How a Credit Freeze Can Prevent Identity Theft

credit freeze

It seems like every time you turn on the news or log on to your Facebook account these days, there is chatter about yet another massive data breach. In today’s increasingly digitized world, our personal information has never been more at risk of becoming compromised. Identity theft is a very real threat to your valuable identifiable data, your credit score and your overall financial security. While it can seem like identity theft is out of your control, you actually do have the power to defend yourself. One of the best ways to do this is with a credit freeze.

What Is a Credit Freeze?

A credit freeze puts an immediate lock down on your credit information and prevents potential cyber thieves from stealing any of your identifying information in order to open an account (anywhere) and start racking up debt in your name. A freeze will disallow anyone who is not actually you from gaining access to your credit file. Since creditors like banks and credit card companies need to see your credit report before they will open a new line of credit for you, they will be unable to do so unless you specifically lift the credit freeze.

When you initiate a credit freeze, the only people who will have unlimited access to your credit report are you and any current creditors and debt collectors you may have. Employers and some government agencies will have limited access to your credit report.


IMPORTANT NOTE: A credit freeze does not impact your credit score and is totally free.


When Is a Credit Freeze Called For?

A lot of people freeze their credit after they have experienced an information breach or have otherwise had all or part of their personal data stolen. The challenge most commonly encountered when freezing your credit report after an incident is the race against time. Who will “get to” your credit report (and all of the personal information contained therein) first – you, or the criminal?

Because of the aforementioned “race against time,” preventative measures, like freezing your credit before an incident occurs, are much more likely to be effective. With a credit freeze, even if your Social Security number somehow becomes compromised, the rest of your data and accounts will be protected. It is also a great idea to freeze your child’s credit report now in order to protect their future.

How Do I Freeze My Credit?

While freezing your credit is free, it does require you to jump through a few hoops. You will need to contact all three major credit bureaus and freeze your account individually. While this is time consuming, it will be worth it when your credit report and score remain safe if (when) another cyber attack materializes.

Each credit bureau will present a slightly different process to freeze your credit, but you will definitely need to provide them with: your Social Security number, birth date, last two addresses, a clear copy of a government-issued ID card, and a copy of a bill or bank statement with proof of your current address. You can request a freeze via phone, e-mail, or through the good old-fashioned Postal Service.

Once you apply for a credit freeze, the credit bureaus will give you a PIN with which to manage your credit freeze. You will need to keep this number in a safe place because you will also need it in order to unfreeze your information when the time comes to open a new line of credit. Your credit freeze will be activated one business day after you make the request via phone or online, with mail requests taking three business days.

What Happens When I Need to “Unfreeze” My Credit?

To unfreeze your credit, you will need to provide the same credentials with which you initiated the freeze, to the credit bureaus. Per federal law, the freeze should be lifted within an hour if you make the request via phone or email. Mail requests to unfreeze your credit will take three business days.

You can also request to have the freeze lifted temporarily, so a potential employer or landlord can do a quick check before your credit goes back into freeze mode.


PRO TIP: Ask which credit bureau they will be contacting and only unfreeze your data at that bureau.


Is There a Down Side to Freezing My Credit?

There are some cons to credit freezes. The process of requesting and managing a credit freeze with three different credit bureaus can be a lot to juggle. You will also have to go through the extra step of unfreezing your information anytime you apply for a new line of credit. Additionally, putting a credit freeze into effect now won’t protect any of your existing accounts from fraudulent activity.

Regardless of any negatives, in today’s increasingly digital world, protecting yourself from a cyber attack with a frozen credit report is a fantastic—and free—way to keep your personal information private.

Why You Shouldn’t Panic Every Time Your Credit Score Changes

With the internet almost constantly at the tip of your fingers, keeping tracking of your credit score has never been easier. Banks, credit card issuers, and free online credit monitoring companies all offer their services to help you stay virtually right on top of your credit score. But if you find yourself panicking every time you get an email from Credit Karma, it might be time to reevaluate your relationship to credit monitoring. Small month-to-month changes in your credit score don’t really matter*, and here’s why.

The most important thing to understand is that you don’t have just one credit score—you actually have many, and they are all calculated using different formulas. The most well-known credit score is your FICO score, which is calculated and monitored by three different bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. All three institutions have different levels of access to your information at different times and are constantly updating your files with every piece of information they receive.

What’s more, each credit rating category covers a wide range of scores. “Good” credit falls in the 670 to 739 range. Unless you are teetering on the edge between categories, a couple of points difference isn’t going to impact your credit worthiness too greatly. There are a myriad of reasons why your score will go up or down in any given month, and none of them truly reflect your overall credit health. Delayed credit bureau reporting, hard inquiries, balance increases, or opening a new account can all cause temporary, insignificant shifts in your credit score.

Fixating on small credit fluctuations is stressful and unnecessary. As long as you are not currently in the process of applying for a new loan or a new line of credit, a less than stellar score will have little impact on your every day life. The good news is that even if your credit score has recently taken a small dip, most lenders will look at the big picture, taking your credit history into consideration, not just your current three-digit score. It’s the big swings that you need to watch out for.

A major change in your credit score can alert you to unauthorized activity on your accounts or tip you off to the long-term impact of carrying high balances and paying your bills late. It is important to pay attention to these changes to make sure they reflect your financial activity. If your monitoring service reports a change you don’t recognize or understand, look into it. Whether it is the result of fraudulent activity or just poor financial habits, it is important to investigate why your credit score is changing so dramatically.

If you are concerned about your credit score and it isn’t exactly where you want it to be, don’t panic. At Veitengruber Law, we can give you real facts about credit and debt. Our legal team can provide real life solutions to improving your credit and your overall financial health. With patience, time, and dedication, it is possible to repair your credit. Using credit monitoring services is a great first step in the right direction. Just remember not to take every small monthly fluctuation to heart and stay focused on your overall credit goals.

*If your score takes a significant plunge, drops into a lower category, or is on a consistently downward trend, reach out to us. If something is amiss, it IS better to address it sooner rather than later.

What the Equifax Breach Means for Consumers and How to Take Action

The Federal Trade Commission recently reached a settlement with Equifax over a data breach that has impacted around 147 million Americans. The popular credit monitoring agency admitted to a leak that included social security numbers, addresses, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, and credit card information. Nearly half of all adults in the United States have been affected and are therefore eligible to file a claim in the settlement to receive compensation from Equifax.

What does the Equifax breach mean for you?

The first thing you should do is check to see if your information has been impacted by this breach. On the official Equifax Data Breach Settlement website, you can enter your last name and the last six digits of your social security number to see if your data was part of the breach. Make sure you are using the official, government approved website before entering any personal information. If you determine that your data was indeed breached, you have a few things to consider. The settlement includes three options for compensation:

– A one-time payment of up to $125

– 10 years of free credit monitoring services

– A one-time payment of up to $20,000 if you can prove you spent time or money on identity theft services due to the data breach

In order to receive any of the above compensations, you must fill out the application on the website by January 22, 2020. You can also choose to opt out of the settlement. In order to officially opt out, you must formally exclude yourself by November 19 of this year.

It is important to consider how this breach could impact you before you decide on a settlement option. Despite the low payout amount, consumers should not take this data breach lightly. Once your private, identifying information has been leaked, it can spread indefinitely. Data hackers can sell and re-sell your information forever. If your information is actively being used, $125 is not even close to enough money to cover the cost it will take to repair and protect your finances. Equifax has allotted $425 million for financial compensation—meaning actual, per person payments will likely be much less than the $125 listed. Early applicants will have a better chance of getting the full amount.

Because of this, financial advisors are suggesting that consumers opt for the free credit monitoring or exclude themselves from the settlement all together. Credit monitoring and identity theft services could serve you much better than $125 in the unfortunate event that your information is being sold on the dark web. Opting out of the settlement would allow you to sue Equifax as an individual, giving you more legal power to recuperate your financial losses in the event of a significant identity theft situation. Additionally, if your information has been seriously compromised and you have experienced significant financial loss due to identity theft, it is important to speak with a NJ lawyer who has experience with identity theft.

The one thing you can and should do right away in response to the Equifax data breach is to start practicing better cyber hygiene. Hackers look for more than just social security numbers and credit card information. Oversharing other personal information can be just as costly online. To protect yourself from identity theft online, these three steps can help keep your information secure:

1. Social Media: Make sure all of your social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) are private so the only people who can see your information are those you choose to connect with. Even if your account is private, carefully consider what you share. Hackers can use your hometown, your birthday, your employment history, and other pieces of information commonly shared on social media platforms to acquire your private data.

2. Data Check: Google your name and city and see what pops up. If your full name, address, e-mail, or other personal information appears, this should make you wary about sharing additional information online. The more free information a hacker has access to, the easier it is for them to assume your identity to gather critical data about you, such as your social security or credit card number(s.)

3. Passwords: Get into the habit of changing all of your online passwords regularly and never use the same password twice. If a hacker is able to breach one account, they will try the same password over and over again. This can be disastrous for those who use the same password repeatedly.

With the global transition to online platforms, the way we protect our personal information and financial data has to change. Unfortunately, events like the Equifax data breach are becoming more and more common. Learning how to protect yourself and your personal information from hackers could save you a lot of time, money, and emotional distress. Minimizing the amount of personal information available online can be your first defense against cyber hackers.

 

 

5 Credit Repair Hacks that Actually Work!

credit repair

People often don’t realize the value of good credit until they really need it. Typically, it’s when they attempt to buy a house or open a new line of credit that people realize their credit score isn’t quite up to par. When that happens, the gut reaction is to race to fix their credit quickly. The good news is that raising your credit score is possible, regardless of your financial situation. However, this is a process that often takes time. Rebuilding a poor credit score can take months or even years.

Use these hacks to repair your credit score:

1. Pay Down Your Balance(s)

One of the best ways to raise your credit score quickly is to pay off a significant amount of your debts. Don’t just throw money at credit cards blindly, but be strategic about how you pay off your debts. A good way to do this is to look at your credit utilization ratio. This is the amount of credit you have used against the amount of credit you have available.

Example: if you have a $2,000.00 balance on a card with a limit of $5,000.00, your utilization ratio is 40%. Most experts suggest keeping your credit utilization ratio under 30%. If you are trying to increase your credit score quickly, you will want to pay off the cards where your credit utilization ratio is above 30% first. One of the best ways to do this is to make two payments a month. If you can swing it financially, making one extra payment a month can quickly reduce your overall debt and your credit utilization ratio.

2. Raise Your Credit Limit

Since we know your credit score is partly based on your overall credit utilization ratio, a quick way to lower that ratio without reducing debt is to see if you can increase your credit limit. In using the example above, if you have a $2,000.00 balance on a card with a limit of $5,000.00 (40% utilization ratio) and your creditor increases that limit to $6,500.00, your new utilization ratio will be at a more desirable 30%.

There are some important caveats when using method. You know yourself best: if you have trouble with overspending, this might not be the best choice for you. Also, if you have missed payments or have seen a steady decrease in your credit score lately, this will likely not work for you. In these instances, your credit card issuer may see the request for more credit as a sign that you are having a financial crisis. If you are a good customer with on time payments and your score is steady, this could be a good strategy to instantly boost your credit score.

3. Become an Authorized User

When rebuilding your credit, it is difficult if not impossible to get approved for a new line of credit. One way to get around this issue is to enlist the help of a trusted friend or loved one. If this person has good credit, they can add you as an authorized user on their current credit card account. This authorized status will show up on your credit report and boost your score.

IMPORTANT: When tying your credit to another person, you MUST make sure they are responsible first. The ideal candidate is someone who makes timely payments and keeps their balance low. If you tie your credit to someone who makes late payments and carries a high balance, you could end up lowering your credit score.

4. Consolidate Your Debt

There are two different kinds of debt: revolving debt and installment debt. Credit card debt is revolving debt, where the balance changes with each new purchase and payment. The FICO formula that determines your credit score favors installment debt, like loans, because this kind of debt tends to be more stable. Thus, consolidating your credit card debt into a personal loan can really give your score a boost. Personal loans also tend to have a much lower interest rate than credit cards, so you will end up paying less money in the long run.

5. Mix Up Your Credit Portfolio

Having a wide array of different kinds of credit is a good way to boost your score.  If you find you only have credit card debt, taking out a personal loan or a car loan isn’t a bad idea. While your credit mix is only 10% of your total score, diversifying your credit can give your score that extra boost it needs to go from “fair” to GOOD. It should be noted that this is a long term approach to better credit and should not be used by those who need an instant boost for an impending big purchase or financial change.

These tips and tricks can give you the boost you need to finally achieve excellent credit. If you are struggling to manage your debts or get your credit score where it needs to be, the team at Veitengruber Law can help. We offer personalized credit repair options to fit your financial needs.

 

How will my Spouse’s Debt Affect me?

When you meet someone new, finding out their credit score is typically not your go-to first date conversation starter. In the whirlwind of new romance, money matters tend to remain ignored. It is often much later in the relationship—after a couple has already become financially entwined through marriage or the sharing household bills—that financial issues come to the surface. You may be surprised to find out your spouse has accrued a substantial debt that you had no idea about. When facing this startling new information, it may be difficult to know how to move forward with your partner. Here are some tips to dealing with a spouse who has debt.

1. Hold Off On Making Judgements

In situations like this, emotions can run high. You may feel lied to or betrayed by your partner for concealing their debt. Breathe through your initial reaction. When people feel attacked they tend to shut down or become defensive. Keeping an honest, open space for communication with your spouse will allow you to move forward to fix this problem together. This also goes for making judgements about their current financial choices. If you see your spouse making consistent efforts towards paying off a debt, don’t chide them for their purchase of a new pair of shoes. Paying off debt is a process that you cannot expect your spouse to complete overnight.

Keep in mind that debt accumulates for many reasons and a past debt does not necessarily mean your partner cannot be financially responsible now. Maybe they were overzealous with their first credit card or are struggling with student loan debt. Unemployment, divorce, and medical expenses can also add up quickly. Don’t judge too harshly until you have the full picture of your spouse’s debt.

2. Get the Details

The amount of debt your spouse has makes a difference, so it is important to know the exact number they are currently working to pay off. How your partner is paying off the debt matters, too.  Is the repayment situation short term (over a year or two) or long term (5-20 years)? If it is a long term repayment plan, you can expect this debt to impact your life together for years to come. This is also the time to check your spouse’s credit report with them. This will give you the full picture of any late payments, high balances, legal judgements, or bankruptcy filings they may have.

3. Know When You’re Liable

Many people assume that once you get married, you automatically take on your spouse’s past debt. This is not true. Your credit histories will remain separate for any debts or financial troubles that occurred before your marriage. New Jersey is a common law state, meaning that even after marriage you’re only responsible for debt accrued in your name.

This changes once you open joint accounts, apply for joint credit, cosign on loans, or include your spouse on an account as an authorized user. These actions will show up on your credit report and you will be responsible for the debt. If at any point your spouse cannot make payments, even if it is on debt they personally accrued (after the date of your marriage), you will be responsible for the full payment of the debt.

4. Decide How You’ll Make Purchases Going Forward

Your spouse’s debt, and its impact on their credit score, may make it difficult for you to make big purchases together for the duration of the repayment period. Depending on how much debt they have and how low their credit score is, you may be looking at taking on the full weight of big purchases for awhile. You may be hesitant to apply for joint credit, cosign, or add them as an authorized user on your accounts. Have an honest conversation about how you will make big purchases together going forward.

At Veitengruber Law, we know the stress of large debt can create a lasting impact on marriages and families. Our experienced legal team can help you sort through the debts and create a future path that looks bright. Our comprehensive approach to resolving debt problems can help relieve the stress on you and your spouse.

 

 

5 Mistakes to Avoid After NJ Bankruptcy

NJ bankruptcy

After your NJ bankruptcy, a common concern is how to re-establish your credit score. The real challenge is creating new financial habits so you don’t find yourself back in the same hole all over again. At Veitengruber Law, our holistic approach to financial health means our job doesn’t end after the bankruptcy is closed. We work with you to repair your credit and create healthier financial habits.

 

Top Mistakes to Avoid After a Bankruptcy Discharge:

 

1 – Ignoring your credit report

When rebuilding your credit subsequent to a bankruptcy discharge or reorganization, you will want to be very attentive to your credit report. Your creditors are supposed to report any discharged debts included in the bankruptcy to the credit bureaus. These reports should show a zero balance and include a note indicating the debt has been discharged. It is crucial to follow-up on this and ensure that all creditors are reporting to credit bureaus correctly. If discharged debt is being wrongly reported—as either a charge-off or an open account—late or missed payments can continue to show up on your credit. This can further damage your score and make it more difficult for you to get new credit.

2 – Applying for multiple new credit lines

It can be tempting after bankruptcy to rush out and apply for a gaggle of credit cards or loans in an attempt to quickly repair credit. However, it is important to give your credit score time to rebound before applying for new credit. The impact of a bankruptcy is strongest in the first year after filing, although it can stay on (and affect) your credit report for up to ten years. Instead of rushing into opening several credit lines at once, be patient and take the time to research your best options.

3 – Failing to read the fine print

When you do start applying for credit cards, it is important to remember that not all credit cards are created equally. Some credit cards will be more helpful to those rebuilding post-bankruptcy. A secured card, for instance, allows you to deposit cash as collateral up front to create a line of credit. That way, you are not able to charge more than your initial deposit. With any card you choose, it is important to read the fine print of your terms to make sure the card will work in your favor.

4 – Falling for credit repair scams

Many unethical “credit repair companies” make big promises about performing miracles to improve credit scores, but they rarely ever deliver the results promised. These companies rely on misinformation to scam those that don’t know much about how credit works. Some of their tactics may even be illegal. Keep in mind that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

5 – Making things too complicated

Ultimately, when it comes to rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy, you need to go back to the basics. What bad habits caused you to file for bankruptcy in the first place? An unflinching assessment of your spending habits will help you determine which factors led to the bankruptcy and determine where you need to make changes. Figure out what your credit-bingeing triggers are and work toward setting spending limits for yourself. Simple things like making on time payments, keeping debt to a minimum, and sticking to a healthy budget are excellent foundations of any financial strategy and will get you on the road to financial health quickly.

You’ve been through the hard-fought financial battle of bankruptcy and come out victorious on the other side. Now is the time to think positively about your financial future. Rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy takes time and patience, but you can use the knowledge and financial savvy you’ve learned along the way to move forward to a brighter future. Veitengruber Law is here to help. We are skilled in advising clients and creating easy-to-follow strategies to rebuild credit. Call for your free consultation today.

Getting Nowhere with Your Debts? You Need a Debt Resolution Plan!

Debt Resolution

If you find yourself burdened with unmanageable credit card debt and struggling to make minimum payments each month, Veitengruber Law’s debt resolution services may be the perfect option for you. Following a debt resolution plan can be an effective strategy for anyone who has experienced a financial hardship like divorce, job loss, a significant reduction in household income, or medical debt resulting from serious accident or illness. Our team is experienced in debt management solutions and creating effective debt resolution plans.

George Veitengruber is an attorney with a strong focus on finances. All of our team members understand the personal heartache people can experience from overwhelming debt. We work toward real and appropriate solutions that provide relief and peace of mind for our clients. We will sit down with you to review your income and expenses and evaluate your debt to get a blueprint of your finances. No two people have the same debt issues and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to debt issues. We provide individualized advice for each client. Bankruptcy is not the only option for people seeking debt relief, and we will never push you into bankruptcy if that is not your best option.

Debt resolution can be an excellent alternative to bankruptcy or debt settlement. After we sit down with you to get a clear understanding of your financial situation, we can create a comprehensive budget that will allow you to get a handle on your debt. We will also use that budget to negotiate with creditors on your behalf. We will work to settle on new payment terms with each individual creditor, negotiating to eliminate penalties, reduce interest rates, and secure lowered monthly payments. The goal of a debt resolution plan is to resolve your debts for less than what you owe on your outstanding balance and to create a payment plan you can more easily manage.

There are some major incentives to working with an attorney to create a debt resolution plan over other debt settlement services or trying to manage debt alone. While your overall score will still likely drop at least slightly, our debt resolution services have the potential to limit damage to your credit score. Because you can continue to pay creditors throughout the negotiation process, there is little opportunity for late payments to further decrease your credit score. Veitengruber Law can also negotiate with creditors in how they report the payment of the debt, working with creditors to ensure your credit score is impacted as minimally as possible.

Another major benefit to debt resolution is the support you get from a qualified, experienced attorney. Our legal team can use their knowledge of the financial world to negotiate on your behalf. Creditors are more likely to take an attorney seriously and an attorney can assure your creditors are working in your best interest. We know all the tricks of the trade and how to work the situation in your favor. When you work with us, you know you will receive the quality know-how and financial expertise you deserve. Our advanced knowledge and years of experience also means less time spent negotiating with creditors, ensuring that you will start paying off debt sooner rather than later.

Don’t wait to start working on a solution to your debt troubles. Call us today to arrange a free consultation with a debt negotiation lawyer. Our comprehensive approach to debt resolution will allow you to breathe easier again. We can work with you to create an individualized debt resolution plan that works for you, helping you tackle unmanageable debt and avoid further financial troubles.

Seeking Legal Counsel When You’re Out of Money and Out of Time

nj bankruptcy attorney

 

You have reached that critical point; you can no longer keep up with your bills. You might have a mountain of credit card debt, a house going into foreclosure, a looming sheriff sale on your property, shut off notices for services, a garnishment or repossession on a vehicle, or all of the above! Perhaps you are considering bankruptcy. The point is that you need the help of a legal professional. You need it done well, you need it now, AND you need to find a way to pay for it.

 

How Can You Afford It? (How Can You Not??)

You’re going to have to spend money to save money.  HOWEVER, you’re going to save your peace of mind and hopefully some assets too.

 

  1. Take advantage of a free consultation. A qualified attorney can give you your options. Is bankruptcy right for you? Is your situation ripe for credit consolidation or negotiation? How far along are you in the foreclosure process? Is it possible to stop a pending sheriff sale? Be honest and you’ll receive realistic expectations for your individual circumstances.

 

  1. Use Your Tax Refund. Uncle Sam has been holding on to your money, but now it’s the perfect nugget of cash infusion to save you bigger money in the long run.

 

  1. Ask family and friends. It’s difficult to swallow your pride, but you never know what your support net is until you ask. If it’s a gift, then that’s great. If it’s a loan you can let your loved one know that he or she will be listed as a creditor if you file bankruptcy. For other situations; set up a plan of when and how much you can realistically repay. It’s much easier to keep your job if you have stable housing and a solid financial plan under your belt.

 

  1. Stop Paying Your Unsecured Debt. If, after your consultation, bankruptcy is in your future, stop making payments on credit cards or other unsecured debt. The total owed will be dealt with as part of the bankruptcy, so those monthly minimums can now finance your legal fund.

 

  1. Reduce your expenses and minimize outgoing expenses. Fancy coffee every morning, premium cable channels, gym membership, daily lunches “out” – all gone. It adds up fast!

 

  1. Try to earn some extra money aside from your primary occupation. Sell old electronics or find a temporary part time job. Go through your attic or basement and have a yard sale, or hit eBay. Lighten your load while filling your wallet.

 

  1. Request a payment plan. Your bankruptcy attorney may allow you to list them as a creditor in a Chapter 13 filing, thus allowing you to pay them over a period of months. Chapter 7 fees can be paid over time as well, although without the federal court supervising. (Keep in mind that you must be paid in full before your attorney will file the case.)

 

  1. Withdraw from your retirement account. Only do this as a last resort. Those funds are otherwise protected, but you could be facing a large tax consequence if you withdraw early. That being said, in some circumstances it may be the best option. Also, consider options where you essentially “borrow” the funds from yourself and replace them with a payroll reduction each pay period going forward.
    IMPORTANT NOTE: Always discuss this option with your credit repair attorney BEFORE taking any money from your retirement fund(s).

nj bankruptcy attorney

How to Find the Right Attorney

You want someone with a proven record of results who can and will act in a timely manner. You could call your local bar association or attorney referral number. You could get a referral from a friend. Or, you could count one problem solved and realize that you already know a top legal representative for all types of financial duress – Veitengruber Law.

 

Don’t represent yourself.

This isn’t small claims court, or a traffic ticket. This is your entire financial future. Your chance of successfully completing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy without legal counsel is less than 1%; the chances of completing a solo Chapter 7 is less than 50%. Besides, you might end up losing more money trying to navigate your financial issues alone than you would have spent on legal counsel in the first place.

 

You wouldn’t ask a podiatrist to work on your car, or the babysitter to fix your plumbing. You need the right person for the job – you need an expert! When you’re looking for a NJ lawyer with experience who you can trust, you need Veitengruber Law.

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.

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.