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The Federal Trade Commission estimates that the average victim of identity theft is unaware of the problem for 12 months. A lot of damage can be done in 12 months, costing a substantial amount of time and money to reconcile. The following tips will help reduce your risk of identity theft.
- Protect your Social Security Number (SSN): When applying for a loan, credit card or anything requiring a credit report, request that your SSN on the application be truncated or destroyed and that your report be returned to you once a decision has been made. Be cautious about giving out your SSN, as it is the key to your credit report and other financial or personal information. If your school uses your SSN as your student ID number, request a different number.
- Monitor your Credit Report: Periodically review your credit report to ensure accuracy of information and address discrepancies immediately. Make sure to monitor your credit report with all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) to ensure no one applies for credit using your name. The official site for free reports is www.Annualcreditreport.com.
- Credit Card & Personal Information Precautions: Don’t carry extra credit cards or other ID documents unless needed. Once that purse or wallet gets lifted, you’ll be in a world of hurt – if you carry it all with you. Make copies of your credit card account numbers, expiration dates and phone numbers and keep them in a secure place. Examine all charges on your statements before making a payment. Shred all credit card offers, receipts, and statements at home. Never throw them away without masking private info. Never give out personal information over the phone unless you have initiated the call and can verify the business is legitimate and trustworthy. Cancel unused credit card accounts right away. Source: BrassMagazine.com
Credit cards have an annual percentage rate (APR), which can be fixed or variable. There is a difference. Variable rate: allows the lender to change your APR based on external influences such as the Prime Rate (the rate banks give to their best members). Variable rates can change without prior notification. Fixed rate: this is deceptive because the rate actually can change. Missing a payment or going over your credit limit could give your issuer license to raise your rate. You must get at least a 15-day notice before your rate changes. Teaser rate: the initial interest rate lenders advertise to entice you to sign up. Special promotions that offer “0% APR” are for a limited time – after that, the rate will likely increase. If your bill doesn’t look correct, check your credit agreement then contact your issuer. Try consumerreports.org for help or contact the Comptroller of the Currency at 800.613.6743 to investigate unjust interest rate raises. Source: BrassMagazine.com
Essentially, you can consolidate multiple federal student loans with variable interest rates into one fixed-rate loan and extend your repayment period from 10 years to up to 30 years. The interest rate for your consolidated loan is either 8.25% or is based on a weighted average of the underlying loans, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth percentage point – whichever is less. The determined interest rate is locked in for the life of the loan.
Consolidation is not the best option for everyone, so do some research before making a decision. Not all institutions offer student loan consolidation. Talk to various lenders, starting with your local bank. If they do not offer student loan consolidation, search online for lenders and be assured that once you graduate, they’ll find you. Always make sure that you clearly understand the terms of the loan.
The federal government allows a six-month grace period from the day you graduate until loan payments must begin. If you choose to consolidate during this time, your grace period will be waived and you will have to start making payments immediately. However, some of the lowest rates are offered during this grace period. Once you consolidate, the interest rate is locked in for the life of the loan. Consolidate federal and private loans separately. Unlike private loans, interest on federal loans may be tax deductible, and you might be able to defer payments if you go back to school. Source: BrassMagazine.com
- Call Independent Bank immediately at 1.888.300.3193 and a representative will be there to assist you – anytime, 24/7.
- This may seem like overkill, but make an itemized list of everything that you carry in your wallet – credit cards, licenses, etc. Keep copies of important account numbers and customer service phone numbers in a safe place for easy reference.
- File a police report that includes the list of items in your wallet. Request a copy of the report for your records.
- Contact the three major credit reporting companies (Experian 800.397.3742, TransUnion 800.680.7289, and Equifax 888.766.0008) and have a fraud alert put on your credit report.
- Contact your bank, change the account numbers on any compromised accounts, and change your PINs.
- Keep a close eye on your accounts for three months and look for any fraudulent charges or unauthorized activity. For more information on identity theft, check out idtheftcenter.org or ftc.gov.