Credit And Your Post-College Life

Credit Report and Scores For College

As many new college graduates don their cap and gown, a symbol of your official entrance into the "real world," there may be a few things you still need to learn that weren't taught in any Psychology 101 class.

Young graduates are often faced with making their own money decisions for the first time. This can be a scary experience if you don't quite yet understand the impact your financial choices can have. 

So, as you begin this new phase of your life, here are 5 key things you should know about your credit standing:

1. Good Credit Is Key-- Having a good credit score with a solid credit history is one of the most important things anyone, and especially a young graduate, can realize. A strong credit score can open up opportunities for lower insurance rates, help you avoid paying security deposits, and assist you in securing a new job.

2. Being In Debt Doesn't Equal Having Good Credit-- A common myth is that you have to be in debt to build credit. However, this isn't necessarily the case. What is true is that you have to use credit to build a credit profile. One way to do this is by securing a credit card that you pay off each month. Another is by securing a car loan with monthly payments.

3. On-Time Payment Is the Most Important Thing You Can Do-- When it comes to establishing a solid credit history, the best thing you can do is to make your payments on time. This is one of the biggest factors influencing your credit report, which means a missed payment can hurt you. To make sure you're always on time with credit card and other payments, consider sending payments two weeks to 10 days in advance of their due date.

4. Credit Cards Are Loans-- While you may think of your credit card as a fountain of endless money, it's not. Even though credit cards seem a fast and relatively easy way to build credit when used properly, you need to remember that the credit you’re utilizing is actually a loan from the credit card issuer that must be repaid.

5. Identity Theft Is Real-- While you may feel like you are invincible, your finances and your identity definitely are not. And, with personal information used frequently during this time period for any number of things, (registering for classes, applying for jobs, etc.) accessing your information can be easier.

For more advice on credit score -related matters, be sure to check out the PrivacyGuard blog.

Identity Thieves Targeting Prescriptions

When it comes to preventing identity theft, you probably know that guarding your Social Security and Medicare cards are important. However, now it seems that you’ll need to be just as careful with your prescriptions.

Statistics show that stolen credentials can be a cause of identity theft. These stolen credentials can potentially grant thieves access to your medications, resulting in the possibility of them being filled at your expense.

Another form of identity theft by prescription is when an identity thief uses your information to have a medicine prescribed and filled, oftentimes using your medical insurance. When this happens, you could be left paying the bill for medicine you don't even need.

Both of these identity theft actions leave you in an unpleasant situation; you'll either be without the medicine you need, or you'll have unnecessary medicine added to your medical record.

Unfortunately, these aren't the only forms of medical identity theft. Other signs that you may have become a victim include:

  •  Receiving a bill for medical services you didn't have
  •  Calls from debt collectors for medical debts you don't owe
  •  Notices from your health insurance saying you've reached your benefit limit
  •  Denial of insurance because of false medical records

All of these actions can come at a heavy price including the potential to ruin your credit score, loss of health coverage, higher health insurance premiums, inaccurate medical records or even legal troubles.  

While it may be harder to detect medical identity theft once it has occurred, you can still take steps towards preventing it by making sure you treat all personal information as private, and considering signing up for an identity theft protection service.

How To Detect Identity Theft With Your Credit Report: Part 2

Continued Post: Steps 4-7

4. Check the public records information. This section contains information from government agencies such as the federal district bankruptcy filings, state and county court records, judgments, tax liens, collections and even overdue child support in some states for the past seven years. If any information has been altered, added or deleted without your knowledge and consent, someone may have accessed your information. Consider contacting the government agency concerned to get full details on what has gone on.

5. Check the inquiries section. This contains a list of creditors who requested a copy of your credit report within the past two years. Credit inquiries are part of standard background checks that lenders do prior to the approval of a credit request. If you notice that there have been requests from companies that you’ve never heard of or you don’t seek to do business with, this could be a cause for concern.

Having mysterious inquiries suggests that there has been someone who’s been trying to apply for loans or credit cards using your name. If you see something like this, consider seeking assistance immediately.

6. Place a fraud alert on your credit report. By doing this, lenders will have to call you to verify your identity before they issue you a new loan or credit card. This gives lenders a hint that they have to completely verify your identity before they take positive action on any requests made under your name. 

7. Consider identity theft protection services. To make sure you’re always on top of your credit status and identity, you can sign up with an identity theft protection service  (such as PrivacyGuard or others). One of the powerful features of this type of service is the daily scanning of your credit reports. Whenever a new account is opened, you’ll be alerted. If the account’s creation is unauthorized, you can request for its quick shutdown before any financial damage is incurred.

All in all, not all lending companies report your credit information to all three credit bureaus. Some report only to one. It’s normal if your credit report slightly differs from one credit bureau to another. Consider devoting some time to reviewing your credit reports. This could save you money, time and trouble in the long run.

How To Detect Identity Theft With Your Credit Report: Part 1

Identity thieves can steal personal information from you in a number of ways. They can pretend to be you and use the illegally obtained information to open new credit card accounts, apply for loans, or order subscription-based services . 

Getting your identity compromised is a frightening situation that can’t always be prevented. Fortunately, there are ways to detect this and stop the domino effect from happening by catching identity theft  in the early stages. This helps keep damages to a minimum.

If you feel that sensitive information relevant to your finances has fallen into the wrong hands, you’ll want to review your credit report  immediately. This document contains data on a wide array of financial activities performed under your name and allows you to spot the actions that were done without your knowledge or permission.

To review your credit report, consider the following steps:

1. Check the identifying information. This part of your credit report contains your name, previous and current addresses, Social Security number, year of birth, home ownership, employment history and income. Consider contacting the credit bureau that sent the credit report immediately to inquire if there is any change in any of this information. Identity thieves may have changed, deleted or added details to get your money or to receive deliveries from things they ordered illegally.   

2. Check the credit information. The information on this portion of your credit report is gathered from different sources such as banks, credit card companies, loan firms, insurance companies and landlords. It contains details on all your past and current accounts such as date opened, loan amount, credit limit, balance, monthly payments and recent payment history. 

3. Review the accounts carefully. If you do not remember opening an account or applying for a loan from a certain company on this particular date, consider contacting the credit reporting agency. If a credit card account was opened without your knowledge and was immediately maxed out without being paid, chances are someone may have used your identity. 

Disputes should be made in writing and sent together with copies of supporting documents as proof that the information in your credit report is incorrect.

Be sure to check out Part 2!

Identity Theft: Where Can You Turn To?

You think it’s never going to happen to you until it does, but identity theft can cause a lot of damage -- not just on your personal finances but to the rest of your life.

While taking steps to prevent identity theft seems like the best way to protect yourself, what happens when you become the victim? Do you know where to turn to?

Here are a few institutions that can help you get your identity back:

  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
    The FTC is the government agency tasked to protect consumer rights and promote fair business practices. The agency maintains a database of all ID theft cases reported to them that can help authorities gain valuable insight in their investigations. They support victims of identity fraud by providing resources such as documents, forms, and other critical information.

    You can obtain the ID Theft Affidavit from the FTC, which is an all-in-one form you can use to report the identity theft to credit bureaus and other companies. A copy can be downloaded from their official website. You may also fill out the form online and print several copies. Call and report the ID theft incident to the FTC at 877-ID-THEFT (438-4338).
  • Your Local Police Department
    Report the identity theft to your local police department as soon as possible. Consider asking for a copy of the police report to keep for your reference with the ID Theft Affidavit. Help the investigators by gathering all the facts about the case. Sometimes, the key to a case lies in the fine details, so try to recall everything and write down every tidbit you can think of.
  • Credit Bureaus
    Consider calling any one of the 3 major credit bureaus  to report that your identity has been compromised. It may be necessary to call all three to make sure all of them are aware of the situation. They can activate a Fraud Alert that can then take effect on your credit report. This means that lenders would be required to contact you and verify your identity before opening an account. Contact numbers for the 3 bureaus are:

    Equifax: 1-800-525-6285

    Experian: 1-888-397-3742

    TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
  • Lenders’ Fraud Department
    Consider calling all of the credit card companies and various lenders where your identification was used so you can dispute the fraudulent activity in your name. Send them a formal letter of dispute, your identity theft report (ID Theft Affidavit and Police Report), and any other paperwork that supports your claim.
It's no easy task to clear your name, but taking the right steps can help you restore your good credit. Consider learning about identity theft protection services that can help safeguard and restore your identity should you become a victim.