Stop Identity Theft Cold by 'Freezing Your Credit!' ITCT contact info - May, 2011 by ps94506

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									                                                                                    Improving the
                                                                                        lives of
                                                                                    Idahoans, two
                                                                                   cents at a time!

                                                                                    May, 2011


                                        Stop Identity Theft Cold by “Freezing
                                                    Your Credit!”
                                                   Lyle Hansen, lhansen@uidaho.edu

                                    I am often asked “what is the best way to protect against
ITCT contact info:                  identity theft?” My answer has been to use and follow the
                                    Identity Theft Quick Tips worksheet that Luke Erickson and
   Editor: Luke Erickson            I developed, which can be found here http://
   erickson@uidaho.edu              www.extension.uidaho.edu/jerome/IdentityTheft_files/ID%
       208-356-3191
                                    20Theft%20Quick%20Tips.pdf.
 Assistant Editor: Pat Cook
   madison@uidaho.edu
                                    Using the Identity Theft Quick Tips
                                    worksheet is a very effective way to
                                    monitor your identity and protect
                                    against identity theft. Now, there is the
                                    option of requesting a credit freeze (also
                                    called a security freeze), which is one of
                                    the most successful tools for preventing
                                    financial identity theft. A credit freeze is
                                    a great option for someone who doesn’t
                                    frequently apply for credit and wants
      -Set goals                    peace of mind when it comes to identity
                                    theft.
  -Get education/
    earn income
                                    A credit freeze means that your credit file cannot be seen by
          -Give                     potential third-party creditors or employers conducting
                                    background checks unless you give permission. For exam-
        -Budget
                                    ple, if someone steals your identity and applies for a credit
-Plan for emergencies               card, your credit report is not released to the credit card
                                    company because it is frozen and the thief is stopped. This
-Eliminate consumer                 added layer of security means that thieves can't establish
        debt
                                    new credit in your name even if they are able to take over
-Invest for retirement              other elements of your identity because they don't have
                                    your secret personal identification number or password.
  -Teach kids about
       money
                                    You may request a credit freeze on your credit report,
    -Own a home                     which will not lower your credit score, still allow you to ob-
                                    tain new credit, allow you to use your existing credit (credit
  -Plan your estate                 cards), and allow you to receive your free credit reports at


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                                                     Email “subscribe” to erickson@uidaho.edu

                                                                Extension professionals work with the people of Idaho to address youth,
                                                                community, family, environmental, natural resource and agricultural issues.



                                                                    www.annualcreditreport.com. You can request a credit
                                                                    freeze regardless if you have become a victim of identity
                                                                    theft or not. A credit freeze is inexpensive, currently $6 per
                                                                    credit bureau in Idaho and for other states may range from
                                                                    $0 to $20 per credit reporting agency. Victims of identity
                                                                    theft can have any fees waived, and seniors are often ex-
                                                                    empt from the fees in most states. Follow this link that lists
                                                                    the credit freeze costs by state:
                                                                    https://help.equifax.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/75/se
                                                                    arch/1.

       ITCT is more                                                 To obtain a credit freeze, you simply go to each of the three
                                                                    main credit bureau websites and complete order forms
        than just a                                                 (Please note that both spouses have to freeze their separate
                                                                    credit files):
       newsletter!!!                                                Experian
                                                                    (http://www.experian.com/consumer/security_freeze.html)
                                                                    Trans Union (https://annualcreditreport.transunion.com)
       Check out these recent mul-
                                                                    Equifax (https://www.freeze.equifax.com)
          timedia tools by ITCT
                                                                    You can also call the credit bureaus or submit a written re-
         Earned Income Tax                                          quest. Using the websites is not difficult and does not take
              Credit—                                               long. When placing the credit freeze, you will be provided a
               Adobe Connect:                                       personal identification number or password to use if you
               http://tinyurl.com/3jshcjo                           choose to temporarily authorize the remove (thaw) of the
                                                                    credit freeze for the release of your credit report for a spe-
                                                                    cific purpose or time frame, such as applying for new credit
          How to Buy a Used                                         or for a potential employer. Removing a temporarily credit
             Timeshare                                              freeze costs $6 per bureau in Idaho and $0 -$12 in other
                   Adobe Connect:                                   states.
               http://tinyurl.com/3m34kw6
                        Brochure:                                   Unfortunately, a credit freeze doesn’t stop pre-approved
                http://tinyurl.com/3k8mj2g
                                                                    credit offers or phone solicitors, but you can stop these by
                        Slideshow:
                http://tinyurl.com/43ypz7x                          going to:
                         Youtube:
             http://www.youtube.com/watch?                          www.optoutprescreen.com or calling 1-888-567-8688. This
                      v=dJJcjfAauxs                                 will stop preapproved credit solicitations for life.
                          Podcast:                                  www.donotcall.gov or calling 1-888-382-1222. Stops tele-
                 http://itct.podbean.com/
                                                                    marketers from calling your home/cell phone number for
                                                                    life (no longer only five years).
          Like these tools? Provide
                 freedback at
            http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/                          A credit freeze has fees associated, but it is a very inexpen-
                       BHTN97Z                                      sive option to protect against identity theft and is cheaper



               University of Idaho Extension is your source for unbiased financial Information.
The University of Idaho Extension System does not sell, promote or endorse any financial product or institution. Our programs are strictly educational. Seek professional advice
from your accountant or financial advisor for specific product information. The University of Idaho provides equal opportunity in education and employment on the basis of race,
color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, or status as a disabled veteran or Vietnam-era veteran, as required by state and federal laws.
Electronic copies of this newsletter are available at http://extension.ag.uidaho.edu/madison

and more effective than paying for a           A timeshare is ownership in a sliver of real
credit protection service. It also will give   estate. The idea is elusive because you will
you the peace of mind knowing your fi-         not always stay in the same property or
nancial identity is safe.                      unit, and you are often limited to specific
                                               dates every year. However you may ex-
Photo by Paalia and used under the crea-       change “ownership credits” and trade for a
tive commons license as found here:            different location or date, which may or may
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by         not be more expensive. As confusing as it
/2.0/deed.en.                                  sounds, you actually get a deed in most
                                               cases, which means that while you can’t
                                               necessarily touch it at any given time, you
           How To Buy a                        essentially own some kind of real estate.
          Used Timeshare                       Surprisingly the secondary market for time-
           by Luke Erickson                    shares is not very active with buyers, but
        Madison County Educator                has a good deal of sellers. “Why the imbal-
         erickson@uidaho.edu                   ance of supply and
                                               demand?” your eco-
I’m a huge advocate of buying used, be it      nomic mind must be
cars, furniture, clothing, q-tips, or vaca-    screaming right
tions. Now, hold on, it’s not as gross as it   now—or maybe it’s
sounds—a used vacation can actually be         only my mind that
quite nice. I’m talking about used time-       does that.
shares, which can be a great buy, often
between 70-90% off the original price.         The answer is “imperfect information.” Buy-
                                               ers don’t know where to look, and sellers
Now, if you’ve never stayed in a time-         don’t know how to sell effectively, probably
share, you might be wondering what all         because the costs and benefits of such a
the hype is about. Even if you have            product can be difficult to nail down. Also
stayed in one, you might be wondering,         there are vast networks of professional time-
because some timeshares are nothing            share salespeople, who are very good at
more than a hotel room. On the other           what they do, and offer free steak dinners in
hand, some are the very epitome of lux-        order to sell NEW timeshares. But, there are
ury, with majestic views, multiple bed-        far fewer professionals selling USED time-
rooms, full kitchens, barbecue grills, and     shares, and they are rarely accompanied by
great amenities like swimming pools,           a cut of angus top sirloin. The timeshare,
saunas, tennis courts, golf courses, and       that is, not the professional, though I guess
little huts where you can buy 50 cent          you never know . . .
candy bars for 2 bucks. A true vacation
home, even if only for a week.                 Life changes such as divorce and bank-
                                               ruptcy can be powerful incentives to dump a
“Good times, my friend,” I say as I            timeshare, though I suspect, in most cases,
munch on my $2 chocolate bar.                  the timeshare was just too expensive in the
                                               first place for most buyers. These and other
                                               factors make original holders of timeshares
                                               eager to dump them, even at large losses.

                                               As a potential buyer, know that the sales
                                               prices will NOT include typical ongoing ex-
                             Email “subscribe” to erickson@uidaho.edu


penses, like annual fees ($500 - typical),          tips laying around, unless you really are
property taxes, special assessments, or             that frugal, in which case I can only say,
other miscellaneous fees, all of which can          “Bless you, my child.”
increase substantially with little notice.
There are also one time transfer fees ($0-          Contact Luke Erickson, erick-
$200) and closing costs ($0-$2000).                 son@uidaho.edu, to arrange a free per-
                                                    sonalized workshop on this or any other
These are the real killers of the deal. You         Personal Finance topic to an audience of
must also remember your date restrictions           your choice. If your desired workshop lo-
for use, and keep in mind the transporta-           cation is outside a 90 mile radius from
tion costs you will bear, in order to physi-        Rexburg, Idaho, you will need to provide
cally get to your timeshare every year. Af-         Luke with some cold hard cash to cover
ter accounting for these costs, a timeshare         travel costs. Thanks for helping change
in Maui for $100 might actually cost you            lives two cents at a time!
tens of thousands to use.
                                                    Photos by RiRi Trautmann & Ray-from-
In the secondary mar-                               LA, used under creative commons license
ket for timeshares,                                 found here:
some benefits don’t                                 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by
transfer, like pool privi-                          /2.0/deed.en
leges, sauna use, op-
portunities to “extend”                                 How to Protect Yourself
or buy additional
points. Find out before-                                 Against Identity Theft
hand what benefits                                            and Fraud
might be excluded.
                                                                By Audrey Liddil
                                                               aliddil@uidaho.edu
Instead of simply figuring out how much
you could afford to spend on a timeshare,
a better place to start is assessing how            Scams of all types
much you already spend on annual vaca-              are the fastest
tions. The idea is to get a better deal on          growing crime in
vacations, not to spend more money just             the U.S. The
to make the timeshare work.                         crimes are costing
                                                    people increasingly
So where does one find this elusive flea            more money and
market for used timeshares? Some major
                                                    time for those that
real estate companies have used timeshare
divisions, but your average Joe, or Jose-           are affected. Identity theft is one of the
phine, wanting a glimpse at the market              largest scams currently. To guard against
might do well by starting at good ol’ fash-         it:
ioned Ebay. Of course beware of sellers              Guard social security numbers, credit
who lack consistent history of positive rat-        and debit card numbers and computer
ings.                                               passwords carefully.
                                                     Use your credit card and not a debit
Like any used market, beware of scams
                                                    card to purchase items on-line.
and frauds. Do your homework, and ask
questions. After all, last thing you want is         Carefully retain receipts and shred be-
to show up, and find a bunch of used q-             fore trashing.
                          Email “subscribe” to erickson@uidaho.edu

 Never give out detailed financial informa-     trouble that needs you to wire emergency
tion over the phone or internet unless you        money. Don’t give money without hanging
have initiated the contact with the company       up and calling the person‘s cell phone
and you are sure of the authenticity of the       number or another family member to find
phone number or the internet web address.         out if they made the call and the emergency
 Never respond to unsolicited e-mail or         is real.
phone contacts that ask you for this infor-
mation.                                           We still have scams in the travel industry
 Keep a copy of account numbers and con-        with deals that come with a catch. Also,
tact numbers for each of your accounts in a       scams with health care products that ad-
safe place.                                       vertise the latest “medical miracle”, of
 Reporting lost or stolen personal informa-     course for a price. Any serious medical
tion as soon as you recognize the problem         breakthrough that is scientifically based
can significantly reduce losses.                  will be in the newspaper or on the evening
 Regularly check all bills and statements       news. Don’t get involved with free trial of-
for suspicious activity and don’t leave mail in   fers that are used in order to get your
unlocked mail boxes.                              credit card number and then enroll you in
 Don’t carry important documents around         ongoing fees that are hard to stop. If it’s too
with you on a daily basis.                        good to be true, it probably is.
 Shred all personal financial information
before trashing, and shred pre-approved           Additional Concerns:
credit card offers that come to you in the        Do you post pictures on your social net-
mail.                                             working sites? To protect yourself and your
 As an added precaution, go to                  family turn off the geotagging feature on
www.annualcreditreport.com to get a free          your camera and cell phone. If you post a
credit report each year and check for any fi-     picture with geotagging a stranger could
nancial activity that you might not have          track you on Google Maps to wherever the
made. Equifax, Experian and Trans Union           photo was taken. With a little internet re-
are credit reporting companies that keep this     search following e-mail addresses you used
type of information.                              to post your picture, others could find a lot
                                                  of information about you. This information
The University of Idaho Personal Finance          could make your home vulnerable if you
website has additional information,               are on vacation, or your family at risk if
www.extension.uidaho.edu/personalfinance/         you are at home or on vacation. Also, when
creditanddebt/cd_qualifying.html                  using social networking sites use high se-
                                                  curity settings so items you post aren’t sent
Watch out for these additional scams:             out so broadly.
 Fake checks used to buy something from          
you or to pay you for a sweepstake you sup-       Photo by Jpoirrier, used under the Creative
posedly won, etc. When cashed these checks        Commons license found here:
bounce and your bank will come after you to       http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-
settle the account. Fake check fraud was a        sa/2.0/deed.en
top scam in 2009.
 Family help scam. Someone calls who
identifies themselves as a family member in

								
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