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Managing Debt

If you are having problems paying your debts you are not alone. Thousands of Americans are having problems paying their bills. The people that are having economic problems are mainly medium income families. These are people that work hard and want to pay what they owe. If this is you, the important thing is for you to act quickly. Doing nothing will only result in bigger problems, such as the loss of your property and a bad credit history. You can get help stopping any harassment and negotiating reduced payments with your creditors. A good attorney should also be able to remove negative information that is being unfairly reported on your credit reports. This can usually be done inexpensively, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in fees and higher interest charges.

Victims of Identity Theft

Identity theft has become one of the fastest growing crimes in America. Anybody can become a victim of identity theft regardless of how careful they are with their personal information. While being careful with information can help, identity thieves get their victims’ personal information from countless sources. As most victims of identity theft can attest, once thieves begin using your personal information it can be very difficult and time consuming to stop. You can get help stopping the illegal use of your personal information, working to bring the identity thieves to justice, and fixing the damage done to your credit reports.

Identity thieves get personal information from many sources, including businesses and other institutions. They have been known to steal computer systems containing personal information of thousands of people at a time. They steal records or personal information from their work. They bribe employees who have access to personal information. They pose as a landlords, employers, or others who have a legal right to access your information. They may also steal personal information through email or telephone calls by posing as a legitimate company and claiming that you have a problem with your account.

If your personal information has been stolen, or you have provided personal information to someone fraudulently posing as a legitimate company, you should begin taking steps to protect yourself. According to the Federal Trade Commission, California is ranked third in the nation for victims of identity theft. If someone has started using your personal information you should get help immediately.

What you can begin doing right now.

An important first step to managing debt or fixing identity theft is to find out what is on your credit report. Your credit report is a payment history of debts including credit cards, loans and mortgages. It also includes information that is not related to credit, like employment that you have had, and other facts that exist in public files such as your address.

Lenders review your credit report when you apply for credit and they use this information to decide whether to give you credit or not. Credit reporting agencies, which are private companies that work with banks and other lending institutions, keep credit reports. The three largest credit reporting agencies in the U.S. are Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax.

If you get behind at any time with paying loans or with your credit cards, it can be difficult to get another loan, an apartment, or even a job. The majority of negative information is kept on a credit report for seven years from the date it is reported; bankruptcy is most often kept for ten years.

You should obtain copies of your credit reports and review the specific debts that your creditors say you owe to make sure they are correct. Since each agency can have slightly different information it is important to obtain your report from all three agencies.

Beware of companies that claim to repair credit.

There are “credit repair companies” out there that advertise using such titles as “Credit Counselors,” “Insolvency Assistance” or “Credit Evaluators.” They often use variations of the following message: “Have you been turned down because of bad credit? We can help you!”

Many credit repair companies represent that they can clear all negative information from your credit report, regardless of how accurate it may be, using a “secret” method. The secret method they most often use is to bombard credit reporting agencies with requests to verify information. Very few times does this tactic work because once the information is verified it will simply be registered again on your credit report.

Beware of offers of guaranteed credit.

Credit repair companies and others often state that they can “guarantee” you credit regardless of your credit history. Many times they take your money without following through on their guarantee. In certain cases, what you receive is a “secured” credit card that requires you to deposit and maintain hundreds of dollars in a savings account, or a card that only allows you to buy from a catalog that belongs to a business you probably don’t know anything about. You don’t need a credit repair company (or anyone else) to help you get a secured credit card.

Credit repair companies advertise through television and various other forms of media. Be careful if they require you to call a “900” area code telephone number in order to get more information. All calls to these numbers cost money and listening to the message for only a few minutes can cost you a lot.

Other companies may try to get you credit using information that belongs to other people with good credit history. It is a crime to apply for credit using someone else’s name. Do not deal with anybody trying to talk you into this.