Connect with us

News

How to protect your credit in the COVID-19 crisis

Published

on

woman delivering groceries
Photo (c) freemixer – Getty

If you’re freaking out about your credit score right now, you aren’t alone. About half of American consumers worry that the financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will negatively impact their credit scores, according to a recent survey conducted via The Harris Poll.

It’s stressful enough planning a future during heightened economic uncertainty even if you have great credit. If you have a less-than-good credit score, it feels impossible — bad credit makes your insurance and loans more expensive and limits career and housing opportunities.

During this time, ConsumerAffairs recommends staying informed, considering all your options and being extra vigilant about protecting yourself from identity theft. Below, read more tips for ways to help keep your credit score safe.

1. Routinely check your credit reports for inaccuracies

couple checking credit
Photo (c) katleho Seisa – Getty

We recommend checking all 3 credit bureaus each month. Through April 2021, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax will provide all U.S. consumers free weekly credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com. If you see inaccurate charges or fraudulent accounts on your credit report, you have a right to dispute it. To learn more about how to fix a damaged credit history, read our credit repair guide.

Finding unfamiliar information on your reports is one of the most significant indicators of identity theft. Identity thieves wreck their victims’ credit scores by opening up credit cards and maxing them out. For more information, read about cybersecurity and COVID-19 and how to check for identity theft.

You can also pay for identity theft protection services that monitor your credit reports and personally identifiable information (PII) across the internet and dark markets. Right now, our partners at Identity Guard are offering Consumer Affairs readers up to a 33% discount on their identity theft protection services.

2. Be smart about online shopping

woman shopping online
Photo (c) filadendron – Getty

Even if your state is reopening, online shopping may be the best option for you to avoid unnecessary crowds. Still, with every online transaction comes the risk of identity theft.

Trust your gut — if an online deal or “special offer” seems too good to be true, it probably is. For instance, a scammer advertised “free” face masks on social media if you paid shipping and handling charges — when consumers didn’t receive their masks and went back to check the website, it was gone. Here are some more online shopping safety tips to follow when you make online purchases:

  • Be skeptical of online stores without any public reviews or social media presence.
  • Use a credit card whenever possible. Most credit card issuers provide free $0 liability for fraudulent purchases.
  • Check if the website starts with “https://”, which stands for “Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure” and confirms the site was designed with cybersecurity in mind.
  • Never save your payment information directly to a website. Instead, take advantage of third-party payment programs like ApplePay, PayPal and GooglePay.

If you suspect your personally identifiable information (PII) is compromised, you should freeze your credit, which blocks anyone from accessing your credit reports. You should then report instances of consumer fraud of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

“To protect your credit score, the single most important step you can take is to put a security freeze on your credit files at the 3 major credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax,” according to Rob Douglas, ConsumerAffairs identity theft protection contributing editor. “You can place a security credit freeze at all 3 credit bureaus at no cost, and it will prevent someone from opening a new credit line in your good name.”

3. Be proactive with lenders and creditors

credit card statements
Photo (c) littlebloke – Getty

Even in uncertain times, some things remain constant. The most influential factor that affects your credit scores is still your payment history. Partial payments are better than nothing when it comes to your credit score. A series of missed payments on your report has a long-term negative effect.

“It’s so important to do everything you can to protect your credit during difficult times. Of course, you should pay your bills on time,” said Barbara A. Friedberg, a personal finance expert and owner of Robo-Advisor Pros. “But if you’re having financial difficulties, make sure to contact your creditors and ask for a payment plan. That way, you won’t be penalized for delaying or minimizing payments on your obligations. You’ll find many businesses receptive to making adjustments in your bills during this difficult period.”

Credit reporting bureaus are most interested in whether you pay back loans and credit cards. (According to The Harris Poll survey, 81% of Americans incorrectly think that rent payment history impacts credit scores.)

  • If you can’t make a full payment, taking care of the minimum amount prevents a significant blow to your credit score.
  • Instead of quietly missing a credit card payment, reach out to your issuer and request assistance. It never hurts to ask if you can defer or reduce payments.
  • If you have automated payments for a loan scheduled through your checking account that you can’t pay, ask if your lender can work with you before they withdraw the amount from your account. Don’t wait until the payment is past due, or your account is already overdrawn.
  • Many utility, mobile and internet providers offer reasonable payment arrangements if you ask.

More than 46 million Americans expect to miss a credit card payment this year. Fortunately, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) encourages financial institutions to help consumers cope with the financial crisis resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Many companies are temporarily suspending payments and cancellations during the outbreak. For example, automakers are extending warranties. Nonprofit agencies are also providing credit counseling.

4. Add a consumer statement to your credit history

credit score report
Photo (c) courtneyk – Getty

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you can write a short statement (up to 100 words) visible to anyone who looks at your credit report. The statement won’t affect your credit score one way or the other, but it gives you a chance to explain any defensible circumstances to potential future lenders.

For example, you could write, “I can’t make this payment right now because I lost my job due to the coronavirus pandemic.” You can also add a statement if you disagree with the results of a credit dispute. Be aware that consumer statements stay on your credit report for 10 years, so avoid including anything that could potentially portray you as a risky borrower.

You can also request that lenders indicate on your credit report that you were “affected by a natural or declared disaster.” For more information on how to submit a consumer statement, visit the credit reporting bureaus at Experian.com, Equifax.com and TransUnion.com.

5. Find out if you qualify for relief programs and benefits

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides disaster financial assistance for American workers and business owners. Federal help with food, housing and bills is also available. However, it’s not automatic — you must apply for the programs and benefits to receive them.

“While providing assistance to those in need and encouraging all of us to follow stay-at-home orders and guidelines issued by most states and the federal government, these programs are an attractive target to identity thieves and other financial fraud criminals. If an identity thief files for benefits in your name, or changes the address and/or bank account information on an existing benefits account, you may suffer financial harm and, potentially, harm to your credit score,” Douglas said.

In addition to providing emergency relief benefits, the CARES Act also regulates how companies share information with the credit reporting bureaus. Your creditor is not required to report skipped or partial payments to the credit bureaus if you make other arrangements, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Find more information, read these resources about government benefits during the coronavirus pandemic. Visit coronavirus.gov for live updates.

6. Rethink your budget and plan ahead

couple budgeting
Photo (c) katleho Seisa – Getty

You already know you can save money by cutting back on nonessential retail therapy and meal delivery services. Reducing costs doesn’t directly impact your credit score but can factor into your credit card usage, amount of debt and credit utilization ratio, which are significant determiners of credit scores. 

Here are a few ways you can save more and spend less for those in crisis mode because of a layoff or loss of income: 

  • Cut back: Set aside 15 minutes sometime today to cancel any recurring monthly fees that you don’t use right now, including streaming services and gym memberships. For example, if your new schedule lets you do your own lawn care, you can save on that too.
  • Pay attention: Use a financial management app to track how much you’re spending, when bills are due and where you can save. Plus, many of these apps offer basic credit monitoring services as a bonus.
  • Transfer debt: If you’re furloughed and expect to be back at work within the next year, you can transfer your credit card debt to a low-interest card and save on monthly payments in the meantime. For more information, read how a balance transfer credit card can help you pay down credit card debt faster.

Bottom line: Protecting your credit score in 2020 and beyond

man signing a loan
Photo (c) skynesher – Getty

As the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic rebounds, try to remember that serenity is essential to any recovery process. You must accept the things that you cannot change, have the courage to change the things you can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Don’t forget that all credit scores are constantly in flux. Anyone’s score can plummet after just a few months of missed payments with high credit utilization. Even if yours takes a hit this year, you can build it up to where it was. After all, a credit score exists so potential creditors can make a decision based on your past creditworthiness.

It’s also important to remember that it might not make sense to prioritize credit scores right now for a lot of people. If you’re in a tough situation, focus on yourself first.



Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

News

TML announce launch of new residential Lumi products

Published

on

Steve Griffiths TML





A new, Lumi-branded, residential product has been launched by The Mortgage Lender, following a rise in demand from borrowers who have been financially impacted by the pandemic.

TML say that the range is available up to 75% loan to value, across four Lumi categories and caters for customers with defaults, CCJs, and mortgage arrears. It also offers enhanced credit criteria for unsecured arrears, bankruptcy and payday loans when compared to TML’s core range.

Lumi products are available for employed, self-employed and complex income applicants. The minimum loan is £25,001 and the maximum loan is £1m with rates starting at 4.98% for a two-year fix and 5.29% for a five-year fix at 70% loan to value.

Steve Griffiths, The Mortgage Lender sales and product director, said: “Now more than ever lenders need to have criteria that caters for a wide range of customer circumstances and recognise that the last 12 months has been financially difficult for many people.

“Our Lumi range, which is available through specialist distributors, takes a pragmatic approach to the real-world experience many of our broker partners are presented with when they are sourcing a mortgage for their clients.

“It offers fair rates combined with a flexible approach to underwriting that provides a stepping-stone for home-movers or those remortgaging and, in some cases, credit repair.”

Doug Hall, 3mc director, adds: “We are seeing increasing numbers of customers whose financial situation has been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic who need products that are appropriate for their circumstances now.

“Through sharing our knowledge and challenges with lenders, like TML, the specialist lending sector is proving it can meet those needs in a responsible way. The launch of Lumi is great news for brokers and customers. It shows lenders are listening and able to respond to the market, improving customer choice and competition.”

(function(d, s, id){ var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) {return;} js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

Source link

Continue Reading

News

how to boost a bad credit rating

Published

on

HOLLAND, Mich. — Your credit score is just a number, but it can make a difference in your ability to get a loan, house, or even a job ,and after a tough year for finances, now is an important time to pay attention to your score.

“You need to have options, and you need to be able to have access, and all of that boils right back down to your credit score,” says Bree Austin-Roberts, a credit expert and founder of Lakeshore Credit Management and Repair Services in Holland. “I think it was a reality check for a lot of people to saying, ‘Hey, it’s time for me to start thinking about my financial situation.’”

Bree’s story is similar to so many of her clients. A few years ago, before she founded her credit repair business, she and her family were evicted from their apartment. Searching for a house and facing homelessness, Bree noticed a similar roadblock everywhere she looked.

“The credit became a problem,” she said. “It always boiled back down to the credit.”

Bree buckled down on payments and in no time had raised her credit score enough to move her family into a home and start up her business. Now helping others achieve the same success, Bree says a few simple adjustments can make a big difference. Her first call was to the three major credit bureaus to check the accuracy of her score.

“Like 80 percent of people in the United States have something that’s inaccurate on their credit report, but a lot of people don’t know because they don’t monitor their credit.”

So start by checking with TransUnion, Equifax and Experian on the accuracy of your score.

If you’re having a tough time making payments this year on bills or installment loans (which Bree says you should always have at least one of), try contacting your creditors to see if they can delay payments or work out some sort of payment plan that works for you.

“Directly related to the pandemic, a lot of lenders are being very lenient,” said Bree.

In addition to making all your monthly credit card payments on time when you can, Bree says it also matters how often you use your credit card, and on what. She says most repair experts will recommend you keep your card usage below 30 percent, but Bree recommends a lower limit for her clients.

“When you’re in the building process, you want to keep it 10 percent or below,” she said. “If you’re planning on making a major purchase in like 30 to 60 days, you probably want to keep your credit card balances between 1 and 3 percent.”

Other tips include becoming an authorized user on a loved one’s credit card. If they have good credit, spending responsibly on their account could help boost your score faster. Just have them ask their bank or credit union about adding you as an authorized user.

You can also open a secured card on your own. A secured credit card is essentially a prepaid card that ensures you don’t miss payments.

And remember: no credit doesn’t mean good credit. Lenders want to see you can responsibly handle debt.

“Having something to report is positive, but it’s the amount that reports that shows your credit worthiness,” said Bree.

What it boils down to, Bree says, is having good habits and sticking to them. Building or rebuilding credit is a marathon, not a sprint, and Bree says patience is key.

“I was never always a credit expert. It was trial and error,” she said. “I have been there before, and it doesn’t take much to end up right back there again if you’re not budgeting well–if you’re not being credit conscious.”

You can reach Bree at [email protected] or on her website or her Facebook and use the hashtags #lakeshoreCredit and #CreditQueen to join the conversation with her.

Follow FOX 17: FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube



Source link

Continue Reading

News

Adam Reich On His Journey From A Bodybuilder To Building His Own Empire And Making People Financially Independent

Published

on

Adam Reich

Adam Reich was born on December 17th, 1985, and brought up in Long Island, New York. Gym and fitness lover, Adam Reich, founder of True Credit Repair, Passive Profits Ecom Automation, ReinventU wellness center, and Health Supplements didn’t always have it all. He found a great deal of success in bodybuilding competitions when he was young. He was falling short of turning professional and thus, in the time that he had, he built a late online personal training business with over 100 subscription-based clients. In 2014, Adam Reich was blessed with twin daughters and a few months later, he had to go take up a job for the New York City department of corrections on Rikers Island. He worked 16 hours a day for 5 years straight surrounded by a bunch of violent people. It was an unsafe job. Adam Reich got fed up and decided to invest all the little money he had onto himself. He worked hard and invested all of his time to finally have something of his own and he did, not just one but multiple companies with 7 figure turnovers.

Adam believes that the success he has had by far is because of the client relations and the results and satisfaction that he and his company have given over time. He believes that he should treat his clients exactly how he would expect to be treated as a customer himself. The reason behind investing in a credit repair agency was because Adam Reich first paid to have his credit repaired by the same parent company and 4 months later his credit soared from 550 to 740 and that opened a plethora of financial opportunities for himself. All of his companies are driven by customer satisfaction. He has learned that he must never over-promise to make a sale. He provides a service to his clients that he is proud of but sometimes he tends to over-deliver but he has learned from his past mistakes. Adam Reich believes that delivering a product is important but what’s more important is building a brand along with a reputation as this would help him and his company in the longer run.

Since Adam Reich realized his worth was more than that 9 to 5 job, within 6 months, he left the prior job to invest in himself, moved to Boca with his family, and built a beautiful life in South Florida. It has been great for Adam since then as he has been able to increase his salary tenfold and all the credit goes to his determination and hard work. He also worked towards making it easier for his clients to change their financial situation by providing them with abundant opportunities. That’s all that Adam has always wanted, to help others better their situations. He has had the time to experience a 9-5 job and knows how it feels to miss important events and not being able to spend time with family because of lack of financial freedom which is why he has built this empire so that nobody else has to go through what he went through.

Adam Reich has always kept his priorities straight and his clients are everything to his brand. He goes out and about for them and relates with each individual. He believes in the saying, “show me your friends and I’ll show you you’re future” and that’s why he surrounds himself with the right people always. Since he moved down to South Florida from New York, he has made sure to keep the right people beside him who give him the motivation he strived for. Adam Reich even met his fellow investors at that time and is friends with them. These are the people he used to look up to and hoped to become like them one day. To the colleagues in his industry, Adam Reich wants to mention that people should focus their energy more on customer service. Building results and winning client’s trust is very important to go far ahead in this business.

 

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending