Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Chances Are Your Credit Report Is Wrong

Banks use credit scores, so do insurance agents and even employers. But if you don't know what's on those reports, you could be in for a shock because the chances are your credit report is wrong, KMBC's Jim Flink reported.Flink talked with a woman who sued one of the credit bureaus and won. A judge limited what she could say about the case.

The woman, who asked only to be identified as Annie, should have had a great credit score. She paid off a house and her car. But according to the credit bureaus, Annie did not even exist. Instead, she and another woman with horrible credit were made into the same person."It was embarrassing, frustrating," Annie told Flink.

Annie said that she did not even know she had a problem until she applied for a home improvement loan with her bank of 25 years. The bank pulled up her credit report online."There were all these bad debts -- Sears, Fingerhut -- for $2,500 and $3,300," Annie said.Flink reported that there was a total of $44,000 in bad debt from businesses Annie said she had never heard of."And I said, 'Oh my gosh. Those are not mine.' And she said, 'It's on your credit report,'" Annie said.

Almost immediately, Annie went online, as directed by the credit agencies, to try to set the record straight. She faxed and phoned to no avail because to the credit agencies, Annie did not even exist, Flink reported."And I said, 'No, no, no, you have to understand that's not me. You have someone else with the same name,'" Annie said.

For full post Chances Are Your Credit Report Is Wrong

Friday, November 24, 2006

Three found guilty in credit card counterfeiting trial

The jury in the credit card counterfeiting trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court has found the three accused men guilty on all 16 counts by unanimous verdicts tonight.

Detective Sergeant Declan O’Sullivan said afterwards: “We welcome the verdict of the jury. This was a significant blow to organised international credit card fraud.”

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin also put on record the reason for the mysterious disappearance of one of the three accused, Ali Raza, half way through the trial.

“To use a colloquialism, he did a runner.”

He will lose his €10,000 bail.

Mohammed Khaleed, 25, of 40 Gilbey Yard, London, Mohammed Majid, 37, of 15 Jones Road, London, and Ali Raza, 48, of 2 Knotts Green Road, Leyton, London, were found guilty by unanimous verdicts after five hours of deliberation, following almost three weeks of evidence.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin adjourned sentencing until tomorrow.

He remanded Khaleed and Majid in custody until then.

A bench warrant was issued for the arrest of Raza who disappeared in the middle of the trial.

Two of the charges relate to having an electronic device for reading and writing the magnetic strip data on a card with the intention of using it in connection with theft or fraud, and 14 charges relate to having plastic cards with magnetic strips to be used in a theft.

All charges relate to Saturday, June 3, at 28 Elmvale Avenue, Wilton, Cork.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Bill's Magic Credit Card APR Lowering Script

Now, if you’re thinking about lowering your credit card interest rate, remember, it might not appear for a statement or two so plan ahead for your Christmas spending.

Here's the script:

“Hi, my name is [your name]. I am a good customer, but I have received several offers in the mail from other credit card companies with lower annual percentage rates. I want a lower rate on my credit card. Can you help?”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thousands of Credit Card Numbers on Stolen Computer

When was the last time you checked your credit card statement? That's the question for thousands of customers whose names and credit cards are in the hands of a thief. All he had to do to get it was steal a computer.

You've heard about the big security breaches -- ChoicePoint last year, also Bank of America, the VA. It also happens to smaller business where you may shop. Whether it's in line or online, credit card purchases are so frequent security is an afterthought.

John Mark, Salt Lake City Resident: "I don't have any concerns about security."

But all that information is stored in a database. It's easy one-stop shopping for crooks.

Michael Scott, Utah Attorney General's office: "It takes a long time to go through a million people's garbage cans, doesn't take long to find it on a lap top."

It happened to Wine Racks America out of North Salt Lake City. Ten thousand customers were recently notified after a computer was stolen. The business owner was able to access the computer through the internet.

Sgt. Mitch Gwillian, North Salt Lake Police Dept.: "He was able to take control of the computer and manage some of the info and get files off the computer of his customers that were potentially damaging."

Police say that will help, but his customers are not one hundred percent secure.

Michael Scott: "Because that information can be lost and the thieves may not act on it right away. You can have the information lost and you are hanging around and waiting for something else to happen."

How secure do you feel providing credit card information? A Survey USA poll for Eyewitness News shows only 11 percent of those asked feel very secure about providing credit card information during a purchase. Seventy percent are somewhat sure and nineteen percent are not sure at all.

Also, 16 % of those polled have been victims of identity theft. Police are also using the IP address provided by the business owner to track down the thief. They say they have solid leads.

We asked people in the same poll and fewer than half feel like they know what to do to protect themselves. So we surveyed several information sites and here are the most common tips:

Friday, November 10, 2006

Credit union offers payday lending alternative

By Phoebe Sweet / Staff Writer

When officials at Nevada Federal Credit Union found out a quarter of its members frequented payday loan businesses when running short on cash, they decided it was time to offer an alternative.

"We're trying to help them get out of the payday loan cycle," said Brad Beal, Nevada Federal president. "We thought, we need to step in here and offer this at a lower cost. They need to have a means to get out of the cycle."

So that's when Nevada Federal, which has 83,000 members, started offering what they call ADVANCpay, the payday lending alternative. The two-week, maximum $500 loan is available to members for a one-time $40 fee.

More and more credit unions across the country are offering payday-style products to members.

Many offer the same service — payday advances — with low APRs, savings requirements, or financial education components.

"We think it's great," said Sharon Reuss, a spokeswoman for North Carolina-based Center for Responsible Lending. "Ultimately it's about helping members because if members are in bad financial shape, it's not benefiting the credit union."

And when some payday loans can have up to 400 percent APR, Reuss said borrowers need all the help they can get staying out of that debt cycle.

"We think that's much preferable to triple digit interest rates," said Reuss.

Beal said Nevada Federal's product works similarly to traditional payday loans.

"Except we charge far less than the payday lenders charge," said Beal.

He said the credit union found a few years ago, when they were surveying members to see how many were using payday lenders, that payday businesses usually charge more than $80 for a $500 loan.

And if borrowers can't pay back the loan in two weeks, payday lenders will allow them to roll over the loan for additional fees and interest.

"With payday loans, people get trapped. Every payday they're broke. You can't get out," he said. "We wanted to offer our members an opportunity to break the cycle."

To ensure that members didn't run into the same problems repaying their ADVANCpay loans that some people do repaying payday loan, Nevada Federal created 18-month, 18 percent Break the Cycle loans.

Available to any member who uses ADVANCpay, the product is available along with financial counseling and education to help members with monthly budgeting and financial planning.

"There's a huge segment of the market out there who don't manage their finances as well as they might. If you look at the number of payday lenders up and down the street you can see that," said Beal. "And we're trying to help them."

The Credit Union National Association has taken no official position on their members offering payday-style products.

"Payday lending, for better or worse, is used by a number of people who are outside of the financial services mainstream," said CUNA spokeswoman Katye Long in an e-mail. "Credit unions perceive offering an alternative as getting these folks in the door, and then introducing them to more traditional financial services that can save them money over the long run."

But not all credit unions are on board with the payday alternatives.

The 37,000-member Clark County Credit Union is sticking to what it's always done — cover bounced checks and charge members a single insufficient funds fee.

"We're not trying to gouge people. Everything we do is for the member," said Mark Andrews, vice president of marketing for CCCU. "We don't think payday lending is a good thing for borrowers. It's an act of desperation."

Instead, Andrews said his credit union offers old-fashioned personal loans.

He said members can often receive approval within the same hour, and always within the same day.

But he said some members still turn to payday lenders, again out of desperation.

"Part of the motivation may be.... that they don't want to confess that to their financial institution," he said. "When we see that the traffic is going to the payday loan company we (talk to the member) gently and confidentially."

Members at CCCU can meet with a loan counselor, instantly pay off their high-interest loan, and "transfer it to something that's more amenable to a household budget," said Andrews.

His credit union considered offering a payday loan product, but decided it wasn't in the best interests of the member.

But according to Community Financial Services Association of America, the payday industry organization, there is clearly a demand for services from the 22,000 locations nationwide. Payday lenders make $40 billion in loans yearly.

Lindsey Medsker, a spokeswoman for CFSA, said the industry welcomes credit unions.

"Competition is good for consumers and helps mainstream the payday advance product. As the product becomes more mainstream, the perception of the industry is likely to change," she said.

Medsker said credit unions have begun to offer the products because they realize how many members were turning to payday lenders.

Credit unions do have one advantage, though: their non-profit status.

Because credit unions aren't in business to make money, they may be able to undercut for-profit lenders.

Dennis Bassford, chief executive of payday lender Moneytree, said he thinks the additional competition is great.

He said the industry has seen a minimal effect in Washington state, where Moneytree is based, from credit union products, but he expects the move will be a boon in the end.

"What it does is reaffirm the need for this type of short-term credit in the marketplace," said Bassford. "People who use payday loans have accounts with banks and credit unions. So they're people who already have a banking relationship. The reason they come to us is that they're not having their needs and demands for short-term credit met.

And he said it will drive the payday loan industry to be more creative about the products it offers.

CFSA's Medsker said the market has yet to feel the effects of credit union competition nationwide, especially since few are promoting their products. Even when the products are offered more widely, however, Medsker said she doubts credit unions will ever take the place of the traditional payday loan.

"One thing many credit unions are doing is they require a certain amount of the loan to go into a savings account," or require weeks of credit counseling, she said. "For people who just need $200 between paychecks, they don't have six weeks to go through financial education before they get a loan."

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