Please click on one of the articles listed below to learn more about various finance-related topics of interest:
Although there are numerous companies out there that can help you repair your credit (for a fee), any educated consumer can take control of their credit, correct mistakes within their credit reports, and enforce their federal rights when appropriate corrections have not been made.
Here are some steps you can take to get your credit report fixed:
Step 1: Get Copies of Your Credit Reports
You can order your credit report for free, once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com. Or, if there’s a reason you would like to see your report more frequently, you can send a written letter to each of the major credit reporting agencies requesting a copy of your credit report. You can also request it online at www.experian.com, www.equifax.com and www.transunion.com.
Step 2: Examine All Credit Entries
Once you receive all three of your consumer credit reports, thoroughly review every account and company name on your reports. Make sure that all of the information is accurate. Make detailed notes of any errors you find, because you will use this information to create a request that your report be corrected.
Step 3: Examine All Credit Inquiries
Thoroughly examine and review every person and company listed that has obtained your credit report. If there are inquiries that you don’t recognize, try to investigate them and eliminate any possibility that the access to your credit report was permissible.
Step 4: Send A Correction Request Letter
Create a letter to all of the credit reporting agencies that are showing inaccurate information. Tell them you want the inaccuracies corrected.
Step 5: Review Your Updated Credit Reports
Within 30 days of sending your “correction request” letter, you can expect to receive a copy of an updated credit report showing what corrections have been made, what has been deleted and what remains unchanged.
Your claims under the Federal Credit Reporting Act must be made within a two-year period, or they will be forever barred by the applicable statute of limitations. You may wish to consult a competent attorney if you have inaccurate information on your credit report that the credit bureaus will not remove.
*Some information from this article was obtained from the Federal Trade Commission website.
Fraud Schemes and Scams
There are endless types of fraud out there, and consumers have to be alert and conscientious. Here are just some types of popular fraud schemes.
- Telemarketing Schemes. At its core, telemarketing fraud is a pretty simple crime: someone calls the victim, makes a false statement and the misrepresentation causes the victim to give money to the caller. Click here to read more.
- Phishing Schemes. Phishing is when internet fraudsters impersonate a business to trick you into providing your personal information. While these schemes used to be conducted over the phone, more recently have moved to acquiring someone’s personal information through email. For more details, click here.
- Advance Fee Schemes. Advance fee fraud is when fraudsters target victims to make advance or upfront payments for goods, services and/or financial gains that never materialize. Click here for details.
- Fraud Against the Elderly. Financial crimes against the elderly fall under two general categories: fraud committed by strangers, and financial exploitation by relatives and caregivers. For more information, click here.
- Free Trial Scams. While free trial offers are not a true form of fraud, many individuals fall victim to the type of scam because after the trial period, they do not cancel the service, or they are unable to cancel the service because the merchant is not reputable. Click here to learn more.
- Identity Theft. ID theft occurs when someone’s information is stolen, both physically and online. Counterfeit plastic/closed cards can be created. To read more, click here.
- Card Skimming. Card skimming is a type of theft where crooks use a small device to steal card information in an otherwise legitimate credit or debit card transaction. When a card is run through a skimmer, the device captures and stores all the details stored in the card’s magnetic strip. Click here for details.
- Tax Scams. Learn about just a dozen different types of tax scams by clicking here.
ATMs are located on just about every corner. However, as is the case with anything popular, ATM users can become victims of crime. Please take the following precautions to help ensure your safety:
- Be aware of your surroundings when using an ATM, particularly when it is dark. Scan the area and make sure it is well-lit.
- Take someone with you, if you can.
- Avoid using ATMs near bushes or other structures that would-be robbers can hide behind.
- When you walk up to an ATM, use your body to block the view of the screen while you enter your PIN.
- Be prepared to conduct your business as soon as you arrive. Don’t search through your wallet or purse while you’re there.
- Don’t allow anyone to distract you while at the ATM.
- Refrain from displaying cash. Place cash in your pocket as soon as a transaction is completed, and count your cash in the safety of a locked enclosure such as a car or home.
- Use another ATM or return at a later time if anything suspicious is noticed when using or considering using an ATM.
- Check for a thin, clear, plastic “sleeve” on the machine. Run your finger along the card slot before inserting your card. If someone has tampered with the machine, you might feel a couple of tiny prongs and see a plastic piece pop off.
- Report all crimes immediately to the operator of the ATM and local law enforcement officials.
Always play it smart and safe.
Here are a few tips to consider when using credit, debit or ATM cards:
- Sign your card(s) upon receipt and destroy or cut up your expired cards.
- Should you be re-issued a credit, debit or ATM card that you no longer wish to use, destroy the card and advise the card issuer in writing that you no longer want the card.
- Keep all cards in your wallet in such a way that you will immediately notice if one is missing.
- Do not carry unnecessary cards with you. Treat your cards as if they were cash.
- NEVER leave your cards in a vehicle.
- At home, keep your cards out of sight. There have been numerous cases of cards being stolen by babysitters, guests, neighbors and relatives.
- Make sure your card is returned to you after each purchase – and that the card returned to you is actually yours.
- NEVER lend your cards to a friend, and do not disclose your PIN to anyone.
- Keep your receipts and invoices, and check them against your statements to verify the correct billing.
10. Should you discover fraudulent activity on your bill or statement, or if your card is lost or stolen, be sure to call the card issuer immediately.
11. In case of theft, notify the police, as well.
Do you have a joint owner or beneficiary assigned to your St. Louis Community Credit Union account?
You may want to check with us to be sure. Often, members neglect to designate a beneficiary, thus causing untimely complications in the event of their death.
By having a joint owner or beneficiary on your account, you avoid the risk of having your money wind up in probate and provide a suitable way to bequeath it to a loved one.
So please consider making such arrangements with your credit union account. During their time of sorrow, your family members will be glad you did.
As your Credit Union, we care about your well-being in more ways than one. But one thing you can do to help us help you is to keep your contact information up to date at St. Louis Community. Please inform us whenever there is a change to your address, phone number(s) and/or email address.
In today’s society, fraud and identity theft are an everyday concern. In the event of an emergency or suspicious activity, we want to be able to reach you — to protect your account and your identity.
It is also important that you receive your monthly or quarterly statements to keep track of your account. When we have outdated mailing information, the mail is returned, and we often have trouble reaching you to advise you of the situation.
Please be aware that a change in your address requires that you do one of two things:
- Log into Online Banking, and on the Self Service tab, click on “Personal Information” in the Personal Options box. Enter your updated information and click “OK”.
- Complete a simple “Change of Personal Information” form. To access this form, click here; then simply provide all of the information requested, and mail it to St. Louis Community as indicated on the form.
If you simply need to update your phone number or email address, you can provide that information over the phone. Just call us at 314-534-7610.
Thank you for your help in this matter!
Seems like every time you turn around, you’re hearing about a data breach that is affecting the security of people’s debit and/or credit cards. Although you – and your financial institution – may not have control over these issues, here are some basic steps you can take to ensure you are protected:
- Be proactive. If you notice suspicious activity on your account, contact your card issuer immediately.
- Be well informed and take an active role in managing your finances.
- If your debit card number has been compromised, you have zero liability for any transactions made to your account. But you need to report the fraud as soon as possible so that your financial institution can put a stop to the activity.
Unfortunately, the financial institution that issues your card is a victim as well because they have no control over the situation. These breaches usually occur at the merchant and/or processing level.
Nevertheless, if your SLCCU debit card is ever compromised, rest assured that we will work with you to resolve the issue in a timely manner. Our ultimate goal is to help you rectify the situation. We’re here to help!
Like most Americans, you’re probably busy juggling a family, a job and your finances. There’s a lot to think about. Is it really such a big deal if just one of your monthly payments is a bit late?
Actually, it is, as it could mean higher rates and fees on all your accounts, including credit cards and auto insurance.
Credit counselors say more companies are referring to credit reports when deciding whether to raise interest rates or even insurance rates. If a customer’s credit report is trouble-free, that customer may get a higher credit limit. But negative information could send rates soaring.
You can avoid rate hikes with the following tips:
- Compile a list of all your accounts, their due dates, balances and credit limits.
- If an account’s due date falls during a tight time of the month, call the card issuer and ask to have the date changed.
- Pay your bills as soon as you get them.
- Check all your accounts carefully.
- Get a copy of your credit report once a year to check for errors.
The first thing to look at when budgeting is your spending. Get an idea of what your monthly bills and expenditures are versus your actual income. Once you have this information down on paper, it’s a lot easier to plan for them each month.
After you establish your income and expenses, you must determine what your pay periods are and when your bills are due. You should put aside about half the money you’ll need for bills the month before. That way, you don’t end up spending your entire paycheck on bills and having nothing left to live on. It spreads the load over a four-week period.
The next step is to work on ways to cut expenses.
What areas are most fruitful for budget cutting? People are most unrealistic about their entertainment expenses, especially eating out, including take-out. That’s because you don’t usually consider it part of your food budget.
People don’t really budget for maintenance on things like cars and homes, either. And a lot of folks are surprised at how much they spend on gifts.
But the biggest culprit is credit cards. If you’re not careful, credit cards can make it so easy to spend money on things you don’t necessarily need. You have to prioritize what you want to spend your money on if you ever want to accomplish anything with it.
And if you pay for child care because you’re a two-income family, be sure that the second income is well worth it. Often times, your actual take-home pay is much less than you realize because of child care costs and the incidentals that come with it. Remember… it’s not what you make. It’s what you keep.
Finally, stay the course and have some patience. Look for signs that show your budgeting efforts are paying dividends. First, get yourself out of debt. Then learn to live within your means. Within six to nine months, you’re going to find yourself much better off.
Here’s a five-step action plan to help you take control of your money.
- Set up a financial filing system.
Create a personalized filing system by labeling accordion file pockets with financial categories. Then label regular file folders with subcategories that fit your situation and file them into the accordion pockets.
- Gather records.
Look through your records to identify missing information. Gather copies of your health, disability, life, homeowners, and vehicle insurance policies, and get a copy of your credit report.
- Size up your situation.
Add the estimated current value of all assets, including your home, car, personal property, savings, investments and retirement accounts. Next, add all liabilities, including mortgage, credit card balances and any other outstanding debt. Then subtract liabilities from assets to figure net worth.
Then, make a list of income and expenses by reviewing paycheck stubs, checkbook register, and credit card statements from the past year. Finally, track your spending for a month by saving all receipts or recording cash purchases in a notebook. A money management software program helps organize spending by category.
- Chart a course.
Set financial goals, both long-term (saving for retirement) and short-term (buying a house or car), and figure how much money you’ll need for each. Create a target saving and spending plan that meets needs using your list of income expenses. For a month or more, track actual spending to see how you’re doing, making changes as necessary.
- Brush up on money management basics.
Go to the Excel Center® for more information about how to save wisely.
When buying a new car, be smart. Don’t buy more car than you can afford – it’s a big expense for a long time.
You’ll see, read and hear about lots of very attractive deals, so don’t be an impulse buyer. Do your homework – not only on the car itself, but also on the financing. Know what your new payment will be, and don’t stretch your payments out longer than you plan to own the car. Make sure you can pay off your loan early without any penalties. And try not to borrow money for the sales tax and license.
Be honest with yourself…too much car, too much payment, could lead to bigger problems down the road.
Things happen… especially when it comes to managing your financial accounts. However, if you aren’t careful, periodic Overdraft Privilege (ODP) fees and Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF) fees can become costly over time. The good news is – they don’t have to be.
Here are some helpful tips for avoiding them:
Build an emergency fund by paying yourself first. It doesn’t take a lot of money to get started. By putting aside an extra $10 or $20 here and there in your Credit Union savings account, you can build a cushion for those unexpected expenses that may come your way.
Monitor your spending. It’s always a good practice to track what you have to work with – what you owe vs. what you earn. Consider monitoring your spending by signing up for Online and/or Mobile Banking. It’s a free, fast and safe way to manage your money.
Use direct deposit. By taking advantage of direct deposit, you can help ensure that funds hit your account in a timely manner. This service is free and can prevent you from scrambling to make it into your local Credit Union branch before an urgent bill does.
Set a budget that works for you. Make a list of your monthly obligations and find out where your money is actually going. This way, you can identify those spending leaks and find ways to avoid them. You don’t have to do this alone. We offer free classes on budgeting and financial management at the Excel Center® (our destination point for financial empowerment). It’s part of our overall giveback to the community. Click here for details.
Take advantage of overdraft protection services. St. Louis Community offers several options for managing Overdraft Protection (ODP) and Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF). Click here for details.
Seek financial assistance. If you are having trouble making ends meet, consider seeking financial help through our BalanceSM Financial Fitness Program or your local social service agency. SLCCU works with a variety of partners that may be able to meet your needs.
Get help today!
Put your money to work for you instead of the other way around. For more information or to set up a one-on-one financial coaching session, contact the Excel Center at (314) 385-1586 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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