Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Identity Protection

Image from listverse.com

We break from our regularly scheduled blabbing about crafting and babies to bring you an update from the financial services industry. (Because, you know, that is what I do.) I particularly want to plug BB&T's Identity Protection, or any Identity Protection really, provided you get all the same good services from your bank's product. But first, here's my story:

It is with shame that I admit I didn't start building my own credit until about a month ago. Go figure, I talk to people all day, everyday about the benefits of establishing solid credit- and I don't even have my own!
You see, my parents were of the mindset that a youngster like myself, at the tender age of 18, shouldn't have a credit card. I dare say that, in my case, they were probably right. I would eat Ramen Noodles for weeks on end, but then show up home from college with a new outfit, not to mention more overdraft fees than anyone should experience. So, yes, Mom and Dad were probably right in withholding credit from the younger, more irresponsible version of myself. We'll call her past Desha.
Past Desha caused future Desha some problems. When my husband and I started looking for a home, we quickly learned that I couldn't be on the loan. My lack of credit, in the lending industry, is worse than bad credit! My nonexistent score would cause our mortgage rate to skyrocket, so much to my chagrin, the hubs will be the lone soldier on our loan.
Up until the recession, I probably could have snagged a small credit card at a retail store, but I failed to do that. So about a year ago, I tried applying for credit cards and realized that, without a co-signer, I was out of luck. I bought a new car a month ago, and with my mother as co-signer, FINALLY started building my credit. (Someone suggested I pull from my retirement savings to pay in cash, but a quick bit of research on that will show you that the tax penalty will far outweigh the interest you pay. NOT a good idea.)
So what does all of this mean to you? It means a) that you shouldn't make the same mistake as past Desha, and b) assuming you probably haven't, you should get signed up for Identity Protection.
If you've never experienced Identity Theft, the possibility of it might seem like a distant dream, one that could never happen to you. I myself have not endured it, but as you might guess, my experience in the banking industry has introduced me to many who have. This is no fun situation- this is not simply using your debit card once or twice before you catch it. This can go so far as to encompass the use of your social security and other information to actually open loans and run up debt in your name- all without you knowing. One day, you stroll into your local bank to apply for a loan, and when you get declined, the story begins to unfold- often much too late for you to be able to do anything about it. Identity Protection, at least at BB&T, means you get your own case worker in that scenario: someone who will do all the dirty work on your behalf. You can only imagine how tedious it might be to contact and convince financial institutions that you were not, in fact, the person who opened those loans in your name.
You also get up to $10,000 as reimbursement for expenses or lost wages incurred as a result of fighting the Identity theft. There's even a credit hotline available to you for when you have questions about your credit report and updates.
Now, back to my credit and why I really like the product: credit monitoring with alerts! I signed in the other day (online, super easy and secure) and for the first time, got to see my credit SCORE! Take that, past Desha! Now, I won't tell you what it was, because obviously with about a month's worth of credit under my belt, I have a long way to go. But I will say, there's a power in knowing what's going on with your credit. If you are a control freak like I am, you're probably already on the edge of your seat. My credit report included all credit and collections reported under my social, as well as addresses associated with my social (totally forgot I lived on 62nd in Gainesville... wayyyyy back in the day!). It even had a little section that explained exactly what was positively impacting my credit and a synopsis of the bad stuff. For example, you may not realize it, but if you are using over 50% of the available credit on your revolving lines, that is negatively impacting your credit (some people think keeping a balance and continually paying it down is a good thing- but not necessarily).
Yes, you can go to annualcreditreport.com, and get one credit report from each reporting agency annually(that's three). But I'll tell you a few reasons why that won't cut it:
  • That site only gives you the report- no score, and not nearly as much info explaining the report.
  • If you're like me, and you can't remember one of one million addresses you've had (also a negative factor in determining credit worthiness), you might not even be able to access the report! They have to verify you're who you say you are- and trust me, trying to clear that up will make you want to give up on the whole endeavor.
  • No alerts! BB&T's Identity Protection comes with alerts- either by e-mail or by paper mail. So now that I've started building my credit, I can keep up with any new factors affecting my report.
  • Identity Protection gets you a report every quarter, not just every year. So you're not left in the dark for months on end.
All in all, I'm telling you it's worth the $6.50 per month that it will cost you. Even better, if you're on a joint account, you both get coverage for only $7.50 per month.
So, as they say in How I Met Your Mother, don't let "future Ted" or "future Marshall" worry about your credit. Take charge of it now, and your future self will soon be very proud of your past self.

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