Showing posts with label credit monitoring. Show all posts
Showing posts with label credit monitoring. Show all posts

5 Warnings Your Identity Has Been Stolen

5 Warnings Your Identity Has Been Stolen
One of the scariest parts of identity theft is that it can happen for weeks, or even months, without you being aware of it. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, 15.4 million U.S. consumers were victims of identity theft in 2016. However, the sooner you are aware of the crime, the less damage the thief is likely to do to your credit. By being aware of the subtle signs of identity theft, you can immediately put a fraud alert on your account with each credit bureau to prevent the thief from opening more accounts in your name. While some signs of identity theft are relatively obvious, such as withdrawals from your checking account or charges you didn’t make on your credit card, others are more subtle.

Here are 5 signs to look out for:

You get a call from a collection agency about an account you didn’t open. It’s easy to simply assume that the creditor has the wrong number or made a paperwork mistake if you get a call about an unfamiliar credit card or loan. However, collection calls are actually a red flag that your identity has been stolen.

Your mailbox is empty. If you stop getting mail, you might shrug it off that the mailman delivered it to the wrong house, but if it continues for several days, you need to take action immediately. One identity theft tactic is to forward mail from the victim’s house to a location the thief has access to. This way, you do not see bills for the accounts they opened. Your first call should be to the post office, and then your creditors, says

A refund check arrives from the IRS, but you have not filed your taxes. It’s easy to simply be happy with the refund, but this likely means that a thief filed a return in your name. Another sign is getting a letter from the IRS that you filed two tax returns, when in reality you only filed one. You will need to file a Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit with the IRS to correct the issue, in addition to taking the standard steps to stopping identity theft from continuing.

You apply for credit and are denied. When someone takes out a credit card in your name, they are not paying the bill. This means your credit takes a hit for late payments, which can then result in credit and loan applications being rejected. If you know you have a good credit score and are turned down for a card, your next task is getting a credit report to find out if there are accounts you did not open.

Your child gets credit card offers in the mail. Child identity theft has been on the rise in recent years with approximately 1.3 million victims annually, 50 percent of which are under the age of six. If you find pre-approved card offers in your mailbox addressed to your child, your child’s identity may have been stolen. To find out if it was an error or identity theft, check to see if your child has a credit report. If there is a credit history on file, it is likely that your child has been a victim.

Time is of the essence when it comes to identity theft. By being aware of the signs and taking quick action, you may be able to reduce the impact of identity theft to your credit. 

My Personal Experience With PrivacyGuard’s Credit Monitoring Service

I wanted to blog about my own recent experience with PrivacyGuard’s credit monitoring service.  I will state that in this particular instance, it was not my intention to go out and “test” the performance of the service in any way.  I had already used PrivacyGuard to check my credit report and score and to verify that all of my credit information was correct, so I liked the service and I knew that it worked well for me.  However, I didn’t realize how efficient PrivacyGuard’s service could be until this most recent event.

It was Saturday, Dec 28 at about 4:30 pm when I was in a well known department store exchanging a couple of shirts that I received as Christmas presents and picking up a few more items courtesy of a gift card that Santa left under the tree for me. While at the checkout counter, the very friendly and helpful sales associate informed me of a sale on men’s shirts and told me that if I used the store’s credit card to charge the small balance of the purchase, I would receive an additional discount over the current sale price (which was already discounted almost 50%, mind you).  So, I whipped out my store card, blew the dust off and handed it to the associate who asked me about the last time I had used the card.  “About 2 years ago” was my response and she told me that I would probably have to renew the card in order to use it.  I agreed and it was all taken care of right there on the computer terminal at the checkout area.

Of course, I was careful about giving my information to the associate, but I was comfortable as I was able to input all of my own personal information into the system myself via the card keyboard and there were no other people around to “look over my shoulder” or listen to any of the dialogue that I had with the sales associate.  My credit was approved, the items were paid for and I realized further discounts on my merchandise, life was good.

Afterward, I got my goods and browsed through the mall for a bit, on the lookout for any other after-Christmas bargains.  I was able to pick up a few things here and there, and went back home satisfied and happy with my clothing and other purchases.  By now, it was probably about 6:30 pm and I looked forward to heading out to a small get-together with a few friends.

The next morning, Sunday, December 29, 2013, at 10:01 am, I received a text message alert and an e-mail alert from PrivacyGuard informing me of the following:

Member Number: XXXXXXXX
We have detected activity on your credit report.
Log in to your account at and view your updated score.
Understanding this notification
Your PrivacyGuard membership includes daily monitoring of your Experian,
Equifax, and TransUnion credit files.
Certain changes have been detected that may or may not be an
indication of fraud.

It’s important that you review the details of this notification immediately.
Our goal is to keep you better informed on your credit.
You can rest easier, knowing PrivacyGuard is working 24/7 to help protect your credit and identity

If you have any questions on your recent alert, please contact the Credit Information Hotline at 1-800-270-3819, Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (ET).

For questions on your membership account details, please contact us at 1-800-270-3819 or go to


PrivacyGuard Customer Service

When I saw the e-mail, I immediately thought of the transaction at the department store and I knew that they had probably made an inquiry into my credit report in order to approve the renewal of my store card.  The e-mail alert was direct enough to get my attention, yet balanced enough that it served to alert me of activity and not alarm me into any sort of panic situation.

However, since I had used my credit cards quite a bit over the preceding two weeks, I started to wonder if something else had triggered the alert.  Well, upon logging into my PrivacyGuard account and reviewing the recent activity, I verified that it was indeed the store card inquiry into my credit report that set off the alert.

I was very impressed with the PrivacyGuard service, as this notification reached me less than 24 hours after there was activity recorded on my credit report.  The service responded quickly, accurately and through multiple communication channels.  In this case, the activity was completely justified and there were no unauthorized transactions or activity that could have harmed my credit.  However, if this had been a some more nefarious, like a case of someone trying to open up a credit account under my name or social security number without my knowledge, I would have known about it less than 24 hours later and I could have taken the appropriate action to protect my good credit standing.  This is the very reason that many of us use credit monitoring as a credit protection tool. 

Please visit today to review their credit monitoring and identity theft protection services. I happen to work as a contractor for Affinion Group, the company that runs PrivacyGuard, but that hasn’t affected my opinion in any way. 

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. 

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.

Ring In The New Year With A New View On Your Credit

Congratulations, you've made it through another holiday shopping season. All the members of your family are happy with their gifts and you have a feeling of great satisfaction after another successful holiday in the books. Now it’s time to survey the damage. “So, how far over budget did we go this year?” seems to be a common phrase uttered among many of us just after the holiday season. Well, whether you've completely blown out your budget or you've managed to stay within your limits, there are a few things that you may want to think about when it comes to finances, specifically, monitoring your credit profile and protecting your credit score.

It’s important for us as consumers to keep control of our credit, not just as we see it from our own point of view, but from a potential creditor’s point of view. When lenders review a loan or credit application and its accompanying documents, they’re usually looking for answers to a few basic questions:

Has this person had credit in the past and has he paid it back in a responsible manner?
Does this person have enough or too much outstanding credit based on his financial means?
Does this person consistently pay his bills on time every month?
Does this person open up new credit accounts very frequently?
Has this person had any major trouble with his credit in the past and if so, why?

The answers to these questions could highly influence the decision of whether or not to extend new credit to a consumer. The majority of these questions may be answered by looking at a consumer’s credit report and credit score. Now, if you've done well with your credit in the past and you believe that your answers to the questions above are all favorable, you may be in good shape when it comes time to apply for a mortgage, car loan or credit card. 

However, what if your credit report and score paint a slightly different picture of what your credit looks like? What if there’s something listed on your credit report that you were unaware of until now? Perhaps a few missed payments on an unknown credit card account or an account that you closed years ago that still shows activity and a balance. Unauthorized activity or errors like these can cost you both time and money, especially if they are allowed to linger for an extended period of time.

If you find that you have issues like these on your credit report, you may now be faced with the arduous task of going through your credit history and trying and correct these problems before they have a chance to further damage your credit report and score.  So, how can you help prevent a small problem from turning into a big headache down the road?  Is there a way that you can find out if any activity has taken place in your account without your knowledge?  Enter credit monitoring.

A daily credit monitoring service can help you keep an eye on all three credit reports (Experian, Transunion, Equifax) on a daily basis. It can also serve to advise you of other activity such as inquiries that may be made into you accounts, new public records or derogatory information that may have been added without your knowledge.  As you can see, this type of service can help you stay in control of what happens with your credit and empowers you to maintain your credit report and score at the level that it deserves.

So, if you’d like to do something for your credit in this New Year, you may want to consider using a daily credit monitoring service like the one offered by PrivacyGuard. It can help you protect your credit profile and help you start out this New Year on the right path toward a safer, more secure credit profile.

7 New Year’s Resolutions For Your Credit

The New Year is just around the corner! The old traditions of great food, champagne, parties and fireworks have once again come and gone. However, there are aspects of one tradition that can last throughout the entire year and even beyond in certain circumstances. Yes, of course, we’re talking about New Year’s resolutions!

New Year’s resolutions come in all shapes and sizes. We've all made them, some serious and some silly, some strictly adhered to and some not. Perhaps this year’s list of resolutions should include a commitment toward giving your financial health some consideration. After all, most of us have made resolutions in the past about losing a few pounds or getting back into shape, so maybe it’s time to put your credit through a bit of a workout. With that in mind, we've outlined a short list of New Year’s resolutions that can help you stay on top of your credit profile.

In today’s environment of tight lending standards and ever-increasing occurrences of identity theft, consumers need to understand the importance of protecting their credit reports and scores. Your choice to undertake some or all of these resolutions can help put you on the right path toward a healthier credit life.

7 Important New Year’s Resolutions To Consider For Your Credit:

1. Review your credit report
If you haven’t done so recently, you may want to consider getting copies of your three credit reports and check every section for any errors or suspicious activity. You may want to do this every so often over the course of the year to verify that the information in your credit report is accurate and that it’s free of any unauthorized activity. 

2. Clean up your credit report
If you find any errors during a review of your credit report, follow the appropriate procedures to have them fixed or removed as soon as you can. While some errors may seem to be minor (spelling or omission errors with names or addresses are common), in certain circumstances, they could still affect your ability to obtain credit or secure favorable credit terms. Consider contacting both the reporting organization (bank or company that provided information to the credit bureau) and the appropriate credit bureau in order to have any problems corrected in accordance with their policies.

3. Check out your credit score
Your credit score is a very important element in the credit reviewing process. You may want to start keeping a closer eye on your score and gain a better understanding of what information is used to calculate your credit score. Once you have a baseline level of your credit score, you’ll be more aware of how it can be affected by your financial and credit management activities.

4. Monitor your credit report and score
Monitoring your credit report and score can help warn you of changes or unauthorized activity that may take place within your credit profile. A triple bureau credit monitoring service can save you some time by scanning your credit files for you and alerting you of any monitored changes that may occur in any of your three credit reports (Experian, Equifax, Transunion). If any unauthorized activity has occurred, you may find out quickly enough to stop it from becoming a major problem down the road.

5. Safeguard your personal information
Make an effort to be careful with any documents (statements, pay stubs, bills) or electronic devices (laptop, smart-phone) that may contain personal information like account numbers, social security numbers or passwords for financial accounts. If this type of information ends up in the wrong hands, it can be used to wreak havoc with your credit. 

6. Start reconciling your credit card statements
This should go without saying, but many people don’t even bother to check the transactions that show up on their credit card statements every month. Some simply open up the bill, check the amount (or minimum amount) due and start writing a check. This can be a big mistake, as any simple errors or even serious attempts at outright theft can go undetected while you pay for them out of your own pocket. It doesn't take long to reconcile your credit card statements and at worst, you’re simply confirming the activity that is being reported to you as correct. If you do find an error, you may just save yourself a few bucks. If you find unauthorized charges, you may save yourself a great deal more.

7. Make an effort to learn a bit more about your credit report and score
Information is key, so the more you know about your credit report and score, the better prepared you may be when it comes time to apply for a mortgage, loan or other line of credit.

Even if you vowed to make all of these resolutions and fell a bit short on one or two by the end of the year, you would probably still have learned a great deal about your credit life. Equally as important, you may have found a new process that can add a layer of knowledge and protection to your credit report and score.

Holiday Shopping: Does Layaway Affect Your Credit?

With the holiday season right around the corner, shoppers are hitting the stores and their wallets in a big way. For many shoppers who are on a tight budget, layaway seems like an appealing option; you can buy the gifts you really want to give now without having to pay everything up front, pay interest or go through a credit check. However, what happens if you don't make your payments on time? Can layaway potentially affect your credit score?

Before we get to the answers to these questions, let's review how layaway works. When putting an item on layaway, you put down an initial minimum deposit and you'll generally pay a small service fee (generally $5 to $15). After that, you'll have a certain amount of time (generally one to three months) to make payments toward the item's total price. Once you've paid in full, you can take the item home with you. If you wind up not making your payments, your layaway will be cancelled and the item will return to the store's shelves. You also might be charged a small cancellation fee.

Even if you don't make your layaway payments, this information may not be reported to the three credit bureaus. Therefore, using layaway has a neutral effect on your credit score.

However, the downfall to using layaway is that you run the risk of paying too much for an item as many stores will lock you into the full price and then later put the item on holiday discount.

For now though, layaway is a suitable option for buyers who are looking to shop this holiday season without having to put a strain on their credit card debt or without having to prove they have good credit.

5 Weird Ways You Could Hurt Your Credit Score

Applying for too many loans, having a high debt ratio or making late payments; these are all common ways that consumers know they could be hurting their credit scores. However, there are other, inadvertent things you could be doing that may also be having an impact.

Here's a list of five weird ways you could be hurting your credit score:

1. Paying old debts. While paying off your debts is generally a good thing, in the short run, it could hurt your score. For instance, if you pay off an old debt that was not on your credit report, the debt will show back up in your credit history once you start making payments again. 

2. Having only one type of account. While it may seem convenient or even responsible to have only one credit card or one loan, 10 percent of your credit score is based on the types of credit you have. So, when you can, you should consider mixing up your debt portfolio.

3. Applying for a new cell phone plan. Some mobile phone companies conduct hard inquires on their customers, just like a bank or lender. This means if you're jumping around from provider to provider, you could be bringing down your score.

4. Buying a motorcycle. Thinking of buying a motorcycle as a fun weekend getaway vehicle? Think again because the effects on your credit score might not be so fun.  Taking out a loan for a motorcycle is sometimes submitted as revolving credit, which makes it look similar to credit card debt. And, with debt making up 30 percent of your score, this could be a huge hit to your credit score.

5. Disputing errors on your credit report. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers have the right to dispute any errors in their credit report. However, while the disputed item is being evaluated, the account is not included in your score. This means if you're applying for new credit, your credit utilization ratio could be impacted. 

With your credit score constantly fluctuating, it can be difficult to keep track of what is causing changes to it. The only way to really know what is going on is to monitor your credit history on a regular basis.

Identity Theft – Protect Yourself Against This Growing Problem

As consumers, we can’t ignore the fact that identity theft has become a serious issue in the U.S. According to a major study, it is among the fastest growing crimes in the country, with more than 12 million consumers victimized by identity theft in 2012. This equates to on average approximately 1 victim every 3 seconds….and the numbers are climbing.

By now we've all read an article about identity theft or heard the phrase uttered on the news and thought

“Well, it won’t happen to me”.

This is exactly the type of attitude that identity thieves hope for while they plot to steal your personal information and run up as much debt as possible using your identity. We all hope that certain things “can’t” or “won’t” happen to us regarding any potentially bad social, medical or financial situation. The truth of the matter is that it can happen to anyone at anytime.

How Do I Know If I'm At Risk?

Do you ever:

Use a computer to access any online social, business or financial information?
Use an ATM Machine?
Use a smartphone?
Use a credit card or a debit card?
Have a bank account of any kind?
Receive or pay any bills on a monthly/quarterly/annual basis through the mail or electronically?

If you've answered “yes” to at least one of these questions, as most of us would, you may consider yourself a worthy candidate for identity theft.

You don’t need to be wealthy or famous. You don’t need to own any real estate, drive an expensive car or have a high paying job. Identity thieves simply want to grab your personal information and use it as quickly as they can, for as long as they can, to steal from you. If they acquire your social security number, they may use it to file a false tax return and receive a refund check from the IRS before you've even had a chance to file your own legitimate tax return. The list of potential fraud goes on and on.

How Can Identity Thieves Get My Personal Information?

Stealing a wallet or purse.
Online hacking of credit card or other data banks.
Stealing credit/debit information through ATM's.
Family/Co-workers opening accounts using information readily obtained.
Going through your trash or swiping from your mailbox.

There are many other ways that your information can be compromised.  The main idea that needs to be conveyed here is being cautious when it comes to carrying, assigning or even destroying anything that contains personal information.

How Do I Further Protect Myself Against Identity Theft?

While most of us take some precautions when it comes to information safekeeping, you can further protect yourself against identity theft by following these basic rules:

Never carry your social security card in your purse or wallet.
Avoid using public networks or shared computers to access any websites that contain detailed personal or financial information (bank, credit card, investment, social security, etc.).
Before filling out information or buying anything from an online site or store, verify their authenticity and make sure they use a secure setting.
Shred all documents that may contain personal information.
Share personal information sparingly and only with those that you trust.

In addition to taking these steps, the use of a credit report monitoring service may help alert you to suspicious activity in your credit report. A high quality credit monitoring service will alert you of activity through e-mail, phone or mobile device. Plus, identity theft protection offers a powerful set of tools, further supplemented with professional ID theft guidance, and support to help you correct any issues resulting from certain activity or inquiries made on your credit.

By being vigilant and proactive, you can be sure that you’re taking the proper steps to protecting your identity and minimizing your risk of identity theft.

4 Ways To Protect Your Social Security Number

Your social security number is one of the most important pieces of information that you possess. It holds the key to your state and federal earnings, tax and pension information. It is also frequently used to document employment history, medical history and numerous other vital records. Health and life insurance companies usually use these magic digits to identify you. The simple message: Guard your social security number and keep it as private as possible.

Here are a few simple things that you can do to help keep your social security number secure:

1) Safeguard your social security card. Never carry your social security card in your wallet or purse. It should be kept at home, locked in a safe location such as a fire-proof storage safe along with other important documents such as deeds, titles, wills, etc.

2) Safeguard any documents that list your social security number. Any documents that contain your social security number such as tax returns, health and life insurance statements, medical records or other legal documents should also be locked away in a safe place. When these have become dated, they should be shredded and disposed of properly.

Any of these documents contain enough information for a thief to create false identities and open new accounts using your credit and identity as the foundation.

3) Never include your social security number in an e-mail. Be wary of the information you send over the phone or internet. E-mail accounts can be hacked by outsiders. Even legitimate e-mail recipients frequently forward or copy e-mails without much thought about what information may be erroneously distributed to others. Your information can easily end up in a number of different hands and could make you vulnerable to identity theft.

4) Monitor your credit reports and statements. Consider monitoring your bank and other financial statements along with the social security statements that you receive periodically and review them for errors or suspicious activity.

When it comes to identity theft, your social security number should be considered the golden goose. It’s important to take necessary measures to keep your identity safe. Other than safeguarding your physical social security card and number, the use of a credit monitoring service like PrivacyGuard can go a long way toward helping prevent the theft of your social security number from turning into identity theft.

Employers And Your Credit Report

Social media is not the only thing that employers can look at nowadays when conducting background checks on prospective employees. Can an employer pull your credit report as part of the application process? The answer to this question is yes. Why? Many employers simply feel that applicants who are responsible with their own finances would use better judgment, make better decisions and act more responsibly when faced with work related issues.  

Employers also believe that employees who are in good financial shape may be able to give greater effort at work without the added stress of personal financial problems. If your credit report is littered with unpaid bills or other negative issues, it could affect your chances of finding a job or landing that great new opportunity that seems like it was made for you.

So, what should you do if a prospective employer asks to see your credit report? The key is to make sure that things are in order before you start your job search and monitor your credit report for any changes that may occur. Here are a few tips that you can follow:

• Be Prepared - Get A Head Start On Prospective Employers - Check your credit report and score for any errors or negative issues that can have an effect on your credit standing. If you are actively job searching, consider having this as one of the first tasks on your list. If you wait until you are asked to see your credit report, you may risk not having time to review it to correct any problems before the employer gets a copy.

• Fix Any Mistakes ASAP - If you find any mistakes, no matter how insignificant they may seem, consider contacting the credit bureaus and follow the procedures to have them fixed or removed. This may require a written statement and other documentation that prove that the information contained in the credit report is inaccurate.

• Add A Statement Of Explanation Or Dispute For Negative Items - If your credit was affected due to an illness, death, extended layoff, identity theft or any other extenuating or extraordinary circumstance, you are permitted to add a short written statement to your credit report explaining the situation, and the reason for the negative information.

• Agree To The Credit Check And Be Prepared To Answer Any Questions - Once you have gone through your credit reports and corrected any issues or added explanations, you can begin your job search with confidence that you have done all that you can to present your credit history accurately. Try not to deny access to your credit reports if a prospective employer asks for it, as this could raise a red flag. You will now be better prepared to answer any questions that may arise concerning your credit report.

By keeping on top of your credit report and score, you can be reasonably sure that you’ll have no surprises if your credit report is reviewed by an employer. The use of a credit monitoring service can help you by providing you with your three bureau credit reports and alerts to any changes in your credit reports and scores.

Check Your Credit Report - Credit Report Inquiries Explained

There seems to be a great deal of confusion when it comes to credit inquiries on credit reports. Many people erroneously believe that all inquiries that are made into their credit reports are universally reported, and have a detrimental effect on their credit scores. Luckily, this is not the case and we’re going to shed some light on this important subject. This subject is one that has kept many people from checking their own credit reports for fear of hurting their credit scores.

The Q&A on Credit Report Inquiries:

What Is A Credit Inquiry?

A credit inquiry is a record of a request to view your credit file. Any time your credit file is accessed, whether by a creditor looking to extend credit to you or by an insurance company or employer looking into your financial record for business purposes, an inquiry is recorded. However, not all of these inquiries are treated in the same way, nor are they all visible to any party that pulls a copy of your credit report.

Who Can Make An Inquiry Into My Credit Report?

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, only businesses with a “permissible purpose” may view your credit report. Other than individuals or businesses that fit into this general definition, only you and those that you have given written permission may pull your credit report. These may include employers, landlords, government agencies and other businesses that may need to check your credit report for internal purposes, licensing, and legal issues.

Are All Inquiries Reported In The Same Way?

Not all inquiries are reported in the same way.

 There are two types of inquiries that are recorded by the credit reporting bureaus:

1. Hard Inquiries –These are inquiries that are made into your credit report as a result of your application for credit for things such as auto loans, credit cards, mortgages, personal loans or other types of credit extensions. These inquiries are recorded on your credit report and remain there for two years. These can be viewed by any other party that pulls your credit report within that time frame.

2. Soft Inquiries –These are inquiries that are made into your credit report by you, or another party to whom you have given permission, as part of an information gathering process or for reasons other than extension of credit. These are inquiries done by you, a prospective employer, insurance company, landlord or government agency or any other non-creditor. These types of inquiries are visible only to you, and are not reported to those who pull your credit report as part of a credit application process.

How Do These Inquiries Affect My Credit Score?

Soft credit inquiries have no effect on your credit score. Several hard credit inquiries in a short period of time may adversely affect your credit score. This is due to the way that scoring models work along with the presumption that consumers who apply for a great deal of credit within a small time-frame may be in a less than optimal financial position. There are exceptions to this rule, mainly in the case of shopping for mortgage rates where a high number of credit inquiries that fall within a short date window. This usually happens up to 45 days, and these are recorded as a single inquiry on a credit report, so as not to penalize a consumer for “shopping around for the best rate”.

Does Credit Monitoring Affect My Credit Score?

Inquiries made by a credit monitoring service are treated in the same way as your own inquiries into your credit report. They have no effect on your credit score. This is a good reason to consider using a credit monitoring service to check your credit file for any changes or to alert you to a high number of inquiries in a short period of time. This is a very good early indicator of identity theft as any party that has stolen your information may attempt to open many credit accounts in your name.

5 Reasons To Monitor Your Credit Reports

It’s no secret that one of the best ways to maintain your credit status and avoid potential problems with your credit is to continually check for inaccuracies and irregularities that may exist in your credit reports. Routine checks of your credit reports and your monthly credit card statements can go a long way to help prevent any errors or unusual activity from affecting your credit score

Let’s face the facts-- with the complexities of today’s financial networks; we’re all at risk of various types of fraud which could result in adverse effects on our credit scores. We do our best to keep close possession of credit cards and IDs with the notion that “as long as no other person has my cards or information, I’m safe”. Unfortunately, this can give us a false sense of security since a great deal of personal information gathering and financial theft now occurs through electronic means. 

Invalid reporting is another issue that can hurt your credit. This particular problem occurs more frequently than was once thought. Errors can remain on a credit report for years, as many people don’t think to review their credit information until they’re ready to commit to a large purchase like buying a house or car. It’s at this critical time that they may discover a wrong address or an old collection notice and then face the daunting task of scrambling to repair the damage before it has an effect on their long term plans.

One of the keys to protecting your credit is the ability to identify errors or fraudulent activity before they translate into credit problems; or perhaps worse, a case of identity theft. By keeping a close eye on all 3 credit reports (Equifax, Experian and Transunion), you can detect these and other issues early and take the necessary steps to resolve them before they become major problems. The use of an effective credit monitoring service can make checking and monitoring your credit easy and effective, since activity is reported almost immediately.

Why you should continually monitor your credit report and credit score:

1. Early detection of identity theft and credit fraud. While checking your monthly statements for unauthorized charges is good basic practice, it is not sufficient to counter all of the new tactics that are being used by identity thieves. By monitoring your credit report on a constant basis, you can identify any new accounts that may have been opened, see any new addresses that may have been set up or view any accounts that may have collections against them without your knowledge. These issues alone are reason enough for you to begin monitoring your credit reports. 

2. Inaccuracies on your credit report. Genuine mistakes can be listed on credit reports. Credit records are accessed, reviewed, updated and reported every day. This sheer volume of activity lends itself to reporting errors resulting from computer software issues, keypunch errors or simple mix ups of files between persons with similar names or addresses. Unfortunately, some of these errors can be significant and may lead to denial of credit or higher risk assessment and therefore higher interest rates on various types of loans.

3. Monitor fluctuations in your credit score. Credit scores normally fluctuate in small increments over the course of weeks or months. However, if you see your credit score move dramatically in a short period of time and you haven’t had any noteworthy activity that would warrant such a change, it could be due to an attempt or incidence of identity theft.

4. Protection of your financial future. Knowledge is power. Try to have a thorough understanding of your credit situation and activity at all times. The ability to recognize an issue and take immediate action can mean the difference between stopping a problem before it ever starts or the need to deal with a major problem several months down the road after your credit has been affected. Don’t let small problems progress to a critical stage.

5. Monitoring your credit doesn't hurt you. Checking your own credit reports or monitoring your own credit score is important. These types of “inquiries” (soft inquiries) don’t necessarily directly affect your credit history or credit. 

For all of these reasons and others, consider having a plan for monitoring your credit regularly. Active credit monitoring is a helpful way to keep track of your credit profile. Making use of a credit monitoring service can help protect your credit status and give you some peace of mind. 

How To: Change Your Address When Moving

So, you've bought a brand new house, and are all ready to start turning your new house into a home. As you begin to pack up everything you own to move it down the street, across the state or even across the country, there is one thing you won't want to leave behind: your mail. Making sure you've properly updated your address with your bank, utility companies, loan institutions, credit card companies and even the credit bureaus is important to keeping your credit and identity safe.

Before you move, fill out a change of address form with the post office. Instead of waiting until you're settled in and potentially missing important mail or letting your important mail fall into the wrong hands, fill out the form in advance and schedule the date you want your forwarding service to take effect. 

However, just because all of your mail is being forwarded, don't assume that the senders have your new address; it is your responsibility to update your address with all of your creditors and anyone else you do business with.  Otherwise, you could end up in a situation where you are being penalized for late payments on bills you never received.

Before or right after you've moved, you'll also want to update the address in your credit file, and there are two ways to do this:

1. You Should: Update your address with all of your open credit accounts. Then, the next time these lenders report any updates to the three main credit bureaus, they will also include updates on your account information. 

2. You Should: Send two proofs of address such as a bank statement, driver’s license or utility bill, etc. along with a note stating you have moved to each of the credit bureaus.

The process to update your address with all three credit bureaus can take time, so be sure to check back when them after 30 days to see if the correct changes have been made.

With PrivacyGuard's credit monitoring services, you will be notified as soon as your updated credit reports reflect your new address. This acts as a safeguard to make sure your new address is not only reported correctly, but also as a warning sign of potential identity theft if your address is inaccurate or changed without your knowledge.

Two Shocking Facts About Identity Theft

Identity theft is not the first thing on people’s minds when talking about crime. Yet in this modern age with technology being the forefront of communication, it has become one of the most well-known crimes in America.

What’s even more disturbing is the fact that identity theft seems to be becoming more complex over the past few years. Identity thieves are becoming smarter, more creative and more audacious than ever in their exploits.

To put things into perspective, here are two shocking facts about identity theft:

1. On Average, there is one incident of identity fraud every 3 seconds.

The speed at which thieves are perpetrating identity theft and the number of victims affected has grown significantly. In fact, reported cases of identity theft have increased by one million in just the past year alone. This means that in the time it takes you to read this sentence, there will be at least one new victim of fraud.

2. More than 1.5 million victims know the thief.

What’s worse is that the majority of identity theft victims know their perpetrator! According to the 2013 Javelin Strategy & Research Report, there are more than 1.5 million consumers who were victims of familiar fraud, or cases wherein the victims know the fraudster. Here is just another example of how crucial it is to be careful of the company you keep!

If you think identity-related crimes are still the stuff that Hollywood movies are made of, think again. It’s very real and it’s happening right now. While the government does everything it can to help us keep identity thieves at bay, it’s up to us to protect our identities from anyone. Proper web browsing habits, securing personal items properly and enrolling in credit monitoring  are our best bets in stopping identity criminals.

Do You Have Credit Report Errors?

Do you have credit report errors? There's a good chance that your answer to this question is "yes." 

Why is this cause for concern? Well, errors on your credit report can lead to a change in your credit score, which can be a key factor when determining your interest rates, and lenders sometimes have cutoffs for certain rates. 

For example, say you have a score of 695 and the cutoff is 700. Those 5 points on your score could keep you from receiving that better rate, which can mean more money in your pocket. Or, in an even worse case scenario, those 5 points could result in you not receiving the loan at all if your score becomes too low for lenders to deem you creditworthy. 

We have also blogged about how credit scores can be a determining factor for housing, employment and even insurance. Even a small error in your credit report like the one described above could result in you not getting the apartment, job or necessary insurance that you've applied for.

Even if there aren't any obvious errors in your credit history, try not to overlook factual errors on your credit report such as your name or birthday. 

So, what does all of this mean? This means you should consider monitoring your score more closely and on a regular basis, so you can find and prevent future errors on your credit report!

Appreciating Credit Reports: 3 Ways They Make Life Easier

Credit reports can sometimes be overwhelming and overlooked; especially when keeping track of the three main bureaus that offer credit reports. Understanding and appreciating credit reports can be beneficial, because many times, what you don’t know may hurt you.

Here are 3 benefits to keeping track of your credit:

1) They offer you a clear indicator of your financial health.
It’s easy to keep track of a huge chunk of your financial activity using your credit report. Here, you can find all your loans and credit cards listed on one document. You can also see the status and payment history for each account. Notable public records such as bankruptcy filings may also be found here.

With all of this information on one piece of paper it might also be easier for you to spot any inaccuracies or errors as they’re all on one record. Do keep in mind that your credit report does not hold all financial information as found in your bank statements. Be sure to monitor both.

Credit reports also offer some insight if you’ve been rejected for a loan or a credit card application. After all, if your credit scores are low, it may be harder to get approval for a loan. But if your credit score is high enough, you can consider using it as proof to back you up when making an appeal.

2) You’ll know who checks your credit history.
Businesses and organizations can check your credit history for various reasons. Some do “hard” inquiries (credit checks that can affect your credit scores) to see how credit-worthy you are when you apply for a loan, while others want to see your standing as part of a background check. In some cases, businesses can do “soft” (credit checks that do not affect your credit score) checks on your credit for pre-qualification to promotional campaigns.

Having too many “hard” inquiries performed on your file in a short span of time can be a red flag to lenders. You might come off as desperate and it could diminish your credit score. If the companies doing “hard” checks on you don’t seem familiar, this could be an early sign that someone is trying to create accounts under your name in a case of identity theft.

3) Detect identity theft.
Lenders may report all the activity under your name to the 3 main credit bureaus. Since all of these are on your credit report, it can help you spot accounts made under your name without permission. 

If you discover any such accounts or inaccuracies on your credit report, it might be a sign of identity theft. Consider checking your credit report regularly to spot these.

These are just three ways to keep track of your credit report to make life a little easier.

Five Credit Mistakes Brides Should Avoid

Whether you're a bride-to-be who dreams of a summer time or winter time wedding, there is one thing you most likely aren't dreaming of-- credit mistakes. No matter what season you'll be saying your vows in, there are five big credit mistakes that you should try to avoid.

1. Wedding debt. While every bride imagines a beautiful wedding that will be absolutely perfect, they probably don't fantasize about just how much their ideal wedding can cost. On average, couples can spend about $25,000 on their wedding  potentially putting themselves into major debt for the big day. While this doesn't mean you should completely rethink your wedding plans, try taking precautions of what you can afford and where you can cut costs.

2. You don't share credit scores. While saying "I Do" signifies a lifetime of commitment to your spouse, it doesn't signify a commit to their credit scores! Your credit scores aren't impacted by your marital status and you won't take on your spouse's scores or vice versa. Everyone has their own credit score. 

3. Co-signing a loan. While your credit scores may not be affected by your marital status, couples can co-sign loans together, which can have an impact on each other's credit scores. So, when possible, it is better to have one partner or the other sign for a loan instead of co-signing. However, be aware that in some states, you could still be held liable, even if you don't co-sign on the purchase. 

4. You can't change others' credit habits. Even though you won't be taking on your spouse's credit scores, it’s a good idea to be on the same page with finances. Finances can be a touchy subject among couples , as you may have different opinions about budgeting, debt, credit and money. If your spouse has a lower scores or a different view on finances, consider having a conversation with them about the importance of good scores for achieving your long-term goals. 

5. Making only one partner financially responsible. In many households, one spouse ends up handling the finances for the entire family. However, this can be dangerous as it leaves the other spouse in the dark when it comes to the household's financial situation, which can lead to potentially poor credit choices.  

Every bride’s wedding day should be the happiest day of their life, so don't let poor credit decisions ruin your happily ever after!

To keep up with where your credit scores stand with the three credit bureaus during your wedding planning, sign up for PrivacyGuard.

Celebrate Your Labor Of Love, Your Credit Score, This Labor Day

As Labor Day is quickly approaching, many Americans across the nation are looking forward to celebrating the hard work they have put in all year long. However, your job isn't the only labor of love that can pay off, having a good credit score can too. 

Even though your salary isn't included in your credit history, items such as your payment history and use of available credit are. And, while these may not be on the top of your list of financial priorities since they don't show an immediate financial gain, if you work at them long enough, they can result in more money in your pocket.

Here are a few of the financial benefits that can come from having a good credit score:

• Help you get a new job. If you aren't yet employed, are in between jobs, or are looking to start down a new career path; having a good credit score can impress your potential employer. In a previous blog post, we talked about how many Americans were required to go through a credit check when applying for a job. Thus, it’s very important to keep tabs on your credit scores! 

• Lower your interest rates. One of the many reasons why lenders check your credit scores is to not only determine loan eligibility and amounts, but also your interest rate. By having a higher credit score, you may qualify for a lower interest rate, which can result in significant savings over the life of the loan.

• Better insurance policies. A higher credit score indicates that you are a lower insurance risk. Therefore insurance companies may oftentimes look at your credit history to see your previous repayment history before setting the terms of your insurance policy.

At, you can sign up for daily credit monitoring that will give you access to your three credit reports and scores. Try to make sure your two labors of love, your job and your credit score, are providing you with the most financial benefit possible this Labor Day weekend.