COVID-19 Scams

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As if fearing the health-related consequences of the COVID-19 coronavirus wasn’t enough, there’s also a fair amount of financial uncertainty related to recession and an unstable economy. People all across the United States are wondering how they’ll pay their bills and make ends meet as they file for unemployment and wait for a one-time stimulus check that may not cover the bills.

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It’s unfortunate, but some bad actors will always take advantage of situations like coronavirus. In addition to everything else, individuals also need to be on the lookout for COVID-19 scams that are cropping up. In fact, there are so many coronavirus scams out there right now that the FTC created an FTC Scam Bingo game to try and spread the word.

Read up on what COVID-19 scams to look out for and how you can protect yourself and your finances.

COVID-19 Stimulus Check Scams

Some scammers are tricking people into thinking they need to provide personal information to obtain their government relief check. Consumers do not need to sign up for the federal stimulus checks. The government plans to distribute them based on consumers’ 2018 or 2019 federal tax returns starting April 2020. Keep in mind that the IRS does not initiate contact by email, text, or social media.

How to Protect Yourself

Do not respond to any correspondence claiming to be the IRS or other branch of the government requesting personal information in exchange for access to your stimulus check. For accurate information about the federal relief checks and when you can expect yours, visit the IRS’s coronavirus resource.

Student Loan Scams

Americans owe over $1.64 trillion in student loan debt, so it’s no wonder that scammers are preying on this financially vulnerable population. Watch out for offers to forgive your student loan debt in its entirety or change your repayment plan for a fee, or requests for other personal information in order to suspend your payments in response to coronavirus. There is no such thing as instant student loan relief, and you should not need to pay a fee for help from your loan servicer. All federally backed loans have automatically suspended payments and set interest to 0%.

How to Protect Yourself

Do not accept unsolicited offers to help you with your
student loan payments and never give out your personal information. If you are
having trouble making payments because you’ve lost your job, reach out to your
loan servicer for options.

Social Security Scams

Social Security scams are common, but coronavirus has put a new twist on the scam. Now, in addition to watching out for scammers claiming that your Social Security number is about to be suspended, you also need to watch out for calls or letters claiming that your benefits will be canceled due to coronavirus-related office closures. Social Security offices are closed, but officers are still working, and your benefits will not be suspended. And your Social Security number will never be suspended.

How to Protect Yourself

If you are unsure if a call or email is from the Social Security Administration, reach out to them yourself for confirmation before sharing any personal information. If you have already given you Social Security number to a scammer, visit IdentityTheft.gov/SSA for steps on how to protect your credit and identity.

Medicare Scams

Because older individuals are particularly susceptible to COVID-19, scammers have been targeting them with Medicare scams. Be on the lookout for fraudulent Medicare representatives asking you to verify personal information, like your bank account, Social Security, or Medicare numbers. Medicare representatives will never call you to verify your account number, offer you free equipment or services, or try to sell you anything.

How to Protect Yourself

If you’re
not sure if a phone call is legitimate, hang up and call Medicare yourself.
That way you can confirm that you are talking to an actual Medicare
representative. To reach the Medicare office, call 1-800-633-4227.

Fraudulent Charities

Whether it’s a natural disaster or worldwide pandemic
like the coronavirus, legitimate charities work hard to aid people in need.
This can include providing food, funds, housing or other forms of assistance. Unfortunately,
fake charities can crop up too. They might use names that sound similar to real
charities and may even have emails, websites and phone numbers that seem
legitimate but aren’t.

How to Protect Yourself

Donate to charities that you are already familiar with. If you’re questioning the legitimacy of a charity, you can use third-party websites to check credentials. Options include Charity Navigator and Give.org, which is maintained by the Better Business Bureau.

Protect Yourself from COVID-19 Scams

As you continue to navigate the uncharted waters of a
worldwide pandemic, be on the lookout for COVID-19 scams. If you’re ever unsure
about something, you can consult trustworthy government resources or well-known
news outlets to verify information. Share this information about scams with
others so they know what to be on the lookout for as well.

More resources on scams:

  • Senior’s Guide to Avoiding Scams
  • Tax Season Scams
  • Student Loan Scams
  • Common Scams

The post COVID-19 Scams appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

How to Contact a Real Person at a Credit Bureau

How to Talk to a Credit Bureau

The information that credit bureaus collect affects just about every aspect of your life. Whether you’re approved for a credit card, get a good mortgage rate, can rent an apartment or even get a job – they all can hinge to varying degrees on your credit score. So when a credit bureau has something wrong, it’s imperative that you tell them. The three major bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – offer online services and prefer that you use their online forms instead of calling. But sometimes you need to talk to a live person. Here’s how to make contact.

Why Would I Need to Contact a Credit Bureau?

The three big credit bureaus or credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – create credit reports that reflect consumers’ creditworthiness. The reporting agencies are for-profit businesses and sell their reports to other businesses, such as insurers, credit card companies, banks and employers.

These businesses in turn factor in these credit reports when making decisions such as whether to offer you a credit card and at what interest rate. So it’s  important to monitor your credit reports and make sure the information on them is correct. If you ever find a mistake, you should contact the credit bureau to correct the information. You may also need to contact to a credit bureau if you think that you’re a victim of credit fraud. That could mean placing a fraud alert on your account or freezing your credit so that no one can open a new line of credit in your name.

Talk to a Real Person at Equifax

talk to a credit bureau

Equifax has multiple phone numbers that you can use to speak with a real person. The number that you use will depend on what you need help with. We recommend trying to contact the correct number. If you call the wrong number, they will simply say they cannot help you and then direct you to call another number. You can find all of Equifax’s contact information on its website, Equifax.com.

If you want to contact Equifax with a general inquiry, you can reach the company via phone at the number 800-525-6285. Just make sure to call between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

Equifax has also been in the news recently because it suffered a large data breach in 2017. If you have questions about whether your information was compromised in the breach, Equifax has a dedicated phone line at 888-548-7878. Again, be sure to call between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

The table below has some common reasons why you might want to call Equifax and the number that you should call in order to speak with a representative.

How to Speak With a Real Person at Equifax Reason for Calling Phone Number General inquiries 800-525-6285 Canceling a product or service (Equifax customers) 866-640-2273 Request a copy of your credit report* 866-349-5191 Place a fraud alert on your credit card 800-525-6285 Dispute information in your credit report 866-349-5191 Place, lift or remove a freeze on your credit 888-298-0045 Dedicated phone line for information on the 2017 data breach 888-548-7878

*Don’t forget: You can get a free copy of your credit report three times per year.

Talk to a Real Person at Experian

Experian makes it relatively hard to talk to a real person on the phone. The company encourages people to use its website for most things. However, there are three main phone numbers that you should know if you want to talk to someone at Experian.

Call 888-397-3742 if you want to order a credit report or if you have any questions related to fraud and identity theft. The number 888-397-3742-6 (1-888-EXPERIAN) will also work. You can place an immediate fraud/security alert on your credit with this number.

If you have a question about something on a recent credit report (such as incorrect information), you will need to have a copy of the credit report. On the report you will find a 10-digit number. This number is different for each credit report and you will need it for the representative to help with any issues related to your specific report. Once you have that number ready, you can call 714-830-7000 with questions about your report.

If you need help with anything related to your membership account with Experian, you should call the company’s customer service at 479-343-6239. You will need to call while the Experian office is open in order to speak with someone. The hours are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, Monday to Friday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Saturday and Sunday.

How to Speak With a Real Person at Experian Reason for Calling Phone Number Buying a credit report,

Placing a fraud alert on your credit file 888-397-3742 or

888-397-37426 (888-EXPERIAN) Question about a recent credit report 714-830-7000 Question about Experian membership account 479-343-6239 Talk to a Real Person at TransUnion

TransUnion has one general support number that you can use to talk to a human for help with your credit report (such as to dispute information, freeze your account, or report fraud), your credit score or any general questions. That number is 833-395-693800.

Note that a human representative is only available Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET,  Monday through Friday.

You will hear an automated service when you first call this number. Press 4 in order to speak with a representative. Then you will need to press 1 if you have a TransUnion File Number or 2 if you do not have a number.

A TransUnion File Number is a unique identification number that you can find in the top right of your TransUnion credit report. You do not need a number to speak with a representative, but you will need it to do anything related specifically to your credit report. For example, the file number is necessary for disputing incorrect information.

The Takeaway

How to Talk to a Credit Bureau

If you ever need to buy a credit report or address an issue on your report, you will need to contact a credit bureau. Each of the three national credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, has a website where you can do most things you may need to do. In fact, they prefer that you use online forms instead of calling. But sometimes it’s comforting to speak with a real person who can answer your specific questions.

The first step is figure out what phone number you need. The credit bureaus all have multiple numbers. Not all of the numbers will allow you to solve your specific issue. Of course once you have the right number, you will also need some patience. Hold times can be long, particularly during the coronavirus slow-down. The credit bureaus have also experienced higher phone traffic since the Equifax breach in 2017.

Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

  • Correcting inaccuracies on your credit report by contacting a credit bureau can help to improve your credit score. Another potential way to improve your score is to get another credit card. It will increase your available credit and improve your credit utilization ratio. You can find the best card for you with our credit card tool. Of course, you should only get another card if you can responsibly handle the credit you already have.
  • One good piece of credit card advice is always to avoid as many fees as possible. Fees can make it harder for you to keep your spending down. Higher bills, in turn, could be harder for you to pay back in full. Here are 15 credit card fees that you should avoid.
  • It can be tempting to keep swiping your credit card, but make a budget and stick to it. A financial advisor can help you create a road map to make sure you’re hitting your goals and not getting into debt. SmartAsset’s free matching tool can help you find a person to work with. It will connect you with up to three advisors in your area.

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The post How to Contact a Real Person at a Credit Bureau appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

What Should I Do if I Lost My Social Security Card?

A closeup of a brown wallet with various cards and dollar bills

You might not use your Social Security card every day, but you do need to use it occasionally. If you lost your security card, you’ll need to request a replacement form for a Social Security card from the Social Security Administration (SSA). You can apply online by choosing the replacement tab for your lost security card. Requesting a replacement card is not eligible for all 50 states.

The service is also not available if your valid driver’s license or passport was issued by US territory. This includes American Samoa, Guam, Northern Islands, Puerto Rico or U.S. Virgin Islands.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Replacement Card?

If you can get to your local SSA office just before opening, you can get in and out in about 15 minutes. If you can only go later in the day, the wait time could vary.

After the SSA processes your application, they’ll give you a letter indicating that a card has been requested. You can show this to anyone who requests a Social Security replacement card. Your new card will arrive within two weeks.

For online or mail requests for a replacement card, the application process could take a little longer. However, after your application is processed, you can expect your new card within two weeks. Once you get your card be sure you keep it in a secure place, such as a safe or lockbox.

Need to Replace Your Lost Social Security Card? Apply Online!

Creating a free my Social Security account takes less than 10 minutes and lets you replace a lost or stolen SSN card. To apply online at my Social Security account to receive a new security social card you need to meet these requirements:

  • You’re a U.S. citizen age 18 or older with a U.S. mailing address. This includes APO, FPO, and DPO addresses.
  • You aren’t requesting a name change or any other change to your card.
  • You have a driver’s license or state-issued identification card from one of the many participating states or the District of Columbia.

Don’t Want to Apply Online for a Social Security Card?

If you don’t want to apply online or can’t create an online account, you can visit your local SSA office. Before visiting your Social Security office, you’ll need to collect a few original documents to provide citizenship.

Documents must be current and show your name. You must provide your certificate of citizenship. There are two separate documents and you need one from each:

Citizenship:

  • A religious record made before the age of five showing your date of birth
  • A hospital record of your birth
  • A passport

Identity:

  • A driver’s license
  • State-issued non-driver identification card
  • A passport

If you don’t have any identification from the category or can’t get a replacement in 10 days, your SSA office will ask to see other current original documents. It will still need to show your date of birth, your name and a recent photograph. The following cards are acceptable IDs:

  • Employee card identification
  • School card identification
  • Health insurance card (not a Medicare card)
  • A military card identification

What if My Child Lost or Doesn’t Have a Social Security Card?

If your child has or can acquire a state-issued birth certificate before age five, you need to submit it. If not, you need to provide other documents to confirm their age, such as your child’s passport.

Anyone age 12 or older requesting a new Social Security number will need to be interviewed. They will ask for evidence to show that your child doesn’t have a Social Security number. Here are documents you can use to prove that a Social Security number wasn’t assigned:

  • If your child lived outside the United States for an extended period, a current or previous passport, school and/or employment records and any other record that would show long-term residence outside the United States.
  • If your child has lived in the United States and is applying for an original Social Security number, get information about the schools your child attended or may ask you to provide copies of tax records.

While using a certificate of naturalization to prove age or citizenship, you can’t use it as proof of identity. Proof of identity includes your child’s name, identifying information and a recent photograph. A child’s passport is preferred. If the document isn’t available they may accept:

  • State-issued non-driver’s card identification
  • Doctor, clinic or hospital record
  • School card identification

A parent must also provide proof of identity documents. The document must show your name, date of birth, and a recent photograph.

Why You Should Replace a Lost Social Security Card

Even though losing a Social Security card can be a stressful situation, applying for a new card is the best option. Your Social Security card and number are some of the most important documents you will need throughout your lifetime. It’s used when you get hired for a job, apply for federal loans, retire, do your tax returns and much more. And if the wrong person gets a hold of your card, you could become a victim of identity theft.

Memorizing your Social Security number isn’t the best option in this scenario. Your Social Security card is a government-issued document that still needs to be in your possession.

Always remember that monitoring your credit score and credit card should be an ongoing task. Once your information has been lost or stolen, it could be at risk. If you want to keep track of your credit score, get your credit report card from Credit.com. You can also get your free credit score.

If you have lost your Social Security card, use the information above to get a replacement. Always keep an eye out for your credit activity to make sure it hasn’t gotten into the wrong hands.

The post What Should I Do if I Lost My Social Security Card? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com