What to Do Before You Start Your Home Search

The process of buying a home can be nerve-wracking for some who have not been through it before, but with a little bit of preparation, you can help minimize some surprises along the way.

One important thing you can do as soon as you start thinking about buying a home is checking your credit report. Ideally, this should be done at least six months before purchasing a home in order to give yourself time to dispute information, if needed. It is important to know how your payment history is being reported by your creditors. And if you see any unfamiliar information, it’s important to know how to take action.

Consumers are entitled to a free copy of their credit report, from each of the nationwide consumer reporting agencies, once a year by visiting annualcreditreport.com.

What should you look for? Any information that might be inaccurate or incomplete. In the personal information section of your credit report, is your name (and any former names, such as a maiden name) listed accurately? Is your address up to date? Are there any addresses you don’t recognize? In the account information portion of your credit report, are all of the accounts listed complete and accurate? Are there any accounts that you don’t recognize? Do the balances appear accurate?

If you find information that appears inaccurate or incomplete, contact the lender or creditor associated with the account. You can also contact the nationwide consumer reporting agency that issued the credit report. If necessary, take steps to change some of your credit-based behaviors.

Here are some other items to include on your checklist as you prepare to buy a home:

— Gather any required documents you may need to apply for a mortgage. Tax returns, pay stubs and bank statements are among the ones you’ll need.

— Figure out how much home you can afford. There are a number of online mortgage calculators that can help. Remember a home’s purchase price is only part of the picture; you may also be responsible for a down payment, closing costs, taxes, insurance and other expenses. Learn your debt-to-income ratio and familiarize yourself with the requirements for loan qualification.

Buying a home is one of the most important – and largest – financial decisions you may make, and you owe it to yourself to prepare for it thoroughly and thoughtfully and hopefully smooth out any bumps in the road to home ownership.

There’s a New iPhone Text Scam Making the Rounds

smartphone trade in

Smartphone owners, particularly iPhone users, are the target of another new scam. And if you have an iPhone, you may have been duped without even knowing it.

This phishing scam is in the form of a text message that says your Apple ID or iCloud account needs to be updated or else it will be terminated (which would be detrimental for any iOS user). To prevent this, you’re instructed to follow the link included in the text. And this is where the hackers take over — the link sends you to a fraudulent site requesting your information, including your first and last name and even passport information.

This is a scam perpetrated with the intent of stealing your personal identity. According to Apple’s privacy policy, they will not send you requests like this, and say that account related information interactions typically happen in iTunes or your Apple ID account itself. The policy also outlines information it will never ask users for outside of their account — Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, full credit card number or credit card CCV code — and advise users not to follow any links and to report any potential scams to the company. Apple did not respond to our request for comment on this particular scam by the time this story was published.

Take Steps to Protect Your Identity

In an increasingly electronic world, it’s becoming even more crucial to watch what information you share and with whom you share it. Scammers are regularly coming up with new ways to target consumers for their personal information to access their bank account, credit card and credit history.

Using a credit monitoring service can provide you with alerts of any credit activity, so you can verify the transactions appearing are actually ones you’ve made. A sudden, unexpected drop in your credit scores can potentially signal identity theft is occurring. You can keep an eye on your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.

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The post There’s a New iPhone Text Scam Making the Rounds appeared first on Credit.com.

3 Things to Remember as EMV Cards Head Your Way

PrepForEMVNew transactional cards with embedded computer chips—called EMV cards—are on their way to consumers with the hope of protecting their financial information from cybercriminals. These cards may make transactional card purchases safer, but the same tried and true, basic security principles apply as your new card makes its way into your hands:

1. Know what to expect

Be on the lookout for a card to arrive and know what to do after it does. Receiving a transactional card in the mail might be a small risk if your mailbox isn’t secure, so you may want to consider contacting your card issuers to find out if and when they’ll be sending you cards.

“It never hurts to just give [the card issuer] a call with the number on your card and ask what their plans are,” says Matt Schultz, senior analyst at CreditCards.com. Most major financial institutions are adopting these new cards, so the odds are that you’ll be receiving one sometime in the near future, if you haven’t already.

According to Schultz, the deluge of new cards arriving in the mail in response to data breaches may have lowered consumer awareness of them, but an EMV card is more than just a replacement card to stick in your wallet. There are important details to keep in mind, such as the chip in an EMV card protects your payment and personal information when it is “dipped” at payment rather than swiped. Therefore, after you get your new chip card, it’s important to pay by “dipping” whenever a store offers it.

2. Changes to make

When your card arrives, you’ll want to check it and read the paperwork included with it. According to Schultz, if your card has a new number, you’ll need to go through your online and autopay accounts to update the payment data to avoid late fees or other issues that might occur by using your old credit card number.

“That’s not the most convenient thing ever,” Schultz says, but he also points out it can be the impetus to better organize your financial accounts. “It can give you the excuse to review what you’re buying and what you’re paying for that you’re not actually using,” he says.

Upon reviewing your finances, if you see that you’re spending money on subscriptions or accounts you don’t need or use anymore, this is a great time to get rid of them before entering your new EMV card’s information for autopay purposes.

And don’t forget about digital versions of your old card. Clear any online accounts where that old data is stored so you don’t accidentally try to use it in the future. This also applies to apps on your smartphone, which might have stored your card data. If you haven’t used an app in months, it might be time to get rid of it, removing the chance of impulse buys or security risks if your phone is lost or stolen.

3. Keep security in mind

Security is still important to keep top of mind; although EMV cards are designed to be more secure, using cards online is not free of risk. For example, if you enter your new card’s information online to make a payment, you are putting that data at risk in the event of a data breach because the chip technology can’t be used for online purchases.

Your old card should also be destroyed properly. Using a crosscut shredder is usually the best method, but you’ll want to wait until you receive and activate your new card before doing so.

Be patient

After your old card is destroyed, be sure to pay attention to whether your chip card is working correctly. According to Schultz, payments with EMV cards may also sometimes mean a longer wait at check-out, since most registers take longer to read an EMV chip than they do a standard security strip, so patience on your part and that of other shoppers is definitely a virtue.


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