How To Spot A Credit Repair Scam

Repairing your credit can be an uphill battle. You’re looking at months of hard work, negotiating with creditors, reworking your budget and identifying the factors that are making your credit score lag. In short, it’s a hassle and it takes lots of time.

male with liar nose.pngThose two aspects are what makes credit repair scams so successful. They know you’re looking for a quick way out, and they’re offering it to you on a silver platter. Unfortunately, when they’re done with you, not only will your credit score be just as low as when you started, but you’ll also be out hundreds or thousands of dollars, and may even be facing criminal charges.

There are legitimate credit repair companies, but without educating yourself, finding them instead of the scammers who only want your money can be tricky.

Here are the most common warning signs of a credit repair scam:

1.) Demands upfront payment

Know your rights. Under the federal Credit Repair Organizations Act, credit repair companies are forbidden to request or receive payment until they’ve completed the services they’ve promised. If a company is demanding upfront payment, it’s surely a scam.
2.) Makes big promises
To lure you into their trap, many scammers make wild promises about your credit score. They may assure you that they can remove negative information from your credit report, even if that information is accurate and current. Don’t believe them; no one can do this.
They might also promise to boost your score a huge amount in just a few weeks or less. This, too, is absolute hogwash. You will never see an improvement on your score until at least 30 days has passed since you’ve taken action.
3.) Promises to help you create a “new credit identity”
This red flag should alert you to one of the most devastating credit repair scams possible. In these scams, companies promise to create a new credit identity for you in exchange for a fee. After you cough up the money, the company will provide you with a nine-digit number that’s similar to a Social Security Number. They may refer to this number as a CPN – a credit profile number or a credit privacy number. Alternatively, they may direct you to apply for an EIN – an Employer Identification Number – from the IRS.
Once you have your new number, the company will instruct you to use this form of ID to apply for credit. They assure you that the process is legal. In reality, though, it’s not – and you’ve just been scammed.
These companies are actually selling you a stolen SSN, often one belonging to a child. They walk away with the money you paid them, while you are stuck in a far deeper hole than when you first contacted them. It is a federal crime to misrepresent your Social Security number, to obtain an EIN from the IRS under false pretenses and to lie on a credit application.
Falling for a credit identity scam could mean facing fines or prison time. If you come across a credit repair company offering you a new identity, run the other way and don’t look back (and report them to the authorities)!
4.) Tells you not to contact the credit reporting agencies
Every U.S. citizen has the right to a complimentary report from the three major credit reporting agencies every year. If a company advises you not to contact these agencies directly, they will probably charge you for obtaining the report on their own. In other words, you will be paying for a free service.
5.) Tells you to dispute accurate information on your credit report
Disputing accurate information on your credit report is dishonest and illegal.
6.) Is evasive about your legal rights and their services
The Credit Repair Organization Act made it illegal for credit repair companies to lie about your legal rights and about their services. This law is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). To comply with this law, credit repair companies are required to explain:
●     Your legal rights and clear details in a written contract of the services they’ll perform
●     Your three-day right to cancel the contract without charge
●     The anticipated amount of time it will take until results are evident
●     The total cost you will need to pay for their services
●     Their guarantee
If you’ve already hired a credit repair company and they haven’t lived up to their promise, you still have options.
You can choose to sue the company for your losses in federal court or seek punitive damages – money to punish the company for violating the law. You can also find other victims so you can band together and file a class action lawsuit against the company.
To protect others from falling prey to the same scam, it’s best to report it to your local consumer affairs office or to your state Attorney General.
It’s also advisable to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC cannot resolve individual credit disputes, but it can take action against a company for multiple law violations. You can file your complaint online at ftc.gov/complaint or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.
Finally, if you’re in financial trouble of any kind, we can help! We can offer debt consolidation loans, providing you with the opportunity to transfer your debt to one low-interest loan, making the prospect of paying down your debt a lot more manageable. Stop by and visit a branch or check out our website for more information.

De-stressing After the Holidays

The holidays are over, so the celebrations, gala festivities, and merriment are coming to an end. No more sleeping well into the morning hours, eating a late breakfast or partying away into the night. No matter how hard we try to stretch those vacation days, an untimely end hits us in the face. Winding down is never easy.

women at cafe 2 chattingComing off your high and returning to the mundane affairs of real life is often difficult. For some, the return to the workplace is slow and painful, but routine eventually catches up and they find themselves back on track. For others, a deep feeling of “blues” sets in, which can sometimes be accompanied by loss of appetite, feelings of wistfulness and homesickness. It may be a mild depression or sense of anxiety, making work productivity suffer as social activities start to dissolve.

In general, most people don’t need to resort to any special moves for bouncing back to their normal daily agenda. But there are many who cannot come off their holiday euphoria without disorientation. For those who find themselves stuck and unable to move on, psychologists have devised various methods for coping. Assuming you have had a positive holiday, here are some ideas for an easier return to life after vacation:

1. Slow Down and Relax:

The last day of the holiday vacation is usually the most difficult. We try to squeeze in as much as we can as the hours quickly tick by. Therapists believe we should do just the opposite. Pull back on the schedule with calming activities to help our bodies adjust and return to the normal habits we left behind.

2.  Get Someone on the Inside:

Reduce the stress of returning to an office filled with piles of paperwork by contacting a coworker who might not have taken off for the holiday. She/he can fill you in on the important happenings during your absence and can identify the most urgent assignments prior to your return so you can get started right away.

3. Know Your Nostalgia:

If you’ve been traveling during the holidays, you may be one of those people who feel that focusing on memories of pleasant times can help you move back into daily life. Seeing photos and videos of the fun and excitement experienced during the holidays can lift spirits and provide a pleasant backdrop to feelings of nostalgia. For some people, though, reliving past events with their sensation of relaxation and enjoyment can trigger increased feelings of discomfort and anxiety, thus thwarting any efforts to deal with the here and now.

4. Just Breathe:

One of the best ways to decompress after an extended holiday is to engage in yoga and breathing techniques to help calm yourself and reach deep into your inner self. Proper breathing is something you should practice year-round, as physicians have found that most of us do not breathe properly.

Taking deep inhalations and long exhalations has been proven to encourage brain activity as well as stimulate effective blood circulation throughout our bodies. Focusing on deep breathing will help transition you from a state of exhilaration to a normal level of existence. Meditation is often used as an adjunct to deep breathing and has been proven to help reduce the stress of returning from a holiday.

5. A Moment in the Sun:

Anyone who flies often knows about the impacts of jet lag. Jet lag is caused by an interruption in your sleep-wake cycle, which is regulated by the body’s internal clock. To cut down on this effect, doctors advise travelers to get out into the sun as soon as they can upon disembarking. When the UV radiation from the sun hits your eyes, it helps restore the sleep-wake cycle balance. Since similar symptoms can occur when coming down from a heightened experience to a normal state, even a short 15-minute walk in the sun can help you decompress from your extended holiday.

6. Start Moving:

Exercising or just moving around in a focused manner sends lots of endorphins rushing to your brain while using up the stress hormones that enable us to cope with mental and physical difficulties.

7. Planning Your Next Vacation:

Some therapists suggest that, to get over post-holiday blues, you should immediately start working on your next vacation. Others recommend avoiding this approach and instead encourage focusing on the present, not the future.

8. Talk it Out:

If you’re still finding difficulty re-entering your pre-holiday existence, try having a heart-to-heart with a close friend or relative. They may be able to help you sort out your thoughts by acting as a sounding board or offering solutions you may not have considered.

Your Turn: How do you de-stress after the holidays? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

Rockstar Finance: The Best On Personal Money Management

Website Review - Rockstar Finance

Are you always looking for the latest and greatest personal finance blogs? Do you find yourself searching the internet for timely topics to help you in your struggles with budgeting, money management and saving? Of course, you’ll always find fantastic financial content right here on truenorthfcu.wordpress.com but if you want to read about people’s personal budgeting battles, the lessons they’ve learned while scrimping to save and so much more, you might spend lots of time scouring the web.

Your search is over! Don’t waste another minute scrolling through blogs until you find one that piques your interest. Just check out Rockstarfinance.com.

The website hosts a self-coined personal finance community, where it does the work of finding the best money blogs and articles and posting them on its homepage.

On the site, you’ll find a listing of varied personal finance articles for topics as diverse as 17 Wacky Ways to Save, Santa Claus vs. Warren Buffet and 10 Reasons We’re Not Millionaires. The site’s links will take you directly to the posted articles, bringing engaging and enriching reading material to your fingertips, all with just a couple of clicks. You’ll learn about paying down your debt, embracing a FI-RE (Financial Independence – Early Retirement) lifestyle, investing advice and saving tips to help you trim your monthly budget with ease.

Rockstar Finance will link you to popular personal finance sites like Supersavingtips, Budgetboy, and more, along with dozens you’ve never heard of, but may instantly love.

The site’s homepage includes the most recent in awesome personal finance blogs on the web, along with a full archive of older articles. You’ll also find the articles organized according to blogs, forums and popular picks. To give you even more to love, the site has a helpful search option to bring up any topic you might be interested in.

No more sifting through scores of sites to find the articles you want to see! Let Rockstar Finance do the work for you so you can spend your time reading and absorbing fascinating finance material.

And don’t forget to check in here regularly for new articles. Here at True North, we’ve always got you covered!


Your Turn:
Do you have a favorite personal finance blog? Share it with us in the comments!

Combating The Financial Mistakes Of Our 20s And 30s

Early in their careers, people tend to focus on the here and now while ignoring the future. As you climb the ladder of success, you might think raises and promotions will never end and that you have forever to plan for the future. Surprisingly, though, the future comes faster than you can imagine.

couple on tablet older

Here are the six most common and avoidable mistakes younger people make:

#1: Not planning for retirement
Retirement may be ages away, but the only way to make sure you have what you need to retire is to start planning early. If you start saving for retirement when you get your first job, even if it’s only a small amount, you will establish the habit and start building up savings.
Short-term goals, like a new car, can overshadow what seems like the very long-term goal of retirement. If you get your priorities straight early on, though, you will reap huge benefits.

#2: Spending too much on a car
It might make financial sense to buy a new car, but don’t buy more car than you need. Choose a car that serves your current needs without sabotaging your long-term goals and savings.

#3: Not using a budget
You might look at a budget as unnecessary because you’re not making enough money. Or, you may view it as something that will restrict your spending, or as just too much trouble. In truth, a budget can help you at any level of income and can provide you with financial freedom. Budgets allow you to track spending and determine where you need to be more careful. Also, budgets can be as simple as tracking money in and money out. As you earn more and your expenses get more complex, you can adjust your budget to fit your needs.

#4 Overusing credit
Credit cards make it far too easy to fall into the debt trap. You start carrying a little balance on your credit cards and it builds up, sometimes forcing you to dip into savings to pay your credit card bills. Avoid this situation by using credit sparingly and only for identified and planned purchases. Implement a plan to save for major purchases and pay for most, if not all of them, in advance.

#5: Having no emergency fund
In our 20s and 30s, we think we’re invincible, but illness or job loss can happen at any time. Start a small system of saving to build an emergency fund that covers your expenses for at least three months.

#6: Not having adequate health insurance
While health insurance is expensive, it’s irresponsible and short-sighted not to have sufficient coverage. Health insurance isn’t optional, and young people are the first to ignore this rule. The cost may seem prohibitive, but it comes back to priorities and future planning.

Your turn: In your 20s and 30s, did you make some mistakes you regret? Or, are you in this age bracket now and have questions about setting your priorities? Share your questions or words of wisdom here!

 

The Brain/Money Connection

We know that stress impacts our health in various ways, but did you know the brain is also physically affected by stress? Neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that chronic stress triggers long-term changes in brain structure and function. And nothing spells stress like money dilemmas!

Neuroscientist Dr. Sam Barnett conducted research to determine the brain’s appearance while making financial decisions. He found that the ability to make effective decisions in this area is impaired by anxiety.

The complexity of some financial situations makes it difficult to process information and impedes our ability to make rational choices. The number of choices can make people feel anxious. Since the brain has two basic modes, fight or flight, being presented with too many choices can result in confusion and anxiety.

Author James Clear adds that it may be the lack of certainty that augments the anxiety, because financial quandaries rarely have clear-cut answers.

This uncertainty, coupled with the plethora of information accompanying each option, often creates high stress levels. This can lead to hasty, unsound decisions, leading to buyer’s remorse.

Alternatively, when stressed about financial decisions, some choose to make no decision at all. In certain situations, taking no action can have disastrous results.

The science behind the science

The relationship between money and the brain has been researched primarily in the last decade. Scientists have found that different parts of the brain are stimulated when dealing with money. One study, for instance, showed increased neural activity when people play games for money.

Apparently, just the possibility of earning extra money impacts the brain! This proves the brain influences the process of making even the simplest financial decision.

How can we help our brain handle so much information?

Barnett’s study also shows that narrowing down options or having a financial advisor provide a framework for decisions can alleviate anxiety and lead to improved outcomes.

Developing financial plans that consider our long-term wants and needs can also help. A financial planner is the best address for assistance with this process.

A competent financial planner is well worth the outlay. They can help you hone in on the crucial aspects of a broader plan. Aside from leading to better financial decisions, Barnett claims this improves brain function as well.

You can also narrow and focus information by using budgeting tools. Simply putting financial information on paper helps the brain organize and process all that data. In addition, setting financial goals and checkpoints can reduce anxiety.

The bottom line? The best way to make sound financial decisions is to get help. Call, click or stop by True North today to see how we can help.

Have you experienced anxiety when making a financial decision? Did you eventually make a successful choice? Share your experience with us in the comments!