Five Tips to Avoid Identity Theft

Identity theft victims reported losing more than $15 billion in 2014. That’s more than the combined losses from burglary, motor vehicle theft and other property theft in the same period. While it’s no surprise that identity theft can leave you feeling vulnerable, there are things you can do to take some control.

Step 1: Order your credit report when you realize you’ve become a victim. You need to quickly find out about any errors showing up on your report. Go to annualcreditreport.com for free copies of your report from all three nationwide credit-reporting companies-Experian, Equifax and Transunion.

If you see any errors or fraudulent charges, report them to the credit reporting companies right away. They will investigate those items and then forward the information to the business that reported it. The business has 30 days to respond.

If the business providing the loan finds an error, it must notify the credit reporting company so your file can be corrected. If your credit changes because of the business’ investigation, the reporting company will send you a letter with the results.

Step 2: Place a fraud alert to make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. Call any one of the three nationwide credit reporting companies and ask them to put an initial fraud alert on your credit report. They must contact the other two companies about your alert.

Equifax

1-800-525-6285

Experian

1-800-397-3742

TransUnion

1-800-680-7289

While there’s an alert on your report, anytime a business performs a credit inquiry they will need to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name. This may require contacting you, so be sure you’ve updated your credit report with your current contact information. The alert will stay on your report for 90 days and allows you to order an additional free copy of your report from each of the three credit reporting companies.

Step 3: Consider a credit freeze. A Credit Freeze, also known as a Security Freeze, gives you maximum control over who has access to your credit. It can stop a thief from opening new accounts in your name because lenders and other creditors won’t be able to get your credit report.

With a Credit Freeze in place, even you will have to take special steps to apply for credit. You can still open new accounts, apply for a job, rent an apartment, buy insurance, refinance your mortgage, or do anything else that requires your credit report. But businesses will need to verify your identity so they may need to contact you and you will have to call the reporting company to lift the freeze in order for the business to review your report. Again, be sure they have your most current information through your credit report.

A few things to know: Due to stringent laws, you’ll have to contact each reporting company separately to place a Credit Freeze. Also, placing a credit freeze does not affect your credit score. Finally, the cost depends on where you live. If you are 65 or older, or a victim of identity theft and submit a valid investigative or incident report, complaint with a law enforcement agency or the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the fee will be waived.

Step 4: File an Identity Theft Report. An Identity Theft Report is a great weapon. You can use it to get fraudulent information removed from your credit report; stop a company from collecting debts that result from identity theft-or from selling the debt to another company for collection. You can also use it to place an extended fraud alert on your credit report, and to get information about accounts the identity thief opened or misused.

Filing an Identity Theft Report is simple: Submit a complaint about the theft to the FTC. When you finish writing all the details, print a copy of the report. It will print as an Identity Affidavit.

File a police report about your identity theft, and get a copy of the police report or the report number. (Make sure to bring your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit and attach it to your police report).

Some credit reporting companies may ask for more information or documentation than the Identity Theft Report includes. It depends on the policies of the credit reporting company and the business that sent the information about you to the reporting company.

Step 5: Report fraud on existing accounts. For any of your accounts that show fraudulent charges, contact the business right away. Explain that you’re an identity theft victim. Close the account and follow their reporting process. You can ask if they’ll accept your Identity Theft Report. Additionally, write to the fraud department of each business. By law, they have to review your letter, investigate your complaint, and tell you the results of their investigation. If the information is wrong, the business must tell the credit reporting company. Make sure to ask for a letter from the business confirming that it removed the fraudulent information.

On any credit card or bank account that remains open, take steps to protect yourself. Change your password and place code words on accounts that allow them. Code words are offered on some accounts as an added level of security. You can typically choose your code word. You might consider using something only you would know and is not public knowledge. Finally, continually monitor your accounts, keeping an eye out for any suspicious activity.

Thinking About Re-mortaging? Read These Tips First

More and more of use are signing up for limited time low interest rate mortgages

and then switching to a different mortgage when the low interest period expires.

It’s a great way to save money and can, potentially, save you thousands in

repayments. However, there are a few things you need to think about befoe you re-

mortgage.

Firstly, check there’s no early redemption penalty on your mortgage. These days

most early redemption penalties expire at the same time as the low interest rate

period, in which case there’s no problem. Make sure that if your mortgage has an

early redemption penalty that it does last beyond this period, otherwise it could cost

you a significant amount of money.

Secondly, remember to take into account any additional costs when you re-

mortgage. These could include an application fee for your new mortgage, legal fees,

a valuation fee, or a fee for paying off your existing mortgage early. You need to

include these fees in your calculations ehn you work out how much you’ll save.

Thirdly, consider taking financial advice from a qualified financial advisor. If you go

to one who charges a fee for there services rather than earning commission on

investment products, you can be sure of unbiased help. Even if you think you know

exactly what you’re doing, a financial advisor will often point out details that you

hadn’t considered.

Finally, make sure you read the terms and conditions of your new mortgage. It may

seem like a good deal but if it turns out to be less flexible in the long run then it

may end up costing you more than you save.

As long as you tread carefully, and get good advice, re-mortgaging is an excellent

way to save money on your mortgage.

10 Often Forgotten or Overlooked Tax Deductions and Tax Tips

Tax tips and tax deductions can save you thousands in taxable income.

The IRS is only interested in claiming that which they are entitled to, but

it’s up to you to determine what’s exempt from paying taxes on. The IRS

has the literature to explain what is deductible if you know what to ask for

or where to find it. Homeowners have the best advantage of itemizing their

taxes and again, it’s up to you to know how to avoid paying too much. Let’s

take a look at some often overlooked and legal deductions for your taxes.

Mortgage Interest is obviously a key place to look for tax deductions but did

you know these:

Tax Deduction – Tax Tip # 1

Mortgage fees known as ‘points’, discount points you may have paid to

acquire a better interest rate on your mortgage. These ‘points’ are deductible

on your taxes. A point is equal to 1 percent of the amount financed.

Tax Deduction – Tax Tip # 2

Refinancing your mortgage usually contains fees that you incurred to

re-establish your mortgage. There are many fees deductible on your

taxes hiding in this process.

Tax Deduction – Tax Tip # 3

Changing jobs or residence because of a job, that caused a move of

more than 50 miles may allow you to deduct certain moving expenses

from your taxes.

Tax Deduction – Tax Tip # 4

If you paid a home mortgage pre-payment penalty, it may be deductible

from your taxes.

Tax Deduction – Tax Tip # 5

Refinancing your home can incur several fees that you can deduct from

your taxes. Ask your tax advisor for a list of refinance deductible items.

Tax Deduction – Tax Tip # 6

Pro-rated mortgage interest is often overlooked on your taxes, check

your closing settlement sheet.

Tax Deduction – Tax Tip # 7

Property taxes on a home you sold last year as well as the property taxes

on your new home can be combined to give you a greater deduction on

your taxes.

Tax Deduction – Tax Tip # 8

Pre-paid property taxes or pre-paid mortgage interest is often overlooked.

Tax Deduction – Tax Tip # 9

Casualty Loss if not compensated from an insurance claim can also be a

huge tax deduction. This is property loss due to fire or weather related

damages.

Tax Deduction – Tax Tip # 10

If your home is on leased land, you may be able to deduct rent payments

for the land. There are specific guidelines here, so seek these requirements

from a knowledgeable tax advisor.

It’s important that you retain as much of your hard earned money as legally possible

and it’s your choice to find out what you can legally deduct and claim on your taxes.

For more detailed assistance on what you can do to reduce your tax debt, don’t

hesitate to ask for assistance. It could save you thousands of dollars in a single year.

Powerful Tips for Working With a Mortgage Broker

When you have chosen a reliable mortgage broker, you have to ensure that you will make the most out of the professional services provided to you. Often house buyers are under too much stress and this may lead to costly mistakes. You would not want to end up in such a situation. Use some practical advice on how to make full use of the specialist services provided to you.

Make sure that you can select from a range of options.

You can expect an experienced and reputable mortgage broker to work with a large number of lenders and to offer a variety of loan products including home loans backed by the government. The more products there are the higher your chances of finding the best one will be. You should be able to select from different options which match your requirements precisely. This will give you the flexibility which you require as a borrower. Just keep in mind that the broker cannot make the final decision for you. You are the one who is solely responsible for this.

Be completely honest.

The job of the mortgage broker is to negotiate on your behalf. The specialist will use his knowledge, skills, experience and personal contacts to make sure that you get approved for your preferred loan amount available at a rate which you can afford to pay. If you provide false or misleading information, especially about your income, debt and credit history, you will automatically reduce the bargaining power of the broker to the lowest possible minimum as no lender would like to deal with dishonest applicants.

It is best if you share all details about your income, debt and credit history. That way, the specialist will be able to develop a negotiation strategy which will emphasize on your strengths and explain your weaknesses as an applicant. This will give you the highest chances of securing a good deal.

Use the tools and analysis provided by the broker.

The modern specialists work like financial advisors rather than like loan officers who give you a single option that you have to accept or reject. They will analyse your current financial situation and your ability to borrow. They provide free tools which help you calculate the affordability of different loans and properties. Use the analysis and tools to select the best financing option given your long-term plans. With careful planning, you will get the best house and pay affordable monthly instalments while lowering your risk of default to the lowest possible minimum.

Finally, you should not feel obliged to accept an offer provided by the mortgage broker. You are the one who makes the final decision.

How to Stop Foreclosure and Get a Loan Modification – Tips From a Massachusetts Lawyer

How to stop foreclosure, modify your mortgage, reduce your interest rate, and decrease your mortgage payments — Tips from a Massachusetts lawyer.

If you are behind on your mortgage payments, your interest rate is about to adjust, or your payments are simply becoming unaffordable, the first thing you need to do is take action.

The worst thing a homeowner can do is nothing. The mortgage company won’t seek you out to ask you if you want to solve your financial troubles.

Sometimes, simply by calling your servicer and explaining the reason for your late payments, you can actually stop impending foreclosure proceedings and modify your mortgage.

Here in Massachusetts, the mortgage company is legally required to give you a “90 Day Notice” when you default on your payments. This notice — which the mortgage company must provide to you as a condition to starting foreclosure on your home — tells you that you have 90 days before your home can be foreclosed on, and allows you to make up the missed or late payments during those 90 days. If you get one of these notices, it is vital that you take action immediately.

If you take the rights steps (which often means getting help from a qualified Massachusetts mortgage and foreclosure lawyer), you may be able to get your loan modified at this point.

Why? Because the mortgage company wants to keep you in your home as long as it can get a reasonable payment amount from you. It knows that your loan has become unaffordable to you — but if you can prove that you can afford a reduced payment, you often will be able to stop foreclosure or modify your loan.

How to do this? The best way is to get legal ammunition. There are a variety of legal claims that you might be able to make against your mortgage company that you don’t even know about. For example, did you know that if there are material errors in your HUD-1 Settlement Statement, you may be able to rescind your mortgage under the Truth In Lending Act? Or that if a broker put you into a mortgage with the intent that you refinance it in a few years, the broker may be liable for “predatory lending”?

Massachusetts has foreclosure laws that are extremely favorable to homeowners, and the Massachusetts Attorney General has been vigorously enforcing these laws against big lenders. You may even be able to get money damages against your mortgage servicer if they mismanage the money in your escrow account. The number of claims is only limited by your (or your lawyer’s) knowledge of the law.

Once you have the legal ammunition you need against your mortgage company, the next step is to take your claims to them to demand a loan modification or other foreclosure assistance. If they refuse, you can take them to court. In order to get you to dismiss your claims, most servicers will allow the foreclosure to stop or do a loan modification.

So, a foreclosure isn’t always inevitable when you are unable to afford your mortgage payments anymore. With the right help, a default can be the first step in getting your loan modified.