The Consequences of Late Credit Card Payments

late credit card payments

There are many reasons hard-working people fall behind on paying bills. In the short-term, it might seem like missing a payment or two is not going to affect you in the long run, but missing a credit card payment could be a bigger deal than you may think. A payment becomes late if it is received after the designated due date or if the payment received is less than the minimum amount due listed on the billing statement. The actions creditors take to respond to late payments can affect you for months, or even years, to come. At Veitengruber Law, we use our expert knowledge of debt management to help you get on top of your finances so that making late payments stops becoming a problem for you.

Once a payment is considered late, your creditor will charge a late payment fee on your next billing statement. Late fees typically range from $15-$35 depending on the late fee policy specific to your credit card company. If this is the first time you have been late in your payment, you may be able to get your creditors to agree to waive the late fee under an accidental late payment. If not waived, a recurring late fee will be charged every month a payment is late or does not meet the minimum payment requirement.

After 60 days, creditors will likely increase the interest rate on your account. Most credit card policies indicate a penalty rate which is the highest interest rate for your credit card. A higher interest rate will increase your monthly finance charges, not only making it more expensive to carry a balance between statements, but also making it likely that it will take you much longer to pay off your balance. You may also be barred from using your card rewards, or you may lose those awards completely.

After six months of on-time payments, your creditor is required to return your account to your pre-penalty interest rate. However, this is where it is important to know the specifics of your policy. Some credit card companies include a policy to continue to charge purchases made during the penalty period under the higher penalty rate.

The biggest effect of late or missed payments, and what you most want to avoid, is losing points to your credit score or getting a bad mark on your credit report. After a payment is 30 days late, it will appear on your credit report. Once an entry is added to your credit report, it can remain there for up to 7 years. Missed payments are added to your credit report in 30 day increments until the account reaches 180 days delinquent. At this point, creditors will charge-off your account, meaning the credit card company writes-off this account as a loss. A charge-off does not mean the debt goes away. Often, the creditor will turn over the debt to a collections agency and the charge-off will appear as a negative mark on your credit report.

Payment history makes up 35% of your credit score—meaning late payments can take a serious toll on your credit score and make it difficult to get approved for new credit in the future. Generally, the better your credit, the more points you are likely to lose after a late payment. To avoid damage to your credit score or your credit report, you can make the full payment plus the late fee before the first 30 days are up. There are many options to manage your debt before a late payment is counted against you. Our experienced team is there to help you explore all your options.

Veitengruber Law offers comprehensive debt solutions specific to your unique circumstances. Our legal team understands the stress and anxiety of unmanageable debt. We provide an all-inclusive analysis of your debt and offer knowledgeable solutions to your specific problems. Our goal is to give you the tools for a brighter financial future. Contact us today to get your free debt relief evaluation.

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How Identity Theft Affects Your Credit Score

NJ credit repair

What (all-too common) crime can happen to you without your knowledge, making virtually everything in life more difficult? Two dreadful words: Identity Theft. Unlike some medical diseases, identity theft doesn’t discriminate; it can strike anyone at any time. The worst part about being a victim of identity theft is that it can have a seriously negative impact on your credit score and it can prove to be difficult to fix.

More people than you realize have been severely impacted by identity theft. When an impostor uses another person’s identity to make a purchase and fails to pay the bill, a storm cloud rolls in. The scammer has zero intent to ever pay the debts they accrue under your name; therefore, you’re left to clean up the aftermath. You may not even realize that your identity has been stolen until a credit agency contacts you. By this point, your credit has likely already taken a major hit.

Your credit score is your representation as a responsible individual regarding money matters. Unpaid bills can have a lasting, damaging impact on your credit report, which can then snowball to affect other areas of your life (obtaining housing, buying a car, getting a decent job). Because payment history makes up about 35% of your credit score, late or nonexistent payments have a momentous effect on your “credit worthiness.” In addition to unpaid bills, identity theft can leave other negative marks on your credit report. Here are five ways that identity theft packs a punch:

1.      New Accounts

Adding a new account to your credit report or getting a new loan shouldn’t affect your credit score as long as you aren’t adding a plethora of new accounts all at once and you’re making regular payments. However, when an impostor opens a new account in your name and fails to make any payments, your credit score will slowly begin to tank. Every month that passes without payment received will lower your credit score further.

2.      Inquiries

If an identity thief is applying for new credit with your personal information, the lender is going to check your credit report. These are known as credit checks, or “hard inquiries” – each of which show up on your credit report. Each inquiry will affect your credit score by dropping it a couple of points. Your score will drop because credit scoring models regard “hard inquiries” as a sign that the consumer is shopping for credit.

3.      Collections Accounts

After no action occurs for 6-12 months on an unpaid debt, the lender will turn it over to a collection agency. This causes a “second action” to be taken, and a collection account will appear on your credit report. Unfortunately, this will have an extremely harmful effect on your credit score. Often, medical identity theft leads to the appearance of a collection account. This occurs when an impostor uses your identity to obtain medical services or treatment, but has no intention of paying the bill(s).

4.      Greater credit utilization ratio

Another significant piece that counts toward your credit score is the amount of debt you carry. When the scammer “goes shopping” and adds charges to your account (unnoticed), your overall amount of debt rises. Even if the scammer opens a phone plan or house utility but doesn’t pay the bill, the provider will report it to the credit bureau. A negative ding will appear on your report, damaging your credit score. A continuously increasing amount of debt will continuously drop your credit score. The higher your credit utilization ratio, or the amount of your available credit that you use, the lower your credit score will fall.

5.      Higher Auto Insurance Rates

In every state except California and Massachusetts, auto insurers utilize your credit score to set rates. A low credit score can cause a 20 to 50% increase in auto insurance premiums. Even if you have a depressed credit score, an insurer can’t reject you, but they do have the ability to hike up your premiums without an explanation.

Nobody wants to find out that their identity was stolen, but it can and does happen. Being knowledgeable and prepared as to how it can affect you is crucial. If you’ve been the victim of an identity thief, Veitengruber Law can help you deal with the emotional and mental frustration as well as the financial damage that has been done. No matter how low your credit score has gotten – we will guide you through getting it back to a respectable number again.

6 Steps to Repairing Your Credit

nj credit repair

In today’s economy, it is imperative to maintain a decent credit score. There are many reasons why you simply must work to repair your credit if it is currently less than fair (below 560-580.) A higher credit score will allow you to obtain a higher credit line. Also, if you have an excellent credit score, you will receive offers for credit balances with lower interest. A better credit score will also empower you with more buying power, so you can purchase a house, car, or make other large purchases. There are a multitude of things you can do to improve a low credit score. Six of the most important steps are detailed below.

 

  1. Pay your bills on time. While this may seem like an obvious course of action, it is extremely beneficial to improving your credit score. Conversely, if you do not pay your bills on time, your credit score will take a significant hit. Some people falsely believe that making late payments will not affect their credit score as long as they aren’t MISSING payments. It’s important to realize that late payments will incrementally drop your score.

 

  1. Maintain an appropriate debt-to-credit ratio. This is a way for creditors and lenders to see that you are able to use your credit responsibly. Your debt-to-credit ratio is essentially how much money you owe creditors compared with your overall available credit. For example: If your overall debt (money you owe creditors) is $10,000, and your total available credit is $20,000, your debt-to-credit ratio is 50%. A low debt-to-credit ratio indicates that you are not overspending. It also shows that you are closer to being able to pay off your debt than if you owed a higher percentage of your available credit line.

 

  1. Pay more than the minimum balance due each month. This shows that your income is steady and you have more purchasing power. Plus, when you make more than the minimum payment each month, you will be able to pay more on the principle amount due as opposed to simply paying off interest.

 

  1. Avoid opening too many accounts in a short amount of time. The rationale for this step is that more inquiries indicates to creditors that you may be in serious financial trouble. Even if you aren’t approved for every account you apply for, there will be credit inquiries made each time you apply that will ding your credit report.

 

  1. Pay off your balance instead of transferring debt to other credit cards. Not only do most balance transfers typically involve a fee, but this can lead creditors to view you as a volatile debtor who simply shifts debt around rather than actually paying it down.

 

  1. Keep a keen eye on your credit report. If you discover any errors, you should immediately report the issues to the reporting agencies and have them rectified right away. This should be completed at least once per year. If you find errors on your credit report that the agency(ies) refuse to remove, take legal action in order to prevent false information from dragging your score down unnecessarily.

 

Following these steps to repairing your credit score are excellent ways to start planning for the future. Knowing that you have financial security will improve your overall health and well-being. While there are many other steps you can take to improve your credit score, this list is a basic overview of the most trusted ways to achieve your goals.

How to Raise Your Credit Score: Hire a Trusted NJ Attorney

NJ attorney

When hear the word ‘credit’, a number of images may pass through your mind. Maybe you think of a situation in which someone owes you money or perhaps you picture a bank. You may consider your education and the credit you received for each assignment or even a situation at work where you deserved credit for your hard work or a good deed. If you’re involved in the financial world, your mind might immediately jump to credit scores: good credit, bad credit, and everything in between.

No matter what you envision when the conversation turns to ‘credit,’ toss in a bit of everything mentioned above and you’re on your way to completing the puzzle of what’s known as a ‘credit score.’ A credit score is a three-digit number that is computed using an algorithm and is based on information gathered from your credit report. Its purpose is to predict risk. Ultimately, your credit score represents the likelihood that you will neglect your credit obligations in the next 24 months.

Though there are a multitude of credit-scoring models that are utilized, the most well-known is the FICO credit score. According to myFICO.com, 90 percent of all financial institutions throughout the United States use FICO credit scores when making a number of important decisions. The three-digit number ranges anywhere from 350 to 800, with the lower number representing a less-desirable credit score.

How do you avoid ending up with a low credit score? What factors play into the algorithm? There are five categories that influence a credit score. The percentages represent the weight of each factor in determining the score.

·        Payment history (35%): Paying your bills on time is crucial. By not paying your bills by the deadlines, you will cause your credit score to decrease. Also involved in this category are any delinquencies or public records.

·        Amounts owed (30%): The amount that you owe on each of your credit accounts heavily affects your credit score. Also, the amount of possible credit that you have on accounts is strongly considered.

·        Length of credit history (15%): The amount of time and number of accounts you have open will boost your credit score, as long as you’re paying the dues on time.

·        Types of credit used (10%): Having a variety of types of accounts will help you out. Two examples are revolving and installment.

·        New Credit (10%): How often you pursue opening new accounts and new credit, including inquiries (whether you’re approved or not), will have an impact on your score.

Now that you know what goes into a credit score, you realize how malleable it really is. If you don’t give the three-digit number a little bit of TLC, it can quickly bottom out on you. On the other hand, if you are careful with your finances, you shouldn’t have a real issue keeping your credit score in line.

We know that establishing or reestablishing good credit is key to a secure financial future and we want to help you move toward that goal. As you read before, many financial institutions use credit scores and reports to make decisions, manage risk, and increase profits. On the downside, they don’t have any interest in looking out for your personal credit score and overall financial health. That is where Veitengruber Law steps in. Our holistic approach to building credit is at the center of everything that we do. The guidance we provide doesn’t end with a negotiated debt solution or court case. Instead, our goal is to set you up to be a successful financial consumer with well-rounded money smarts.

When your credit score drops following a short sale, a bout with bankruptcy, settlement, or other issue(s), we will walk with you to educate and counsel you. A sturdy financial foundation will give you the power to develop and maintain financial health.

The only way that you will mature in your knowledge of money is to work with experienced professionals. Credit scores and financial health is nothing to mess around with. Your confidence will rest in how well the professional counsels you along this path. With years of experience working successfully within a multitude of situations, we know that we can help you no matter what kind of financial “mess” you may have landed in.

Attorney vs. Debt Settlement Services: Which One Protects Your Interests?

NJ credit repair attorney

If you’re one of the millions of Americans facing a large amount of personal debt, you may have been tempted by the numerous ads you’ve seen for debt settlement companies. Debt relief sounds like a miraculous shortcut to a fresh financial start, but is it too good to be true?

In a word? Yes.

Like the deadly Venus fly trap plant, debt relief companies and consolidation services put up a beautiful, welcoming front, but once you’ve given them your trust and access to your finances, they’ll slowly devour you. This article will show you the truth about debt settlement services and outline the reasons a personal attorney will protect YOUR long-term financial wellbeing at every opportunity rather than using your troubling financial circumstances to endanger you even further.

 

First, let’s take a look at the methods debt settlement services will use to lure you in and subsequently destroy you financially.

 

Emotionally Manipulating Advertising

Debt settlement services rely on their aggressive advertisements to attract individuals who have poor financial literacy and are in dire straits regarding their current personal debt. They know that people who are paying attention to their ads are desperate for help and feel like they have no one else to turn to.

Dishonest Sales Pitches

Once they entice you to make contact, they’ll bombard you with an emotional sales pitch that will purposefully attempt to break down any critical thinking you might be using to analyze whether or not their services are a good match for you. Just when you’re at your most vulnerable, they’ll present a sales contract that seems to promise that they will arrange for you to be able to pay off your debt quickly.

Usually, these debt settlement companies will require money upfront. Alternatively, you may be asked to open a new bank account that you will be required to funnel money into. This money is supposed to pay off your debts.

No one in the financial world trusts or respects debt settlement service companies.

These companies are viewed with distain because they are for-profit. While it’s true that everyone needs to make a living, debt settlement services usually aim to siphon as much money from you as they can without actually helping you resolve your debts. This reprehensible approach is known far and wide in the financial world, so unfortunately for their customers, most creditors refuse to work with these scam services.

Worse yet, debt settlement companies won’t tell you about this huge barrier to success until you have already signed their contract. Once you’ve signed up, they have what they need. You will be left with a plan that won’t help you at all. Your creditors won’t have a good working relationship (or any kind of working relationship) with your debt settlement company, so your chances of being able to successfully get out from under your debts is actually worse once you’ve signed up.

We aren’t blaming consumers for getting tangled up with this awful companies.

Debt relief scams like this are highly skilled at spinning half-truths that we fully understand why people get sucked in. They cherry-pick information about their results and research; they might present evidence that their program helps clients at the 3-month mark. What they DON’T say is that their clients will be drowning in interest for years afterward. This unethical practice further demonstrates that debt relief services exist just to take your hard-earned money out of your hand when you need it most.

Your interest rates and credit score will be destroyed.

The first thing these companies will do is tell you not to make your minimum payments. They will instruct you to ignore any overdue notices or letters you will certainly receive. They’ll tell you that it’s all part of the plan, and that they have everything well under control.

While it’s true that after a long, hard-ball fight with your creditors, they MAY give up and reduce or write off your debts, but only at a great cost to your financial reputation. Your creditors will inform the credit bureaus that your debt has been negotiated, which will damage your credit score. A poor credit rating will raise your interest rates when you apply for credit cards, a mortgage, or a car loan. In some career fields, having a damaged credit score can even prevent you from being hired at all!

Creditors will still come after you directly, and debt settlement services can’t stop them.

The debt settlement company version of debt reduction will drag on for such a long time that creditors might decide to pursue legal action against you. Even if you do everything your debt settlement company has directed you to do, your creditor can gain a court order to seize your home, your vehicle, valuable belongings, and even garnish your wages directly.

If this happens, a debt settlement company cannot defend you in court, or help you with any legal proceedings. They aren’t lawyers. They don’t provide access to legal counsel, and they are not on your side.

Hire a consumer debt relief attorney to represent you.

Debt settlement companies, credit counseling and debt consolidation businesses cannot represent you in court when you are sued by creditors, they can’t give you legal advice, and they can’t represent you in court when you have the opportunity to sue creditors and collectors for violating your rights — ONLY lawyers can do so.

Why Should I Avoid Debt Settlement Companies?

Non-attorney companies that offer debt settlement services have a poor reputation in the U.S., particularly with the very creditors with whom you need to negotiate and who may sue you. And the industry is, unfortunately, plagued by scams.

A debt settlement company may commit to contacting your creditors on your behalf, but fail to do so. They may even succeed in having the debt frozen, but actually fail to negotiate the debt to an amount you can afford and then just withdraw money to pay themselves.

Assuming the debt negotiation company does as promised, they will still face many obstacles that affect you. To begin with, a creditor, most of whom are represented by a large team of attorneys, may up their game when they discover you are working with a debt settlement company instead of a law firm. This means the creditor could accelerate their collections process and file a lawsuit against you more quickly.

What makes an attorney different?

An attorney will represent you in court if your debt negotiations escalate. Your attorney will be able to give you accurate information about your legal options, your rights, and the risks you face during litigation.

Your attorney’s entire focus will be protecting YOU. Your attorney only cares about your immediate and long-term financial well-being.

Furthermore, your attorney will guarantee total confidentiality. Every communication with your attorney, their firm, and any member of their staff is protected. Only attorneys are bound by this confidentiality ethos.

Veitengruber Law can help you resolve your debt. Come in and meet with us at zero cost to you. Let us analyze and assess your current financial situation. We’ll give you the truth about whether hiring an attorney is in your best interest. If we aren’t sure that you need us, or if we aren’t sure we can help you, we will tell you up-front.

If we think there’s a high likelihood that we CAN help, then we will begin to protect you immediately. We will do everything we can to prevent your creditors from dragging you into court. We will carefully and skillfully negotiate and document each settlement to stop creditors from suing you.

In the event that you are sued, we will be prepared to ferociously defend your interests in court. You will not be alone at any stage of negotiation, litigation, or settlement.

Give us a call today to set up an appointment. The stress of mounting debt can start to take over your life; before you lose any more sleep or waste another hour fretting, allow us to step in and take action on your behalf. We can turn the tide and start taking back your life one negotiation at a time.

Image: “Broke” by Christian Schnettelker – licensed under CC 2.0

How Can an Attorney Help me Get out of Debt?

If you find yourself saddled with more debt than you can comfortably pay back in a timely fashion, it may be time to consider seeking professional counsel to help you resolve your debt in a manageable way. An attorney is often a good place to start, even if you’re unsure if your debt is serious enough to warrant professional help. A qualified attorney will be able to determine if and how they can be of assistance to you during a private consultation.

Learn your options

For starters, you need to find a NJ-certified attorney you are comfortable with disclosing your unique financial information to, including all of your debts. Whether you’re drowning in six figures of debt, or simply have a few unpaid medical bills, your attorney will need to know the scope, nature and sum of your debt to determine if you may be a candidate for any reputable debt consolidation programs, whether it’s time to consider bankruptcy, or, if they may be able to negotiate a lower debt repayment rate with any debt collection agencies pursuing payment from you. Debt collectors do appreciate when you reach out and demonstrate a good-faith effort to consistently pay on time, even if you cannot afford to pay the minimum required amounts.

Debt repayment negotiation

If you have something like past due medical debt, it may be easier to negotiate a lower rate, as oftentimes hospitals are able to write off at least a portion of the debt and use a sliding scale to determine whether or not a patient is eligible for financial aid. Do you have childcare, child support or other necessary expenses? Have you demonstrated a consistent effort to chip away at your debt even if you cannot afford your monthly minimums? An attorney will be able to better negotiate with your debt collector on your behalf. While many debt collectors can be heartless and ultimately do not care about any of your other financial responsibilities other than the debt you owe to them, your attorney has a good chance of arguing successfully on your behalf and ultimately negotiating a pay-back plan you can realistically afford.

The B-word

If your debt is truly beyond your financial ability to realistically pay back, it may be time to consider a more drastic solution like bankruptcy. While bankruptcy can sound like a scary word, it need not be as daunting and overwhelming as it sounds. An attorney will be able to walk you through every step of the process and explain how bankruptcy may impact your life going forward. With careful planning, bankruptcy may not be as painful of an experience as rumor would have it. It will not hinder you financially for the rest of your life, however you can expect some changes to your immediate financial future.

Life after bankruptcy

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You will be taught how to bring your score back up even higher than what it was pre-bankruptcy, which is possible in just 12-18 months. There are some fairly straightforward steps you can take to start rebuilding your credit, even during bankruptcy proceedings to get on a better financial path. An attorney can steer you in the right direction, and if necessary refer you to a financial planner who has experience in budgeting, credit building and other financial planning skills to set you up for success once your bankruptcy has been fully discharged. There is no time like the present to get established on the right path to a debt-free future.

Getting Back on Your Feet After Bankruptcy

nj bankruptcy

You’ve finally crawled out of the deep, dark, seemingly unending hole of debt. After this exhausting journey, you’re more than ready to get back on your feet. Many people wonder how exactly how to get back to “normal” after bankruptcy. If you filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and your debts were discharged, or you filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and you developed a payment plan, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now you have a fresh start, but before you get too excited, you need to be aware that it does take effort on your part to make sure you stay on the right path for good.

The state of New Jersey requires all individuals that receive a bankruptcy discharge to take a debtor education course that focuses on personal financial management. A bankruptcy discharge will not be given unless the debtor completes this class. The course must be done through a certified counseling agency and an Official Form 23 must be filed when the financial management course is finished. If a married couple files for bankruptcy, both individuals must attend counseling and submit an Official Form 23.

Here are a few post-bankruptcy steps you can take that will get you standing on two feet in no time.

1. Make a budget.

The first step is to track your spending for a few months to get an idea of how much you’re bringing in and where your money is going. Once you do this, you can come up with a monthly spending plan based on your income and the tracking results you gathered. It’s important to also become acutely aware of what exactly you’re spending your money on; if it’s mostly necessities, it’s crucial to have money set aside for that, but if you’re still spending significant amounts on unnecessary items, you’ll need to rethink your budget. Discipline in setting boundaries for yourself is vital.

2. Love cash; like credit.

Once you’ve gone through bankruptcy, it might be a good idea to develop the mindset of paying with cash more often than paying with credit. If you allow yourself to only carry a specific amount of cash in your wallet, you will be able to limit your purchases to necessities. On the other hand, there is no reason to fear credit. Following bankruptcy, it’s crucial to reestablish your credit, especially if you eventually want to purchase a house or car. Future employers, banks, and potential landlords will want to be reassured that you have been able to reestablish a decent credit score.

3. Pay bills on time.

Whether the bill is big or small, make sure you pay it on time. If you have bank fees or are bouncing checks, these will show up on your credit score, which can be detrimental to your financial health – knocking your credit score down incrementally when it needs to be moving upward.

4. Don’t fall into the scam trap.

Be aware of anyone that offers to “fix” your post-bankruptcy credit situation. You are completely capable of fixing your credit on your own, therefore you don’t need anyone else’s assistance. There are a plethora of scammers who will claim to be able to repair your credit overnight, (but for a fee – and believe us when we tell you it won’t be a small fee). Building credit requires time and patience.

If the offer from a credit repair “company” seems too good to be true or they request money upfront, be incredibly careful. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to check with the credit bureau or state regulatory agency. If you’re truly in need of help, reach back out to your NJ bankruptcy attorney – he will be the best source for reliable post-bankruptcy assistance.

Bankruptcy can be a long and trying process, but once you make it through, be assured that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Knowing how to get back on your feet and actually “doing” it are two different sentiments. Be self-disciplined in working towards a financially healthy state. If you’re feeling unsure or a little bit lost, don’t be afraid to contact your bankruptcy lawyer who can help you after bankruptcy as well as during it.

Equifax Data Breach 2017: Were You Affected?

equifax breach

Unless you have zero credit history and no report exists on file for you with any of the credit reporting bureaus, you may have been affected by a recent security breach at Equifax.

Up to 150 million people (in the US alone) had their private, personal, identifying information exposed and potentially misused. This breach in security occurred only with Equifax. Neither of the other two credit reporting agencies, Trans Union or Experian, were affected.

What happened during the Equifax breach?

Between the months of May-July 2017, hackers were able to bypass some of the cyber-security that was in place at that time at Equifax. They gained access to millions of pieces of personal information, including:

  • Full names and aliases
  • Dates of birth
  • Social Security numbers
  • Current and past addresses
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • Credit card information

Even if you haven’t noticed any strange charges popping up on any of your credit cards, it’s important that you take action if you haven’t already done so. If any of your identifying information was accessed, the first step to righting the wrong is knowledge.

How can I find out if my information was accessed?

Although the general public opinion of Equifax dropped as soon as news of the security breach hit the airwaves, they deserve kudos for initiating a plan of action for those who may have been affected. They created a program called TrustedID Premier that gives consumers one year of free credit monitoring.

Visit http://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. There, you’ll be able to read details about the security breach; you’ll also be able to enroll in the credit protection and monitoring program.

With two clicks, you’ll learn if your personal information was accessed, or “potentially impacted.” From there, you should move forward and initiate your enrollment in the credit monitoring program. Again, you’ll be given an easy prompt to “Enroll Now,” after you’ve determined if your information may have been affected.

How can I feel safe with a company that experienced such a substantial breach?

While you do have to give your name, address and part of your social security number in order to verify your identity, you can feel secure as long as you are using a secure computer as well as an encrypted network.

Is there anything else I can do to protect my personal information?

Aside from enrolling in the TrustedID Premier program, you should carefully read through your credit reports in their entirety. Go beyond checking your Equifax report; order a free copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting agencies. You can request all three reports at one convenient site: http://www.annualcreditreport.com.

Other potential steps to protecting your private and sensitive data include:

  • Freezing your credit
  • Placing a fraud alert on your credit 
  • Preventing tax identity theft – A lesser known form of identity theft, tax identity theft, can occur if your social security number was stolen. File your 2017 taxes as soon as possible so that no one else can fraudulently claim your tax refund.
  • Continue to carefully monitor all of your bank accounts and credit cards and be on the lookout for any suspicious charges.

If your personal information was accessed and you discover false information on your credit report or unrecognized charges on a credit card, contact a NJ credit repair attorney immediately to protect your financial reputation from incurring any further damage.

 

Image: “Broken Lock” by Chad Cooper – licensed under CC 2.0

Fear of Filing: What’s Keeping You from Bankruptcy Relief?

Without a doubt, money incites emotion.

What emotion depends on the specifics of your financial situation. Suddenly getting a substantial raise at work gives a feeling of success and relief. Coming into an unexpected windfall of money can evoke a sense of thrill and excitement. Steadily watching the number in your bank account dwindle inevitably leads to anxiety, stress, and panic.

Realizing your debt is higher than you can handle can provoke a fear that feels like you’re drowning. Learning that you have solid options to get out of debt when you thought it was an impossibility should instill a solid sense of comfort. Unfortunately, the thought of filing for bankruptcy comes with its own set of complex and confusing emotions.

Even though you may know and logically understand how the New Jersey bankruptcy process can eradicate a large percentage of your debts, you may hesitate to take the necessary steps to file. You’re not alone. In general, those who know they need to file for bankruptcy but are afraid to do so, are afraid of one (or more) of the following:

Ridicule/social embarrassment

Yes, it is more socially acceptable today to file for bankruptcy, but this fear isn’t unfounded. You may have some naysayers and Negative Nanceys if you file for bankruptcy. While they may tsk tsk behind your back, what’s most important is getting your financial life back on track. What will the naysayers have to cluck about when all of your bills are current and you’re able to rise above your strife? Keep your eye on the prize, and kick any and all negativity to the curb.

Job loss/difficulty finding future employment

In order to assuage this particular fear, it’s always a good idea to discuss a potential bankruptcy with your current employer before filing. An informed boss is much better than one who finds himself “hoodwinked.” As long as your higher-ups and HR department give you the green light, you’ve got nothing to fret about.

As for future employment, as long as you keep your nose to the grindstone and make the most of filing for bankruptcy, chances are good that a potential future employer will look at your overall financial picture rather than zero in on just one incident. Bankruptcy discharge is your opportunity to get a strong foothold where your finances are concerned. By using bankruptcy as a tool, you can get out of (and stay out of) debt, improve your credit score, and completely turn your life around.

Inability to buy a home/fear of losing your current home

It’s true that filing for NJ bankruptcy will lower your credit score temporarily. This does mean that making large purchases that will require a loan are off the table, but only in the short-term! By remaining steadfastly dedicated to cleaning up your financial past, a lender will see that you’ve made a lasting change. In just a year or two, you will be able to make large purchases again.

Losing your home is a huge fear for almost everyone when they think about bankruptcy, although this fear is largely unfounded. Now, if you should decide that your home mortgage is out of your budget – you can decide to go forward with a short sale or foreclosure in order to downsize. However, if you would be able to successfully make your mortgage payments if your other debts were gone or significantly reduced, filing for bankruptcy in New Jersey triggers the automatic stay.

Do you have other fears about filing for bankruptcy that weren’t mentioned here? Call us; talk to us. We can walk you through what you’re afraid of and help you understand the process. We’ll give you real, honest feedback, even if that means bankruptcy isn’t right for you.

Can I Sue the Person Who Stole my Identity?

Stories of identity theft are on the rise in this country, which comes as a surprise to those who have become rather comfortable with trusting various forms of technology in every facet of their lives. Indeed, our techno-centric lives have contributed to the creation of tech savvy criminals who can hack virtually any computer system or device.

Although it seemed like identity theft and account hacking were less prevalent for a few years, accounts of stolen personal identifying information are now on the rise again. Hackers have learned their way around firewalls, safety features and encryption settings designed to prevent this very crime.

It seems like nearly every day that we hear about a friend’s Facebook, email or other online communication/social media account being hacked. While those used to be more of a nuisance than a danger – we can now shop right from our Facebook and other social media profiles. This means a hacker can shop as you if they are able to gain access to your account(s).

Additionally, there have been far too many reports of corporations experiencing data breaches – nearly everyone has received at least one notification letter in the mail detailing what information of theirs was potentially stolen during their recent cyber attack. Even giants like Target and Equifax have been victims of cyber crime.

What would you do if you discovered that your personal information – that being your name, birth date, social security number, home address, and other identifiers was stolen during one of these data breaches and used by another person in order to create accounts in your name? The potential for damage to your credit score is huge. What recourse do you have?

While it can be a primal instinct to want to sue the pants off the person who stole your information, that isn’t always easy to do. However, if you are able to pinpoint the criminal in question (or the corporation who allowed your personal data to be leaked) – it is possible to sue for up to three times the damages you experienced.

As soon as you realize that another person has been using your personal information to make purchases or perform other actions while posing as you – make a police report at your local police station. The sooner your identity theft matter is on record, the better. It’s important not to simply ignore it and hope it goes away, because you definitely want to avoid hitting the statute of limitations on a crime like this. Reports show that the average identity theft victim spends an average of two years trying to prove their own identity, getting charges removed from credit cards and fixing credit reports that now contain false information.

For more information about New Jersey identity theft and the statute of limitations on such crimes in our state, read about the Wrongful Impersonation statute (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-17) and contact a certified and experienced NJ credit repair attorney to help you right the wrongs that have been done.