Renting When Your Credit Score Won’t Vouch for You

by Carly Rae Zent

You have low credit, but need a place to live. What else can you do to lock in a lease?

Everybody needs a place to live, but unfortunately, low credit scores make potential landlords nervous.

Some landlords may feel a low credit score is an indication the tenant is more likely to lapse on rent. If you fall into this camp, it might make it hard to find a place to rent if landlords keep passing on your application for someone else’s with a better credit score.

Luckily, there are ways to find a great place to rent regardless of your score. If you’re currently struggling with a low score, follow these tips for negotiating with the landlord.

Be upfront and communicate

It’s best your potential landlord is not taken by surprise when they run your credit report. When you file your application, be upfront about your credit score and why it is low. After all, not every credit score is low because of missed payments. Maybe you divorced recently; maybe you were sick, and have medical debt; maybe you fell victim to a predatory payday loan or title loan and took a dent in your score. You should also discuss your current plan for addressing your credit score and keeping up with future payments. Maybe you recently lost your job, but you’ve found another one, so your credit score will go back up, or maybe you’ve formulated a payment plan. Let them know.

If you have proof of reliable income, or an impressive savings account balance, now is the time to show proof of that in order to demonstrate you will have the funds available to cut a rent check every month.

Communicating with your potential landlord during the beginning of the application process will make you seem responsible and aware. This will give them more reassurance that you will be a great tenant who reliably makes on-time payments. Discussing your situation will provide more information to help them decide whether to make an exception to their credit score rules and rent to you.

Ask a reference to vouch for you

Your past landlords — if they have high opinions of you — will be able to reassure your future landlords that they have nothing to worry about by renting to you. When discussing your low credit score, include the phone number of at least one person who will be able to share that you’ve kept up with payments in the past. Also ask your references to vouch for your character — they can let future landlords know that you take good care of the house, are clean and respectful, and are a great tenant.

References will help landlords get that whole-picture view of what kind of tenant you are and make it more likely to view you as a great tenant.

Find a roommate or guarantor with better credit

If you’re renting a two-bedroom, see if you can find a roommate to sign the lease who has better credit than you. Seeing that one person on the lease has a good credit history will provide the potential landlord with extra reassurance the rent will get paid on time.

Getting a co-signing guarantor is also a great idea, especially if you plan to rent alone. A guarantor is someone who the landlord can legally hold accountable for rent, even if they aren’t necessarily living with you. Ask someone who trusts you to back up your lease with their great credit score by taking on the guarantor role. This is an especially common move for those who are young or renting for the first time and have no credit history at all.

There are also companies that offer co-signing a lease as a service, but do your research before working with one. Not every such company will be legitimate.

Offer a larger security deposit

Some landlords already have set policies that say they will charge higher security deposits to tenants with lower credit scores. You can get ahead of the game and help reassure your landlord by going ahead and offering a larger security deposit that is 50% more than or double the normal deposit.

A higher security deposit ensures that the landlord is going into the transaction with less risk — if you end up not being able to pay rent, then they can absorb the security deposit to make up for any lost profits or cash.

If you can save up even more, consider paying several months’ rent at once.

Seek rentals that don’t require credit checks

Believe it or not, not every potential landlord will perform a credit check. Just as there are no-credit-check loans, there are also no-credit-check landlords. If you do your research, you might be able to find such a landlord in your area.

Landlords who are most likely to take a chance on a tenant without a credit check are individual or small-time local landlords. Faceless property management organizations with hundreds of properties are more likely to rely on black-and-white policies to choose tenants —meaning they might choose to turn you down for having a low credit score no matter how awesome you are otherwise.

Finding landlords who don’t mind low credit scores or not checking credit at all can be done by:

  • Asking your friends for recommendations
  • Submitting a post with your housing requirements in neighborhood groups on Facebook or Nextdoor
  • Driving through neighborhoods in search of “for rent” signs
  • Looking in areas with less competitive rental markets. Landlords might be more likely to take low credit score renters if they have fewer tenant options.
  • Looking on listing sites like Craigslist and Zillow (Be sure to avoid rental scams for this one. Sometimes scammers will post fake properties aiming at low-income or poor-credit tenants in order to steal information.)

Remember: It’s not all about credit

Great credit scores are not the only things that landlords look for in a tenant. They look at the whole picture of an individual’s character. If you’re struggling a little financially, but you have no criminal history and you’re communicative and respectful, then a landlord might just give you a chance.

With these tools and tips in arm, you’re ready to face the world of home rental — no matter what your credit score may be. Good luck!

Struggling with other rent-related questions? Check out these articles for those who are either renters or looking for someone to take on a lease:

The Consequences of Medical Debt

Unpaid medical bills can end up on your credit report.


The cost of receiving medical care is a big problem in the United States. Not only are one-third of GoFundMe campaigns related to covering medical bills, according to a 2018 interview with the organization’s CEO, but various sources in recent years have also tagged medical debt as a leading cause of bankruptcy.

Even for folks who don’t end up going bankrupt over their medical bills, there are still several ways that these debts can negatively affect their life. Excessive medical debt can deplete savings and tank your credit score, leaving you vulnerable during a future financial emergency and relying on no credit check loans, payday loans, and cash advances to get by.

The relationship between medical debt and credit isn’t exactly a straight line. But while medical debt doesn’t necessarily affect a person’s credit score, there is one fairly direct path that can be followed from high medical costs to bad credit.

First things first: debt affects your credit score

When you take out a personal loan or put a balance on your credit card, the amount that you borrow ends up on your credit reports. These are documents that track your history as a borrower and user of credit, typically over a seven-year period (although some information, like bankruptcies, can stay on your report for longer). Credit reports are maintained by the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

Your credit score is based on the information contained in those reports. The most common type of credit score is your FICO score, which is based on a scale from 300 to 850. The higher your score, the better your credit.

When it comes to debt, your credit reports not only track the number of accounts you have open, but they also tally the amount of money you owe on each account. Payment history is the most important part of your credit score—it makes up 35% of your overall score—but your total debt is a close second, comprising an additional 30%.

Owing too much debt will have a negative impact on your credit score. This is especially true if you owe a large amount of high-interest consumer debt through credit cards and personal loans. Ten-thousand dollars in credit card debt will likely have a much larger negative impact on your score than $100,000 in mortgage debt.

Medical debt can fall into a gray area and doesn’t necessarily go on your credit reports — but it can.

The ambiguity of medical debt

“An unpaid medical debt will likely not show up on your credit report,” said Mike Pearson, founder the personal finance site Credit Takeoff. “This is because unlike, say, a credit card company, your doctor’s office or hospital probably doesn’t directly report payments to the three credit bureaus — which is how information shows up on your credit reports in the first place.”

However, just because your health care providers aren’t reporting your unpaid bills directly to the credit bureaus, they may still hire someone to take care of dealing with the outstanding balances for them. As a result, owing a large amount of medical debt can still easily tank your credit score. As Pearson put it: “You’re not in the clear yet.”

Debt collection accounts 

Banks, credit card companies, and other types of personal lenders report information to the credit bureaus — and many landlords report to them, as well. Meanwhile, debt collectors also report to the credit bureaus, but they don’t report loans or credit cards; they report unpaid debts, also referred to as  “collection accounts.”

If you stop paying your credit card, it will get sent to collections and eventually show up on your credit report as one of these collection accounts. The same is true of personal loans, installment loans, and other unsecured debts — including medical bills.

“If you continue to ignore the medical bill, what your medical provider will likely do is turn your account over to a collection agency,” Pearson said. “It’s at this point the bill may turn up on your credit report.”

In addition to that, unpaid medical debt won’t just affect your credit, it could drop your score from good to bad in one fell swoop. “Having an unpaid medical bill on your credit report can drop your credit score up towards 100 points,” Pearson said, “and can remain on your account for seven years.”

Tips for handling medical debt

The threat that unpaid medical debt poses to your credit score and your overall financial well-being isn’t just theoretical — it’s very real. Bankruptcy attorney Joy Alford-Brand says she’s seen hundreds of credit reports full of negative entries from debt collectors who were collecting on medical debt. Here’s how she recommends managing the fallout:

Maintain careful records. For those who are struggling under the weight of their medical bills, Alford-Brand says that your best weapon is organization. “Make sure you are keeping careful records about your debt. Medical debt can be incredibly confusing; don’t get caught in the trap of not knowing what you owe to who and why,” she said. “Check your bills for accuracy, too. Information is entered by humans and they can make mistakes. Small mistakes on medical bills can be costly.”

Know your rights. Alford-Brand makes clear that you should know your debt collection rights. “Debt collectors regularly, and blatantly, violate the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. Make sure you are familiar with it and holding debt collectors to the letter of the law.”

Consider all options. While bankruptcy should never be your first option — especially when it comes to your credit score — Alford-Brand lays out how it can still help you discharge those debts once all other options have failed. “While it is not pleasant to consider declaring yourself insolvent, the promise of a fresh start can be worth it if you are suffering under a mountain of medical debt,” she says. “Medical debt is routinely discharged in bankruptcy, and while it stays on your credit for 10 years, the automatic stay and the discharge injunction can help you get back on your feet after a traumatic medical experience.”

Moving on past medical obligations

Maintaining a good credit score is an important part of your financial health — but when it comes to digging out from underneath a mountain of medical debt, maintaining good credit isn’t always possible. In cases like that, building up a well-stocked emergency fund can go a long way to providing you some financial stability, even if you have lousy credit.

To learn more about how to build your savings and plan for major life expenses check out these related posts and articles from OppLoans:

Contributors

Joy Alford-Brand became a licensed attorney in North Carolina in 1999.  She has practiced bankruptcy law for 17 years. In 2015 she published a book on personal finance based on her experience as a bankruptcy attorney called Money Basics, Keeping It and Growing It. She also founded NewCashView.com to teach people basic personal finance techniques to help them avoid filing for bankruptcy and learn to be financially empowered. Follow her on Instagram @joyalfordbrand.
Mike Pearson is the founder of Credit Takeoff, a research-driven personal finance site for people looking to improve their credit. A proud member of the 800 Credit Club, Mike writes about practical steps that everyday consumers can take to increase their credit scores. His advice on credit repair and credit scores has appeared in QuickBooks, Go Banking Rates, and MortgageLoan.com.

 

Credit Checks 101: the What, the When, and the Why

Not all credit checks are the same. Here’s a rundown of how they can work both for and against you.


If you have ever applied for a loan, there is a good chance you may have undergone a credit check. Or maybe you have never had a first-person experience with credit checks but are concerned that you will one day.

No matter how you reached this article, you are here to learn why credit checks exist and how they work—maybe even what they taste like.

OK, so maybe not what they taste like. But we will be talking about everything else. Welcome to your Introduction to Credit Checks class.

What is a credit check?

A credit check is a review of your credit report, which can be compiled and made available by any of the three major credit bureaus. Your credit report contains information about your payment history, the current amounts you owe, employment status, and other financial and personal information.

“A credit check reveals your financial history and plays a role in making a decision about you,” Patrick Barnett of The Income Spot explained. “It demonstrates your financial habits and the risk you present. The information contained within the report will indicate payment history, total outstanding debt, total open accounts, and types of accounts. It discloses public records such as tax liens, bankruptcy, foreclosures, and civil judgments.”

The information on a credit report can fluctuate over time, but remember that negative credit information will stick around for a while. Negative credit information can remain on your credit report for 7 years, while bankruptcy can linger for up to 10 years.

Types of Credit Checks

There are two kinds of credit checks. Hard credit checks and soft credit checks.

Soft credit checks are often used by companies looking to make you a “preapproved” offer. They do not show up on your credit report and thus, do not affect your credit score. An entity performing a soft credit check does not require your permission to do so.

Hard credit checks are essentially the opposite of soft credit checks in nearly every way. They don’t require your permission and will appear on your credit report. That means you do not want to allow too many hard credit checks in a row or else your credit score will take a hit.

Why do credit checks occur?

Credit checks tend to be performed by lenders when considering the likelihood of a potential borrower or applicant to pay back a loan, but it is far from the only occasion.

“If someone wants to run a credit check on you, it’s likely because they need to make a decision on your character,” said Nathan Wade, managing editor for WealthFit Investing. “Landlords, lenders, and employers all might ask for it. If you’re trying to pull out a loan, then the lender wants to ensure you have a good financial history before approving you for that loan.”

However, as noted above, lenders aren’t the only decision-makers who can run a credit check on you. “Some employers also run a credit check to ensure you as an individual have financial responsibility and stability,” Wade said. “Landlords want to ensure you have the financial ability to afford the listed rent and that you don’t have a bad history paying off bills.”

You might also face credit checks from insurance companies, court orders, and utility companies.

Can you avoid credit checks?

Theoretically, avoiding hard credit checks is easy. Because you cannot be subject to a hard credit check without explicit agreement, you could avoid every hard credit check by just never agreeing to one.

Once you move beyond theory, it becomes a lot more difficult to avoid hard credit checks. Unless you are able to pay for everything—from rent to a car—in cash, then you are probably going to have to face a hard credit check at some point.

The best you can do is to prepare for the credit checks you will have to face. That means either building or improving your credit history and paying down your debts to the best of your abilities.

Build up your credibility

Proper credit card use is one of the most reliable ways to build up your credit history. Even if you cannot qualify for a traditional credit card, you should be able to get a secured credit card. By never spending more than one-third of your credit limit and paying off your bill in full each month, you should be able to make a positive impact on your credit. It is also important to create a budget that will allow you to pay down your debts if you want to see an improvement on your credit report.

Finally, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report annually and in some other circumstances. Seeing your credit report will let you know in advance what others will see after performing a credit check and allow you to know exactly what will happen if you agree to it. You should also check your credit report for any errors and report them to the proper agency.

Credit checks are likely going to be a part of your financial life. Hopefully this article has helped you prepare for them.

Contributors

Patrick Barnett has a passion for entrepreneurialism that traces back to his days as a teenager. He is always learning and seeking out ways to refine his skills. Through his blog, he offers advice and training – from niche research to case studies of successful small business entrepreneurs. He is also a licensed private investigator and runs a background check website.
Nathan Wade is a licensed attorney for the State of Hawaii and the U.S. District Court of Hawaii. He holds a law degree with a focus in business and has extensive experience in entrepreneurship and international business. He is also a Managing Editor for WealthFit Investing, a financial education blog dedicated to curating advice on investing, entrepreneurship and money.

 

Your Credit Score vs. Your Card Limits

How does one impact the other?

The relationship between credit cards and credit scores can often be fraught. Proper credit card use will help build your score, and advanced credit card use can allow you to benefit from rewards programs in ways that can save you a lot of money. Poor credit card use, however, can drag your credit score down and leave you in a spiral of debt.

“People who have lower credit limits can easily fall into a trap of overusing their credit card,” warned Igor Mitic, editor-in-chief of Fortunly.com. “And when that happens, credit reports will show it and it will decrease their credit score.”

But that’s not all. Not only will your credit card use affect your credit score, but your credit score is the most significant factor when it comes to determining what credit cards you can access, if any.

Read on to get the rundown on starting your path toward credit card mastery.

The importance of having a credit card

A common misconception around credit scores is that every individual starts out with good credit, and only through bad financial decisions can you harm the pristine credit score you inherited at birth. However, we arrive on Earth with no credit score at all. Only by demonstrating proper use of credit can you build a credit history, which is the most impactful ingredient in cooking up your credit score.

Proper credit card use is one of the most reliable ways to build a credit card history or improve a poor or fair credit card score. By keeping the balance on the card to around one-third of your spending limit and paying the bill in full every month, you won’t have to pay interest costs and your credit score will grow and grow.

Unfortunately, this creates somewhat of a “chicken and egg” dilemma.

Your credit score’s impact on credit card access

Without a good credit score, you will have difficulty qualifying for a credit card with a good rate and spending limit, as Dave Sullivan, vice-president of marketing for the People Driven Credit Union, explained: “Most banks have something called risk-based pricing. Risked-based pricing is used to match the risk of the credit card holder to the appropriate interest rate. The lower the score, the higher the rate.”

If your credit score is low enough, you may not be able to qualify for a traditional credit card at any rate. Fortunately there are reasonable nontraditional options.

Secured credit cards are one common solution. The “security” comes through a cash collateral that you must provide to the bank during your use of the card. If you don’t pay your bills, the bank can seize the money.

While having the cash on hand to apply for a secured credit card may require some saving, if you do have the cash, you shouldn’t have a problem. “All borrowers should be able to get a secured account regardless of their credit profile,” Sullivan assured.

Mitic offered a couple other options you could consider (with caution):

Store credit cards: “Some retail stores are approving applicants with bad credit,” Mitic said. “However, people should be aware that those credit cards can be used only at that store and they usually have high interest rates.”

Companies that look at the big picture: For those who have a low credit score or don’t have one at all, there are companies that have their own process for evaluation credit card applications. For instance, Mitic said, they might look at employment and bank account balances and also may not ask for a security deposit.

You should also do your own research to find out what available credit card options might work best for your specific situation. Regardless of what option you choose, it is vital to always remember to pay down your entire bill every month.

Advanced credit card techniques

Once you manage to build up your credit score, you can start exploring advanced credit card use. You will still want to maintain the same general practices that got you to your good credit score, but you can begin researching cards that will reward you rather than penalize you for using them.

Different cards offer different kinds of rewards for different kinds of spending. Be aware that some of these cards will require you to pay an annual fee, but by strategically managing your credit cards, you can maximize your savings and benefits. Consider creating a spreadsheet or using some other method of tracking your card use so you don’t make any mistakes and risk letting your score fall again.

Proper credit card use is a skill that will require practice to build the best habits. The sooner you can get started, the sooner you will be on your way to mastering your cards.

Contributors

Igor Mitic is an experienced writer and content creator in the financial niche. He has extensive experience working with banks, insurance companies, and other institutions that create financial products and services. He is passionately sharing his knowledge as the editor-in-chief at Fortunly.com, a website dedicated to the simple explanation of financial matters to ordinary people.
Dave Sullivan is the VP of Marketing for People Driven Credit Union. He started in the mortgage industry as a loan officer in 1991. Less than one year later started selling credit reports to mortgage companies, banks, and credit unions. On September 19, 1997, he started AIR Credit Midwest out of his car. During the next two years, Air Credit Midwest grew to a multimillion dollar company. In 2000, he sold Air Credit Midwest to one of the largest credit reporting bureaus. In 2011, Sullivan started a YouTube channel providing free advice on improving your credit. He is the author of the book Transform Your Credit. Follow him @peopledrivencu.

 

What is Fair Credit?

Borrowers with a fair credit score have room for growth if they are willing to be persistent. 

Credit scores can be confusing. You might not always be certain of the meaning behind the three-digit number that comprises your credit score. But you generally can understand what it means to have a credit score that is “good” or “bad.”

But what if you have a “fair” score? What exactly does that mean?

Credit score review

Your credit score is a three-digit number compiled by Fair, Isaac and Company, or FICO. FICO calculates your score using information about your payment history and debts that have been gathered by the three major credit bureaus.

Your score is a number between 300 and 850. The higher this number, the better your odds of qualifying for loans and the better rates you can access.

You also have a VantageScore, which is similar but was created more recently as a competitor to the FICO score.

Fair credit

“A ‘fair’ credit score falls in between a 580-699 on the FICO and VantageScore Model rating charts,” said Beverly Friedmann, content manager for ReviewingThis. “It’s technically right in the middle, above a bad or poor rating and below a good or excellent score. But while a fair credit rating is in the middle of the index and not considered poor, it is also not considered good (in terms of qualifying for loans and credit cards). You’ll end up paying higher interest rates on any loans, cards, or mortgages with a fair score than someone with a good or excellent reputation.”

Friedman also pointed out that there’s a… fair… degree of variance within that “fair” rating: “However, where you fall on this index can often make quite a difference. A few points can change the way lending companies interact with you, and a 580 score is quite different than a 699 score. It’s important to bear in mind, however, that fair credit is certainly superior to poor credit. You can qualify for different loans and credit cards and rebuild your reputation score easily, which is very challenging for those with poor or bad credit scores.”

If you find out that you have fair credit, you should take that as a sign that you have room to grow while not letting any bad habits you have drag your credit down into the “poor” range.

Moving beyond fair

Payment history is the most important factor contributing to your credit score, followed by the amount of debts you currently owe. That is why Nathan Wade, managing editor for WealthFit Money, recommends focusing your attention in that direction.

“Having fair credit means you’re much closer to improving it than someone with bad credit,” he said. “Ensure that you’re paying bills on time, pay off any debt you’re in, and avoid applying for too much credit in a short period of time. It’s also important to look for any mistakes on your credit reports and dispute them immediately.”

You can get a free copy of your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. Do not use any other sources to get a copy of your credit report, no matter how catchy their jingle might be, as it could be an attempt to scam you.

How credit cards can help (if used wisely)

Since you don’t have poor credit, you don’t have to be quite as risky about taking out loans, though you should still utilize significant discretion.

While you should heed Wade’s warning about applying for too many different forms of credit too quickly, a credit card can be a good way to build your credit score, as long as you don’t use it too much and you pay off your entire bill each month. If you are paying off your whole bill each month, then it won’t matter that the interest rates on your card might be higher since you won’t actually have to pay any interest anyway. However, if you aren’t paying off the full amount, you will end up owing more on the balance and hurting your credit utilization ratio.

You could also consider a secured credit card to help build your credit. This is a credit card that requires the user to put down cash as collateral, but it is easier for borrowers to qualify.

Building credit can be a long and dedicated process, but you should feel encouraged in the knowledge that you aren’t starting from the bottom. Pay down your debts in full and on time, and you’ll be well on your way to “good” credit before you know it.

For more information on credit scores and how they work, check out the following:

Visit OppLoans on YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIN | Instagram


Contributors

Beverly Friedmann works as a content manager for the consumer website ReviewingThis, has a background in sales and marketing management, and is from New York, NY.  Find more information on Twitter @ReviewingThis.
Nathan Wade is the Managing Editor for WealthFit Money. Find more information on Twitter @GetWealthFit.

 

8 Credit Card Mistakes That Will Tank Your Credit

Think that new TV was expensive? It probably was—in more ways than you know.

Credit cards are convenient. They’re also one of the best ways to build a strong credit history and boost your credit score—if used responsibly.

But for all the perks credit cards offer, there are just as many dangers. It’s easy to overspend, miss payments, and carry high balances. And while responsible use will give your credit score a boost, irresponsible use will send it in the other direction.

Ready to make credit cards work in your favor? Here are eight common mistakes you definitely want to avoid, and expert-approved tips on how to avoid them.

Mistake No. 1: Overspending on credit cards

Devon Horace, founder of Horace Consulting, LLC

Some common mistakes people make with their credit cards are paying for things too far from what they can afford, letting the charge sit in their account over multiple months, and not using their credit cards for all their expenses.

Avoid these mistakes by not paying with a credit card and using a debit card [instead]. This will prevent [you] from spending money [you] don’t have and crawling into debt. If you are going to use your credit card, have the funds available in your bank account to pay off the fee immediately. If you don’t have the funds, you will be charged interest rate fees.

Lastly, you can use your credit card for just groceries and small [expenses] like your cell phone, subscription account like Netflix, Hulu, etc. A lot of people are in the process or want to increase their credit score. If you pay on small accounts that you can control and [keep] your credit card utilization rate lower than 20% of your total credit limit (credit available) you can avoid these issues.

Mistake No.2: Applying for too much credit

Karen Ford, Money Matters! financial coach

One more mistake some people make is that taking out a credit card will change your credit score. If you’re getting ready to make a large purchase, such as a house, don’t apply for any other loans until that house is closed.

Mistake No. 3: Making minimum payments

David Mitroff, founder of Piedmont Avenue Consulting, Inc.

Most credit cards ask you to make a minimum payment each month, which you generally owe a fixed amount of 25% or a percentage of your balance, usually 1 to 3%. It is tempting to pay minimum monthly payments when you are under financial stress. Paying the minimum payment on your credit card [will give you] temporary relief. But you’re also committing to paying more with interest in the later stage. It is just like the less you pay now, the more you will have to pay later.

If you pay a minimum amount of your credit card each month, it won’t only take longer to pay your debt, but also you will have to pay bigger interest charges and you’re your credit card score could take a hit.

My advice is to make the highest payment you can afford and reduce spending in other areas to focus on paying off the debt. This won’t only improve your credit card history, but also make you debt-free earlier, as this will reduce the amount of interest you’ll have to pay.

Richard Best, personal finance expert at Don’tPayFull

This could very well be the most costly mistake you could make as it can add hundreds or even thousands of dollars of interest charges over time, and it can adversely impact your credit score. Making minimum payments on your credit card balance can explode your interest costs to nightmarish proportions to where it could take years to pay down the debt. Also, the credit bureaus don’t take too kindly to minimum payments, especially if it results in your debt-to-credit limit ratio to increase. You should always make more than the minimum payment on your credit card balance, even if you have to cut other things out of your budget.

Mistake No. 4: Late or missing payments

Richard Best, personal finance expert at Don’tPayFull

When finances get tight, people sometimes need to do some major juggling of expenses and payments to get through to the next pay day, and it is often the credit card payment that falls on the priority list. The rationale for some people is that, as long as they pay it before 30 days, it won’t be reported as a late payment. While that may be true, the damage to your credit begins the moment your payment is late. That’s because the credit card issuer is likely to boost your interest rate, especially if you have had more than one late payment. In addition to a late payment fee, you may see your interest rate increase by as many as four or five points. That could lead to more problems if you find yourself having to make minimum payments as a result of the higher costs.

Mistake No. 5: Ignoring annual fees

Karen Ford, Money Matters! financial coach

Some folks make the mistake of taking out a credit card and not realizing that there is an annual fee for that particular credit card.

When considering applying for a certain credit card, always ask if there is an annual fee for having such a card.

Mistake No. 6: Relying on balance transfers

Richard Best, personal finance expert at Don’tPayFull

There are few things more tempting than a 0% introductory rate offer, especially if you’ve managed to rack up some high-interest debt on another card. The problem is, if you are having problems paying down the debt on one card, you are very likely to continue having problems on the new card. Balance transfers can provide some temporary relief from high-interest payments; however, once the introductory period expires, you’re right back where you started with another high-interest payment to make. You could also find yourself with too many credit cards (another mistake), which can hurt your credit score.

Balance transfers only make sense if you are able to pay off the balance during the introductory period, or, at the very least, you are able to take advantage of the 0% interest to substantially pay down the debt.

Mistake No. 7: Not utilizing the benefits of credit cards

Trevor Oldham, founder at Podcasting You

The common mistake I see people making is two things: 1. Not purchasing everything with their credit card, and 2. Not paying their credit card off in full each month. I purchase everything on my Fidelity Visa card. At the end of every month, I pay the card in full. With the 2% I get back, I automatically have it go into my Roth IRA.

A debit card gives you nothing back and you’re not protected the way you are with a credit card. With a debit card, it can take months to get reimbursed… I’ve found out the hard way. With a credit card, you can be reimbursed almost instantly.

Mistake No. 8: Canceling credit cards

Richard Best, personal finance expert at Don’tPayFull

One of the things some people do when they turn over a new leaf in their credit management is to cancel some of their credit card accounts. While this might seem like a positive step to better credit management, it can be a big mistake. When you cancel a credit card account, you also reduce your available credit. This could have the effect of increasing your debt-to-limit ratio, especially if you hold on to accounts that have a balance. It’s better to focus on paying down your debt and keeping your debt-to-limit ration well below 25%.

If you want to cancel credit accounts, you could probably get away with canceling some store credit cards because their credit limits are usually very low.

Bottom Line

Credit cards are a useful financial tool, but they can easily lead to debt and a plummeting credit score. Before you open your wallet, read up and handle responsibly.

Contributors

Richard Best is a writer for money-saving platform DontPayFull with more than 30 years’ of experience in financial services.
Karen Ford is a master financial coach, public speaker, entrepreneur, and author at KarenFord.org. She has coached people with a variety of money issues, from just US$500 in debt to $800,000 in debt. She has coached folks with up to 86 credit cards and taught them how to pay down and pay off those credit cards in record time.
Devon Horace is an investor, personal finance, and business strategist, and founder of Horace Consulting, LLC. From $47,238.38 in debt to millionaire, Horace now helps other young professionals achieve their personal finance and business goals through Horace Consulting, LLC. His goal is to increase financial and business literacy in his community.
David Mitroff, Ph.D. is a business consultant, marketing expert, author, and keynote speaker who founded Piedmont Avenue Consulting, Inc.,where he advises on leveraging new technology to create brand awareness, strengthen customer loyalty, and generate new business leads. Dr. Mitroff leverages his extensive professional and educational background, including a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology to motivate people to create change, while understanding the psychology behind business and marketing decisions. He is also a college instructor in entrepreneurship and marketing for the University of California, Berkeley International Diploma Program and a Google mentor for the Google Launchpad Accelerator. Through his consulting, lectures, trainings, and keynotes David Mitroff, Ph.D. has educated more than 35,000 business owners.
Trevor Oldham is a founder at Podcasting You, A Done For You Podcast Booking Agency.

What credit card advice do you have to share? Tell us on Twitter at @OppUniversity.

How to Reward Yourself for Good Financial Behavior

Treating yourself after hitting a financial goal doesn’t have to mean spending some of that hard-saved dough!

We tend to talk about the “vegetables” of finance here on the OppLoans Financial Sense Blog. You know, articles about the stuff you should cut out of your budget, how you can stay out of debt, how to use credit cards and personal loans responsibly, and information about good financial habits in general.

But life isn’t only about the vegetables! Sometimes you want some dessert, and that’s OK! How else are you supposed to reward yourself for all of the vegetables you eat?

You still need to be careful, however. You don’t want your reward to wipe out all the progress you were rewarding yourself for in the first place.

So what are some rewards you can give yourself for fixing your budget that won’t break your budget all over again?

We spoke to the experts to find out!


Create a reward space at home.

If you’re the sort of person who enjoys drinking responsibly, you might consider a night out on the town as a reward for a week of financial discipline. But depending on what you’re drinking and what city you’re drinking it in, you could be blowing a LOT of money on reward booze. Especially because once you start drinking, your judgment can become impaired, and you might start paying less attention to your tab. After all, that’s not much fun, is it?

While there are good reasons to limit drinking, if you like to celebrate by drinking responsibly, you can still do so in a much more affordable way.

“If going out for a drink is one of your favorite ways to celebrate, consider creating a home bar instead,” suggested Logan Allec, CPA (@moneydoneright), owner of personal finance website Money Done Right. “You can often buy the ingredients you need to make your favorite cocktail several times at home for less than the price of a drink or two at a bar.

“Invite your friends over, and ask some of them to bring ingredients for their own favorite drink and others to bring snacks. You and your friends might even decide that this is actually more fun than going out for happy hour!”

Create free rewards.

Not all rewards cost money!

“Really consider if the reward needs to be monetary,” offered portfolio manager Pauline Yan of Sunday Brunch Cafe (@s_b_cafe). “Are you personally motivated by getting ‘things?’ Or are you rewarded with something else? Praise? Or a day ‘off?’ A good meal?”

Using vacation days, if you have them, as a reward to yourself is nothing to sneeze at! Sick days are what you should be sneezing at. Deploying vacation days strategically can make for a “free” reward.

“If you’ve been working long hours and pulling all-nighters to get to where you are financially, it may be time to indulge in a few days off of work,” recommended Beverly Friedmann, content manager for ReviewingThis (@ReviewingThis). “You can easily reward yourself for your good financial behavior by taking a few off days off, or a long weekend to relax, if given the opportunity.

“This doesn’t mean you have to splurge on a pricey trip, instead you can use the time to have a fun and rejuvenating ‘staycation.’ Spending some time with friends and family to take a much-needed and deserved break can be an excellent way to celebrate success. If you’re not able to get time off of work, even taking an evening off to spend time with friends and family and watch a movie or spend a night in can be very rewarding.”

That time off could also be a chance to try out future free reward possibilities.

“If you’ve had recent work successes and your finances are in good shape, you may be tempted to splurge on pricey Groupon packages or the latest weekend spa deal you find online,” warned Friedmann. “While there is nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence, you may not want to negate all of your recent hard work.

“If you have a favorite activity or hobby you enjoy, it’s often easy to get involved for free or at a very low cost. Local meet-up groups in your area are a great opportunity to meet new people with shared interests while trying out new hobbies. You may even want to take a trip to your local park or spend weekend hiking. Free and low-cost leisure activities are both an excellent reward for good financial behavior and a perfect way to decompress.”

Keep the reward in mind as a motivator.

If you work the idea of your chosen reward into your everyday budget efforts, you’ll have something to focus on besides how annoying it is to bring your own lunch every single day of the week. Or whatever budget concessions you’ve been making.

“I have a ‘sunny day fund’ that I add to over time,” recounted Deborah Sweeney (@deborahsweeney), CEO of MyCorporation.com (@mycorporation). “It’s kind of the opposite of a rainy day fund. I contribute money there that would have normally been spent on smaller, splurge purchases like lunches out, and use it to buy myself something great in the future. I think focusing on saving for something in the future keeps you from spending more today. It gives you something to shoot for and focus on.”

If you’re the artsy type, you can even create some visual aids to help your motivation.

“By using spending trackers and motivational charts, you can reward yourself for good financial behavior by seeing the fruits of your own labor and continuing to make gains over time,” advised Friedmann. “It’s akin to making a gold star chart for rewards for good test scores as a kid. It may seem silly at first, but you may find it incredibly helpful.

“It’s useful to see your own progress in real time, and to set new goals for the future. It may be as simple as jotting down two divided columns on a piece of paper, one with financial goals and one with corresponding rewards. This way you can track your own progress and stay motivated in the long-term at the same time.”

Paying off a hefty installment loan or online loan can be tedious work, requiring strict financial discipline. The easier and more enjoying to make it to track your progress, the better!

Enjoy the relief of being financially secure.

OK, we’re sort of ending this article with a little more vegetables. But you can have vegetables for dessert! Ever had candied yams? Yum yum!

“Paying off any outstanding debts is a great way to relieve any worries and a perfect reward for good financial behavior,” suggested Friedmann. “While it may not be the same as a trip to the Bahamas, getting rid of any accrued debts can provide feelings of relief and help your credit score. You’ll likely find it incredibly rewarding and any upcoming fears about receiving calls from credit agencies will be assuaged. Debt relief can be incredibly rewarding, and you won’t have to worry as much about future bills piling up.”

As with any indulgence, too much dessert will be a problem. But no dessert at all? Well, that’ll leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth.

Building better money habits is a neccessary step to achieving financial stability—and putting expensive short-term bad credit loans and no credit check loans (like payday loanscash advances, and title loans) behind you for good. To learn more about how to build better financial habits, check out these related posts and articles from OppLoans:

Do you have a  personal finance question you’d like us to answer? Let us know! You can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Visit OppLoans on YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIN | Instagram


Contributors

Logan Allec (@moneydoneright) is a CPA and owner of the personal finance website Money Done Right.  After spending his twenties grinding it out in the corporate world and paying off over $35,000 in student loans, he dropped everything and launched Money Done Right in 2017.  His mission is to help everybody—from college students to retirees—make, save, and invest more money.  Logan resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife Caroline.
Beverly Friedmann works as a Content Manager for the consumer website ReviewingThis (@ReviewingThis)—with a background in Sales and Marketing Management—and is from New York, NY.
Deborah Sweeney (@deborahsweeney) is the CEO of MyCorporation.com (@mycorporation). MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best.
Pauline Yan is a Personal Finance Coach and an Institutional Portfolio Manager for the wealth management arm of a multinational financial institution.  After 15 years in Finance helping organizations, from Fortune 500 companies to Not-For-Profits, achieve their financial goals, she now brings her expertise to guide individual investors.  She graduated from McGill University and has earned the right to use the prestigious Chartered Financial Analyst designation as well as the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst designation. Featured in Women who Money, WellWallet and The Globe and Mail, you can find out more at SundayBrunchCafe.com (@s_b_cafe).

Can You Repair Bad Credit for Free? Yes and No.

If you are considering hiring a credit repair company to improve your score, you need to have all the facts before you make your decision.

If you have a bad credit score, you know that your financial options are pretty limited. Traditional lenders like banks and credit card companies won’t lend to you, which means that you’re stuck with bad credit loans and no credit check loans when you need some extra cash.

And while some of these loans—like certain bad credit installment loans—can be a safe, affordable option, there are also tons of payday loans, cash advances, and title loans out there that could all-too-easily trap you in an expensive cycle of debt!

The only way to get out from under that bad credit score is to improve it. And if you’ve looked into it, you’ve probably seen lots of ads for credit repair companies that will help you improve your credit for a fee. So is this something worth spending money on, or can you repair your credit yourself for free?

The answer is … a little complicated. You aren’t going to be able to repair your credit without spending money, but you don’t need to pay a credit repair in order to do it. In fact, there are many credit repair companies out there wherein paying them would basically mean throwing your money away.


How bad credit works. 

There are several different credit scores out there, but when we talk about “credit scores,” we’re almost always referring to your “FICO” score, which is by far the most widely used. Your FICO score is based on information in your credit reports, which are compiled by the three main credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

Your credit reports contain a whole bunch of information regarding your trustworthiness as a borrower and a credit user over the past seven to 10 years. But for the purpose of creating your FICO score, there are five categories of information that factor in—and the two most important factors by far are your payment history and your amounts owed which together comprise 65 percent of your total score.

If you have bad credit, it is almost certainly because you have made mistakes in some combination of these two areas. To put it simply, you either have a history of paying your bills late (or not at all), you’ve taken out too much high-interest consumer debt (likely on credit cards), or you’ve done both!

How to repair your credit.

If your payment history and your amounts owed are the two factors dragging down your credit score, then they are also the two areas that you’ll need to focus on in order to repair it. Start paying your bills on time and pay down your outstanding debt and you will see your score start to recover!

When it comes to paying down debt—whether that debt is from personal loans, credit cards, student loans, online loans, or whatever—it helps to have a strategy. Try looking into the Debt Snowball and Debt Avalanche methods, both of which focus on putting all your extra debt repayment funds towards one debt at a time while making only your minimum payments on all your other debts. With the Snowball method, you pay off your debts from smallest to largest, while the Debt Avalanche has you pay off your highest interest rates first.

When it comes to paying your bills on time, there are a couple of things you can do. If your due dates are too clumped together, causing cash flow issues, talk to your creditors about having your due dates changed. You should also set up alerts and auto-payments to help prevent late payments. Most importantly, you need to build a budget so that you can make sure you always have the necessary funds to cover your bills.

You should also check your credit reports to make sure there aren’t any errors dragging down your score. According to a study by the Federal Trade Commission, approximately one in five consumers have errors on at least one of their credit reports. Here’s the good news: You’re entitled by law to one free copy of your credit report from each bureau annually! That means three free credit reports every year. To order a free copy of your report, visit AnnualCreditReport.com.

For more information on how to have errors removed from your report, check out our blog post on how to fix credit report errors.

If you have any debts that have been sent to collection agencies, make sure that you pay those off. Otherwise, you could end up getting sent to court and having your wages garnished. Once a collection account is paid off, you can also request that the account be removed entirely from your report. The odds aren’t great that your request will be granted, but it never hurts to ask!

Paying your bills on time and paying down your debt are both going to cost you money, that’s just unavoidable. So repairing your credit isn’t something you can actually do for free. But that doesn’t mean you have to fork over even more money to a credit repair company.

The pros and cons of credit repair companies.

Credit repair companies are for-profit businesses that help clients improve their credit and get out of debt. They look at your credit report for errors and take steps to fix them, contact debt collection agencies to have accounts removed (and/or to get less reputable debt collectors off your back), and they can even contact creditors about negotiating down your open balances.

Here’s the thing about credit repair companies: Pretty much everything they do, you can do yourself. You can contest credit report errors, you can work with debt collectors, and you can contact your creditors to try and negotiate a lower balance.

Now, sometimes it helps to have a professional working on your behalf instead of trying to DIY the situation, but these aren’t services that you have to pay someone else to do on your behalf. Beyond the added benefit of having a professional working on your behalf, what credit repair companies do save is time. Because trying to do all of these things yourself will require a fair amount of time and energy.

But one big danger with credit repair companies is that many of them are less than reputable. And the last thing you want to do is hire a company that just take your money and runs. To learn more about the warning signs you’ll encounter when shopping for a credit repair company, check out this blog post: Looking for a Credit Repair Company? Here are 4 Red Flags to Avoid Getting Scammed.

This last part bears some repeating: Even if you do hire a credit repair company, you’ll still have to pay down all your open balances and start paying your bills on time. So a lot of the cost and work involved in repairing your credit is still going to fall on your shoulders. You’re probably better off handling those finances on your own or working with a reputable non-profit credit counselor in your area.

Getting out of bad credit is tough. And you’ll need all the help you can. But when it comes to credit repair companies, you might not actually be getting a lot of help from them. Instead, that company could simply be yet another obligation that’s draining your bank account dry.

To learn more about improving your credit, check out these other posts and articles from OppLoans:

Do you have a  personal finance question you’d like us to answer? Let us know! You can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Visit OppLoans on YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIN | Instagram

Can You Fix Bad Credit as a 20- or 30-Something?

by Amanda Finn
Millennials can often struggle financially, which may have an effect on their credit scores. But these tips can help build credit profiles worth texting home about!

Millennials. They’re usually taking the heat for something somewhere on any given day. But a fact of life as a millennial is that they are generally earning less than their parents did when they were their age.

That doesn’t bode well for their credit scores. In fact, when we surveyed millennials back in 2018, 46 percent of them reported feeling held back by their credit scores.

But never fear millennial readers! Bad credit ratings aren’t permanent dents in your financial health. In fact, credit cards and other means of credit building can help you, you just have to be fiscally smart about it and we’re here to give some tips!


Responsible spending.

Here’s the thing: Tackling credit card debt and therefore improving your credit score is a balancing act. On the one hand, you have to pay down your balances, and on the other hand, you need to stop increasing those balances.

One way of tackling the balances issue is by creating a lump consolidation loan. A consolidation loan can put together the money that you owe into one payment rather than several. That means paying one (or no) interest fee while only keeping track of one due date. This can save you time, money and sanity while doubling down against your credit card mountain (or molehill).

According to chief side hustler Nick Loper (@nloper), of SideHustleNation.com, credit cards have offered him not just a means of finding free money, they’ve also built him a bridge to excellent credit scores. His main advice to young folks is to be smart about spending.

“For young people starting out, just think of it like a debit card, but with some cool rewards and perks,” he said. “Don’t spend money you don’t have, but use it as an opportunity to prove you can be a responsible borrower. Building that credit history will make life easier for you when applying for other credit down the road.”

He even created a helpful guide to making the most of credit card perks that might be a good starting point for building credit entitled Credit Card Rewards 101.

Loper’s advice is well worth taking, as he says he has never paid a cent of credit card interest.

Pay on time.

It sounds like a no-brainer to say you need to pay your bills on time, but it matters. Not paying your bills affects your credit score. Especially if you’re avoiding your credit card repayments. The companies will not hesitate to send collection agencies your way, so be mindful of those due dates.

Inc. Magazine’s list of a dozen ways to improve credit scores ends with paying on time. They emphasize the importance of due dates in regard to your credit score re-building.

“Even one late payment can hurt your score,” according to Inc. “Do everything you can, from this day on, to always pay your bills on time. And if one month you aren’t able to pay everything on time, be smart about which bills you pay late. Your mortgage lender or credit card provider will definitely report a late payment to the credit bureaus, but utilities and cell providers likely will not.”

We aren’t advising that you skip any payments to anyone, but heed the advice given by Inc. on which bills to prioritize if need be.

Don’t do more damage.

Damaging your credit score does not begin and end with spending too much money. You can damage your score by applying for too many cards all at once or applying for credit you simply don’t need.

Each time you apply for a new line of credit the bureau or issuer may put a hard inquiry on your credit history. A good borrower can apply for credit a few times a year, but if you don’t fall under the “good borrower” title, the more you apply for, the more it can ding your score.

Avoid hard credit inquiries if you can. Building or rebuilding credit takes time, but the basics are simple: pay your bills on time, maintain a low credit utilization ratio, look for errors on your credit report and request that they be corrected if and when you find them.

To learn more about improving your credit score, check out these related posts and articles from OppLoans:

Do you have a personal finance question you’d like us to answer? Let us know! You can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Visit OppLoans on YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIN |Instagram


Contributors

Nick Loper (@nloper) helps people earn money outside of their day job. He’s an author, online entrepreneur, and host of the “Best Business Podcast”-nominated Side Hustle Show, which features new part-time business ideas each week. As Chief Side Hustler at SideHustleNation.com, he loves deconstructing the tactics and strategies behind building extra income streams.

What to Do if You Think Your Identity Has Been Stolen

by Jessica Easto
Having your identity stolen could jeopardize your credit rating and your entire financial future for years to come. Here’s what you need to do.

We recently discussed how to check your credit report for errors and what to do if you find them. In that post, we noted that sometimes errors can be a sign of fraud or identity theft, so we wanted to dive a little deeper into what you do if it happens to you.

Spoiler alert: It happened to this writer when reviewing her credit report on the advice of this blog! There they were: two unfamiliar hard credit checks. It really can happen to anyone—it happened to an estimated 14.4 million people last year—even if you are as careful as can be with your private information. There’s no way around giving some companies your information, and when they have giant data breaches—like Equifax did in 2017—millions of people are more vulnerable to fraud and identity theft.

Remember, unscrupulous credit checks can negatively impact your credit, nevermind if someone is able to open accounts in your name, run up debts, and never pay them. If you already have poor credit or are just starting to build credit, these actions can be especially devastating to your finances and credit score, leaving you vulnerable to predatory no credit check loans, bad credit loans, payday loans, and more when you need to borrow money.

So what do you do if it happens to YOU?


1. Report fraud / ID theft to the police.

Your first step when you think you might be the victim of fraud or identity theft? File a report with the police, according to Justin Lavelle, Chief Communications Officer with BeenVerified.com (@BeenVerified).

“This acts as your first official documentation that a crime has taken place,” says Lavelle. “Furthermore, many businesses and agencies require a police report as fraud-and-identity-theft proof before going through with their own investigations.”

2. Alert the credit bureaus.

If you found suspicious activity on one of your credit reports, you should alert the credit bureau in question as soon as possible. Remember, credit bureaus report differently, so you may see suspicious information on one report but not others. Sometimes you can file a dispute online, and sometimes you’ll have to call. This writer had to call. The service person opened the dispute immediately, the case was investigated, and the suspicious activity was removed from her report within twenty-four hours.

The credit bureau followed up by mail to confirm the dispute results, and let her know that they contacted the other two credit bureaus about the incident on her behalf in the form of a fraud alert, which stays attached to the accounts for one year. However, it is advised that you contact all three bureaus directly yourself, just to be on the safe side.

It also alerted her that they sent information to the vendor that requested the information from the credit bureau in the first place, instructing them to review the information and update their records as necessary.

The credit bureau even let her know that, in addition to the three free credit reports that everyone has access to each year, she was entitled to an additional free credit report to help me monitor the situation.

3. Alert related companies, if applicable

The credit bureau representative she talked to strongly recommended that she also contact the vendor who requested her information on her own, since a fraudster can exploit accounts for some time before it becomes apparent to victims or the accounts themselves.

Some companies have their own portals for documenting potential fraud and identity theft. Be sure to carefully follow instructions, provide all the required documentation, and meet all deadlines to ensure your dispute is processed.

4. Alert the Federal Trade Commission.

Another agency to contact is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) via IdentityTheft.gov. “If you suspect you are the victim of identity theft, immediately report it to the FTC,” says Holly Zink, a scam and identity theft expert for Kiwi Searches (@kiwisearches). “You just tell them what happened by following the prompts on their site, and they will initially provide you with some information on some actions you can take.”

The IdentityTheft.gov website also houses lots of information and resources about identity theft. For example, if you know exactly what information, such as a social security number, was lost or stolen (not always the case)—or if you’ve been alerted that you may be the victim of a specific data breach—the website provides tips for what to do in each situation.

5. Assess your financial accounts.

This includes all your bank accounts and credit cards. “Keep an eye on your bank and credit accounts for any suspicious activity,” says  Lavelle. “If you see a charge that you don’t recognize it, immediately contact your bank or credit card services to contest it.”

Zink also recommends setting up fraud alerts with your bank. “Your bank will call, email, or text message you if there are suspicious charges on your account,” she says. This can usually be done online, and you can usually customize the dollar amount that prompts an alert.

6. Consider additional protection.

When you report fraud or identity theft to credit bureaus, you’ll be given the option of placing a free one-year fraud alert on your credit report. You have to do this individually which each of the three big credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

A fraud alert lets lenders (or anyone seeking information from your credit report) know that your account has been compromised and encourages them to take extra steps in order to verify your identity. In some cases, you may be able to get an extended seven-year fraud alert by filing an FTC identity theft report.

Lavelle also recommends considering a credit freeze, which again, needs to be requested individually with each individual credit reporting bureau. This will prevent any entity from accessing your credit information without your permission. “They will alert businesses and loan distributors of fraud and identity theft linked to your name and social security number. Thus, no one (including you) can request credit or loan services,” says Lavelle.

If you know you are going to apply for something, such as a—personal loan—that requires a credit check, you will need to plan to manually unfreeze your account with a special pin number. It does not immediately unfreeze, which can be a pain, but it’s the only way to completely control who can access your credit information.

You can also sign up for a credit monitoring service, which all three credit bureaus, as well as other entities, offer. Credit monitoring will alert you to any changes to your credit information, so you can verify them right away and deal with suspicious activity as soon as possible. If you have been the victim of a data breach, you may be entitled to free credit monitoring services.

Final thoughts.

Zink warns that adults are not the only victims of identity theft. “Many don’t consider that a child’s identity can be stolen,” she says. “With children not having a credit or job history, they are the perfect target. It usually takes many years for anyone to realize a child is a victim of identity theft.”

Lavelle adds that elders can also be targets. “The elderly are at great risk for identity theft because they tend to more easily trust others with their personal information,” he says, “In addition, the fact that they didn’t grow up with the internet may make it a challenge for them to understand the steps they must take to protect their identity online.

To learn more about how you can protect your identity and your money from scams and fraudsters, check out these other posts and articles from OppLoans:

Do you have a personal finance question you’d like us to answer? Let us know! You can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Visit OppLoans on YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIN |Instagram


Contributors

Justin Lavelle is Chief Communications Officer for BeenVerified.com (@BeenVerified) and a leading expert on identity theft and scams. BeenVerified is a leading source of online background checks and contact information. It allows individuals to find more information about people including: phone numbers, email addresses, property records, marital status, and criminal records in a way that’s fast, easy, and affordable.
Holly Zink is an online scam and identity theft expert for Kiwi Searches (@kiwisearches). Kiwi Searches is an easy-to-use person search website, providing customers with information about people, phone numbers, and locations.