Attorney General Ford Warns Nevadans About
Deceiving Discount Insurance Plans, Credit Repair Scams
Carson City, NV – Today, Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford, in partnership with the Nevada Division of Insurance, encouraged Nevadans to stay vigilant as scammers attempt to take advantage of struggling individuals and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Examples of the latest pandemic scams include the deceptive discount insurance plans and credit repair scams.
Deceptive Discount Insurance Plans:
With the American Rescue Plan Act, Nevadans have through August 15th, 2021 to enroll in or change their health plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace known as Nevada Health Link, because of the COVID-19 emergency. Nevadans shopping for a new plan should be aware that deceptive telemarketers and websites have been advertising discount medical and short-term plans falsely claiming that they are Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliant.
Entities are reaching out to consumers via robocalls, telemarketing, or through misleading websites that appear legitimate and may have similar names to legitimate insurance companies.
“When shopping for insurance, stick to the Nevada Health Link website as your first stop,” said Attorney General Aaron D. Ford. “These fake websites are intentionally confusing, leaving consumers who fall for them with unpaid medical bills.” “Limited health benefit plans serve a purpose but are not meant for long term use and have gaps in coverage because they are not designed to be comprehensive health insurance, whereas ACA compliant plans are,” explained Insurance Commissioner Barbara Richardson. “Be vigilant, understand the policy you are buying, and reach out to
the Division if you have questions.”
If you receive an unsolicited call from a health insurance company, do not provide any personal information over the phone. Consumers are encouraged to research the difference between limited benefit plans, ACA compliant plans and other types of plans by visiting http://insurance101.nv.gov/. The website also lists all of the companies in Nevada that are licensed to sell plans and tips on shopping for insurance.
To verify that an individual, agency, or company is licensed with the Division of Insurance, visit the Division’s website. The State of Nevada Division of Insurance regulates Nevada’s insurance industry.
Credit Repair Companies
As Nevadans start to emerge after a difficult year, many consumers may be looking for a fresh start on their credit. Credit repair companies offer the chance to get your credit back on track, but Nevadans should be aware that some of these companies may not be entirely legitimate. “If you are unhappy with your credit, you can take steps to repair it on your own,” said Attorney General Aaron D. Ford. “If you would prefer to pay someone to set up a
repayment plan for you, be on the lookout for misleading companies that may be trying to get your personal information.”
If you want to hire a credit repair company, the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection offers the following tips for spotting a scam. Be alert if a company:
• Asks you to pay all fees up front before it does any work on your behalf. Some companies may charge a one-time fee ranging from $15-$200 to set up the account. However, no credit repair organization may charge a consumer any money before the service is fully performed;
• Instructs you to dispute information on your credit report that you know is accurate. With your legal consent, the company may challenge and clean up any inaccurate items with the three major credit bureaus or directly with the creditors. If a company tells you to say you have been the victim of identity theft when you have not, this is illegal;
• Promises to remove all negative information from your credit report. Credit repair takes time and not every negative item can be removed; and
• Doesn’t explain your legal rights when they tell you about their services. Legitimate credit repair companies should include a copy of the Consumer Credit File Rights. Additionally, you have the right to cancel any services without incurring any penalties within three business days.
Under the CARES Act, you can obtain an extension and a forbearance on some types of loans for up to 180 days. These protections are valid until June 30, 2021. Homeowners with federally backed loans may be able to apply for mortgage forbearance. Federal student loans are eligible for suspensions of payments and defaults, and interest rates are set to zero, until September 30, 2021.
If you have been victimized by any crime related to the COVID-19 pandemic, please file a complaint about your experience to the Attorney General’s Office and the National Center for Disaster (NCDF) hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or by e-mailing the NCFD at [email protected]
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How to improve your credit score in 2021: Easy and effective tips
If you’ve ever wondered “What is my credit score?” it’s probably time to find out. Having a good credit score can make life a lot more affordable. If you’re about to buy a house or car, for example, the higher your credit score is, the lower your interest rate (and therefore, monthly cost) will probably be.
Your number may also be the deciding factor for whether or not you can get a loan and ultimately determine if you are even able to buy something you want or need.
So, yes, the goal is to have the highest possible credit score you can, but increasing the number doesn’t just happen overnight. There are important steps to take if you want to increase your score, and the sooner you start working on it, the better.
“If you’re trying to increase (your credit score) substantially to accomplish a goal, you’re really going to have to have as much lead time as possible,” said Thomas Nitzsche, director of media and brand at Money Management International, a nonprofit financial counseling and education provider that advises people on how to legally and ethically improve their credit score on their own.
If you have fair credit and you’re trying to improve the number for a house purchase, for instance, you’ll want to start working on it at least a year in advance, he explained to TMRW.
But even though that sounds like a long time away, you can (and should!) start doing things right now to bump that number up. Below, see seven things you should do — and not do — to help improve your credit score:
1. Review your credit report
The first thing you’ll want to do is pull up a copy of your current report so you know where you stand. You can get free reports from all three agencies — TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax — at annualcreditreport.com. Nitzsche said it’s important to take a moment and understand the financial snapshot of where you are today and where you want to be.
You’ll also want to take some time and look for any errors on your report, which could negatively impact your score. “If your name is misspelled, that’s not going to hurt your score,” he explained. “But if you see a late payment or missed payment (that’s in error), or maybe you have an account that should be reporting but isn’t, then that’s a problem and that will impact your score.”
If there is an error, you should dispute it and try to provide as much proof as you can.
One other thing: You can also ask a creditor to remove an issue if it’s been corrected (i.e., if you paid off a collection debt). Nitzsche said it doesn’t hurt to ask and the worst thing they could say is no.
2. Have good financial habits
“The biggest part of your credit score is payment history, so the most critical thing is never missing a due date,” Nitzsche said. Set up a monthly autopay or add all due dates to your calendar so you never miss a bill.
You can also achieve a higher score when you mix different types of accounts on your credit report. It may seem counterintuitive to get extra points for having debt in the form of student loans, mortgages and auto loans, but as long as you’re paying them off responsibly, it shows that you’re reliable.
3. Aim to use 30% or less of your credit at any given time
Know your credit card limit, and try not to use any more than 30% of that number each month, otherwise your score could lose points for too much credit utilization.
Another thing you can do is ask your bank to increase your limit. “That will give you more flexibility to spend more,” Nitzsche said. You could also pay it off twice a month to keep the balance low. But he does warn that you never know when the balance is going to be reported to the bureau. It can happen at any point during the month, so it might be the day after you make the payment or the day before. “You don’t necessarily want to use the card and pay it the next day because that doesn’t give the bureau the chance to know that you’re using it,” he said.
4. Avoid requests for new credit
If you’re looking to increase your score around the time you want to buy a house or car, you won’t want to open up a new line of credit, like a retail card, credit card or loan. That’s because “hard” credit inquiries like those can lower your score, and sometimes it comes down to a few points over whether you’re approved or what your rate will be, Nitzsche said.
“Soft” credit inquiries, like when an employer checks your credit or when you pull your own report, won’t affect your score.
5. Keep all accounts open, even ones you don’t use anymore
Even if you don’t use that credit card from college, it’s a good idea to just keep it open because closing it could hurt your score. Nitzsche explained that you’ll be dinged some points for each account that is closed. If you want or need to mentally break up with a card, just cut it up instead.
6. Build your credit if needed
If you haven’t established credit yet, you might not even exist … in the credit report space, that is! “If someone has never fallen in delinquency on any subscriptions or utilities or never had collections on anything and they have not utilized credit cards or loans in the past seven to 10 years, they may not have a credit profile at all,” Nitzsche said. “That presents a challenge when you want to buy a home.”
If this sounds familiar, you may have to get a secured credit card where you put down a deposit, he advised. “You still have to make payments and use it responsibly. Not all banks offer them but you can usually check with your local bank or credit union.”
7. Reach out for help
There are many apps and credit-monitoring services that can help you stay on top of your credit score. You could also reach out to a professional credit counselor who can help you navigate your specific situation. (Here’s a good resource about finding a reputable service.)
One last thing: Nitzsche warned that everyone should beware of credit repair scams that claim to be able to increase credit scores for an advance fee to get accurate negative information removed (even temporarily) from credit reports.
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