What Does Having a Derogatory Public Record on My Credit Report Mean

I Found a Judgment on My Credit Report. Now What?

Since the National Consumer Assistance Plan went into effect in 2017, public records must meet strict requirements in order to appear on consumer credit reports. Civil judgments and tax liens do not meet these new requirements, so they were removed from credit reports. At this point, the only derogatory public record that should appear on your credit report is bankruptcy. If a tax lien or civil judgment still appears on your credit report, you should dispute that record with the credit reporting agencies.

How Much Do Public Records Affect Credit Scores?

Bankruptcy can cause a FICO score to drop by 200 points or more. A filing may lower credit scores for seven to 10 years and be difficult to remove from a credit report unless any information is inaccurate.

The decision to exclude other public records slightly increased FICO scores for many consumers and resulted in increases of 20 to 40 points in some cases.

Bankruptcies and Your Credit Report

Bankruptcies are the one public record that are still included on your credit report. In most cases, they will remain on your report for seven to 10 years.

You can dispute an inaccurate report of bankruptcy or one being reported beyond the statute of limitations. Review your report for any inaccuracies and contact the credit bureaus to dispute inaccuracies if need be. If a credit bureau claims to have court verification of a bankruptcy, you should send a procedural letter to determine how they verified the public record on credit report. Follow up with the courts to determine whether the bankruptcy was actually verified.

〉 Learn more about when and why you should file bankruptcy and how doing so will affect your credit.

Civil Judgments and Your Credit Report

Civil judgments result when a creditor sues you for an outstanding debt and wins. That creditor then has more avenues for pursuing payment: they may now satisfy delinquent or outstanding debt through wage garnishment or by seizing funds from checking or savings accounts.

Judgments are no longer factored into credit scores, though they are still public record and can still impact your ability to qualify for credit or loans. Lenders may still check to see whether any outstanding judgments against a potential borrower exist. You should pay legitimate judgments and dispute inaccurate judgments to ensure these do not affect your finances unduly.

〉 Learn more about how to deal with civil judgments.

If a civil judgment is still on your credit report, file a dispute with the appropriate credit reporting agencies to have it removed.

Tax Liens and Your Credit Report

Tax liens are filed by the IRS when you don’t pay your taxes. A lien is automatically filed when you owe more than $10,000. When the IRS files a tax lien against you, it essentially gives the agency first dibs on any payment you receive from selling or liquidating your assets to pay your debts.

While tax liens are no longer reported on credit reports, they can significantly impact your financial situation in ways that indirectly affect your credit score.

〉 Learn more about tax liens.

If a tax lien is being reported on your credit report, file a dispute.

How to Deal with Derogatory Public Records

Although judgments and tax liens are no longer filed on credit reports or factored into credit scores, these penalties can undermine your financial standing. If a derogatory public record is filed against you‚ you should monitor the effects on your credit and ensure that information pertaining to your filing is accurate.

Check your reports regularly to ensure they are fair, accurate and up-to-date. You can watch for changes by getting your free Credit Report Card and credit score monitoring from Credit.com.

〉Sign up now!

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3 Tax Scams You Need to Watch Out For

Becoming a victim of tax scam

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), there was a 400% increase in phishing and malware incidents during the 2016 tax season. And tax scams extend far beyond email and malware to include phone scams, identity theft and more.  While the April 15 filing deadline still feels far away, as Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Scammers use multiple ploys and tactics to lure unsuspecting victims in. The IRS publishes an annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams. Sadly, while some of those scams lure people into getting ripped off, others lure people into unwittingly committing tax fraud by falling victim to fake charities, shady tax preparers and false claims on their tax returns.

The most important things you can do to keep yourself scam-free and protected this—and any—tax year are to:

  • Be wary—if it seems too good to be true, it probably is
  • Educate yourself on the most common risks out there
  • File your taxes as early as possible

When you file your taxes as early as possible, you can just politely decline scammer and you can protect yourself from taxpayer identity theft. Tax-related identity theft is primarily aimed at someone posing as you stealing your tax refund. Scammers are creative, sophisticated, persistent and move fast once they have your information in hand. Armed with your Social Security number, date of birth and other pieces of your personally-identifiable information, they can rob you. If you’ve been the victim of a data breach—learn the warning signs—your information is likely available on the dark web. With your information, all a scam artist has to do is log in to a motel’s Wi-Fi network, fill out a fraudulent tax return online and walk away with a refund that could be and should have been yours.

What Is a Tax Scam?

A tax scam is a ploy intended to steal your information and/or your money. It can take several forms. The IRS’s “Dirty Dozen” for 2018 includes these scams:

  • Phishing scams, using fake emails or websites to steal personal information.
  • Phone scams where callers pretend to be IRS agents to steal your information or money.
  • Identity theft scams where identity thieves try and steal your personally identifiable information.
  • Return preparer fraud where a dishonest tax preparer submits a fraudulent return for you or steals your identity.
  • Fake charities where unqualified groups get you to donate money that isn’t actually deductible on your tax return.
  • Inflated refund claim scams where a dishonest tax preparer promises a high refund.
  • Excessive claims for business credits where you or a dishonest tax preparer promises a high refund for claiming credits you aren’t owed, such as the full tax credit.
  • Falsely padding deductions Taxpayers where you or a dishonest tax prepare reports more for expenses or deductions than really occurred.
  • Falsifying income to claim credits where a dishonest tax preparer cons you into claiming income you didn’t earn in order to qualify for tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • Frivolous tax arguments where a scam artist gets you to make fake claims to avoid paying taxes.
  • Abusive tax shelters where a scammer sells you on a shelter as a way to avoid paying taxes.
  • Offshore tax avoidance where a scammer convinces you to put your money offshore to hide it as a source of taxable income that you have to pay taxes on.

It’s important to know that if you fall victim, you may not just be the victim. You may also be a criminal and held accountable legally and financially for filing an incorrect return.

A new scam recently hit the wires too. For this one, scammers email employees asking for copies of their W-2s. People who fall victim end up having their names, addresses, Social Security numbers and income sold online. The emails look very valid but aren’t If you see this or other emails that stink like “phish,” email the IRS at phishing@irs.gov

1. Phishing

Phishing uses a fake email or website to get you to share your personally-identifiable information. They often look valid. Know that the IRS will never contact you by email regarding your tax return or bill.

Phishing emails take many forms. They typically target getting enough of your personally identifiable information to commit fraud in your name, making you a victim of identity theft if you take the bait.

Phishing emails may also contain a link that places malware on your computer. These programs can do a variety of things—none of them good—ranging from recruiting your machine into a botnet distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack to placing a keystroke recorder on your computer to access bank, credit union, credit card and brokerage accounts to gathering all the personally identifiable information on your hard drive.

Here’s what you need to know: The IRS will never send you an email to initiate any business with you. Did you hear that? NEVER. If you receive an email from the IRS, delete it. End of story. Oh, and it will never initiate contact by way of phone call either.

That said, there are other sources of email that may have the look and feel of a legitimate communication that are tied to other kinds of tax scams and fraudulent refunds. And not all scams are emailed though. A lot of scammers will call. The IRS offers 5 way to identify tax scam phone calls.

2. Criminal Tax Preparation Scams

Not all tax professionals are the same and you must vet anyone you’re thinking about using well before handing over a shred of your personally identifying information. Get at least three references and check online if there are any reviews before calling them. Also, consider using the Better Business Bureau to see if the preparer has any complaints against them.

Here’s why: At tax-prep time, offices that are actually fronts for criminal identity theft pop up around the country in strip malls and other properties and then promptly disappear a few days later. Make sure the one you choose is legit!

3. Shady Tax Preparation

Phishing emails aren’t always aimed at stealing your personally identifiable information or planting malware on your computer. They may be simply aimed at getting your attention and business through enticing—and fraudulent—offers of a really big tax refund. While these tax preparers may get you a big refund, it could well be based on false information.

Be on the lookout for questions about business expenses that you didn’t make, especially watching out for signals from your tax preparer that you’re giving him or her a figure that is “too low.”

If you are using a preparer and something doesn’t seem right, ask questions—either directly from the preparer or by calling the IRS. The IRS operates the Tax Payer Advocate Service that can help answer your requests. The service’s phone may be unavailable during a government shutdown, but the website is always available.

Other soft-cons of shady tax preparation include inflated deductions, claiming tax credits that you’re not entitled to and declaring charitable donations you didn’t make. Bottom line: If you cheat—intentionally or unintentionally—chances are you’ll get caught. So make sure you play by the rules and follow the instructions or work with a preparer who does. Yes, the instructions are complicated. That’s why it’s not a bad idea to get honest help if you need it.

As Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot by watching.” Tax season is stressful without the threat of tax-related identity theft and other scams. It’s important to be vigilant, because, to quote Yogi all over again, “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

This article was originally published February 28, 2017, and has been updated by a different author.

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What Is the FICO Resilience Index?

Three young colleagues wearing aprons look at FICO Resilience Index scores on a laptop

By the end of May 2020, more than 40 million people had filed unemployment claims due to COVID-19 and the resulting economic shutdowns. Governments, charities, and even creditors scrambled to put programs in place to support people during this time while also mitigating future economic fallout.

And this isn’t the first time creditors have found themselves working to support borrowers while worrying about their own bottom lines. It’s an issue that occurred during the 2008 recession and one that occurs regionally during national disasters. The new FICO Resilience Index is a tool that creditors might use to help better prepare for times of economic crisis. Find out more about this Index and how it might impact you below.

What Is the FICO Resilience Index?

The FICO Resilience Index is a numeric score each
person is given. The score is supposed to tell creditors how likely a person is
to continue paying their bills as agreed during an economic downturn.

The Index, which is brought to you by the makers of the
popular FICO Score for creditworthiness, ranges from 1 to 99. In contrast to
credit scores, where a higher number is better, a lower FICO Resilience Index score
is better. Here’s how the range breaks down:

  • 1–44: More resilient to changes in economic
    conditions
  • 45–59: Moderately resilient to changes in
    economic conditions
  • 60–69: Sensitive to changes in economic
    conditions
  • 70–99: Very sensitive to changes in economic
    conditions

So, if you have a FICO Resilience Index of 10, it indicates that there’s a good chance that during economic upheaval such as a pandemic or recession, you’re still going to pay your bills on time. If you score a 90, that’s considered much less likely.

How Is the Resilience Index Different from a Credit Score?

A credit score is meant to indicate the likelihood that you will pay your bills on time and as agreed at any time. The Resilience Index rates how sensitive you might be to economic changes and the likelihood that you may be unable to pay bills during a downturn or crisis.

For example, the top factor in your credit score is
whether or not you pay your bills in a timely manner. Your FICO Resilience
Index score is more concerned by your total balance and number of open
accounts. If you balance is high and you have a lot of open accounts, you may
be less able to pay these off during times of crisis.

Here’s what the FICO Resilience Index looks for:

  • Low total balance on revolving credit in comparison to limits
  • A lower number of open, active credit accounts
  • Fewer hard inquiries within the past 12 months
  • A longer credit age, which indicates more experience managing credit

You can improve your FICO Resilience Index by reducing hard inquiries and not opening new credit accounts unless they’re necessary. But the index relies heaviest on credit utilization. Keeping your credit card and other revolving account balances as low as possible can improve your index score.

Does the FICO Resilience Index Matter to You?

As of mid-2020, the FICO Resilience Index is new, and
not a lot of organizations have integrated it into their lending processes yet.
In the beginning, it might not be especially relevant to consumers. However, as
organizations start to integrate it, there’s a good chance creditors may
consider both your credit score and your resilience number when approving—or
denying—your application.

Where Can You See Your FICO Resilience Index?

To have a FICO Resilience Index score, you must have at least one account that was reported to the credit bureau in question in the past 6 months. You must also have at least one account that is at least six months old.

As of July 2020, the FICO Resilience Index is being
provided in pilot testing to lenders. FICO is partnering with Equifax and
Experian to include the index alongside credit scores when lenders conduct a
hard credit inquiry. As of July 2020, the index scores were not yet made
available to consumers.

Does This New Number Make Credit Scores Less Important?

The FICO Resilience Index doesn’t reduce the importance
of your credit score. Lenders are still concerned with whether or not someone
is a “good risk.” Even with a strong resilience number, you may find yourself
getting turned down for loans or credit cards if you have a poor credit score.

You can’t check your FICO Resilience Index number at this time. But you can check your credit report and scores and make good financial decisions. In many cases, what’s good for your credit score is also good for your Resilience Index. Start today by signing up for Credit.com’s Credit Report Card or ExtraCredit. ExtraCredit offers 28 of your FICO scores for review, and they’re updated regularly—helping you stay on top of your credit trends.

Sign Up Now

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