Showing posts with label credit score. Show all posts
Showing posts with label credit score. 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:

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. 

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. 

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.

Is My Credit Score High Enough To Buy A House?

What credit score number do you need to buy a house? Everyone wants to know the magic answer to this question. Home buyers are concerned about their credit score because they know that their score carries a lot of weight when it comes to getting approved for a mortgage for a new home. The problem is that the complicated scoring system can make credit scores confusing, and the more you try to research scores, the more confused you can get.

Here’s what you really need to know. Your credit score is a numerical representation of the information in your credit report, which shows how you have borrowed and repaid money going back up to 10 years. Scores take into account five main financial factors:

1. Your payment history on loans and credit cards
2. The total amount you currently owe on all of your accounts
3. The length of your credit history (how long you have been borrowing)
4. Any new, recently opened accounts
5. The mix of credit you use (credit cards, auto loans, etc.).

Scores can vary depending on which bureau they’re coming from. There are three main bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Mortgage lenders can use data about a home buyer from any of the bureaus, along with proprietary formulas and other factors (like debt to income ratio) to assess risk- or in other words, to determine an applicant’s likelihood of paying back a loan.

Applicants with lower credit scores have a statistically higher probability of defaulting on their loans, and may be viewed as a higher risk to lenders. Those with higher credit scores may be viewed as lower risk to a lender. Their high score shows that they have been responsible with paying off their bills in the past. Applicants with lower scores may have a harder time getting approved for mortgages, but if they do get approved with their low score, they may end up paying more in interest. In a search for a home, it can pay to have good credit. Borrowers with better credit scores tend to pay lower interest rates.

There is no across-the-board requirement of a credit score for mortgage approval. Lenders each have their own formulas; some set the bar higher than others, and some are willing to work with buyers with lower scores.

Late payments can seriously lower a home buyer’s credit score, so it is important to make your payments on time. Overuse of credit cards (the amount of credit you use compared to the amount of credit available to you) can also lower one’s score. If your credit cards are maxed out, this may be seen as a higher risk to lenders. Consider checking your credit report at the onset of your home search to know where you stand in the eyes of a lender.

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 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.

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. 

Is Social Media the Next Big Credit Score Factor?

If you think your social media posts, photos, and activities are only interesting to your family and friends -- think again. It’s entirely possible your boss or future boss is taking a look at your public social profile to know more about your personality and character. Marketers, on the other hand, would gladly want to know what you like and dislike about products and services to better serve your needs and wants.

If social media content proves to be useful in background checks and marketing, can it also be used for checking credit worthiness?

With the massive amount of information posted online – 58 million average tweets per day, 4.5 billion Facebook likes, and 40 million Instagram photos - lenders may find it hard to ignore social media. It’s a vast new frontier waiting to be tamed, but how?

Start-up lenders like Neo Finance, Lendo, and Affirm are defying the traditional credit score model used by the 3 big credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Instead of relying mainly on traditional credit scores, they can sometimes consider more social factors of the applicant to gauge their credit worthiness.
Critics would argue that this type of system is vulnerable to fraud, while proponents would say that it could open up a lot of opportunities, especially for people with vague or less than great credit histories.

So, what are the pros and cons of using social media to estimate ones’ credit worthiness?


• Authentic social media profiles are hard to fake – everyone can register for more than one profile per social network. All you need are different email addresses. However, the authenticity of a social profile is easy to determine with one look. Immediately, you can recognize the genuine profile from the feel of items in the timeline and the connections that the account’s owner has built over the years. Con artists will be hard-pressed to replicate an authentic profile because natural social media behavior takes time, intellectual and emotional investments.

• Quality over quantity – Traditional credit scores rely on cold and hard figures. The nuances of personality and character are not considered when evaluating loans and interest rates. The result is that deserving businesses and individuals are sometimes denied loans because their numbers didn’t look right. In considering the social content, a lender could see the human element that could explain causes of low credit scores such as a sudden sickness or job layoffs.


• Bias issue – A traditional credit report is blind to race, religion, gender, status, and other personal background that may result in unfair profiling. It upholds the principles of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act that prevents discrimination against loan applicants.

In social media, a credit approver can sometimes plainly see information such as race, age, sexual preference. This can open the credit applicant to stereotyping and prejudice that they could have avoided with regular credit profiling.

• Privacy issues-With the public growing increasingly wary about online privacy, not every creditor or bank has taken the leap of faith with using data on these websites for credit assessment. While most major banks use social media for marketing and outreach, they are often discreet when it comes to their stances on viewing the information of their target customers. As such, not every creditor is buying in to the social media trend. This makes social media still a vastly unexplored and unproven credit scoring aspect.

While traditional credit bureaus are still not incorporating social media in their algorithms, it could really just be a matter of time. In fact, it has been reported that Equifax is testing how social media sites can help prevent financial fraud.

Maybe it’s time you take a second look at how you use your social media. And be sure to think twice before posting those photos of you from college that you wouldn’t even want your grandmother to see!

Add Credit Awareness To Your Back To School Shopping List

If you're the parent of a student, you're probably already aware of the fact that the start of the new school year is just around the corner. And, while you may be overjoyed that your kids are heading back to the classroom, you might not be thrilled about what it can cost you. However, with a little planning, you can keep this year's school supply shopping from turning into a credit nightmare.

1. Establish a plan. Before you rush out to the stores, try to make a plan and a budget. Figure out exactly what your kids need, what you already have at home and how much you have to spend. Figuring out what you can realistically afford can help keep yourself from having to swipe your credit card for a surprisingly big payment.

2. Use discretion when dealing with the option to open retailer credit cards. Chances are you've considered the “too good to be true” credit card offer at the checkout counter. This may be tempting, but you might want to resist the temptation and stick with your original method of payment. While these upfront savings may be nice, if you can afford to pay for it now, you might save yourself from potentially racking up interest costs later.

3. Use sales tax holidays. One way to save if you're on a tight budget is to take advantage of your state's tax-free holiday. Generally held over a weekend or a whole week, you can  make school-related purchases tax free, which could save you hundreds of dollars.

Being aware of your three credit reports and scores before you hit the stores can help save you from making mistakes that will potentially negatively affect your credit score.

To make sure you're at the top of the class when it comes to your personal credit report knowledge, visit the PrivacyGuard website.

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.

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

Continued Post: Steps 4-7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To review your credit report, consider the following steps:

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

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

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

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

Be sure to check out Part 2!

Identity Theft: Where Can You Turn To?

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

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

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

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

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

    Equifax: 1-800-525-6285

    Experian: 1-888-397-3742

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

Your Credit Score and Dating?

It was brought to our attention in an article posted last week, that there is a new popular criterion in selecting a partner: your credit score.   It appears that more and more people are cautious of a mate’s financial background, and what kind of financial “baggage” that potential mate could bring to the table. 

What better indicator of your financial well-being than your credit score? And let’s not forget – you actually have 3 credit scores – one from each of the national credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion).

Apparently this new criteria has warranted the creation of dating websites such as and that cater specifically to matching daters based on credit score.  

While the importance of having a good credit score in order to achieve financial goals and aspirations has been understood, it now seems that we should also be stressing the impact a good credit score can have on your social and dating life.  A good score might be a more important quality to some than any physical attribute listed on a dating website.  Forget the days of tall, brunette, intelligent, blue eyes.    Instead, you may have to start thinking in terms of 750+credit score, no debt, and pays bills on time. 

With the rise of this new dating phenomenon, you should check your 3 credit scores today!  See if your score could land you your dream date! 

Good Credit Score in 2013

The New Year is here, and if one of your New Year’s resolutions was to maintain a good credit score in 2013, here are some methods experts recommend to help you keep your resolution:

1.    Make a financial plan, and set a budget.  Your budget should include all daily expenses, and longer term expenses you see popping up during the year.
2.    Check your credit report.  Make sure there are no errors in your existing report.  You want to start the year off with a clean slate, so this should definitely be a priority.  To get the best picture possible of errors in your credit reporting, you need to check your report from all 3 national credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
3.    Use credit cards responsibly.  While opening credit cards and paying them off in a timely manner can do good things for your credit history, using a credit card irresponsibly can do considerable damage.  Make sure your credit card payment strategy is part of your larger financial plan.  Your credit reporting provides a complete history and record of card accounts and credit you may have.
4.    Tackle any debt you already have.  Before digging yourself into an impossibly deep hole, make sure you settle any debt you may have accumulated. 

This year should be all about starting new and fresh. Start the New Year off by following these best practice guidelines, and your credit may be in better shape than before!  PrivacyGuard can also help you stick to your resolution.  With PrivacyGuard, you can view your credit report and scores, set up credit monitoring alerts, and use the financial calculator suite that can help determine the best ways to pay down certain kinds of debt.  These resources can certainly be helpful to you while working to achieve a good credit score in 2013!

Your Credit In The New Year

With the New Year, many vow to make changes to better their lives within the next 365 days.  Some common New Year’s Resolutions are to lose weight, get in shape, spend more time with family, and to get organized. 

 In addition to the common resolutions, what about maintaining a good credit score in 2013?  Your credit score is incredibly important, and affects many aspects of life.  Are you looking for a new car or house this year? Having a good credit score can mean better rates on loans and insurance.  So although your credit score might not be top of mind while making New Year’s Resolutions, it is certainly advisable to be aware of your credit score in 2013!

Don’t Go Into Debt This Holiday Season

It’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of the holidays and not realize how much you’re using your credit card.  Going over your credit limit can lower your credit score, which can make for a bad case of the post-holiday blues.  Here are some tips to prevent falling into holiday debt:

  1. Set a Budget.  Allot yourself a certain amount of money geared towards holiday expenses. Don’t let yourself go over that set limit!
  2. Make a List (and check it twice)!  Write down everything your money is going towards this season whether it be gifts, holiday food, or miscellaneous items like decorations. Making a list will help you keep track of what you need, and how much you can spend towards each item.
  3. Cash, not credit.  An easy way to not go over your credit limit is to simply leave your credit card at home.  Use cash at the store, and you won’t be tempted to rack up charges on your card!

Don’t let the holiday season affect your credit score.  Follow these tips to keep your season merry and bright!