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Most Consumers Expect ID Theft to Hit them in Next Year

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Three in five Americans (60 percent) believe it is likely that identity theft will cause them a financial loss in the next year, according to new research conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

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“Law enforcement has reported a big spike in online scams during the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking time to review your bank statements and credit card activity for unauthorized transactions, while also putting safeguards in place like complex passwords, credit card usage alerts and two-factor authentication, can go a long way to mitigate the threat of ID theft,” Gregory J. Anton, CPA, CGMA, chairman of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “Safe steps also include exercising caution when reading emails and clicking on links, learning about the latest scams, and being mindful of your online presence.”

As Online Shopping Increases, Few Take Steps to Protect Themselves

More than half of Americans (56 percent) say they have increased their overall online shopping since the start of the pandemic, with nearly a third (31 percent) saying it has increased significantly. While convenient, online shopping is not without a risk. Fraudsters can gain access to private website data such as your personal information and financial details which can be used to make unauthorized purchases, or even open new accounts exploiting your identity.

The survey found that since the start of the pandemic more than a third of American online shoppers (37 percent) have stored logins, passwords, or credit/debit card information on websites or apps, while only  3 in 10 (28 percent) have set up alerts on their credit or debit card for when a purchase is made without their card being present. These stats may be why in the past year one in five Americans (19 percent) have suffered identity theft or attempted identity theft. These incidents can be quite costly, as Americans lost a total of $16.9 billion in 2019 to identity fraud, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.

While basic steps can help prevent being victimized by fraud, few shoppers are taking them. The survey found that less than half of Americans (45 percent) have checked their credit or debit card statements to ensure that the charges match their actual purchases since the pandemic began. Further, nearly 2 in 5 Americans (39 percent) admit they use the same username and/or password across multiple websites.

“Using the same username and/or password across multiple websites is like using a master key for every locked door in your life. If just one online account becomes compromised, scammers will have the keys to the information behind every password protected account,” said Kim Hardy, CPA/CFF, member of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “The surge in online activity as people are spending more time at home during COVID has presented bad actors even more opportunities to steal identities. In this environment, it’s essential that Americans are defending their personal information from fraudulent threats.”

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Lower-Income Households Less Likely to be Familiar with their Credit Report

While the survey finds that two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) have at least looked at their credit report, that leaves one-third (33 percent) of Americans who have never checked their credit report. And those with a household income of less than $50K were found to be twice as likely to never have looked at their credit report than those with a household income of $100K+ (45 percent vs. 21 percent). A credit report lists all the debt taken in your name and serves a clear way to see if there are any inaccuracies such as someone taking out loans or credit cards using your identity which can ruin your credit score.

“Maintaining a good credit score is important for Americans of every income bracket. A good credit score can unlock many long-term financial health benefits, such as access to loans and credit cards with the most favorable terms. Whereas bad credit can make it more difficult to lease a car, purchase a home or pass a background check for a new job,” added Anton.

Checking your credit report is the best way to understand your current credit position. Unfortunately, for many, it can lead to an unpleasant surprise. A majority of those who have checked their credit report (68 percent) had to take steps to correct inaccuracies, with the average being 8 specific corrections among those who have taken steps at least once.

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Tips to Help Americans Protect Their ID

Hardy, who has years of experience in forensic accounting, suggests online shoppers take the following four steps:

  1. “Don’t wait for suspicious activity to occur. Take time to check your credit score for free at least once a year with one of the three major credit reporting agencies. And if you find that you’ve been the victim of identity theft, report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission, your local police department, and the credit reporting agencies.”
  2. “Do your online shopping at home where you know both the device and the network are secure. On-the-go online shopping, though convenient, puts your personal information at risk. You have no control over who might also be using that unsecured public network.”
  3. “Check to make sure the shopping websites you visit are secure. The URL, also known as a web address, will indicate if a website is secure. Look for a website address that begins with ‘https://’ in lieu of ‘http://’ which is missing the ‘s.’ If you shop on an unsecured website, scammers can steal your personal and financial information from any forms you fill out.”
  4. “Be cautious of any unsolicited communications concerning COVID-19 that ask for your personal information. The Federal Trade Commission keeps an updated list of commons scams on their website.”

Americans who would like to learn more about the steps they can take to help protect themselves from ID theft can visit: 360FinancialLiteracy.org/SafeID.

Additional survey findings:

  • One in five Americas (20 percent) feel it is extremely likely that identity theft will cause them a financial loss in the next year.
  • Thinking about online shopping accounts, only half of Americans (49 percent) update their passwords more than once a year. A quarter (26 percent) of Americans only update their online passwords when prompted by the website. And 9% never update their passwords.

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Do Personal Loans Have Penalty APRs?

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Select’s editorial team works independently to review financial products and write articles we think our readers will find useful. We may receive a commission when you click on links for products from our affiliate partners.

When you make your credit card payment late, you’re often subject to late fees and a penalty APR, which is a temporary spike in your interest rate.

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, for instance, has a 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR, but the penalty APR is a variable 29.99% (see rates and fees). Penalty APRs usually last for at least six months, but card issuers often reserve the right to extend them — especially when you continue making late payments. A look at the terms for the Citi® Double Cash Card show us that the “penalty APR may apply indefinitely.”

Penalty APRs are certainly not a trap you want to fall into, but it’s not something you usually have to worry about if you have a personal loan. Personal loan lenders can, however, charge late fees upwards of $39 per late payment. Whether your loan charges late fees all depends on how good of a loan you qualify for, and that comes down to your credit score, borrowing history and ability to make your payments.

Personal loans also tend to charge lower interest rates than credit cards, too. The average personal loan interest rate for two-year loans is currently 9.46% according to Q1 2021 data from the Federal Reserve, compared to 15.91% for credit cards.

Typically, interest rates for personal loans range between roughly 2.49% and 24%, but personal loans for applicants with bad credit can come with even higher APR — so do your research before applying.

Other common personal loan fees include:

  1. Interest: The monthly charge you pay to borrow money
  2. Origination fee: A one-time upfront charge that your lender subtracts from your loan to pay for administration and processing costs
  3. Late fee: A one-time fee charged for each payment that you fail to make by the due date or within your grace period
  4. Early payoff penalty: A fee incurred when you pay off your balance faster than planned (because the lender misses out on months of expected interest payments)

As you can see, personal loans can be costly, even without a penalty APR. It’s obviously best to avoid paying extra fees whenever possible. That’s easier to do when you have a good to excellent credit score, since you’ll qualify for better loan options.

Select has a free tool to help match you with personal loan offers without damaging your credit score.

None of the loans on our best personal loan list charge origination fees or early payoff penalties, but some may charge late fees.

Our top picks for best personal loans

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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Early Termination of a Car Lease

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If you’re leasing a vehicle in order to save money, but are thinking of terminating your lease contract early, you may want to think twice. Leases aren’t always as easy or as affordable to get out of as auto loans.

Can You Terminate Your Car Lease Early?

In most cases, you can get out of an auto lease early, but you may not be able to do it cheaply.

Leasing typically comes with fees both at the beginning and end of your term. However, if you need to get out of your lease early, there may be early termination fees (ETF), making the cost more than you bargained for.

Additionally, lessors often require you to pay all your remaining lease payments in one lump sum before releasing the contract early. Costs involved with getting out of your car lease early may also include:Early Termination of an Auto Lease

  • Excess mileage charges
  • Wear and tear fees
  • Any taxes not yet collected
  • Any negative equity
  • Storage and transport fees
  • Pay the cost of sale preparation

Check your lease contract to see if your lessor has any charges for terminating your lease early, or if there are stipulations that prevent you from getting out of the contract before a certain time. Even if there are extra fees imposed on you for returning your leased vehicle early, it might be easier to terminate a lease nowadays than it’s been in the past.

Since the pandemic, many dealerships and lenders have pushed into the digital realm to get business done. This includes video conferences to meet with dealers that typically needed to be done in person in the past. Of course, your vehicle still needs to be turned into a franchised dealership to be inspected and processed before a leasing company allows you to terminate your lease contract early.

Is it Worth it to Terminate Your Lease?

The first step is to look at your leasing contract and see if you even can get out of your lease early, and how much it’s going to cost you in ETFs. Then, you need to gather the following information:

  • Your monthly lease payment amount
  • How many payments you have left on your contract
  • The residual value of the vehicle

To figure out a good ballpark figure for getting out of your leased vehicle early, add together the cost of your remaining lease payments and any ETFs. To see if it’s worth it, compare this figure with the buyout price at the end of your lease, and find out what the current market value of the car is by checking sites like Kelley Blue Book and NADAguides.

Depending on how close you are to the end of your lease term, if the buyout price on the vehicle is significantly lower than the early termination price, it may be a good idea to wait it out. Then, once you buy out your lease, you can trade in the car for something else.

If you decide not to wait, how you handle getting out of your leased vehicle early could depend on the difference between the current market value of the car and the residual value of the vehicle as predetermined in your leasing contract. If the car has more value than the lessor predicted, you may be able to sell it for enough to pay your way out of your lease early.

Three Options for Terminating Your Lease Early

If you’re looking to get out of your lease early, for whatever reason, you typically have three options:

  1. Sell your leased car to a dealer – Selling your leased car to a dealer is similar to doing a trade-in, except they pay off your lease contract, including the early termination fees. It’s typically a pretty easy process, especially since used vehicles are in high demand since the pandemic. You may be able to get a little more for a car that’s coming off a lease since the turnaround time on a sale is likely to be shorter, depending on demand. If this is the case, you may even be able to walk away with some cash in hand depending on if the dealer’s willing to pay more than the lessors estimated residual value on the vehicle.
  2. Have someone else take over your lease – Lease assumption isn’t always something you can do, but in many cases, you can transfer your lease to someone else, as long as they meet all the lessor qualifications and there’s equity in the vehicle.
  3. Lease buyout – With the demand for used vehicles at affordable prices up right now, you may be able to buy out your lease then sell the car privately as long as you get enough money to make it worth your while. If you can’t come close to selling it yourself for the amount you need to pay off your lease, including ETFs, it may not be worth it to try and get out of the vehicle early. Most leasing companies allow for some form of early lease buyout, but again, it may cost you those extra fees.

If Leasing Isn’t for You

Now that you’ve figured out whether it’s worth it or not to get out of your lease early, it’s time to decide what to do next when it comes to getting a vehicle.

If you didn’t mind leasing but the car just wasn’t for you, you likely have the option to swap into another lease on a different vehicle with the same company. Many lessors contact lessees toward the end of their contracts to see if they’d be willing to get into another car lease early.

However, leasing isn’t for everyone. If you found that the restrictions that come with it such as the mileage limitations, or cost of maintenance and repairs are too much for you to handle, it may be time to consider an auto loan for your next go-round. If this is the case, Auto Credit Express wants to get you started on the path toward your next vehicle.

We’ve gathered a nationwide network of special finance dealerships that are signed up with lenders to help people with credit challenges. Whether you’re just not sure where to start or you need a little help due to bad credit, start here. By filling out our fast, free, no-obligation auto loan request form, you’re taking the first step toward finding your next car loan without all the hassle of searching. Get started right now!

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GSB focuses on social responsibility

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State-owned Government Savings Bank (GSB) has focused on providing loans to people without a record in the National Credit Bureau system or with bad credit over the last year to help those impacted by the pandemic deal with unprecedented economic hardship.

GSB president and chief executive Vitai Ratanakorn said the bank has extended loans to people with no credit history who have never borrowed from commercial banks or non-bank institutions.

He said the bank had already provided 1.5 million loans to members of this group of people.

The bank has also provided loans to 200,000 people with bad credit records.

Mr Vitai said the lending was aimed at drawing those outside the credit bureau system into the system and enabled them to get access to the loans, which was one of the main roles of state-run banks. This lending has been supported by the government.

He said this lending was not aimed at seeking profit as GSB charged a low monthly interest rate of 0.1-0.3%. For example, if the bank provided a 10,000 baht loan to a person under this scheme, it would only gain interest income of around 120 baht per year.

In addition to its objective of becoming the country’s genuine social bank, GSB’s other goal this year is to prevent loans from becoming bad debts, he said. The bank will rush to help customers in danger of accumulating bad debt to restructure before it reaches that stage.

Mr Vitai said GSB will not focus on growing its loan portfolio during the first six months of the year, but on serving the state’s policy of helping people and business operators cope with the impacts from Covid-19. Grassroots people and small and medium-sized enterprises are suffering the most from the pandemic, he said.

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