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Indentity Theft - Top Tips to Protect Yourself

by Allyson Hoffman

In a day and age when technology seems to rule a big part of our lives, it is important to make sure that our “identity” is protected. As we have all read the horror stories of the victims of identity theft, there are steps we can take to protect ourselves and our personal information.

 

For starters we should be clear about what identify is and how we are identified as individuals in this high tech world we live in. Identity theft occurs when our personal information is collected without our permission and utilized, most of the time, for criminal activity. What personal information do these people target?

 

1.      Your Name

2.      Address

3.      Birth Date

4.      Social Security Number (SSN)

5.      Credit Card Numbers

6.      and Other Personal Identification Numbers

 

This is the type of information someone would need to open credit card or bank accounts, apply for cellular phone service, purchase vacations packages, forward your mail, etc. So how can you protect yourself from this information getting into the wrong hands?

 

  1. If asked to provide personal information, ask why is it needed, how will it used, if it will be shared and with whom.
  2. Carry the least amount of personal information with you as possible.
  3. When asked for your credit number over the phone or internet, make sure that you know who you are dealing with and the communication line is secure.
  4. It’s always a good idea to take extra security measures when dealing over the internet (i.e. digital signatures and data encryption).
  5. Knowing your billing cycles can prove to be very useful should you not receive your bills in the mail. This could help in determining if you mail has been illicitly redirected.
  6. Order your credit report at least once a year and review for any inaccuracies or any unusual activity.
  7. Report lost or stolen credit cards immediately.
  8. You can also request that your accounts require passwords before any inquiries or changes can be made
  9. Choosing the right password is extremely important. You don’t want anything obvious and you DON’T want to write them down.
  10. Always protect your pin number when using debit machines, bank machines or telephones.
  11. Review your credit card cardholder agreement. A number of companies offer protection from credit card fraud.
  12. Lastly, be aware of your garbage. Anything with the above mentioned personal information on it should not just be thrown out. Shredding this type of documentation (especially financial statements, receipts, etc.) is an effective step in preventing identity theft.

Taking the necessary steps above to protect your identity is not difficult. It’s as simple as being aware of what these identity thieves are looking for and arming yourself with the knowledge on how to properly protect your personal information.

 

 Image courtesy of Sh4rp_i/Flickr.com

 

Do You Qualify for a Moving Expense Deduction?

by Allyson Hoffman

Have you recently moved or relocated as a result of a new job or job transfer? If yes, you might like to know that some of the costs associated with a move of this type may be used as a moving expense deduction on your income taxes. A few of things to keep in mind that help in determining if you would qualify for a moving expense deduction include:

  • The distance between the old home and the new job must be at least 50 miles
     
  • If you move within a year of taking the job at the new location
     
  • If you work full-time for at least 39 weeks (the total is 78 weeks if you are self-employed)


Whether a homeowner or renter, you can deduct the cost of moving household goods and the direct cost of moving you and your family. You can also deduct expenses for lodging during the move but not meals.

It is important to keep detailed records of all expenses during a move and
consult a tax expert to make sure that you take all the lawful tax deductions allowed by the IRS criteria for expenses related to selling your old home or buying your new one. For additional reading regarding moving expenses, the IRS publication No. 521 entitled "Tax Information on Moving Expenses" is also a great resource.

Image courtesy of Hitcom/Pixabay.com

The Key to Your Credit Score

by Allyson Hoffman

When it comes to purchasing a home there are few people that can afford to buy it outright while the rest of us are forced to rely on banks and lending institutions for some sort of mortgage. There are a number of factors lender's consider when qualifying you for a mortgage and one of the more important factor's is your credit score.

Your credit score is a three digit number between 300 and 850 derived from a point or scoring system called FICO. Ultimately the higher your credit score the better your credit and the more likely you will qualify for your purchase. Your FICO score is determined by a formula that factors in the following information.

  • 35% of your score is determined by your payment history.
    Are you paying your bills and are your payments on time? How many times have you paid your bills late and how late were they? Have any of your bills been sent to collections?

 

  • 30% of your score is based on the amount of outstanding debt you have. The more debt you have the lower your score will be.

 

  • 15% of your score is determined by the length of time of you have had the credit.

 

  • 10% of your score is based on the number of times people have inquired about your credit

 

  • 10% of your score is determined by the types of credit you have

Before applying for credit it is important that you are aware of what is in your credit report on the chance that there are any inaccuracies that might affect your score. You want your credit report to reflect the most recent credit activity available. There are currently three national credit bureaus that have their own scoring system based on the FICO system and you can pull your credit report from any/all of the following:

  1. Equifax
  2. Transunion
  3. Experian

All credit bureau websites have extensive information about how the scoring system works, how to read your report and identify any inaccuracies.

It's a good idea if you plan to purchase a home, or make any large purchase, to stay on top of your credit and review your report regularly.

Image courtesy of StockMonkeys.com/Flickr.com

A Guide to Your Real Estate Closing Costs

by Allyson Hoffman

The process of purchasing a home can be overwhelming if you are not familiar with all the steps and costs involved in a real estate transaction. The most common costs that tend to be overlooked by buyers and sellers are a bundle of fees called closing costs.

It is important to be aware and budget for these costs so you are not surprised on closing day and possibly fall short within your finances.

Below is a guide to some of the more standard costs that you may be faced with on closing day.

  • Loan Origination Fee or Points
    Fees charged by the lender for generating your loan.
  • Broker Fee
    These fees are occasionally combined into the Loan Origination Fee.
  • Credit Report
    Lenders may require this fee up front to obtain and review your credit history. (Approx. $21 - $60)
  • Appraisal Fee
    This fee is normally non-refundable and will vary depending on the value of the home.
  • Inspection Fee
    Fees paid to have a Certified Home Inspector evaluate the structural and mechanical condition of the home.
  • Title Search
    This search will provide verification that the seller owns the house you are buying.
  • Title Insurance
    This fee insures against losses as a result of any title defects.
  • Prepaid Interest
    To pay up the mortgage interest to the first of the following month.
  • Mortgage Insurance
    Insurance to protect the lender in the event that the borrower (mortgagor) is unable to repay the loan.
  • Administration Fee

Your real estate agent will be able to give you a rough estimate of some of these costs, however once you have applied for your loan, the lender will provide you with a Good Faith Estimate of what they anticipate the closing costs to be.

Familiarize yourself with these terms, ask your real estate agent questions and budget for these fees on closing day.

For more Home Finance information, visit my Finance Information page or Contact Me should you require additional information.

Image courtesy of 401kcalculator.org/Flickr.com

Cook County North and Northwest Suburbs Tax Reassessment

by Allyson Hoffman

Reassessment, by the Cook County Assessor, for all property located in the North and Northwest suburbs of Cook County will be completed during 2007.  Sellers and buyers of property in this area should consider the results of this process when determining how to resolve the tax prorations in their sales contracts.  Potential for 25% to 30% increases in the property assessments are predicted by some experts allowing for some possibly significant monetary implications. Evanston township has already released its changes on March  30th.  If you would like to look up a current tax assessment or are seeking additional information on Cook County Tax Assessement and how this may impact you, additional information can be found at http://www.cookcountyassessor.com/.

Image courtesy of geralt/Pixabay.com

Displaying blog entries 61-65 of 65

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Allyson Hoffman
RE/MAX Villager
1245 Waukegan Road
Glenview IL 60025
847-310-5300
Fax: 847-400-0881

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Allyson Hoffman
RE/MAX Villager
1245 Waukegan Road
Glenview, IL, 60025

(847) 310-5300
[email protected]

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