credit terms you are offered including interest rate.

Don’t make the mistake of ignoring your credit score. It can affect your life long after you’ve forgotten your GPA.

 

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6 Tips To Protect Your Identity When You’re on Vacation

While you are on vacation relaxing and forgetting the cares of the world, identity thieves are hard at work watching for you to let your guard down. One study reported that 20 percent of consumers have had a document with personal information lost or stolen while they were traveling. Think driver’s license, passport, credit cards.

Keep your guard up while on vacation to minimize your risk of becoming an identity theft victim. Here are 6 tips to help safeguard your identity.

  1. Beware of WiFi hotspots. Your hotel or the coffee shop down the street may offer free WiFi, but the connection may not be secure. Be especially cautious about downloading software updates from a WiFi hotspot; these may secretly download malicious software to your computer. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) offers a safer way to do business by encrypting information that passes between your computer and a wireless network.
  1. Avoid public computers. The public computer in a hotel may be convenient for a checking out local restaurant ratings, but don’t conduct private business from it. It is impossible to know what software has been installed, and the risks far outweigh the convenience.

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  1. Use caution at ATMs. You may need cash while on vacation, and identity thieves know that. Their tactic? Install a skimmer to an ATM to capture account numbers and PINs. ATMs inside a bank branch tend to be more secure and are usually monitored by camera
  1. Travel with a light wallet. Old-fashioned pickpocketing is still used by identity thieves. Don’t carry unnecessary cards in your wallet that make a thief’s work easier. Leave your Social Security number at home.
  1. Wait until you return to share your vacation on social media. You may think you are sharing with trusted friends, but the truth is it is hard to know where your privacy stops and starts on social media sites. Wait until you are home to broadcast that your home was vacant.
  1. Monitor your accounts while you are away. If possible, use a secure connection to check your bank and credit card accounts while you are away. But if your only option is an unsecured Wifi, it is not worth the risk. This could be a perfect time to try a credit monitoring service that will alert you by email to any significant changes to your credit report.

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Protect Your Identity Footprint

Identity theft statistics are alarming! With many cases never being report, the real number of identity theft victims is probably much higher than the 12 to 15 million a year you often hear quoted. Is your identity footprint leaving you vulnerable to identity theft? Legs of woman on the beach in summer

Your identity footprint is anything someone could steal and use to create a piece of a new identity. It could be personal or financial. Really, it doesn’t take much for someone to make you the next identity theft victim.

Be conscious of your identity footprint to minimize your risk of becoming an identity theft victim. Don’t give identity theft criminals easy access to your identity! Instead of fretting about the things that are out of your control, concentrate on the things you can control.

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Shred, shred, shred. Shred anything with personal information. Identity thieves still scour dumpsters and trashcans for information that can help them create a new identity.

Lighten your load. The less you carry, the less an identity theft criminal will have access to if your wallet or purse is stolen. And yes, old-fashioned pickpocketing is still a common tactic thieves use.

Pay attention to your bills. Keep an eye on your credit card and bank accounts in between statements. A lot of damage can be done in thirty days. If your statements don’t arrive on time, call the bank or card issuer.

Guard your Social Security number.
Your Social Security number is like gold to identity theft criminals. Don’t carry your card. Leave the Social Security number field blank on forms you fill out until you know why it is needed.

Beware of phone and email scams. A little common sense can help you avoid becoming an identity theft victim through a phone or email scam. Unless you made the phone call and are sure of the number you are calling, don’t give personal information on the phone. Be careful about clicking on links in an email. Anyone can create a website that looks official . . . but isn’t.

Don’t conduct personal business in public. Guard your privacy with identity theft in the back of your mind. . You never know who is looking over your shoulder or capable of grabbing your information from an unprotected WiFi connection at a coffee shop. Never sacrifice privacy for convenience.


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5-Minute Guide to Credit Monitoring

Happy smiling woman pointing to somethingBack in the old days credit decisions were based on a relationship or a creditor’s feelings. Now, it’s your credit report. Creditors may look at your actual credit report or at the credit score calculated based on the information in your credit report. Either way, credit decisions are more black and white than they used to be. That makes an accurate credit report—one that is telling the right story—so important. A credit monitoring service can handle the challenging task of keeping tabs on that important financial document – your credit report.

Credit monitoring helps you maintain an accurate credit report.
The worst mistake on your credit report is the one you don’t know about. With credit monitoring you will know about important changes as they happen, putting you in a position to take swift action. Some of the activity a credit monitoring service looks for includes:

• New accounts opened
• New public records
• Changes to public records
• Changes to account information
• Inquiries to your credit file
• Address changes

Credit monitoring alerts you to signs of identity theft.
While credit monitoring cannot prevent identity theft (nor can anything else!), the kind of changes a credit monitoring service looks for on your credit report are the very things that could signal identity theft in progress. Credit monitoring puts time on your side when signs of identity theft show up on your credit report.

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Credit monitoring alerts you to who has viewed your report.
Creditors, employers, landlords and other business entities may have a legal and legitimate right to view your credit report. And you have a right to know when they do. Those looks, called inquiries, can have a negative impact on your credit and credit score. Credit monitoring alerts you whenever a hard inquiry that could impact your credit score is added to your credit report.

Credit monitoring is convenient.

Credit monitoring helps you keep a watchful eye on your credit. While ordering credit reports throughout the year is better than nothing, it offers limited protection because your credit report is a snapshot of your credit at a particular moment in time. A credit monitoring service is on call every day.
It frees you up to go about your life without neglecting your credit report.

Credit monitoring can save you money.
Sure, there’s a cost to credit monitoring. But when that is weighed against the benefit of having an accurate credit report, it could save you money. Even minor credit report errors can be enough to bump you into a higher interest rate tier that could affect your payments for years. An accurate credit report is important to ensure you aren’t paying for someone else’s mistake.


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Wise Up About Credit Reports and Credit Scores

Portrait of Pretty Young Female Student with Pencil on Campus Lawn.Sometimes adjust are like teenagers who think they know everything. But it’s amazing how misinformation even adults believe when it comes to credit. Here are five important things even you might not know about credit reports and credit scores.

1. Credit matters in more ways than you might think.
Whether you are applying for a mortgage, auto loan or credit card, renting an apartment or getting cable TV, your credit matters. Your credit report can determine not only whether or not you get credit, but on what terms if you do. If your credit is bad, you may be denied credit or have to put down a larger deposit. That can take a bit out of your pocketbook! Credit is also used in surprising ways, such as by employers who may review your credit report as part of the application process.

2. Credit scores are based on the information in your credit report. The three national credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—store and organize the information reported to them by creditors and others. But your credit report does not include your credit score. Rather, your credit score is calculated based on the information in it at the time someone requests your credit score. It can change daily as the information in your credit report changes.

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3. There are no joint credit reports or credit scores. Credit reports are files maintained on individuals regardless of marital status. If you are married, you and your spouse will have individual credit reports. However, anything you co-sign for becomes part of your credit report. Joint accounts will be reported on both individual’s credit report. If you are an authorized user on someone’s account, the credit history will be reported on both accounts, though only the actual account holder has liability for the account.

4. There are no quick fixes. If you’ve made some poor financial decisions in the past (and many have!), it takes time for your credit score to recover. Negative items such as bankruptcies may stay on your credit report for seven or even ten years; however, the impact of negative items on your credit score should lessen over time.

5. No one is going to monitor your credit for you.
You are the only one who knows if the information in your credit report is accurate. With information being added sometimes daily, it’s important to stay on top of your credit report. With MyFreeScoreNow’s credit monitoring service, your credit report is monitored daily, and you are alerted whenever there are significant changes that should be verified. Credit monitoring is a proactive approach to staying on top of your credit.


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7 Trade Secrets of an Identity Thief

When you’ve got a good thing going, you want to keep it under wraps. That’s the mindset of identity thieves. The longer their tactics are kept as trade secrets, the longer they can get away with the crime of identity theft. Statistics show they are doing a good job at it! Here are 7 tactics identity thieves don’t want you to know or think about, and tips for protecting your identity.Beautiful young brunette enjoying coffee.

1. Shoulder Surfing. Identity thieves often pose as distracted customers. Without you ever hearing a click, a thief can snap a picture of your credit, debit or personal identification card, gaining valuable information for creating a new identity. Be aware of your surroundings, especially when you are using a credit or debit card.

2. Beat the Clock. Identity thieves are always racing the clock, doing as much as they can before someone is on their trail. Don’t wait 30 days to check a bank or credit card statement. Keep tabs on your accounts and your credit report.

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3. Dumpster Diving. Identity thieves still go through trash looking for personal information that can make it easier to steal an identity. What are they looking for? Credit card statements, expired credit cards, pre-approved credit card applications—anything, really, with personal information. Shredding everything with personal information protects your identity.

4. Mail Theft. That red flag that gets put up to alert the mail carrier of outgoing mail also alerts identity thieves that there is mail sitting in a mailbox. Identity thieves also target mailboxes for new mail such as credit card and bank statements. Going paperless can keep statements out of reach.

5. Phishing. Identity thieves use phone calls, emails, social media networks and regular mail to trick unsuspecting individuals into giving up personal information. It is child’s play to duplicate a website, then send an official-looking email with a link to that website. Spend a few minutes doing your homework before giving your personal information to someone.

6. Skimming. Identity thieves learned long ago how to read information from the magnetic strip on a credit or debit card. Most cards with the new chip technology still have a magnetic strip for now. Keep tabs on your accounts and your credit report to put time on your side should you become a victim of skimming.

7. WiFi Interception.
Most public WiFi connections are not secure. Savvy identity thieves know how to intercept information sent through an insecure connection. Don’t sacrifice security for convenience.


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5-Minute Guide to Your Credit Score

Charming blonde girl in sunglassesHow much do you know about credit scores? Do you know the main factors that can affect your credit score? Our 5-minute guide to your credit score will help you understand your credit score and put you on track for a better credit score.

1. Pay Bills On Time
How you pay your bills has a huge impact on your credit score. Paying your bills on time every month is the quickest way to see your credit score go up. That doesn’t mean the bills have to be paid in full, but make sure the minimum payment due is paid on time. If your bills are coming at an inconvenient time of month, ask your creditor if the closing date can be changed. Many will do this for you.

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2. Pay Down Balances
While you are only required to make a minimum payment each month, lowering your balances can help raise your credit score. Make it your goal not to exceed using 30% of your available credit. Consider using a budget so you can see where your money is going.

3. Don’t Apply for New Credit You Don’t Need

Retailers are notorious for offering on-the-spot rewards if you will only sign up for their credit card. There are several reasons to say No. When you apply for credit, it is recorded as a hard inquiry on your credit report. The number of hard inquiries on your credit report can affect your credit score. Also, some people will tend to spend more when more credit is available.

When you need to shop for a home, car or student loan, do your shopping within a short amount of time. Most credit score models will count multiple inquiries for these types of loans as a single inquiry if they are made within a 14-day period.

4. Spend Less
Studies show that those with the highest credit scores tend to use very little credit. People tend to spend 12% to 18% more when paying with plastic instead of cash. For some consumers, that begins a downward spiral of getting in too deep to make on-time payments.

5. Keep Tabs on Your Credit Report
The information on your credit report is used to calculate your credit score. The information provided to the credit bureaus by your creditors is outside of your control. Make sure your credit report is accurate. The sooner an error is discovered, the quicker it can be corrected.


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5-Minute Guide to Your Credit Report

Do you avoid looking at your credit report because you think it’s over your head? You could be making a serious mistake. Whether you like it or not, others are using the information in your credit report to make decisions that affect your life, and it’s not just creditors. Landlords, employers, utility companies and insurance companies are among the other businesses that use credit reports day in and day out. Get to know your credit report. The information is organized to make it easy to understand. Here is our 5-minute guide to the four main categories of information on your credit report.mfsn-laptop

Personal Information

This information is intended to identity you. It includes your full name, your Social Security number, current and previous addresses, your date of birth and sometimes your current and previous employers. Minor discrepancies in this section are not critical unless they could cause you to be mixed up with someone else.

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Credit History
The heart of your credit report is your credit history. It includes a record of your past and current credit obligations. Your payment history will indicate if you have been late on a payment. Your current balance on each account is usually noted along with the age of each account. You don’t want mistakes in your credit history!

Inquiries
Inquiries are a record of who has looked at your credit report. Hard inquiries result when you initiate a credit application. Too many hard inquiries can have a negative impact on your credit score. Soft inquiries, on the other hand, have absolutely no impact on your credit score. Soft inquiries are only visible to you, and not to anyone else who may view your credit report. Viewing your own credit report is a soft inquiry. Credit checks by your existing creditors are soft inquiries.

Public Records
Public records include bankruptcies, court judgments and tax liens. Ideally this section of your credit report will be blank. But if it’s not, keep in mind that most negative information must be removed after seven years, though some bankruptcies may stay on your credit report for ten years. The impact of negative items on your credit report will usually lessen as they get older.

Why Accuracy Matters

The information on your credit report is used to calculate your credit score. Some creditors look no further than your credit score to make a yes/no decision about you. Mistakes on your credit report can affect those decisions or can cause you to pay a higher interest rate.

Don’t be intimidated by your credit report. Dig in and check yourcredit report for accuracy. It could save you money.


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5 Identity Theft Tips For Seniors

Identity theft continues to be a growing problem for everyone, but seniors are often victims of two types of identity theft that are on the rise: tax return fraud and medical identity theft. happy older pair on a black background

There are several reasons why senior make good identity theft targets. Seniors have spent a lifetime building their credit and retirement savings. They likely have more available credit and savings, making them a better risk for creditors. Seniors also tend to be more trusting. As seniors age, they may require help from strangers who are not always trustworthy. Older seniors are easier to scare into giving up personal information to someone on the phone. Here are some tips to help seniors avoid becoming identity theft victims. And when they do become a victim, seniors are less likely to report identity theft for fear that family members will think they are no longer capable of handling their own affairs.

Identity thieves look for the easiest targets, and they often find that in seniors. Here are 5 tips to help seniors lessen their risk of becoming an identity theft victim.

1. Protect Your Medicare card.
If your Medicare card has your complete Social Security number on it, block out all but the last four digits. Never, ever, give your Medicare information to someone by phone or in response to an email.

2. Guard your Social Security card.
Social Security cards are valuable to identity thieves. Social Security numbers often open the door to more information about you—information you do not want to fall into the wrong hands. Doctors often ask for your Social Security number but don’t usually need it. If your doctor insists, ask what measures are in place to protect your personal information including your Social Security number.

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3. Shred, shred, and shred some more.
Anything with personal information should be shredded before it is discarded. Identity thieves still sift through trash looking for personal information to help them create a new identity.

4. File your tax return early.
By filing your tax return early, you make it harder for an identity thief to file a tax return in your name. Once a tax return has been file, the IRS will reject any future tax return filed using the same Social Security number.

5. Keep tabs on your credit report.
It doesn’t matter that you aren’t in the market for new credit. The fact is identity theft is often first detected on someone’s credit report. A credit monitoring service is an affordable way to be alerted to potentially fraudulent information on your credit report.


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