Learn How to Repair Identity Theft

Learn how to repair identity theftMore financial losses may occur from identity theft than from any other property crime. This was true in 2012, when according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 7% of all the people 16 years old or older living in the United States suffered losses of more than $24 billion, $10 billion more than from any other property loss. In case you read past those numbers too quickly, 24 BILLION DOLLARS disappeared because of identity theft in 2012. Wow.

No wonder that the United States and other governments are joining with technology companies to solve this problem. And, no wonder that Peoples Bank has devoted substantial resources to informing customers and its communities about how to protect themselves.
The Federal Trade Commission has created a wonderful new resource to help consumers repair identity theft with a new site, named appropriately IdentityTheft.gov that provides a simple, easy to follow process of repair:

  1. What to do right away
  2. What to do next
  3. Other Steps

Each step includes suggestions of what to say and who to say it to. For example, within Step 1 is the suggestion to call the company where you know the fraud occurred and ask to speak to the fraud department, asking them to close or freeze the account(s). Such specifics are very helpful, and good to know.

We also like that each step has a “print checklist” option with the things to say and do along the way. There is a related action to take if you received a data breach notice and the text is also clear for disabled people using their web reader. The site is available in English and Spanish languages.

What if no one stole your identity but you want to learn more about how identify theft happens and who gets involved? Great question. FTC’s Identity Theft Consumer Information web page has links so you can learn about:

  • What to do when you receive a notice of a “data breach”?
  • How can you stay current with ways and means to protect your identity?
  • What free resources are available to help educate you and your children or other family members?
  • What information is available that is specific to law enforcement, lawyers or businesses.

And, by the way, the federal government is not the only compassionate organization with resources to help repair and avoid identity theft. Peoples Bank has a team of security and banking professionals continuously trained to protect your financial interests. The bank makes much of the information learned from its training program publicly available. Please do not hesitate to talk to your banker to make sure you have necessary precautions in place. Below is a brief list of some of the bank’s online resources:

Be assured that Peoples Bank is diligent, and constantly monitors for suspicious activity. We will notify you immediately of any such types of activity.

Thank you, in advance, for taking the basic precaution of having good, unique passwords for your financial accounts, and not taping them to your computer keyboard! By working together, we can shave billions off the identity theft statistics. But more important, we protect each other from financial fraud.

Your credit report—get it free and regularly

Credit ReportYou probably know that the information contained in your credit report is critically important. And you probably also know that you are entitled to a free copy of your report. Here’s how to get a copy, and what you need to know about the process.

The US government says that citizens can request a free credit report from each of the “big three” credit reporting companies once a year. That means that you can get up to three free credit reports every 12 months, one each from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. It is a good idea to make sure you get your copy from these companies.

A credit report includes information about where you live and how good you are (or have been) in paying your bills. It also reports on legal actions such as bankruptcy or lawsuits against you. Banks and other creditors rely on this information when making a decision about offering you credit.

You can order your free credit report from each of the three reporting companies via one website, www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Or you can call 1-877-322-8228, toll-free, and order that way. You can also simply mail your request (after you download the form and fill it out).

You will need to supply your full name, social security number and date of birth. This may be the only time you should enter that information on a web page! Be absolutely certain that the web address in your browser includes the ‘https’ prefix; it should be https://www.annualcreditreport.com/requestReport/requestForm.action. If the “https” isn’t there, or the last part of the web site isn’t “annualcreditreport.com” close your browser and try again. Or simply call that toll-free number.

Other considerations

If you are requesting your credit report online, via your computer browser, you should get your credit report immediately. Otherwise it may take several days, perhaps as much as 2 weeks, to get the report.

If you find errors in your credit report, you should promptly contact the reporting company and let them know. (Some media reports suggest this process is a difficult one, but credit reporting companies refute this claim by saying most credit reports are accurate because of a good system of collection and correction.) This notification should be in writing, and should be specific. You should also notify the party reporting the inaccuracy. More details about this process are on the FTC’s consumer protection website.

Get more detailed information.

Your credit report is an important indicator of your personal economic condition. Be informed about what it says, and make sure you manage it well.

More information about credit reports, including details not included in this post can be found on the Federal Trade Commission’s web page “Free Credit Reports”.

Money Problems Got You Down? Channel that feeling.

This time of year a lot of people are looking at their credit card statements and their bank balance, and wishing, “Oh if only I did a better job of managing my money!” And by “a lot of people” we mean just about everybody under the age of 50. We’ve all been there. Some have even solved the problem, and in the spirit of helping everybody manage their money better, Peoples Bank will post some tips and links in a new series called “Money Tips”. None of it will be “new light”. But perhaps it will come at the right time for you and your family. We promise to have most of the big concepts posted before you start spending money again in the last few months of the year.

Remember the pain

Pain is one of those things that is usually temporary; the effect can last, but the feeling of pain fades quickly. In any other case that would be a good thing. But remembering the pain due to poor money management (emotional and otherwise) will help you avoid money management problems in the future. And help you get ahead of the current ones.

For example, if you get a threatening call from the Landlord because you’re late paying the rent, recall that you have that problem because perhaps you didn’t think to:

  • brew your own coffee rather than pay $4 for all those “special brews” at the cafe,
  • say no to that “upgrade offer” of $200/month TV service for 100 channels of nothing worth watching,
  • spend $40 on jeans at Walmart instead of the $100 slacks from the mall that require dry-cleaning,
  • learn how to cook decent meals and pack a lunch rather than spend several hundred dollars at restaurants this month, and/or
  • split the check.

When you think about it, you can beat every one of those pain-points, today. Starting now.

Very often people spend money on temporary things, such as meals, fashion and entertainment that just do not last long enough to be worth it. A car payment is one thing, the same amount of money spent on eating out and going to movies and concerts is quite another. Especially if you can’t afford a car because of all that money that’s just a mist of a memory now. Do you agree?

If you don’t have a lot of money, it is far better to carefully – thoughtfully – spend it on things that will serve you long-term. Spending money on things that add real, lasting value is a big part of sound financial health.

So, here’s the practical tip: Reflect on all the things you spent money on over the last several months that you don’t have the use of right now. Does it hurt to think about? Good. Channel that feeling of pain and don’t let it happen again, this month or the month after. You’ll feel better then. You may even be able to pay the credit card amount due plus some and have money left over, which is one of most pain-free things anybody can do.

We hope this helps to stir up what may be a missing resolve to be good at managing your money. Stay tuned to this blog for more money tips from the bank that loves you best, Peoples Bank. And if you want to get more information faster, from a money expert, check out The Rules of Money by Richard Templar.

Expect the unexpected—organize for a sudden death or disaster

expected the unexpectedSome people thrive in chaos. The more paper and bank statements strewn on tables, chairs and inbox trays the better. While that may be OK for you now, it is no way to leave your financial matters or estate papers to those who have to make sense out of it well enough to care for your needs should you become unexpectedly incapacitated. It is especially hard for loved ones who can’t see through the grief and pain of your loss to see how to endure and survive the sudden change.

Expect the unexpected. Try to avoid adding trouble and frustration to the grief such an event causes. Bring some proper order to the important paperwork. Here are some specific suggestions that will help:

  • Put some money in a rainy day fund. How would important expenses be paid in a timely manner if you die or become suddenly incapacitated? An account with sufficient liquidity should be in place.
  • Get all the important documents in one place, and leave a note (where it will found) about where they are.
  • Think about consolidating accounts. Is it still necessary to have multiple checking and/or credit card accounts? If not, a simple financial account structure may be helpful to the family members who have to figure things out and settle your affairs.
  • Make sure your insurance coverage is sufficient.
  • Make it easy for heirs to access your valuables. The beneficiaries and co-owners of safe-deposit boxes should be up-to-date, and they should know who they are.

Lawyers will tell you that there is no horror story greater than when there is no plan for death or disaster. Make an enduring legacy for yourself by making the transition a success story. Expect the unexpected and have a good (and easy-to-execute) plan.

A lot could be written to expound on this post, but we’ll leave that to the experts. The idea for this post came from a web page on the FDIC’s website, “Expect the Unexpected: Plan for Death or Disaster”. We encourage you to read that page and hope that it is as helpful to you as it was to us.