Identity theft happens when an individual or group of individuals takes personally identifiable information like names, date of birth, social security number, your address, and your mother’s maiden name among others. Once they have this information, they will pretend to be you and use it for their own financial gain without your knowledge.
The recent technological advancements have made it easy for your identity to be stolen. Individuals interested in your personally identifiable information will either use technological and non-technological schemes. Below are the top 5 ways you could become a victim of identity fraud.
Data breaches are one of the most common sources of stolen identity information, but we’ve written an entire article on data breaches here.
Social engineering when an individual or groups of individuals decide to make use of malicious activities to manipulate one psychologically and convince him to reveal personal information. The individual will, first of all, investigate the victim to gather as much information as they can. This information will allow him to identify any weak spots and any other areas that can be capitalized on to gain the trust of the victim. To convince the victim of their legitimacy, the perpetrator will take charge of the interactions and engage the victim fully. Once the victim believes they are legitimate, the perpetrator then proceeds to ask for more information that is then used to carry out identity fraud.
To avoid being a victim of social engineering, ensure that you stay diligent at all times and follow these tips:
- Don’t open emails or attachments from unknown sources.
- Be cautious of enticing offers that appear too good to be true
- Use multifactor authentication
- Ensure your antivirus is updated
Credit card/debit card theft
Credit cards and debit cards have personal information that can easily be used to commit identity fraud should they land in the wrong hands. One can easily open a bank account or acquire another credit card using those details. The new cards can then be used to make payments and rack up charges.
Protect yourself using these tips:
- Write the initials CID “See ID” in the signature panel at the back of the card. This will require merchants to ask for other forms of ID before authorizing charges.
- Keep your card in plain sight every time you make a payment
- Learn how to identify genuine and secure sites before using your card on any site.
- Don’t give card details via phone
Man in the middle attack
This type of attack occurs when an attacker intercepts communication between two parties by eavesdropping or modifying the traffic between the two. The attacker is then able to gather sensitive information such as passwords and usernames or personally identifiable information.
A man in the middle attack allows the attacker to interfere with the communication process or create a fake network to divert traffic to. The data collected is then checked for any valuable information that can be used to steal your identity. This is a difficult attack to detect since it’s carried out discreetly.
Use these tips to detect any man in the middle attack:
- Regularly check your credit card reports to find out any strange transactions and charges
- Always check the legitimacy of all websites you visit, especially those you fill in personal information.
A phishing attack is carried out when an attacker sends misleading emails to potential victims in an attempt to trick the victim into giving out personal information. The attacker will pretend to be a genuine person or institution seeking help or wants to do business with the individual. Even though it’s one of the oldest cyber-attack methods, it’s still one of the widest spread and the techniques and messages have become more sophisticated. Examples of phishing schemes:
Vishing, also known as voice phishing. This attack is carried out when instead of sending an email, the attacker calls the victim and pretends to be working for or representing a legitimate company or person. The main purpose of the attack is to get the victim to reveal as much personal information as possible. In some cases, the victim will receive a robocall informing him that he has won something is therefore required to provide personal information before it’s delivered.
Search engine phishing
The attacker creates a website that has extremely unbelievable offers. The website will be indexed into search engines like Google and yahoo making it easy for them to show up in search results. Anyone who visits the site is rewarded with incentives and convinced to provide personal information if they want to enjoy the offer.
The attacker will pretend to be a legitimate entity and send spam text messages to victims. The messages appear to be urgent and make the recipient feel like if they fail to take action by providing the required information, they’ll suffer losses.
Malware based phishing
The attacker comes up with a malicious program that’s meant to look like a genuine program. The program records everything you do on your computer and sends this information to the attacker.
Use these tips to protect yourself from phishing attacks:
- Be careful about downloading and installing any software
- Don’t dial back unknown numbers
- Research all companies that contact you
- Check the padlock symbol on websites in the address bar
Stealing of personally items/ dumpster diving/mail theft
The attacker can go through your trash in an attempt to get anything that contains personally identifiable information that can be used to steal the individual’s identity. In some cases, an individual’s mail or personal items can be stolen. Depending on what has been stolen, the attacker can use the details gained to steal the person’s identity.
Use these tips to protect yourself:
- Lock your mailbox
- Shred everything in a manner that will make it impossible to read anything.
- Contact the credit card company immediately if it’s stolen.
Learn more about protecting your credit from credit fraud!
Is it Advisable to Pay Off Collection Items?
The majority of consumers appear to believe that if they pay off collections, their credit scores will improve and become better. A shocking truth has emerged: this is not actually the case. Just so you’re aware, negative items can remain on your credit reports for a maximum of seven years, and your credit score will only begin to improve once the negative item has been removed.
What are Collection Accounts and How Do They Work?
Collection accounts are entries on a credit report that indicate that a debtor has fallen behind on previous obligations. Original creditors may have sold the defaulted debts to a debt buyer or may have assigned the debts to collection agencies after the default occurred. It should come as no surprise that the collector’s ultimate goal is to work on the client’s behalf in order to have the defaulted debt collected from the debtor or as much of it as possible.
The majority of the time, these collection accounts are reported to credit reporting agencies. According to the FCRA, or Fair Credit Reporting Act, these are permitted to remain on credit reports for up to seven years from the date of the initial debt’s first delinquency.
The Consequences of Paying Off Collections on Your Credit Score
The ramifications of completely paying off collection accounts will not disappear in an instant, however. You will still need to wait until the statute of limitations has expired before this information can be removed from your credit report. As previously stated, this will typically take approximately seven years. Fortunately, information from the past will have a smaller impact on your credit score.
Despite the fact that paying off collections will not improve your credit score, there are several ways in which you can take advantage of this situation:
Credit card or medical bills can result in debt collection lawsuits, which you can avoid if you take the proper steps.
As a result, you will be able to avoid paying interest fees to debt collectors. A debt collector is constantly selling and buying accounts, and he or she may continue to charge you fees and interest on the accounts that have been purchased.
In the event of a settlement or payment in full, the credit report will reflect this. When it comes to lenders, it can have a positive impact because they are likely looking beyond your credit score and instead of looking at your credit history and other factors. Comparing those who successfully repay an extremely past due account to those who never managed to do so, the former will demonstrate greater financial responsibility.
You will eventually be able to benefit from the most recent FICO Score model. Despite the fact that the FICO 9 is still in the early stages of implementation, the vast majority of lenders will eventually adopt it. Medical bills will be given less weight in this model, and paid accounts will be completely ignored when it comes to collections.
According to the law, the majority of negative credit information, such as collections, should be removed from credit reports over time. The fact remains that attempting to settle or pay off your debt as quickly as possible will be in your best interests. Not to mention the fact that, in contrast to older models, the newer models for credit scoring do not take into consideration collections with zero balances. If you don’t think you’ll be able to handle it on your own, you can always enlist the assistance of professionals who can simplify the entire process for you.
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How Bad is an Eviction and How Long Does it Stay on Your Credit?
Every time someone mentions a record during an eviction, what they are really referring to is a background check as well as your credit report and history. In general, an eviction will appear on your credit report for up to seven years.
That is correct; you read that correctly. It will be there not for 7 months, but for as long as 7 years, according to some estimates. Eviction is, therefore, a major issue in this community, and it is treated as such. Landlords, in particular, are wary of renting to tenants who have a history of evictions on their records. If you are ever evicted, this fact will follow you wherever you go for the next seven years, no matter how hard you try to forget it.
For landlords to know that you have been evicted in the past, there are two ways to find out.
If the reason for your eviction was non-payment of rent, your landlord may have forwarded this account to a collection agency, which will then appear on your credit report as a result of your actions.
When the courts were involved in your eviction, the case judgment is considered public record, and landlords who use tenant-screening services will be able to see this information if they conduct a background check on the tenant in question.
Is it possible to have an eviction removed from your credit report?
Anything that is accurate on your credit report will remain on your report for seven years. If there is ever a mistake, you will have the opportunity to contest the decision.
This error will be removed from your credit report if you can provide proof to the credit reporting agency that a mistake was made. If you were successful after being served with an eviction notice, you should provide proof of your victory to the reporting agency. There are landlords who will attempt to evict people even if they do not have a legitimate or acceptable reason to do so.
How Can You Find a Place to Rent if You Have an Eviction on Your Credit Report?
It is important to understand that just because you have an eviction on your credit report does not necessarily mean that you will be unable to rent for the next seven years. However, even though your report contains an eviction, there are still several options available to you for finding a place to live in the meantime.
Take the initiative.
Inform the property manager or landlord of your intention to evict them prior to submitting your application and explain your circumstances to them. Even if the eviction took place years ago and you have maintained a good tenant record since then, there is a chance that the landlord will rent to you again.
Look for someone who will sign on as a cosigner for you.
It is possible for you to obtain a rental unit if you have a co-signer who has good credit and can vouch for you. Your parent or another person with good credit can serve as your co-signer. If, on the other hand, a payment is not made on time, your landlord has the right to and will almost certainly ask for the money from your cosigner.
Pay in advance if possible.
A high probability of obtaining a rental unit exists if the landlord recognizes your willingness to pay the rental value in full upfront for a period of 3 to 6 months.
What’s the bottom line?
It is preferable to avoid being evicted in the first place if you want to avoid having any eviction information on your credit report.
Why did House Prices Go Up in 2020 During the Pandemic
The pandemic brought with it a lot of surprises, one of them being the rise in house prices. The US economy plummeted with millions of Americans finding themselves out of work and without food. No one would have predicted that at the time when times were hard for everyone, home prices would become overheated, mortgage rates would skyrocket, and the supply for houses would not meet the demands and consumer confidence in the housing market was reducing. The housing market was booming.
Right at the beginning of the pandemic, no one was willing to buy a house or even sell one. This was because of the uncertainties of the time brought about by Covid-19. In a span of a few months, most day-to-day activities were confined to the available properties. Houses became a key asset and prices began to rise.
The US real estate market in context
The American real estate market suffered a huge blow as a result of the 2008 financial crisis. The recession saw the prices of houses fall by a big margin and the world’s largest real estate market was affected in ways no one would have imagined. This was as a result of subprime mortgages that were given in large numbers to help as many Americans as possible to become homeowners. Homeowners found themselves mortgages that were higher than the value of their houses. By 2013, the market was showing signs of recovery. From 2018 to 2019, the market began to fall slightly.
For many Americans, owning a home is very important to them as it allows them to build up their wealth, make it easy for them to access credit, and be able to save more as they no longer have to pay rent. A large percentage of homeowners rely on mortgages to acquire homes after raising the down payment from their savings or with money from their families. It was expected that the pandemic would lead to foreclosures especially since the economy took a downward spiral at the start of the pandemic. Many people also lost their source of income and were unable to keep up with their mortgage payments.
The most expensive real estate in the USA is found in San Francisco, California. San Francisco has a booming economy fueled by the presence of tech companies like Apple, Facebook, Intel, and Tesla that have their headquarters in the nearby Silicon Valley. The city also has been at the forefront in matters progressive culture which attracts more people to relocate to it. As a result of the thriving tech economy that brings billions of dollars into the city, and rising housing demand, the city is the most expensive place to buy a house in the US. On average, the price per square foot is $1,100.
Why do house prices go up in general?
The value of a house is usually expected to depend on the demand for living in a particular area, but things like recessions and pandemics are known to have an impact that can either be positive or negative. House prices go up when the supply does not meet the demand. One of the key factors that affect the supply has to do with the regulations that restrict the number of housing units that can be built. For example in a single-family zone, it’s illegal to build townhouses or apartments, or condos on any spaces designated for single units and parking minimums must be met. This forces contractors to make provisions for parking spaces even in places where it’s unwarranted.
Some local governments allow groups of people to block developments they feel will have a negative impact on the overall value of the entire estate. These local zoning regulations are making it impossible for most Americans to move to better estates due to the shortage of housing.
Why did house prices go up during the pandemic?
The price for houses is determined by the existing demand and supply dynamics. The fewer the number of houses available, the higher the prices for the available units would be. If the number of buyers is fewer, then the house prices would be lower. The prices went up because the pandemic affected both supply and demand. A lot of people were in a rush to take advantage of the falling mortgage rates which made it easier to acquire homes at a cheaper price.
As a result of the falling mortgage rates, houses were not staying on the market for long. Among those who bought the homes were first-time homebuyers or those who were buying a second home. These put a lot of pressure on the market as were not putting another home on the market as they took one out of it. In some instances, others chose to refinance their mortgages based on the lower rates instead of acquiring a new home.
Because of the pandemic, people who had plans of listing their homes did not do so and those who had listed their homes took them off the market. As a result of the social distancing rules at the height of the pandemic, not many people were willing to show their houses.
Home developers did not anticipate a surge in the demand for housing during the pandemic. A number of them had let go of their employees and had shut down. At the same time, prices for materials like lumber also added to the construction costs alongside the scarcity of skilled workers.
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