5 Actions that Help Your Credit Score

by Sara Seeger 20. March 2014

Credit Report

A credit score is a three digit number, usually ranging from 300 to 850; the higher the score, the better the credit risk, and by having a better credit risk you could be offered more attractive interest rates on loans. The three main credit bureaus used to evaluate credit worthiness are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Each of these credit bureaus has a slightly different credit range they use when making decisions. If your credit is run and found to be not at the level you expect, don’t fret! While blemished credit can be both stressful and costly, it won’t last forever. No matter how hopeless a situation might seem there are actions you can take immediately to move your credit score in the right direction.

1. Pay Your Bills on Time

One of the best ways to improve your credit score is to pay all of your bills on time. A person’s payment history affects 35 percent of their total credit score. It is imperative to pay at least the minimum balance before it is due. Delinquent payments, even only a few days late, can negatively impact your credit score.

2. Check Your Credit Report Annually

Mistakes can happen. In fact, one-fourth of credit reports contain a serious error, which can affect a credit score. Check your credit report annually. The three major credit bureaus offer a free credit report check once a year. This review will allow you to see any discrepancies or mistakes, and fix them immediately.

3. Develop a Credit History

For newly obtained credit, it is important to not only develop a credit history, but develop a positive and active credit history. Open a credit card account and pay it off responsibly. A great way to do this is to open a credit card, charge a low amount to it per month (anywhere from 20-50 dollars), and pay it off every month. This action creates a successful payment and credit history.

4. Keep Your Credit Card Balance Low

Even if your credit card maximum limit is $2,000 dollars, do not max out that limit. Carrying the maximum balance will actually hurt your credit score. A good rule of thumb is to keep your debt to 30 percent or less of your credit limit. For example, if your credit card limit is $2,000, do not exceed $600 of debt.

5. Establish Different Types of Debt

If you are financially able to obtain different types of debt, it would be beneficial to do so. Lenders like to see that you can manage diverse types of debt. A mix of major credit card loans, car loans, or home loans is healthy for a well-managed credit portfolio.

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How to Use LinkedIn to Further Your Career

by Sara Seeger 18. March 2014

LinkedIn Networking

If you haven’t jumped on the social media bandwagon, I would suggest you do so, immediately. In today’s personal and professional world, social media is more than just updating others of your activities, your family, your whereabouts, or your social status. It is about connecting, interacting, and sharing with others. Humans are social creatures and we choose to interact more frequently with each other through social networking websites. While Facebook and Twitter dominate the social and personal connection, LinkedIn has emerged as a go-to site for job and career conversations. It is a great tool to interact with current co-workers and offers an additional benefit of being an interactive resume, which connects you with recruiters and potential future employers. Listed below are a few tips to improve your LinkedIn profile and potentially enhance your career.

1. Effectively Decorated Resume

LinkedIn states that your profile is 40 times more likely to be seen if you have a 100% complete profile. A complete profile includes listing your current and previous positions, listing education information, including a profile photo, utilizing the profile summary and specialties sections, and having at least three recommendations from your connections. Whew, that may seem like a lot of work, but in the long run, the name of the game is visibility. Ensure your LinkedIn profile is as complete as possible and optimize it by using key words throughout your descriptions so that your information becomes more recognizable and searchable. Oh, and most importantly, remember to be truthful.

2. Connect, Connect, Connect

Co-workers- check! Contacts from undergrad- check! Vendors- check! Connect with other LinkedIn members to build your network. Remember, the more connections you have, the more opportunities you have to be noticed. However, getting your information out to the masses is a strategy that requires you to think quality over quantity. Manage your tendency to connect with people you don't know. It is not about gaining the most connections; it’s about connecting with people who can help you accomplish your objective.

3. Be Interactive

The best way to reach more people on LinkedIn is to interact. Join groups that interest you, share article and blog posts, and comment on and “like” articles your connections share. These actions allow your profile to be more visible, while also establishing yourself in your profession or industry.

4. Build Your Resume

Think of your connections as recommendations. To a potential employer, a LinkedIn recommendation is a reference in advance. Ask your supervisors, co-workers, professors, etc. for professional recommendations. Although recommendations don’t take the place of reference letters or calls, they effectively decorate your LinkedIn profile which may increase the chance of it being visible to potential employers.

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How Identity Theives Steal Your Information

by Stacy Levin 12. March 2014

Types of Identity Theft Experienced in 2012 There has been a lot of discussion recently around criminals getting ahold of private information via large-scale corporate data breaches. However, it still remains much easier for identity thieves to steal personal information through social engineering methods. Also known as “people hacking,” social engineering refers to tactics used to manipulate people into giving up their information, often by exploiting their natural tendency to be trustworthy and helpful.

It's unfortunate, but in today’s world we have to be careful who we trust and what information we share. Here are some common forms of social engineering that identity thieves like to use:

Impersonation

Impersonation is exactly what it sounds like – a criminal will pretend they are someone else in order to gain a person’s trust. For example, someone may call you and say that he/she is a representative of your financial institution and needs to verify your account information for some reason or another. Your first instinct may be to give the polite individual the information, because it is human nature to want to be helpful. But it is important to remember that your financial institution should never be contacting you requesting account or other private information. If you are unsure about a phone call you receive from someone claiming to be from your financial institution, kindly tell the representative that you will call back, then call the customer service line found on the financial institution’s website.

Shoulder Surfing

Beware of lurkers. Shoulder surfers will put themselves in a physical position that enables them to observe when a victim is typing confidential information. At an ATM, criminals may try to peer over your shoulder to watch you type in your PIN. Or they may try to snap a photo of your credit card number in the grocery store checkout line with their cell phone. Always be aware of your surroundings when you are completing a financial transaction in a public place.

Dumpster Diving

Do people actually go through your dirty trash in the off chance they may find personal information that they could use to steal your identity? You bet. To avoid someone getting your information this way, make sure you shred or securely destroy all hard copies of documents containing your private information. Enroll in electronic bank statements and electronic bills whenever possible to limit the number of hard copies you need to worry about.

Phishing

Phishing scams make use of the internet to try to capture people’s information, such as their passwords, credit card numbers, and bank account details. A criminal may send a fraudulent email claiming to be from a person’s financial institution – much like impersonation. The email will try to encourage its recipients to click on a link and enter or update their personal information, maybe stating that the financial institution lost some of its data. These phishing emails often include a threat that your account will be blocked if you do not enter your information. The information that a person enters then goes straight to the criminal who will do what they please with your personal information.

To avoid being a victim of a phishing scam, do not respond to any email requesting your personal information, and report any suspicious emails to your financial institution. It’s also a good idea to bookmark login screens, and use the bookmarked page every time you log in to your accounts.

For more tips on protecting your information, visit our Security and Fraud Prevention Center, and check out these five key tips from the FDIC for National Consumer Protection Week. When it comes to protecting your identity, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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