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

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:

Attention….,
Member Number: XXXXXXXX
We have detected activity on your credit report.
Log in to your account at PrivacyGuard.com 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 www.PrivacyGuard.com/secure/MyProfile.aspx

Sincerely,


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 PrivacyGuard.com 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. 

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. 

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 Long Will Information Stay On My Credit Report?

If you’re human, chances are you have made a credit mistake or two. You may be wondering how long that mistake will haunt you. While it may seem like it will never go away, rest assured that it eventually will.

Credit scores are very important; lenders use your score along with the information they find in your credit report to assess your risk as a borrower (in other words, to help them decide whether or not to loan you money and what kind of rates to give you, among other things). Understanding credit reports and what is in them (including how long information stays on them) is key to being an educated borrower. 

Your lenders send information (good and bad) about your credit activity to the three major national credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). Lenders send information such as accounts paid off, late payments, judgments and inquiries, all of which will impact your credit history and credit score. If you’re worried about some of your information (like a late payment), you can rest easy knowing that not all of your credit information will stay on your report forever. 

Different information remains on your credit report for different lengths of time. Positive information, such as an account paid off (like a mortgage or auto loan) may stay for up to 10 years since the account’s last activity date. A revolving credit account (including a credit card) that has been paid as agreed to (meeting minimum payment amounts and making payments on time) may also stay on your credit report for as long as it’s open or for 10 years from the date of last activity. 

Most negative information is reported for seven years. This includes late payments, foreclosures and accounts in collections. Judgments may also remain for seven years from the filing date. A paid tax lien will typically stay on your report for seven years from the date paid and unpaid tax liens will remain on your credit report for 15 years. 

A public record of bankruptcy will stay for 10 years, though individual accounts may start falling off after seven and a half years. Inquiries stay for one to two years. Promotional inquiries (like pre-approved credit card offers) and existing account monitoring or review inquiries stay for 12 months, but do not impact your credit score. Personal inquiries stay for 24 months, but do not impact your credit score either. Hard inquiries (credit checks from a potential lender or credit card company) may remain for 24 months, and too many hard inquiries in a short time period could negatively impact your credit score. 

Being aware of how long information (both good and bad) stays on your credit report can make you a savvier consumer. To access your 3 bureau credit reports and scores, visit the PrivacyGuard website.

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.

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.

How Your Friends List Can Impact Your Ability To Get Credit

Have you ever thought who you choose as a Twitter or Facebook friend could have an impact on your ability to get a loan for a home or new car? Well, it might.

Lenders are testing the waters on using social networks and other data you may have never even considered to determine whether or not to loan someone money. Lenders traditionally use your credit information along with income information (verification of income from W2's and pay stubs), savings information (like checking and savings account statements) and tax returns to determine an applicant’s risk. 


But, one lending institution in Germany has found that social network connections can play a part in indicating one’s credit worthiness.   

These companies believe that humans are pretty good at determining how trustworthy a person is. Assessing peoples’ social network connections can give the company insight into whether or not that person will pay their own bills on time. What does that mean? If you’re friends with someone who owes that lender money, you may have a harder time getting a loan yourself (especially if that person is someone you interact with frequently). 

In addition to your social networks, one company in Germany is also pulling data from applicants’ accounts and from the manner in which a customer completes an online loan application. For example, the amount of time spent reading information about the loan and whether or not you complete the application from your work or home computer. Or whether you use all capitalized letters (or all lowercase letters) are all taken into account to paint a more complete picture of an applicant. 

One lender that makes cash advances to small businesses takes into account the business’ presence on social media sites on the principle that a business that pays attention to Facebook and Twitter as a way to handle customer service is more likely to be responsible in other areas of their business, including accounting. 

While these types of screening activities may be less frequent at this time (the vast majority of lenders are not yet checking up on you on Facebook when you apply for a loan), it may represent the future of lending requirements.  Lenders may start looking at data outside of your credit report to assess your creditworthiness. This could be good news for people with no credit or with low credit scores because of a short credit history

The downside of course is that our social networking activities are not entirely indicative of our behavior as consumers or borrowers. We may all be punished by being Facebook friends with friends or family members who aren't financially responsible (we all have friends and family who aren't always at the top of their financial game).  People could also easily clean up their friend lists to appear more clean-cut, but may have a hard time doing the same to their credit score

Either way, this can also serve as a good reminder to be careful about what you post on your social networks. Your online activities are already being watched by potential employers-- it wouldn't be much of a stretch for lenders to start doing the same in the near future. 

3 Credit Checking Benefits

Many people never bother to check their credit history regularly. They may only discover problems with their credit report when they’re denied a major loan by a lending company or if their application for a credit card is rejected by a bank.

Performing accurate and regular credit checks may help you avoid such headaches and may be beneficial to your overall financial health in the long run.

Here are some of the benefits:

1. Better credit score: As you may already know, lenders or creditors look at factors like income and credit score to determine an individual’s creditworthiness. It helps them decide whether they should extend credit to a particular person or not. The higher a person’s credit score, the better their chances of getting extended credit are. Credit scores can be dependent on several things including the age of the credit report, the types of inquiries made by institutions about the report, and the diversity of credit accounts on the report. 

Keeping pace with your credit report can have a considerable effect on your financial stability. By ensuring that you have a good credit score, you can take advantage of many credit services including home mortgages, car loans, and low-interest credit cards — financial options which may not be easily available to you if you have a bad credit history.

2. Discovering errors in your credit report: Because credit reporting agencies handle numerous reports each year, clerical errors and glitches in computer systems may happen. These inaccuracies could harm your credit rating, so it’s better to discover them early so that you can have them rectified by the agency concerned.

3. Detecting identity theft: Identity theft can happen when a criminal opens accounts in your name and accumulates balances over time, leaving you to deal with debt collectors’ demanding payment for loans you never owed. Checking your credit report regularly can help you detect these fraudulent activities arising from identity theft. If you suspect identity theft, you can ask your agency to flag your report with a fraud alert.

Credit reports are easily available from credit reporting agencies. Some of them allow consumers to see the reports directly from their official websites, while others sell copies for a reasonable cost.

How Canceling Your Credit Card Could Damage Your Credit

If you are not using a credit card, should you cancel it? You may have heard conflicting information on this topic. Like many issues surrounding credit, it depends on the situation. However, properly closing a credit card does not automatically damage your credit.

High interest rates, yearly fees, and too much temptation to use a paid off card are good reasons to close a credit card account. However, be sure you understand how closing the account may affect your credit.

View the full article here.

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.

Does Credit Bureau Matter?

If you've had any experience dealing with credit, you may know that there are three main credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. And, if you've looked at your credit report recently, you might have noticed that your 3 bureau scores are different. Does this mean that one bureau is better than another? Not necessarily. In fact, it can be helpful to look at all three credit reports and scores.

Here are three noteworthy reasons to consider when looking at all three credit reports:

• Different information. Each of your three credit reports may be mostly similar, but sometimes lenders can report information to one bureau and not the other. While the bureaus share the information they're given, it can sometimes take a while, so your reports may differ in terms of what is listed. This means that it may be a good idea to look at all three credit reports so that you can double check your listed information.

• Errors. Just like different information may show up on different reports, all three credit reports could have different errors. One source says close to 52 million Americans could have credit report errors, which can hurt your score.  In order to fix errors, it’s good to first be aware of them. Regularly checking and staying on top of all three of your credit reports can help limit these types of errors. 

• Identity Theft. Another reason to monitor your credit report is to protect yourself from identity theft. For example, if someone tries to defraud an account that is only listed on your Experian report, and hasn't yet made it to your Equifax report, the thief may have a better chance of successfully stealing your identity. To stop identity thieves in their tracks, try to routinely monitor your credit report and bank accounts for suspicious activity.

At PrivacyGuard, we offer one of the most comprehensive programs to keep track of your credit. We monitor all three bureaus for any changes to your credit file, and we help you see updated credit reports and scores on a monthly basis. Our credit-monitoring services also double as a safeguard from identity theft because we can provide your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion reports daily and alert you if certain changes occur or if a new account is opened.

The Difference Between Good Debt and Bad Debt

Debt - most of us can’t stand it. When we think about how much we owe on our homes, cars, student loans, credit cards, etc., it can be overwhelming. Have you ever wished that you could just win the lottery so that you could pay off your debt? Just a high enough jackpot to pay off your bills to live debt free would be great, right? 

Well, don’t wish away all of your debt. In the eyes of lenders, there is such a thing as “good” debt and bad debt and it’s helpful to know the difference.

Lenders may be more favorable with certain debts. Having debt on something that could increase in value over time and may contribute to your overall financial health could be considered “good” debt. 

Here are two examples of “good” debt:

• Home purchase – Homes usually appreciate in value, so your mortgage loan may be considered an investment. 
• Student loans – This debt may be considered “good” because it’s usually used towards education – which in turn could help you earn money over a lifetime.

So what is a bad debt? Disposable finances or money spent on things you don’t necessarily need can be considered bad debt.

Below are two examples of bad debt:

• Going out – It’s easy to look past these “small” expenses, but they can easily build up. Shopping sprees, going out to dinner and movies can be considered bad debt. 
• Vacations – That trip to the Bahamas you were planning on going to later this year before you paid off your other bills could be another example.

There’s a fine line between “good” and bad debt and it can be easy to lose track of your expenses. Consider getting your credit history by regularly reviewing your credit report. This may be helpful when prioritizing your payment plans for the future. 

Credit Reports vs. Credit Scores: Part 2

Credit Reports vs. Credit Scores: Part 2

 What’s The Difference?

Continued from Credit Reports vs. Credit Scores: Part 1, this section focuses on a few common misunderstandings about credit scores.

The most common misunderstandings about credit scores involve (but are not limited to) the following:

Your credit score is a single number: In the US, there are three major credit bureaus that collect and maintain credit information: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Each bureau has its own specified and customized formula to determine your final credit rating. Banks, lenders and insurance companies also have their own models for computing their clients’ credit scores; therefore, your credit standing can vary from one evaluator to another. There are also a number of consumer scoring services available that utilize similar, though different algorithms to calculate your credit scores.

More money means a higher credit score: Income is not included when looking at your credit scores. The scores reflect how well you manage your credit regardless of your income.

Credit scores go down when checked: There are two types of inquiries – soft and hard. A soft inquiry is when you check your own scores through a third party service. You can check your own scores as often as you like, without negatively impacting your credit standing. A hard inquiry on the other hand happens when a third-party source checks your credit information. For example, if you’re securing a loan to buy a new car, the car dealer may check your credit information at one or more of the three major credit bureaus. This would reflect on your credit reports at one or more of the bureaus. Too many hard inquiries in a short amount of time could adversely impact your credit rating and scores. 

Keep a close eye on your credit reports from each of the bureaus and be mindful of the elements listed above. All in all, it can take a bit of patience and vigilance, but you’ll be rewarded with peace of mind and possibly a stronger credit standing.

Credit Reports vs. Credit Scores: Part 1

Credit Reports vs. Credit Scores: Part 1

What's The Difference?

What’s the difference between a credit report and a credit score? Some people think that credit reports and credit scores are one in the same. That’s not true. A credit report is an in-depth record of your credit history, while a score is an algorithmic rating based on your credit information. 

Your credit reporting includes a wide range of information about your credit standing and history, such as:

Who you are: This includes your name, social security number, date of birth, and in some cases, employment information.
Your credit: This is composed of your credit card accounts, mortgages, car loans, school and other loans, how much credit you have paid, and your payment history.
Your public record: This contains information about court proceedings and decisions for or against you, tax incentive grants or tax liens, or bankruptcies.
Inquiries: This simply contains a list of all the companies and people who recently requested a copy of your credit report. These are also known as “hard inquiries”. 


A credit score on the other hand, is a numerical assessment of your credit standing  based on the information in your credit report. Determinants of your credit scoring generally include the following:

Type and duration of accounts: Examples of these are your loans, mortgages and credit cards, and how long you've had them for.
Bill payment history: Late payment history could adversely impact your scores. Payment history is one of the more important determinants of your credit scoring. 
Available credit: Your credit utilization ratio – based on your reported credit limits and how much of that credit has been used – can also impact your scores. Higher utilization rates can adversely impact your credit score. This is why you may want to consider keeping older credit cards that may have extra balance capacity (which can offset utilization rate).
Outstanding debt: This includes all other loans and credits granted to you other than those previously mentioned. Too much debt, or numerous debt/credit lines opened in a short amount of time, could adversely impact your credit scores.

Be sure to check out Part 2 on common misunderstandings about credit scores.

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!