6 Tips To Organize Your Wallet

Organizing your wallet doesn’t just make it easier to fold and carry, it helps you know how much money you have on hand and allows quick access to everything important you might need; and, it can also aid in protecting you from identity theft. However, we carry so much information in our wallets that it can be hard to figure out what to toss and what to keep. 

Here are a few guidelines to help you get started:

1) Keep it simple. When it comes to identification, carry only what you need. Have your driver’s license in an easily accessible place, but other forms of identification, like your voter's registration card doesn’t necessarily need to be in your wallet unless you plan on voting in the near future.
2) Recipe for receipt keeping. If you hold onto a receipt, fold it up and keep all of your receipts together in one place. On a regular basis, consider logging your receipts in your checkbook register or check them against your account statement and then either file them for tax purposes or throw them out.

3) Organize your cash. Organizing your cash can make your money easier to find and lets you know how much you actually have on hand. Straighten out the bills to keep them from taking up extra space.

4) Limit yourself. We live in a world of credit and debit cards, so it’s important to have them on hand, but consider only carrying the credit cards you need. This way, an identity thief will have fewer of your cards in his possession if he gets ahold of your wallet. Similarly, it's easy to fill up your wallet with membership cards from libraries, civic organizations or museums but if you don’t need them, don’t pack them in your wallet. Instead, try placing them in a labeled envelope in a safe place at home.
5) Make a contact list. If you collect business cards, consider taking them out of your wallet as soon as you get to work or home. Then, transcribe the contact information or file the cards.

6) Protect private information.
Never keep your Social Security card or number in your wallet, doing so can be an open invitation to a thief to steal your identity.


Clean out that wallet, and start fresh.

Help! There’s An Error In My Credit Report

Inaccuracies in your credit history can hurt your credit score. Learn what to do and what to expect if you encounter a credit report error.


In theory, a credit report should contain every statistic that pertains to an individual’s finances, along with basic identity information. In the U.S., each of the three independent credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax) compiles credit reports based on information supplied by banks, credit unions, credit card companies and other businesses that sell goods or services through credit accounts. Credit bureaus also get credit information from collection agencies and public records pertaining to court judgments on financial issues (divorce, bankruptcy, liens, etc.).

Mistakes can creep into credit reports. When this happens, the credit scores derived from credit report details can be adversely affected. If your credit scores drop, this may hurt your chances of qualifying for a low-interest loan and other financial benefits. That’s why financial advisors recommend keeping track of your credit scores and checking your credit reports. 
Credit scores are easy to check using monitoring services like PrivacyGuard. A useful feature of this service is an alert setting that automatically contacts you of certain credit-related activity that has been added to your credit report.  

What causes credit report errors?
Some credit report errors are caused by reporting mistakes on the part of a bank, service provider or creditor. For example, an incorrect social security number may have been given in association with a new credit account. In other cases, the consumer is responsible. It may be an innocent mistake for an individual to open bank or credit accounts in two names. But William Smith’s credit activity may not be recorded on the same credit report that holds Bill Smith’s information, even if they are the same person.  

Some credit report errors are simply small oversights, but they can manage to hurt your credit score anyway. For example, if you make a final payment that falls short of the total payment due by just a small amount (like a $3.75 interest charge), the creditor could potentially report the account as overdue. Even a small accounting error like this has the potential to hurt your credit score, because it can show up on your credit report as an overdue payment.

Identity theft is another cause of credit report errors that deserves mention. If someone gains access to your social security number, address and other personal information, he or she can open an account or multiple accounts in your name, resulting in false information being added to your credit report. The credit problem is exacerbated if the thief runs up expenses in your name. If your credit scores change unexpectedly –without significant financial or credit activity on your part—this can be an indication of identity theft.

How can credit report errors be corrected?

It’s important to correct errors on a credit report, but unfortunately it’s not easy. The Fair Credit Reporting Act makes it a legal requirement for credit bureaus (sometimes referred to as credit agencies, credit reporting agencies or CRAs) to investigate credit report mistakes when requested to do so by a consumer. Despite this legislation, such investigations rarely happen in a timely fashion. 

So how can a consumer speed up the process of correcting a credit report mistake?
Of course, the first step is to order a copy of the credit report (or reports) that you suspect of being inaccurate. You are legally entitled to see a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three major CRAs. The next thing to do is to check for identity errors, the easiest ones to find. On a photocopy of your report, highlight a name variation, unknown address, incorrect social security number or other error when you find it. Follow this work with a thorough check of all your bank and credit accounts. Again, it’s important to highlight a mistake clearly. In some cases, a mistake will be basic enough to explain in the margin. In other cases, you’ll need to write a longer explanation on a separate document, and include documents that back up your claim. 


Experts point out that you may get faster results if you go directly to the business or institution that is the source of the error. Since banks make regular reports to credit bureaus, it’s best to approach the bank if that’s where the wrong information originated. The same goes for a collection agency, landlord, cell phone service or utility company that provided inaccurate information.

Snail mail beats email when dealing with CRAs

Emailing a CRA may seem like the speediest way to get a CRA to correct credit report errors, but it’s not the approach most personal finance experts recommend. Instead, you’re more likely to get resolution by sending a registered letter containing a copy of your redlined credit report, along with detailed explanations, support documentation and a request for action. 

The good news about working with a CRA to correct credit report inaccuracies is that there are new and powerful incentives for credit bureaus to be more responsive to consumers. 

Steps To Recover From Identity Theft

How can you recover from identity theft?

Having your identity stolen can be an overwhelming experience. It often takes a financial and emotional toll.

So, how can you recover from ID theft?

The first step is discovering the ID theft:

According to a source, financial institutions and credit monitoring service companies are becoming better at catching identity fraud. In 2012, a bank or credit card issuer alerted consumers of the identity theft.

However, you still need to be vigilant. The study highlights that 50 percent of consumers found the fraud themselves by monitoring their bank accounts, credit card statements and credit scores and by purchasing identity protection services.

How long the process may take:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that it can take approximately six months and 200 hours of work to recover from an identity theft. This estimation is based on the amount of work needed to follow the necessary steps to ensure the victim is not responsible for the debt incurred.

Read the full story here.

Protecting Your Identity After the Holidays

Just because the holidays are over does not mean identity thieves are not still hard at work. Here are some basic tips for protecting your identity after the holiday season since identity theft protection is an ongoing effort.

• Watch Your Wallet Or Purse Carefully: Many people keep personal information in their wallets, making it easier for thieves to commit identity theft using the information that they find inside.

o Never leave your purse or wallet in your car, even if it is out of sight in your trunk or under a seat.
o Keep your credit and debit cards, checkbook and cash with you at all times.
o Only carry the minimum number of credit and debit cards necessary for each shopping trip (leave the rest of your credit and debit cards in a secure place at home).
o Avoid carrying your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport in your purse or wallet.
o Don’t step away from your purse or wallet, even for a few moments to grab a last-minute item.
o Keep your eye on your credit card when you hand it to a cashier.
o Shred unwanted receipts.

• Monitor Your Mail: Each and every day, the U.S. Postal Service (and other package delivery companies) handles millions of checks, money orders, credit cards and other valuable and sensitive items, all of which are very attractive to thieves.

o Drop off any mail containing sensitive information (such as outgoing checks/bill payments, financial or insurance documents, etc.) at a secure postal mailbox instead of leaving it in your home mailbox.
o Know when credit card and bank statements should arrive; if they are ever late, call your bank or credit card company to find out when the statements were mailed and confirm that it was sent to your correct address.
o If you will be away from home for more than a few days, place a mail hold on your mail.
o Shred credit card offers, account statements, etc.
o Never send cash or coins through the mail; instead send checks or money orders.  

• Keep A Close Eye On Your Credit: Carefully monitoring your credit and existing accounts can help you catch identity theft before it gets out of control.

o Review your monthly credit card and bank statements, or monitor your accounts online on a more frequent basis.
o Review your credit report regularly and notify the credit bureaus of any mistakes.

Don’t let your guard down just because the holidays are over. By staying vigilant, you will help protect your identity from falling into the hands of thieves.

How Medical Identity Theft Can Affect You And Your Credit

It has been widely reported that identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America. What is not quite as well known is that one of the subcategories of identity theft is currently enjoying a rapid growth of its own. The category we’re talking about is medical identity theft.

Medical identity theft can start in a few different ways:

• Medical records can be stolen by hackers who are able to access poorly protected databases.
• Old medical bills or files that haven’t been protected or disposed of properly can fall into the wrong hands.
• Dishonest medical office personnel can copy patient information quickly and without detection on flash drives or other data storage devices.

If your medical information is compromised, the identity thief has a few different ways to use it for his own benefit. One tactic is the simple use of your name and insurance information for the purposes of obtaining “free” medical services. In this case, an identity thief uses your personal information to get medical treatment at a hospital or medical office and leaves you and your insurance company holding the bill for the services that he or she received. Pretty bad, isn't it? Well, as bad as that may sound, it gets even worse. Since this individual used your name and medical identification to receive treatment, your personal medical files and information database may now be contaminated with his or her medical information. At some point in the future, if you were to receive treatment for one of these nonexistent ailments, the results could be harmful or even fatal in some cases. An example of this would be if your medical file were altered because another person was using your name to attain medical treatment, the information pertaining to your blood type, allergies, or previous procedural information could be affected. Medical identity theft is not something to be taken lightly.

Another popular scam pertaining to medical identity theft is the filing of false claims in order to receive reimbursement from your insurance carrier. This particular type of identity thief will usually have knowledge of medical billing practices, and may even be a medical office employee or health provider. Excess billing can lead to a run up toward maximum coverage limits on your policy and increased premiums going forward.

Finally, any personal information that was used to access your medical information, along with any new information retrieved from your medical records themselves, can be used to open new credit accounts and run up bills on your credit. This can leave you with the double dose of unpaid credit card bills or loans and a big headache on your credit report.

We have all read about the effects of identity theft and the financial problems that it can cause many people. It seems that medical identity theft can be considered even more sinister, since it can have an adverse affect on your physical health as well as your financial health.

How Many Credit Cards Is Too Many?

Does having too many credit cards affect your credit score?


Do you fall into the national average? According to recent data, the average U.S. consumer actively uses three credit cards.


However, three is not the magic number. In fact, there is no magic number when it comes to how many credit cards you should have. The number of credit cards that you have is not, by itself, an indicator of your credit score.

Having too much credit vs. utilizing too much credit:

Your credit score isn't affected by how many credit cards you have, but by how you use those credit cards.

If you have high balances on all of your credit cards, you are utilizing too much credit and this can hurt your credit score. If your debt-to-credit ratio is too high, your credit score could fall.

Read the full story here.


DIY Credit History Monitoring Tips

Here are some helpful tips and facts for DIY credit monitoring.

You know that monitoring your credit is important, but you may not know where to start.

If you don't know the difference between credit reports and credit scores or if you are confused by other terms like credit history, you need a quick DIY guide. To help you, PrivacyGuard has created this starter guide for do-it-yourself credit monitoring.

Understanding the basics of credit reporting:

There are several terms that you will hear when discussing and researching credit monitoring. Below are the three terms that you should be familiar with.

Credit history: This is a financial profile that lists how you utilize credit. It includes open and closed (within seven to eleven years) accounts from creditors, including mortgage lenders, auto financing companies, credit card companies, utilities, and any other organization that acts as a lender to you.

Credit report: Your credit report is a compilation of your credit history and your personal information (e.g. name, address, Social Security number, etc.). This report is produced by the three main independent credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Credit score: Your credit score is a numerical representation of the information in your credit report. Credit scores generally range from 300 to 850, with under 400 being quite low and 700+ putting you in the healthy range.

Read the full story here.