Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Are You A Credit Fiasco Waiting to Happen?

How TRUSTING Are You? How well do you know the people who might have temporary access to your filing cabinet, check book or wallet? Now think: there's the guy who installed new cable outlets...your cleaning lady... the neighbor who feeds your cat when your away. Like most of us, you are probably pretty trusting until the precise moment you are either robbed or betrayed. Believe me, I've been there. Once the damage is done it is very costly and time consuming to have it undone.

The only way to protect yourself from identity theft is to keep your personal details behind a solid unrelenting wall of common sense. Don't carry your social security card in your wallet and DO have a locked filing cabinet or home safe where you store your check books, passport, un-used credit cards, bank statements, W-2's, pay stubs and anything with your social security number or account numbers that could be used to impersonate you. Sad but true--a very high percentage of people who use your good name are known personal or business acquaintances who had just enough information to forge a credit card or bank application behind your back. Once these folk are using your name you have two ways of finding out: 1. Checking your credit report or 2. The collector's dogs chase you down. By then things will look bad. Real bad.

And another thing: all those credit card companies who keep sending you 'pre-approved' credit applications are on fishing expeditions. They have retrieved your name and address from Public Tax Records and other databases. Shred any applications you receive from such sources.

If you are shopping for a mortgage, do so with trusted banks or personal brokers and confine your 'shopping' or application process to a 2 week period to limit the 'hits' on your credit score.

The NEVER Rules:
NEVER loan a credit card to a friend.
NEVER leave your wallet in your office when you go to a meeting.
NEVER shop on an unsecured online site.
NEVER let your passwords be known to anyone for anything.
NEVER email your passwords or account numbers (faxes are safe).
NEVER respond to a bank online request for your passwords or identity information.
NEVER co-sign a note with anyone for anything.
NEVER open a joint bank account with a friend or loved one.
NEVER give out your Social Security Number to a lender who doesn't ask you to sign a an Authorization form (informing you of your rights).
NEVER shop online for a mortgage if you value your credit score (online lender 'hits' will lower your score because they farm out your application to multiple lenders at once).
NEVER be late on your mortgage payment (banks will work with prior notice, not excuses).
NEVER be late on your credit card or other revolving account payments.
NEVER rack up your credit card balances (over 40% balance) before you apply for a mortgage.
NEVER apply for any new credit cards 90 days before you apply for a mortgage.
NEVER close credit card accounts even if you aren't using them (just lock them up).

NEVER open new credit accounts while waiting for your mortgage to close!

NEVER EVER buy a car or major applicance while waiting for your mortgage to close!

Always keep your PIN numbers, Social Security Card and Credit Cards safe. I will add to the Never list as they arise. Your additions and comments welcome. Every day somebody presents a situation inspiring another NEVER rule.

Wishing you every credit sanity