Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft

• Create passwords that make sense to you but are not the usual birth date, anniversary, pet or maiden name.

• Use only web sites that are encrypted and secure and have a privacy policy -before you type in your credit card number.

It is helpful to check your credit report annually as well. You should request this information from all three credit agencies (TransUnion (800) 888-4213; Experian (888) 397-3742; Equifax (800) 685-1111) and verify that the information they give you is correct. In addition, ask these agencies to put a “Fraud Alert” on your account, so that before anyone can borrow money they have to contact you in person.

Unfortunately, even with extra effort, identity theft can still happen. We trust total strangers with our personal information everyday – applying for a car loan or mortgage – writing a check – patient care at a hospital – even stamped on our children’s back pack! It would be ludicrous for us not to give out this information from time to time, but knowing where we give it out and to whom is helpful. The key to quick recovery from such a disaster is to notice it quickly and take immediate action. Here’s what to do if you think you may be a victim of this crime:

• Contact the fraud department of all three credit agencies (listed above) and report your findings.

• Call your financial institutions or creditors for any accounts that have been fraudulently accessed or opened and close these accounts.

• Report the identity theft to the police. Get a copy of the police report to give to your creditors for poof of the crime.

• File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission 1-877- ID-THEFT,

Staying proactive and organized will pay off in the long run, for life in general and particularly in trying to avert identify theft. Keeping accurate accounting records, personal files and paper management is key to a calmer, safer existence. If you find it difficult to do on your own, consider hiring a professional organizer who specializes in this expertise. Regardless of the stage of life you are in, get your affairs in order. You are a unique individual with your own identity. No one should be able to take that away from you!

Brainstorming Your Way To Riches!

A great deal has been written about the group thinking concept. Members all participate in solving problems, coming up with new ideas or dreaming up new products. (Many heads are better than one?)

They discuss the product, idea, or problem with each person throwing out their thoughts on the subject regardless of how ridiculous it may seem. This is supposed to generate a vast pool of knowledge, including the answer to what the group is trying to find.

Each idea is written down by one of the group and eventually the puzzle is supposed to fall in place and the solution found.

Another method is for you to do your own private brainstorming, using a tape recorder. When it is played back, it just may have the solution for you.

Generally, however, neither method produces any better results than if you study the matter thoroughly and look at it from every possible angle. After you have “busted” your brain capacity in this manner, sleep in it and let your “subconscious” find the solution.

What Will You Take For A Dollar?

The other day I sat in a meeting listening to a young man extol the virtues of owning real estate. Much of what he said was true. However two things made me sit up and take notice. I couldn’t help but comment.
First, he said the interest on your home loan was tax deductible, so the government underwrites your house payment. I asked the amount the government pays him. He said they didn’t pay him anything. They allowed the interest on his home loan to be deducted from his taxable income.
Assuring him I didn’t want to be nosey, I asked what the deduction meant to him. “Twenty-eight percent of the interest paid, I save on taxes,” was the reply. “So, you get to keep 28 cents for every dollar in interest you pay?” Eagerly he responded, “YES.”

He didn’t see the problem with the math. I decided to help him out. I took some change from my pocket and placed 28 cents on the table. I asked if he would give me a dollar for the coins. Before he could answer, I sweetened the pot. I put a total of 56 cents on the table. I said, “I’ll double the amount Uncle Sam gives you. I’ll give you 56 cents for every dollar you can scrape together.” He didn’t seem too excited about my idea. He understood the demonstration. “Pay off the mortgage.” I told him.
But he wasn’t through. He mentioned, “The property was going up in value.” I asked his age, and he told me 30. I then asked, how well he remembered the early 1980’s. He didn’t.
I told him real estate doesn’t go up in a straight line, and on occasion it goes down. I told him I bought a home in the spring of 1980. Almost immediately the real estate market went flat. Five years later if I sold my home I felt certain I would have owed money to the bank at closing. We waited 10 years before the market started to move up.
Just recently the market hit another bump in the road. In our area prices dipped 3% in the past year. With easy money and low down payments, many new buyers find themselves upside down in their mortgages. Many people, who have a home equity loan up to or even exceeding the value of the property, find themselves in the same boat.
Did he understand the moral? Yes, he did. Borrow as little as possible, pay it off as quickly as you can.
The goal of living debt free is attainable . . . unless you want my 56 cents.