Bankruptcy and Credit Repair Companies

My name is Jon Labella and I am a Bankruptcy Attorney. I wanted to take a couple of minutes to talk to you about your credit and credit repair services. You can barely pass a corner anymore without seeing signs begging you to call now to fix your credit. Some of these companies provide a legitimate service, but many do not. It’s time for you to get a peek into how credit repair works and see if it’s worth the price.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act says that everything, good, bad and ugly, stays on your credit report for 7 years from the date it is last reported to the credit bureau. The credit bureaus received massive updates of millions of accounts from national lenders every day. Sometimes mistakes happen and your report may contain inaccurate information. A credit account that isn’t yours, a delinquency that didn’t actually happen, and some stuff that is really old that never went away. Inaccurate or outdated information contained on your credit bureau can and should be removed.

The process is really pretty simple. Pull a copy of your credit bureau report and take a look at it. If you see anything that is old or inaccurate, you file a dispute with the bureau that is reporting it. That sounds pretty involved, but it really is easy to do. Federal law required the credit bureaus to set up a website so that consumers could order their free annual credit report online. You can use this exact same website to file a dispute. The credit bureau requests verification from the creditor, and the creditor has 30 days to respond. If the creditor fails to respond, the entry is removed. If the creditor responds, the credit bureau updates the entry with the new data. If it comes back the same, then it stays.

Most credit repair companies offer to pull your credit report, review it with you to see if there is anything old or wrong, and write dispute letters for you. Nothing is mystical or magical. No special expertise, no special technical training, no advance degrees needed. Look it over, find what’s old or wrong, and let the bureau know. You can do it all online yourself. How much is it worth to have somebody hold your hand while you do that?

That is all legitimate credit repair companies do for you. Now, let’s talk about the not so legitimate ones. Some credit repair companies will tell you that if you bombard the credit bureau with disputes, then the creditor will get overwhelmed and will miss responding to the credit bureau. If the creditor doesn’t respond, the entry will come off. As nice a thought as that is, the bureaus and the creditors caught onto this one and the law has been changed to only allow one dispute per entry. So while that may have worked in the past, it won’t fly now.

Other credit repair companies encourage you to set up an alter ego for yourself by changing your name slightly, altering your social security number, or otherwise adjusting your identity. Common sense should tell you this isn’t cool. Even suggesting that a consumer do this is illegal. Many other credit repair companies just take your money and don’t really do anything for you. I have even heard of one company that charged $500 for a box that had a credit bureau report order form and a bunch of form letters.If you do decide to use a credit repair company, know your rights. All credit repair companies have to use written service contracts and give you a signed copy of it. They have to provide you with a disclosure of your rights regarding credit information. They cannot require payment in advance, and all service contracts carry a 3 day right to cancel. If you have gotten tangled up with a questionable credit repair company, call us. We can help.

Is Your NetFlix Password In The Wrong Hands?

For millions of Americans, their Netflix accounts are essential to getting through a sick day or weekend at home. Nevertheless, something most of these subscribers don’t pay much mind to is keeping basic account security that helps to keep their individual info safe. Something as easy as changing a password regularly may appear like a bit of a hassle, but it’s vital to making sure ongoing account security, particularly as it associates with current hacking attacks.

A number of major data breaches in recent months have potentially put Netflix users at risk of having their streaming accounts hacked, according to Advertisement Week’s Lost Remote vertical. In mid-October 2016 and once again previously this month, Netflix began alerting customers that it had actually been checking its own user records versus data exposed in other companies’ information breaches, indicating that while Netflix itself has actually been unaffected, user accounts were still at threat. As a result, impacted users were required to alter their passwords.

What’s the risk?

The reason for customers to change their passwords is basic: Many individuals use the very same login details for numerous or perhaps all their online accounts, according to TIME Data Security. While can make it much easier for individuals to bear in mind their passwords, it likewise makes it simpler for hackers to get access to potentially important details. Even something as easy as a Netflix password can give criminals– who can frequently buy taken login data at low individual costs– access to crucial information that can be used for fraud, including name, address, and even charge card data.

Customers can examine to see how their accounts have been accessed by making use of Netflix’s “Viewing Activity” feature, which will show info such as the IP address and place where accounts have been accessed, the news source stated. That, in turn, can assist individuals comprehend if their accounts have been subjected to these kinds of attacks, and trigger them to start altering their passwords for their other accounts if they haven’t currently.

Getting smarter

People typically know they need to utilize multiple passwords for their various accounts– ideally using an unique one for each account they develop– hackers also know that this isn’t basic practice for the huge bulk of internet users, inning accordance with KrebsOnSecurity. Hackers also understand that if they have, state, a victim’s Facebook password, they can attempt using that password for Twitter, Netflix and even savings account and have some quantity of success.

Fortunately for numerous web users is that larger business like Netflix are taking preemptive actions to make sure account information isn’t used by hackers, but there’s no single sure-fire way to prevent this from occurring. Businesses can examine their own records versus exactly what’s been dripped online, but it depends on users change their login information.

” Some Netflix members have actually received emails motivating them to alter their account passwords as a precautionary procedure due to the recent disclosure of extra credentials from an older breach at another internet business,” Netflix told KrebsOnSecurity. “Note that we are constantly participating in these kinds of proactive security procedures (leveraging Scumblr in addition to other mechanisms and information sources), not just when it comes to significant security breaches such as this one.”

In addition to keeping different passwords for all their separate accounts, it’s smart for users to make sure they take efforts to read more about the dangers they face and alter their passwords regularly. That way, even if a years– old Netflix account is breached, there’s little chance of that to affect other accounts. When passwords fail you, it’s constantly excellent to have an identity theft security plan in place.  Take proactive steps to secure your personal information and keep track of your credit by monitoring it regularly.

What Identity Thieves Do With Stolen Credit Cards

Unless you live in a remote village on some tropical island, it’s almost 100% likely that you or someone you know has been a victim of identity theft.  Unfortunately, identity theft is a harsh reality that we all have to accept and do our best to prevent.  But have you ever wondered what’s really going on behind the scenes when your identity is stolen?  How many criminals are seeing your social security number or your credit card information?  This is a very scary thing to consider.  According to an article on CBSNews.com here’s what’s happening to your information after it’s been fraudulently taken.

If your credit card information is stolen as part of a large breach, it’s more likely that your identity and information will be sold at least once as part of a package deal. Along the path to fraudulent purchases your card will be valued based on such factors as whether it is proven to be active (typically with small purchases that may go unnoticed) and whether other information is included — such as passwords, Social Security numbers, and birthdates that make it easier to open new lines of credit in your name.

Once your card information ends up in the hands of the final “user,” the fraudulent action can take many forms. The thief may make a duplicate card, choose to open up fraudulent accounts in your name, or simply use your existing card to buy items that can be resold for cash. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/what-identity-thieves-do-with-stolen-credit-cards/

Once you find out that your credit card, social security number or some other personal identifiable information has been stolen, you will have to take some corrective and preventative actions. Start by calling your credit card company and let them know what has happened.  If any account were opened fraudulently, you’ll need to contact those companies as well so they can close the unauthorized accounts before more charges are made.    File police reports and consider placing a freeze on your credit for at least 90 days.  This will prevent anyone from running your credit during that time, so no new unauthorized accounts can be opened.

Use a credit monitoring service to stay on top of daily changes to your credit reports.  If any new items pop up that you don’t recognize, it’s likely fallout from the credit card or identity theft.  In the future, use some of these tips to help keep your personal information safe.

 

What You Need To Know About Credit Card Fraud

Types of Credit Card Fraud

Credit card fraud comes in several different forms and even if you don’t currently have any credit cards in your name, you can still become a victim. Criminals are becoming more crafty as they attempt to find ways to steal your credit and use it fraudulently. Here are some of the more common credit card fraud methods that you should familiarize yourself with.

Application fraud: The most common type is the application fraud. Fake or stolen documents are used to open credit card accounts. This is of two types: The card obtained by assuming the identity of someone or by falsifying the financial position to obtain credit.

Assuming the identity of another person is a form of traditional identity theft. The fraudster may create false names and addresses or even steal the identity of an existing person to obtain the card.

Acquiring more credit than entitled, by exaggerating financial position is another common practice. Banks often protect their interests by demanding documents to support the financial claims or by confirming details with the employers.

Stealing: Criminals get hold of your card either by stealing or when you lose it. Postal intercepts are a common form of stealing cards whereby the card is stolen before it reaches the rightful owner by post.

Skimming: This is a type of fraud where the card is cloned or forged without the card owner’s knowledge. The data in the magnetic strip of the card is copied and used. This type of crime is difficult to spot since skimming is exposed only when the next statement is generated. The magnetic strip can be copied by a dishonest employee at the point of sale, with illegal recording devices or by skimming devices installed in cash machines.

Online fraud: Most credit card frauds are committed over the internet. The card details are hacked at the merchant site when being used to make legitimate online purchases. Another common scam is thorough phishing. The phishing sites send out false e-mails or links to fraudulent sites to deceive the card owner to part with card details. These details are then used to make false purchases.

CNP fraud: Purchasing goods on mail order or on telephone without involving a direct seller, where no PIN verification is required, can result in card not present (CNP) fraud. The card details are obtained even from old receipts and since the seller does not verify the PIN number or signature, it becomes difficult to detect such crimes.

BIN attack: Credit cards companies often come under the BIN (Bank Identification Number) attack. Fraudsters generate the last four numbers by obtaining the first six numbers (BIN) of a legitimate card. The cards in the same BIN range have similar data like expiry dates etc.

The key to avoiding such frauds is to be aware and follow safe practices. Always use strong passwords on your internet banking and credit card websites. Do not give secure information on telephone or e-mail. Report a lost card immediately to block any further transaction. Also, consider using a credit monitoring service to keep track of what’s going on with your credit reports. With such simple safe practices, you can ensure that your plastic money is safe.

Preventing Identity Theft: Proper Disposal Of Old Computers

Computer Data Has a Long Shelf Life

Conscientious people shred their bank statements and cut up their credit cards without a thought. But when it comes to disposing of their computer’s hard drive, they can be extremely careless. With computers constantly evolving and being made more powerful, people frequently upgrade to the newest models, casting aside millions of computers yearly. Many computer users leave sensitive information on their hard drives as they discard them at computer drop-off centers or in landfills, just waiting for an identity thief to come by. If you have a computer to dispose of, you don’t want to become a future statistic for identity theft.

Some people do not realize the process involved in removing data from a hard drive. Many computer users think if they move all their files to the trash or reformat the hard drive that the files are gone for good. Actually, those trashed files remain fully intact, unless they are rewritten. Rewriting only takes place if space is needed and most computers have ample space. In the case of reformatting the drive, data can be still retrieved with the right tools. If you are among the unaware, the Department of Defense has advice on how to remove information from a hard drive.

Wiping the Hard Drive

You can buy programs, also known as shredders, which are relatively inexpensive, or find freeware on the Internet that will do the job. These programs cover the data with zeros or random characters to make them unreadable by data-restoration software. The DOD recommends overwriting the drive sectors three times with different characters. Other experts recommend going over the data seven times to make it completely unrecoverable. Also, wiping just certain files may not fully protect your information, as copies of those files can be stored in other parts of your computer. It is probably best to use the wiping program on your entire hard drive.

Removing the Hard Drive

If you don’t want to use a wiping program, you can remove your computer’s hard drive. It is relatively small and will store easily in a safe or other secure location. If you aren’t sure where the hard drive is located on your computer, refer to your manual or manufacturer’s website. Once removed, some people resort to pounding the hard drive with a hammer, or using a magnet, or soaking it in water or acid. All these methods are ineffectual. The only method to guarantee the removal of your information is to sand the platters or use an industrial shredder which obliterates it.

Discard Wisely

The sheer amount of e-waste being generated each year is a threat to our environment. Federal regulations don’t cover e-waste, but some states have passed legislation dealing with the landfill problem. Yet, disposing of a computer is easier today than a few years ago as there are more options available. To help confront the landfill problem, some stores have unveiled take-back or buy-back programs. While online sites have also appeared to buy back old electronics, where they will revamp them to sell or recycle the components. You would be doing a great service if you consider other options rather than tossing your computer into a landfill.

Stealing your sensitive information from an old hard drive is just one way criminals can commit identity theft.  Learn other methods to protect yourself from identity theft and keep your data out of the wrong hands.

Reference:

1. Department of Defense, Department of Defense Directive, October 24, 2002, https://www.acq.osd.mil/ie/bei/pm/ref-library/dodd/d85001p.pdf

How To Read Your Credit Report

Types of Information Contained in a Credit Report

Credit reports contain information regarding financial actions. These actions will include loan account information and payments on those loan accounts. It is suggested that this information be reviewed at least once every year. This will allow checks for report accuracy. The types of information on a credit report are:

Personal Information

This will include: full name, current address and place of employment. It may also include previous addresses and previous places of employment. There may also be name variations or even name misspellings listed. This will usually relate to minor creditor reporting errors. These minor errors are not considered important. They also provide a link between identities and credit information. However, if the error indicates a completely different identity, then it should be reported to the credit bureau immediately.

Credit Summary Section

The credit summary section will summarize the information pertaining to different account types. This section is comprised of the number of accounts, balances and delinquent account information. Account types listed are:

• Installment accounts (loans)
• Revolving accounts (credit cards, lines of credit)
• Real Estate accounts (mortgages)
• Collection Accounts
• Other types of accounts

In addition, the Credit Summary will also indicate:

• The number of open accounts
• The number of closed accounts
• Accounts listed in public records
• Credit inquiries made in the last two years

Account History Section

The Account History Section will contain the majority of the credit information. Each credit account will be listed here. For each account, payment details will be listed. Details listed will include:

• Name of the creditor
• Account number associated with each account (part of the number may be obscured for security reasons)
• Type of Account (mortgage, auto loan, revolving, etc.)
• Account Responsibility (joint, individual or authorized user responsibilities)
• Monthly account payment (minimum monthly payment amount required)
• Date Account opened (month and year of account establishment)
• Date reported is the date of the last report made by the creditor to the credit bureau
• Account Balance is the current amount owed on the account as of the last reporting date
• Amount of the original loan or the current credit limit
• High Credit or High Balance is the largest amount that was ever charged on a credit card. For installment loans, it will be the original amount of the loan
• Past due is the amount that has past the normal payment date at the time of reporting
• Remarks section includes comments posted by creditors
• Payment status (current, charge-off, past due). Current accounts may still list delinquencies
• Payment History will indicate the monthly payment status from the beginning of the account
• Collection accounts will appear in the account history or in a separate section

Public Records Section

The public records section will include court judgments, bankruptcies, tax liens and overdue child support (in some states). Public record entries may remain on a credit report for seven to ten years. Public Records entries are considered particularly negative on a credit report. To get daily credit monitoring plus access to your credit reports, consider one of these credit monitoring services https://www.stopidentityfraud.org/credit-monitoring-services

Credit Inquiries

The credit inquiries section lists those who have accessed the credit report. This will include inquiries made within the past 2 years. Individual credit reports will list all of the inquiries within the last 2 years. However, not all of these are listed on lender’s and creditor’s versions. Lender’s copies will only show ‘hard’ inquiries. A hard inquiry is made when a credit application is submitted. A ‘soft’ inquiry is made when a lender accesses the report for credit promotional purposes. Soft inquiries have no effect on an overall credit score. However, hard inquiries will lower a credit score by a small margin.