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Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity theft can trap you into unredeemable debt and cause you great distress. While it's true that there is no iron clad protective measure against identity theft, there are ways that will make it difficult for others to encroach upon your finances.

1. Be careful how you dispose of financial statements – whether it's the ATM slip or credit card statement, ensure that you dispose of these very carefully. Identify thieves are known to go through your thrash and collect these documents to gain access to your finances. The best will be to shred these or, if that's not possible, tear them into small pieces.

2. Be careful what you ask by mail – ask for all your bills by email instead of hard copies. Identity thieves could be stealing your credit card bills, telephone bills and other such documents to accumulate enough information about you. As much as possible use electronic mail. If not possible, use a Post Office Box so your mail will not be available to any other person.

3. Be careful about your SSN – your SSN is your identity tag. When this falls into the wrong hands, it can create havoc in your life. Never carry your SSN card with you in the bag or wallet. Pay attention to all documents that have this number printed on them, such as your health insurance card – and keep these safely away from prying eyes.

4. Be careful about your receipts – this is important since most of our transactions are made by credit card. Ensure that you get your receipts and have these destroyed after the credit card bill is paid. Alternatively, store them in a file safely under lock and key. Do not leave these receipts at the store, gas station or any other place where you have used your credit card.

5. Be careful about your credit card use – enlist yourself to receive cell phone alerts every time your credit card is used. In this way you will be able to know instantly when and where your credit card has been charged. This is important when your payments are mostly made with credit cards – especially at restaurants, travel agencies, or such places where the credit cards need to be taken momentarily to run a charge.

6. Be careful about what information you give and where you give it – NEVER give any financial or personal information over the phone, no matter who they say they are when they call you. Be polite, but firm is refusing to divulge any private information over phone. Ask the caller to give you his address and name, and offer to come personally and give the information if they say they are from banks, health insurance agencies, etc. Keep in mind that such slips can wipe away your bank balance in a matter of minutes.

7. Be careful about your credit card statements – very often the identity thieves siphon small amounts of money from the credit card over a long period of time. Go through your statements carefully and ensure that you can vouch for every bill that is listed there.

 

What Can You Do When You Find Out You Have Been Victimized?

1. Contact the police – as soon as you find out that you're a victim of identity fraud. Inform the police and start an investigation. The sooner you do this, the better are the chances of catching the culprits.

2. Contact the credit bureaus – inform all the three credit bureaus about the mishap and add a copy of the report you have filed with the police regarding this matter. The coordinates to report fraud with the three credit bureaus are:

a. Experian – 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742), or PO Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013.

b. Equifax – 1-800-525-6285, or PO Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

c. Transunion – 1-800-680-7289, or Fraud Victim Assistance Division, PO Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634.

3. Contact the concerned creditors – state in writing that you have been a victim of identity theft and work with them to act appropriately to recover the amount with the least trouble to you. Unfortunately, unless the identity theft is proven, you will be liable for the debt incurred.

You can never be too careful when it comes to protecting yourself from identity theft. This is one area where paranoia is a great virtue!


Ten Great Ways to Reduce Home Owner Insurance Costs

I Insurance is a must-have in the present day, and this is why local laws in many states makes it a compulsory requirement for home owners. However, you can reduce the financial burden it imposes upon you in many ways. Here are a few tips that you will find helpful:

1. Increase your deductible – the regular deductible is about $250, while you will find that the recommended amount by most insurance companies is about $500. The higher you raise the deductible, the lower the cost the homeowners insurance will be for you.

2. Improve your home – your insurance cost is directly proportional to the vulnerability of your home. Improve the resistance of your home and your insurance cost will automatically come down. Ask your insurance agent to help you identify those factors that are considered high-risk by insurance companies, and try to eliminate as many as possible.

3. Consolidate insurance policies – when you consolidate your homeowner’s insurance with your auto insurance, you will get a sizable discount. This means great savings in the long run for you. The more policies you buy from the agency, the better the terms offered.

4. Insure only what needs to be insured – do not include the value of the land in that of your home when you buy insurance. Nothing is going to happen to the land – so why pay for the insurance for it? Consider only the cost of the house and reduce the amount of your premiums.

5. Protect your home well – find out from your insurance agent what the steps are that will make you eligible for a discount. Some companies offer up to 20% discount for installation of burglar alarm; 5% for smoke detectors; 5-10% for surveillance systems, and so on. Compare the cost of these preventive systems vis-à-vis the saving on the premiums to ensure you are gaining not losing in the bargain.

6. Negotiate hard – you will be surprised to find how much discount you can get on a quote if you bargain hard. In order to have a solid platform for bargaining, you need to research well the market and to have your facts right. Do you homework before negotiating!

7. Compare quotes from various companies – do not be shy about contacting multiple agencies. Find out what benefits each one offers you and how much they are willing to cut down on your premiums. Choose the one that suits you best.

8. Be regular in your payments – be very careful about the regularity of your premium payments. Not only you will risk lapse of the policy, but also you will incur late fines and penalties.

9. Take advantage of riders – find out what riders come with your policy and take advantage of them. You'll be able to get many benefits at the lowest costs with the rider opportunities.

10. Keep your insurance agent informed of changes – any changes you apply to your home might influence your eligibility and insurance premium amount. Say you plan to rent your home - your insurance should cover the tenant. Keep your insurance agent updated of all changes. You will be the gainer in the end.


Resources

The Credit Repair Organizations Act
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
Consumer Credit Protection Act
The Fair Credit Billing Act
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA)

 

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