The real-life effects of data breaches and identity theft

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Due to what feels like a constant flow of data breach announcements, the threat of identity theft has become common knowledge. We hear of personal information being stolen or exposed, but how that stolen information is used remains somewhat of a mystery unless you’ve actually experienced it. So let’s take a minute to imagine what it would really be like to become a victim of identity theft. Here are three scenarios.   1. Your favorite store gets hacked Hundreds of businesses are affected by data breaches every year, and these data breaches can expose your personal information. The real victim is the consumers, not the businesses themselves. Only a few weeks ago EBay suffered a data breach affecting its millions of consumers. It appears the hackers didn’t get any financial … [Read more...]

5 Smart Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

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Wondering what to do with your tax refund? First of all, resist all urge to frivolously spend it on small purchases you don’t need. A Nordstrom’s shopping spree won’t help you pay off your bills or retire. And that large TV you’ve been coveting? Don’t even consider it unless you’re completely debt free. A good rule of thumb: If you couldn’t afford it before your refund, you shouldn’t be buying it now.   Instead, treat your tax refund, and any large bonus for that matter, as an investment opportunity. That doesn’t mean you can’t spend a dime. In fact many experts recommend spending a small percentage of it to help you stay motivated to save. Go for a small splurge—somewhere in between a new toothbrush and a new motorcycle. Then, do something smart with the remainder of your … [Read more...]

The IRS & You: Why Your Tax Refund Needs a Body Guard

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With all the major breach announcements in the last few years, I think I can safely assume that this has become common knowledge: Identity theft is a serious threat. If you’re still skeptical, consider this: someone became an identity theft victim every two seconds last year.   With that said, identity theft is also a broad and complex crime that’s hard to defend yourself against. Thieves have dozens of ways they can steal your personal information, and countless crimes they can commit with it. Sometimes they’re after your money; sometimes they’re after your good reputation. During tax season, they’re after both.   Why Identity Thieves Like Tax Season a Lot More Than You Do   Oh tax season, that wonderful time of the year where millions of Americans gather … [Read more...]

Could stiffing “Uncle Sam” impact your FICO Score?

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If you expect to get a tax refund this year chances are you have already filed your 2012 taxes. But what if you owe money to Uncle Sam? You likely have procrastinated and will be scrambling to meet the April 15th deadline.   Most people know that missing a mortgage or car payment can definitely lower their FICO Score. But what if you don't pay your taxes?   Not paying your taxes can result in a tax lien which becomes a matter of public record. The FICO Score takes into account any derogatory public records listed on your credit bureau report. One or more tax liens on your credit report can have a significant negative impact to your score.   The exact impact depends on what other information is on your credit report and on the details of the tax lien(s). For … [Read more...]

Spend Your Tax Return Wisely

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Are you expecting a big tax return and dreaming of spending it on a sunny tropical vacation or a new wardrobe? Think twice. Although it may not be as glamorous as a week on the beach, using your return to pay down your credit card debt will do far more to contribute to your long-term dreams.   A survey conducted by Capitol One revealed that 33 percent of Americans planned to spend part or all of their tax refund this year.   “Most people are not factoring their annual return into their overall financial plan and long-term objectives,” says Mickey Konson, Managing Vice President for Retail Banking at Capital One Bank.  “A tax refund is often seen as free money, which makes it very tempting to spend it right away, but it’s important to remember that the refund you’re … [Read more...]

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