Category Archives: Finance News

What the Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act Could Mean for You

Posted by Erica Steeves on January 22, 2018

What the Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act Could Mean for You

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The big Equifax hack of 2017 created a mess for a lot of American consumers. In fact, it’s estimated that about 143 million Americans were victimized in the hack, and the hack has the potential to be very detrimental in the long-term should the hackers take the confidential information that they swiped and put it to use. As if the hack wasn’t bad enough, Equifax was widely criticized for how it handled the matter and its lack of transparency with consumers. Bottom line: The hack was a raw deal, especially for American consumers. Equifax, while subject to bad publicity, might end up making money off of it in the long run. There could be hope moving forward, however. A new bill introduced by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia) would penalize the credit reporting agencies in the event of any future data breaches. The thinking behind the bill is that any future data hacks wouldn’t just spell bad news for American consumers, but for the agencies that left consumer data susceptible too. The bill is a direct response to the perception that credit bureaus aren’t doing enough to protect the data they collect.

What this bill would mean:

There’s no word on whether the bill will be going to a vote, but here’s a closer look at what the bill would mean should it pass:
  • Credit reporting bureaus would be subject to regular inspection by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to ensure that they’re taking the proper measures to protect confidential consumer data.
  • Should a data breach occur, the FTC would be authorized to fine the credit reporting agencies $100 per consumer affected. The bill calls for half of the amount collected for such purposes to go to the consumers that were impacted. Think about that for a moment. If this bill were in effect when the Equifax hack occurred, the FTC could have collected up to $14.3 billion in penalties, with over $7 billion getting kicked back to the consumers who were victimized.
  • Senator Warren hasn’t been a stranger to proposing credit-related legislation. Following the 2017 Equifax hack, she proposed a pair of bills. One would have prohibited employers from making hiring decisions based on a person’s credit. The other would have allowed consumers to indefinitely freeze and unfreeze their credit any time they wished for free. Neither bill made it out of committee and to vote, however.
  • The Consumer Industry Data Association opposes the proposed bill, stating that the reporting bureaus already follow stringent enough standards. In a statement to CNET, its president and CEO said the bureaus would, however, like to work with Congress to make credit reporting safer and more secure.
The 2017 Equifax hack was blamed on a pair of issues – human error and a technical mishap. With that in mind, it’s enough to wonder if just one of the issues were to have been removed if the data breach would have occurred at all. For some, the proposed bill may be viewed as even more red tape in an already highly regulated field. But when it comes to data as confidential as social security numbers and credit information, can you really be too careful?

How to Stop Your Pet From Ruining Your Credit Score

Posted by Erica Steeves on January 12, 2018
Related image                                     Whether you’re looking to adopt a new pet or you’re seeing the medical bills pile up for your current aging pet, believe it or not, your four-legged family member can take a huge toll on your credit score. For future pets, how you acquire it can sometimes make all the difference with your credit score. For current pets, unexpected medical expenses, vet visits and more can all add up to impact your credit utilization ratio. Here’s a closer look at what you should be mindful of when it comes to pets and your credit score:

Caring for an Aging Pet

Just as aging humans typically need more medical care, the same is true with pets. But while humans likely have medical insurance to cover or help offset expenses, pets usually don’t. And when prescriptions, an increased number of vet visits and medical procedures become more frequent, the costs can really add up. If you don’t have the cash on hand, it could drive you into debt. Here’s how to help manage such costs:
  • Save for a pet emergency fund: Even setting aside $1,000 a year can really help with your pet’s medical bills.
  • Talk to your vet about costs: Just taking your pet to the vet costs money. Speak with your vet to see if they’ll be willing to waive the vet visit fee if you have to take your pet in more than twice a year, for instance. Most vets will work with you this way to retain your business.
  • Look into pet health insurance options: While still fairly uncommon, there are options out there. Before selecting one, be sure that it makes sense for you and your pet’s situation.

Acquiring a New Pet

  • Are you buying or leasing your pet? Yes, leasing, or renting, a pet is a thing – you might just not know that you’re doing it. Many pet stores offer financing plans for their more expensive pets, but what they won’t tell you is that the pet is technically still theirs until you pay it off. Any financing agreement impacts your credit reporting, and while financing a pet could be a good thing in terms of building credit history, it could also be a bad thing too if you don’t stay up with payments or if the pet store is unethical about the process.
  • Speaking of unethical pet stores, many experts state that you should try to use credit cards as payment to adopt pets. Why? Because if something goes awry or the pet store disputes the purchase, you have a paper trail of the transaction. A credit card can help prove that the pet belongs to you. It can also be an ally in your corner if there’s something wrong with the pet in terms of getting a refund if the pet store is uncooperative.
    We love our pets. To many, they’re part of the family. But don’t let your furry family member lead you into financially troubling times.

Top 2018 Financial Resolutions to Make (and Money Mistakes to Avoid)

Posted by Erica Steeves on January 3, 2018
It’s a new year, which means it’s time to make some new resolutions. This year, we challenge you to make managing your finances – and improving your credit score – a priority, along with any other pledges you decide to make at the start of 2018. If you haven’t already, you can get back on the right financial track by paying off any debts you’ve accrued thanks to your holiday spending. After you’re done with that, here’s a look at some other financial resolutions to make and mistakes to avoid as 2018 gets into swing:    

Top 2018 Financial Resolutions to Make (and Money Mistakes to Avoid)

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  1. Start an emergency fund: Minimally, you should try to have an emergency fund with enough to pay up to three months worth of bills (i.e., mortgage or rent, utilities, auto payments, etc.). It’s this type of breathing room that can come in handy in the event of an unexpected auto or home repair, or if the unthinkable happens and you found yourself out of work for a period of time. A lack of an emergency fund can cause you to take out loans when the unexpected occurs, which can leave you playing catch up when the dust settles.
  2. Set a budget (and stick to it): Come up with a list of financial goals that you want to accomplish (i.e., investments, retirement savings, pay off loans, etc.). Then, come up with a reasonable monthly budget that can permit you to meet said goals and do your best to stick to it. Not setting a budget can be the start of a slippery slope into debt. Consider using a mobile app like Mint to manage everything.
  3. Don’t oversubscribe: Entertainment these days comes at a price. And while the likes of Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Amazon Video and other services may not cost a lot individually, together they can add up. In order to stay true to your budget, consider only subscribing to one or two premium services at a time. That’s one of the best things about said services – you can cancel and restart them at any time.
  4. Set automatic payments for your bills: Making on time payments is the single-largest category that impacts your FICO score, and late payments can cause your score to take a serious hit. On that note, let technology work for you when it comes to making on time payments and set up automatic payments online. This way, you’ll never have to worry about missing a payment again.
  5. Refrain from charging: To continue the theme of setting a budget and sticking to it, we challenge you to only charge what you know you can pay off. Going overboard on credit card spending can spiral out of control and cost you a lot more long-term. If you have credit card debt accrued, commit to paying off the cards with the highest interest rates first to save more in the long run.
Follow the above five tips and you can make 2018 a financially prosperous one.

A Brief History of Experian

Posted by Erica Steeves on November 30, 2017

A BRIEF HISTORY OF EXPERIAN

Image result for experian building Experian’s roots date back nearly 200 years, making the credit reporting bureau the longest tenured among the “big three” status that the firm shares with TransUnion and Equifax. It’s also the biggest of the three bureaus, with data on more than 235 million people worldwide, headquarters in the U.S. and Europe, and a workforce of about 17,000 employees worldwide. But Experian didn’t become this impactful overnight. Here’s a brief look at the history of Experian and how it gradually morphed into the credit reporting giant that it is today:

   Experian: A Brief History

  • 1826: Experian’s roots can be traced back to London, England, in the early 1800s, when a group known as the Manchester Guardian Society began sharing information on citizens who failed to settle their debts. This was one of the earliest accounts of modern day credit reporting on record.
  • 1897: We jump ahead and move from across the pond to Dallas, Texas, when a Dallas, Texas-based lawyer began compiling lists of local citizens based on whether or not they were at-risk consumers.
  • 1960s: We take another big jump ahead in time to the early 1960s, when two aerospace engineers with a hunch that currency would transition from cash to credit formed a credit information unit branch of TRW, Inc. TRW’s credit information branch would eventually go on to become Experian in the 1990s.
  • 1970s: TRW follows up its credit information branch with the launch of a small business database branch.
  • 1980s: The credit information and small business database branches of TRW continue to see major growth, and by the mid-80s have accrued data on more than 90 million Americans.
  • 1986: TRW began selling consumers their credit reports for an annual fee of $30 in this year. This eventually came to an end, however, as the Fair Credit Reporting Act granted consumers one free report each year.
  • 1991: This year marked one of TRW’s biggest mistakes as a credit reporting agency. The mishap involved a TRW investigator concluding that about 1,500 Vermont residents had not paid their property taxes, causing their credit scores to take a big hit. Following this, similar mistakes came to light. These blunders put TRW in a negative light, forcing the company to make major changes to its operators and customer service practices.
  • 1996: Experian is officially launched. Brian Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners acquired TRW as Experian. Shortly after, the two firms sold Experian to England-based Great Universal Stores Limited (GUS).
  • 2006: Experian de-merges from GUS and, for the first time, is listed on the London Stock Exchange.
  • 2017: In March 2017, Experian agreed to pay a $3 million fine for dispersing incorrect credit information to various consumers. The fine was imposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Present day: With headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, Nottingham, United Kingdom, and Costa Mesa, California, Experian reports operating revenue of about $4.5 billion (U.S.) annually. It operates in 37 countries and keeps data on some 235 million U.S. consumers and 25 million U.S. businesses.

A Brief History of Transunion

Posted by Erica Steeves on November 14, 2017

A Brief History of TransUnion

Image result for transunion building You likely already know TransUnion as one of the “big three” credit reporting agencies. And though it’s actually the smallest of the big three behind Experian and Equifax, the Chicago, Illinois-based company has a rich 49-year history. What’s more is that unlike Equifax, it doesn’t have the baggage hanging over its head in the wake of the massive hack from summer 2017. TransUnion profiles just about every credit-active consumer in the United States, so it’s safe to assume that it knows a lot about you. But how much do you know about it? Here’s a brief history of TransUnion so that you can get better acquainted with the firm that already knows your consumer behavior so well:

A Brief History of TransUnion

  • 1968: This was the official year that TransUnion was born. Specifically, it was born as the parent holding company to the Union Tank Car Company, which practiced in the rail car industry.
  • 1969: A year after TransUnion was born, it acquired the Credit Bureau of Cook County (CBCC). The CBCC had maintained more than 3.5 million card files, making TransUnion the first in the credit reporting field to streamline consumer file updates. But its days as a credit reporting bureau were just getting started.
  • 1981: TransUnion is sold to The Marmon Group for $688 million.
  • The 90s: In addition to growing staff and expanding its facilities, TransUnion branched out to offer business-to-business services. This offering was in addition to its existing ability to maintain and update credit information on every market-active consumer in America.
  • 2002: TransUnion acquires www.TrueCredit.com, marking its entry into the direct-to-consumer market. TrueCredit.com helps consumers better understand their credit scores and outlines strategies to help improve them.
  • 2010: Goldman Sachs Capital Partners and Advent International acquire TransUnion.
  • 2013: In October 2013, TransUnion launched CreditVision, an evolution of the traditional credit score that is designed to better identify consumer trends, consumer behavior, and debt and repayment data.
  • 2014: TransUnion implements ResidentCredit, a consumer-friendly tactic that reported on rental payment data as a means of boosting credit scores. In 2014, the company also acquired TLO, which collects data on people and companies from about one hundred thousand sources of data, for $154 million.
  • 2015: In January 2015, TransUnion revamped its brand and mantra with the goal of conveying its desire to empower consumers to make smarter decisions and live better lives.
  • 2015: In June 2015, TransUnion becomes a publicly-traded company for the first time in its history. It trades under the “TRU” ticker symbol.
  • Today: Presently, TransUnion is a worldwide company with about 4,700 total employees. In 2016, it posted total revenue of about $1.7 billion. Today, TransUnion compiles and aggregates data and information on more than 1 billion consumers across more than 30 countries.
As you can see, TransUnion didn’t turn into the credit reporting giant that it is today overnight. It took nearly 50 years of strategic acquisitions, innovative product launches and diversifying. Minimally, every consumer should know that they can receive one free credit report per year from TransUnion.