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Shorter mortgages bring bigger savings

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MADISON, Wis. (8/31/11)--At a time of near-record low mortgage rates, homeowners still can save tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars by financing for fewer years. That opportunity led one of three borrowers who refinanced in the first quarter of this year to switch from a 30-year mortgage to one lasting only 20 or 15 years (Freddie Mac Aug. 12).
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The graph compares the total interest cost of four popular fixed-rate mortgages terms. As you can see, financing for 15 years is less than one-half the cost 30-year financing. But this example is based on the national average interest rate for a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage. Typically the shorter the mortgage term, the lower the interest rate, resulting in even greater overall savings. Of course, a shorter term also means a higher monthly payment, so you’ll have to do the math to see how much more you can pay in the short run to save in the long run. Here are some other things to think about before you commit to a shorter mortgage, according to the Credit Union National Association's Center for Personal Finance:
* Review all your debts. If you’re carrying a large credit card balance, you’re better off eliminating that more expensive debt before paying extra on your mortgage. * Tend to your retirement. If you’re eligible for a 401(k) plan, you should be contributing at least enough to earn the maximum matching funds from your employer. If not, that comes before a faster mortgage payoff. And, as long as mortgage rates remain relatively low, you might choose a 30-year loan over a 15-year loan and invest the monthly difference in payments for your retirement. * Consider the stability of your current income. Is your job reasonably secure? One way to hedge your bets is to take a longer mortgage and make extra payments on the principal whenever you can. Just one extra mortgage payment of $818 a year would shorten the 30-year loan in the figure to 26 years, saving $20,000 in interest in the process. The advantage of prepayment vs. a shorter loan is that you’re not contractually locked in to a bigger monthly payment. You still can see significant savings over time while retaining the flexibility to skip an extra payment if you have unforeseen expenses.
To explore different repayment scenarios, use the “What Will My Monthly Mortgage Payment Be?” calculator in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

In case of disaster take financial precautions

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MADISON, Wis. (8/29/11)--The recent earthquake jostling the East Coast, followed by Hurricane Irene raking the same area, serve as timely reminders to assess your financial readiness for a natural disaster--no matter where you live. Use these suggestions from the American Red Cross to get prepared before a disaster occurs:
* Take a close look at your home. Make sure your property is structurally ready to withstand disasters that could affect you. For example, if you live in an earthquake-prone area, consider bolting bookcases and tall furniture to walls. In hurricane-prone areas, you might want to add hurricane shutters or even a safe shelter to your home. Local emergency management offices or a home inspector can evaluate which improvements you might need. Some cities and states even offer rebate or other special programs to help fund such projects. Visit fema.gov to find programs where you live. * Store records in a secure place. Keep original documents that would be difficult to replace in a safe deposit box at the credit union. This could include birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates, passports, Social Security cards, deeds, and titles. Store information such as health insurance cards, prescriptions, recent financial account statements, and home and safe deposit box inventories in a fireproof, waterproof box at home. * Stash some cash. During or after a disaster, power outages can affect ATMs and credit card processing machines, limiting your access to funds. As a precaution, store enough cash in your fireproof box at home to last your family about three days. * Build your emergency savings. Unexpected emergencies or expenses can arise in a disaster situation. If you aren’t already, start setting money aside in an emergency savings fund at your credit union. Aim to save three to six months’ worth of living expenses. * Give your health insurance policy a check-up. In case of a disaster-related injury or illness, make sure you understand the details of your health plan. Know what your plan covers and how much your out-of-pocket costs would be. Also find out how your insurance company handles emergency situations, including which hospitals they cover and how soon you have to notify the company that you received emergency care.
For more information, read “Preserve Your Family’s Paper Trail: Replace and Safeguard Personal Records” and listen to “Build Your Emergency Savings Fund” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

College savings strategies on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (8/26/11)--Sunday’s H&FF Radio program covers college savings, financial planning for newly single women, job-hunting, and financial lessons from the Amish. The show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, features Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:
* “Parents: The Buck Stops Here in Funding College.” Roger Michaud, chair, College Savings Foundation, Washington, D.C., shares parent survey results that indicate challenges families face when saving for college, as well as strategies that work. * “‘Suddenly Single’ Financial Planning.” Jean Dorrell, certified estate planner and founder and president, Senior Financial Security, Summerfield, Fla., outlines financial management tasks for newly single women. * “Cracking the New Job Market: Seven Rules for Getting Hired in Any Economy.” Bill Holland, former human resources director, lecturer, and author, Virginia Beach, Va., offers interview advice and ways to increase your marketability. * “Money Secrets of the Amish.” Lorilee Craker, author and freelance journalist, Grand Rapids, Mich., explains the Amish community’s time-tested approach to personal finances and how it emerged from the economic crisis unscathed.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide. Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network. CUNA and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites. For more information, read “Create Financial Checklist to Ease Transition to College” and “Get Back in the Game After Losing a Job” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Selling gold Be skeptical and smart

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (8/24/11)--More people are considering selling lone earrings, old class rings, and other unused jewelry as gold prices increase, according to the Ohio Commerce Department (Aug. 15). Economic fears have pushed the price of gold to $1,616 an ounce, up 18% since the beginning of the year (USAToday.com Aug. 1). From local jewelers and pawn shops to mall kiosks, mail order companies and gold parties, if you want to sell some gold, you’ll find no shortage of buyers. But while you may think selling gold is a sure-fire way to make some easy money, use caution. The Ohio Commerce Department urges sellers to:
* Work with licensed precious metals dealers. Businesses should be licensed by your state to buy gold. Also look for buyers who’ve been around for at least a few years. And use your head: If the buyer operates out of the town barbershop, you’re probably not getting the best deal. * Check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB has received 408 complaints against gold, silver, and platinum dealers already this year. For all of 2010 it received only 581 complaints, according to USAToday.com. * Contact a neutral appraiser. Have unique jewelry or items that are family heirlooms appraised before selling to a buyer who pays by weight. Collectible jewelry could be worth more in its original form than the gold in it. * Shop around. Gold prices vary significantly depending on who buys it and the price of gold at the time of sale. Ask multiple buyers what they’d pay for your gold. Look for familiar local businesses--those you can trust such as the jeweler who sold you your engagement ring. Shop for a trusted resource for selling gold just as you’d shop for a trusted resource when purchasing jewelry. The type of transaction also will affect the price. For example, if you sell at a gold “party,” the host or hostess and the company throwing the party will get a cut. Likewise, gold dealers who work out of mall kiosks may pay less for gold because they have to pay salaries and rent. * Stay on top of prices. Check websites such as Kitco.com to find current prices. Gold prices fluctuate day to day. * Be wary about selling gold through the mail. There most likely will be several venues to sell gold within your community. But if you decide to sell it through the mail, have jewelry appraised before sending so you have proof of value in case of loss. Check the buyer’s reimbursement policy. To check if an Internet buyer is legitimate, look for an actual location and mailing address. Be leery of any company that doesn’t have contact information or that has typographical errors and misspellings on its website. Find out about company policies; for example, can you refuse the sale amount if you aren’t happy with it? Find out if the company is insured, and take photos of the pieces you’re mailing just in case there are problems.
For more information about selling gold, read the encore article “Is There a Gold Mine Hidden in Your Jewelry Box?” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Downturn pushes states parents to educate Gen Y

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McLEAN, Va. (8/22/11)--Starting this fall, Virginia high school freshmen will have to complete a one-credit personal finance course to receive their diplomas. Virginia joins a handful of states, including Missouri, Utah, and Tennessee, that mandate a class in financial education (USAToday.com Aug. 14). Similar legislation has been introduced in Maryland, while several states require teachers to weave personal finance lessons into existing coursework. Combined with grassroots efforts by nonprofits and financial institutions, it’s all a part of a nationwide push to keep Generation Y members from making money mistakes that could haunt them in the future. Students aren’t the only ones facing a steep learning curve. More than half of teachers surveyed say they feel unqualified to teach to their state’s financial education standards, according to a study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Parents, too, are afraid they’re not good enough financial role models to educate their children (SmartMoney.com Aug. 14). In other cases, parents assume that staying quiet about finances protects children; on the contrary, researchers warn, the fear caused by recent economic downturns among young people lacking financial experience could produce a generation less willing to invest or save. While incorporating financial literacy education into schools is a great start, the work of teaching a generation rests heavily on parents. Some 42% of Americans say they get most of their financial knowledge from their parents. As financial role models, parents should take these steps:
* Talk about finances. Simply explaining where money comes from and how it is spent is a good start for young children. Older children will need more details, like how to balance a checkbook and how credit cards work. * Start with what you know; make the rest a learning adventure. If you think your financial understanding is insufficient, build on your knowledge and your child’s knowledge by learning about money together. That kind of activity strengthens the entire family’s financial power. * Get active in your community’s financial education. Take advantage of financial literacy resources through credit unions, schools, or other organizations. If your community lacks in this area, advocate for financial education in schools, parent groups and other community organizations. Ask the staff at your credit union what financial literacy help it offers.
For more guidance, watch the video “Talk With Your Children About Family Finances” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

HandFF Radio covers college credit-building

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WASHINGTON (8/19/11)--Sunday’s H&FF Radio program discusses credit-building strategies for students, workplace relationships, credit repair, and costs associated with caregiving. The show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, features Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:
* “Seven Smart Ways for Students to Build Credit.” Brandon Farestad-Rittel, college savings expert, Kinoli Inc., Windsor, Colo., shares ideas to help college students build credit responsibly. * “Getting Along in the Workplace.” Dr. Gary Chapman, marriage, family, and relationship expert, talk show host, and author of “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace,” Winston-Salem, N.C., offers guidelines for getting along with co-workers. * “Earning a Second Financial Chance.” Susan Tiffany, certified credit union financial counselor and director, consumer periodicals, Credit Union National Association (CUNA), Madison, Wis., explains how consumers can recover financially from credit problems. * “Family Caregiving: Its Costs--Financial and Emotional.” Gail Hunt, president/CEO, National Alliance for Caregiving, Washington, D.C., addresses the impact of providing care to family members.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at CUNA. The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide. Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network. CUNA and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites. For more information, read “Understand All Your Options for Dealing With Debt” and watch the “Build Your Best Credit Score” video in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

50 and back to school

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DULLES, Va. (8/17/11)--As a dismal job market sends workers age 50-plus back to college this fall, many wonder if it’s worth the investment of time and money. It can be, but it’s not such a clear shot as it is for younger, first-time college students (AOL Aug. 4). Today’s economic turbulence disproportionately affects older workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than half of unemployed workers ages 55 and older have been unemployed for six months or more, compared with 40% of workers younger than 55. And among the still employed, more older adults are preparing to stay in the workforce longer than they’d anticipated. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, in 2011, roughly 36% of workers say they expect to keep working past age 65--up from 20% in 2001. Whether unemployed, still employed, or returning to the workforce after retirement, older adults are going back to school to be able to compete for fewer jobs. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the number of students ages 50 to 64 increased 17% between fall 2007 and fall 2009. To meet the demand, the tide of college programs that target older adults is rising. Before you wade in, determine if getting another degree is worth it. Run a cost-benefit analysis by calculating how much you’ll have to borrow to pay for college, including books, living, and travel expenses; the starting salary range for workers in the field you want to move into; and how many years you plan to work. Compare your anticipated annual salary with the anticipated annual debt payment. If you think you’ll be working for 10 to 15 years, it's easier to amortize the costs than if you plan to work only a few years. The conventional advice to young people is not to borrow more than your anticipated starting salary with your new certificate or degree (SmartMoney July 28). That guideline makes less sense, of course, for much older students and workers. Whether you’re looking at returning to school for a career change or to give yourself an edge in a competitive job market, explore:
* Community college and local university programs for older students. The “Plus 50 Initiative” program for older adults is available in many community colleges. Also, check traditional four-year colleges for degree programs, courses, and continuing education opportunities geared for returning students. * Certificate programs. Adding a certificate to your résumé will make you stand out. Certificates cost less, are more efficient, and are more professionally oriented than traditional bachelor’s or master’s degree programs. * Extra classes to boost your current job or prepare for a new one. Make sure you choose classes that both fulfill you and will be perceived as valuable by employers. * Sitting in on classes for free. Call local colleges to see if they allow it. If space is available, they usually do. * Tuition assistance from your employer. If you’re still working, find out if your employer offers tuition assistance. Don’t be bashful--the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) gives a tax break to companies that help employees pay for university-level courses. * Scholarships, tax credits, and deductions for tuition and related expenses. The IRS and fastweb.com websites provide guidance. * Unused money in a child's 529 plan. You can use it for your own education. Some states even will let you create your own 529 plan.
For more information, read “New Rules for College Loans: Matching a Career to Debt Repayment” in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Used cars not always the best deal

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CHICAGO (8/15/11)--America’s car-buying market is anything but typical these days. Some conventional wisdom no longer applies as unique circumstances have turned the vehicle marketplace on its head (ChicagoTribune.com July 29). In most economic climates, buying a used car is cheaper than buying its new counterpart (Edmunds.com July 20). In recent years, though, used cars have been in high demand, pushing prices up. In July alone, the sector saw sales rise 13.5% (USAToday.com Aug. 1). High demand--combined with a rise in leasing’s popularity and a scarcity of new Japanese vehicles due to disrupted production since the earthquake and tsunami there--means that some low-mileage used cars cost almost as much as, if not more than, new cars. To navigate the changed marketplace, take these steps along with the traditional pre-purchase homework:
* Compare new-car prices vs. used. In some cases, a new car actually costs less than the used version, or the price difference is so negligible that you will prefer the new car. Use resources like Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com) to value the cars. Remember to factor in how financing and depreciation will affect car values. * Consider trading in your current vehicle. In the past, the general rule was that you earn more selling your car privately than by trading it in. Now, with used cars in demand, dealers are offering top dollar for trade-ins, especially for desirable models in great condition with low miles. That tightens the dollar gap between trading in a vehicle and selling it yourself, which involves more hassle. * Lean toward Detroit brands for used models. It used to be that American cars earned their tarnished reputation when compared with Japanese counterparts, but Detroit cars have improved steadily over the last decade. In recent years, some Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. vehicles have even outscored Toyota and Honda in Consumer Reports assessments (Daily Finance.comJuly 27). You can take advantage of the lingering bad reputation, and thus the lower demand for used Detroit models, to get great value from a dependable American vehicle.
For more car-buying guidelines, visit the Autos section in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

HandFF Radio covers textbook savings credit scoring

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WASHINGTON (8/12/11)--Sunday’s H&FF Radio program addresses ways to save on college textbooks, new credit scoring rules, credit restrictions for stay-at-home spouses and “money types.” The show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, features Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:
* “11 Intelligent Ways to Save on Textbooks Without the Bookstore.” Andrea Woroch, consumer savings expert, Santa Ana, Calif., shares ideas for saving money on textbooks--none of which include shopping at the college bookstore. * “New Rules on Credit Scoring Explained.” Kim McGrigg, community manager, Money Management International, Denver, highlights key changes to credit scoring. * “New Credit Restrictions for Stay-at-Home Spouses.” Michael Edwards, senior assistant general counsel, Credit Union National Association (CUNA), Washington, D.C., discusses new ability-to-pay requirements that could affect nonworking spouses. * “Crazy About Money: What Kind of Money Type Are You?” Dr. Maggie Baker, clinical psychologist, Philadelphia, explains how understanding your “money type” can help you create better financial habits.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at CUNA. The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide. Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network. CUNA and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites. For more information, read “Create Financial Checklist to Ease Transition to College” and “Stay-at-Home Spouses Face Credit Restrictions” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Savvy back-to-school shoppers use smartphones

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NEW YORK (08/10/11)--The 2011 back-to-school shopping season is in full swing, but high fuel prices and a 9.1% unemployment rate are expected to influence consumer buying decisions (investors.com July 27). Clipping coupons may be a thing of the past for many cost-conscious consumers. Nearly two-thirds of bargain-conscious consumers plan to use their smartphones to find the best deals, according to a recent survey commissioned by Deloitte (cnbc.com July 27). The survey showed that shoppers will use cell phones to do more than just identify price information at a particular store. Here are three ways to turn your cellphone into a bargain-hunting machine:
* Discounts. Check with your favorite retailers and see if they use text messaging to send discounts, special offers, and other sale information to consumers. Merchants typically require a shopper to send a text message to a special number to opt-in for the service. Be careful; messaging and data rates may apply. * Purchases. Many retailers have their own smartphone apps or mobile websites. You can use your phone to identify product information and pricing, to make purchases, and potentially to take advantage of deals offered only on a website. This also helps you avoid time-wasting trips to several stores, along with the associated fuel costs. * Barcodes. Several independent smartphone apps let users compare prices of a particular product from different retailers. The app uses a phone’s camera to read the product’s barcode and reveal businesses and their prices for the item.
For related information about school expenses, read “Cost of Attendance: What Does It Mean?” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

You may be buying a bum credit score

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McLEAN, Va. (8/8/11)--Myriad credit score ads flooding the airways and Internet not only are confusing and costly, they’re misleading: In many cases, the score you get is higher--or lower--than the credit score your lender uses to grant you credit. A study released last month by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Washington D.C., warned that consumers unaware that there are many credit scores available might think the score they get is their one true credit score. In fact, you could have widely divergent scores from different agencies (USA TODAY July 25). Promotions for “free” credit scores are simply the hooks to get you to sign up for credit monitoring, identity theft protection, or other services that cost anywhere from $15 to $30 a month. Worse, the score you get might be so misleading that you could have unrealistic expectations when you visit a lender. Scores from credit reporting agencies often are different from the credit score lenders use. Even credit scores bought through AnnualCreditReport.com could be misleading, according to the report (Mint.com Aug. 1). If your credit is stellar, you’ll likely have a high credit score no matter what score lenders use. And if you have really bad credit, the same is true: All your scores will be low. But if you fall between the two extremes, as most consumers do, it’s likely the score you get is different from the one your lender uses. Why does that matter? It affects your cost of credit. So follow these guidelines:
* Know your rights. If you’re turned down for a loan, or you’re approved for a loan with a higher interest rate than the rate offered to the lender’s best customers, a new law says the lender must provide you a free copy of your credit score. Lenders also must explain what factors affected your score. * Check out your free, no-obligation credit profile. Visit Credit Karma, Quizzle, Credit Sesame, and Credit.com websites for a general sense of whether you’re an excellent, average, or poor credit risk. * Buy FICO. This is the score most lenders use. Fair Isaac Corp. sells the FICO credit score for $19.95 at MyFICO.com. * Order your free credit reports. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com and make sure the information in your Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion reports is accurate. Correct errors that could have a sinking effect on your credit score. And steer clear of FreeCreditReport.com; if you don’t cancel the “free” trial membership in time, you’ll be billed monthly for services you may not want or need.
For more information, listen to “Does Your Credit Score Tell the Truth About You?” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Back-to-school budgeting on HandFF Radio

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WASHINGTON (8/5/11)--Sunday’s H&FF Radio program covers back-to-school costs, the debt debate’s impact on investments, step-by-step retirement planning and disaster preparedness. The show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, features Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:
* “Does Your Back-to-School Budget Make the Grade?” Andrea Woroch, consumer-savings expert, Santa Barbara, Calif., offers back-to-school budgeting and savings advice. * “The Debt Debate and Your Finances.” Michael Farr, president, Farr, Miller & Washington, Washington, D.C., explains how the debt-ceiling debate could affect your personal finances and investments. * “10 Steps to Retirement Security.” Beau Ballinger, senior adviser for financial security and outreach, AARP, Washington, D.C., outlines a 10-step approach to help you successfully plan for retirement. * “Protecting Family and Finances from Disaster.” Joyce Cavanagh, associate professor and extension family economics specialist, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M University in College Station, discusses ways to prepare for natural disasters.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide. Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network. CUNA and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites. For more information, read “Preserve Your Family’s Paper Trail: Replace and Safeguard Personal Records” and use the “How to Calculate Your Retirement Needs” calculator in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Protect identity during a move

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McLEAN, Va. (8/3/11)--Federal and state authorities are trying to stop online scam artists who pose as licensed movers and rip off consumers by jacking up prices, giving fake estimates, and holding consumers’ belongings hostage (USAToday.com July 27). Summer is prime time for moving, but unfortunately as home buying and selling activity increases, so does the risk of identity theft, according to Intersections Inc., a provider of consumer and corporate identity theft risk management services, Chantilly, Va. If you’re relocating, take Intersections’ advice to help protect yourself from unscrupulous movers:
* Use a reputable moving company--Ask friends and family for mover recommendations. Get estimates from different companies and make sure moving trucks are easily identifiable with company name and phone number. Contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and ask if the prospective moving company has complaints against it. The BBB received more than 8,900 complaints against both unlicensed and licensed movers in 2010, according to USAToday.com--a 5% increase over 2009. * Supervise the move--Be present at all times during the move. If you’re watching the movers, it could deter them from committing all types of theft--including stealing personal belongings and committing identity theft. Your presence also assures that movers take care of your belongings properly. * Submit a change-of-address form--Immediately notify the post office to change your address. Once you’ve submitted your request, watch for a confirmation of receipt from the post office. Mail should start arriving at your new address within seven to 10 days of your request. Beware of bogus change-of-address websites, warns the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Some customers have paid up to $30 for a change of address on websites that appear to be linked with the USPS but are not. In some cases the address change is never made and the thief keeps the money. To ensure that you are truly submitting a change of address to the post office, use usps.com. * Monitor financial statements--Check online banking balances as often as possible to stay on top of unscrupulous account activity. * Secure your computer--Make sure all household computers are hackproof by changing passwords and so forth. If you’ll be moving computer equipment yourself, set it out of movers’ sight on moving day. * Shred important documents--Cross-cut shred any personal documents that you will not be moving. Don’t throw important paperwork in the trash--thieves dumpster dive to retrieve and harvest info from those discards. * Keep documents with you--Move all important documents, such as wills, to a safe and secure place--a locked box or an online secure vault. Keep physical documents with you during the move. Don’t leave personal paperwork out where movers can see it. * Check your credit report--After moving, order your credit report. Suspicious activity can be a sign of identity theft and that your information has been compromised. Order your report from the three major credit bureaus at annualcreditreport.com. * Verify mail delivery--After you move, verify that you’re receiving mail from all senders that you contacted beforehand.
For more information about how to avoid identity theft, read “Crooks Use High-Tech Scams to Commit Fraud” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.