23 May 2006

Do What You Need to Do to Protect Your Identity.

On May 03 the names, social security numbers and birth dates of 26 MILLION LIVING VETERANS from 1975 through the present were stolen.

Sure the VA is hopeful that the person who stole the information doesn't know what they have. Even wishful that he/she will have a blast of morality and return the information. Personally, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Fast action is the key to limiting the financial and emotional damages of identity theft. Don't wait until you see suspicious activities on your credit report. It can take months before you realize you are a victim.

01 Step.
Place a fraud alert on your credit account.
Contact one of the Credit Reporting Agencies by phone. (and don't be frustrated when you never get a real human.) You will need personal information including your social security number.

Equifax: 800-525-6285
Hearing impaired: Call 1-800-255-0056

Experian: 888-397-3742
TDD- 800-972-0322

TransUnion: 800-680-7289
TDD- 877-553-7803

Because it can be a hassle if you need to apply for credit, not everyone would advise a fraud alert in this situation. When an alert is placed on your account, a business must verify identity before issuing credit. This may cause some delays. It's your call. But, I wouldn't be taking chances with my financial future if I thought someone could have my name and social security number. Find out more details about Fraud Alerts from the FTC.

02 Step
Call each of the Credit Reporting Companies and request a copy of your credit report.

Equifax: 800-685-1111

Experian: 888-EXPERIAN

TransUnion: 800-888-4213

03 Step
When your credit reports arrive, review your credit reports carefully.

1. Highlight unfamiliar inquiries or accounts.
2. Highlight unusual charges on existing accounts.
3. Highlight errors in personal information such as Social Security number, name, address and employers.

04 Step
If any errors are found in the report, contact the credit reporting companies to correct

05 Step
If fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name or there are unusual charges on existing accounts, contact the creditors of the fraudulent accounts explain the situation and then follow up in writing. The contact information should be provided on the credit report.

If you aren't keeping good records, start now; good records are vital to clearing you name and credit.

JOYS has a few tips but The Identity Theft Resource Center has fantastic resources. Use them.

1. Templates for Letters to Creditor and Others.
2. A Detail Course of Action if you are a Victim.
3. Tips to Help You Organize Your Case.

06 Step
If fraudulent accounts and activity appear in your credit report File a Police Report
This step may be the most frustrating step, because many departments don't understand the importance of a police report to identity theft victims. Insist on a Report. The FTC provides some straight forward insight if you are having difficulties.

07 Steps
If fraudulent accounts and activity appear in your credit report File a Complaint with the FTC. Information you provide may help law enforcement official across the country track down identity thieves.

Finally, please know that placing a fraud alert on you account will not guarantee protection against identity theft.

You may consider one more step.
Each of the Credit Reporting Companies provides services that will monitor your account for unusual activity. Although a bit pricey, these services would pay for themselves if fraud were caught early. Free Trials including a Free Credit Report may also be available. You may be interested in:

1. Equifax Credit Watch™ 3-in-1 Monitoring
2. Experian Credit Manager™
3. TrueCredit™ from TransUnion

By law you are entitled to one free report, at your request, once a year. Many different situations may dictate another free report, at your request. Check the FTC web site for more information.

08 April 2006

03 Three Tips : Setting Up a Maintainable Home Filing System.

Tax Day is fast approaching. Did you know the average taxpayer spends more than 24 hours preparing their 1040 “long” form? That is according to the U.S. Tax Payers Union. Establishing a functional home filing system is a key factor in reducing the stress of tax preparation. It may take some time to actually file your piles but you can set up a functional filing system in an afternoon. Here are three simple tips…

Most papers are never referenced after taxes are filed. However, they must be kept for many years. Create a place for papers and information to be stored depending on when it will be needed.

An effective filing system will help you…
1. Keep current information easily accessible and maintainable.
2. Keep support records from being lost in piles of reference materials and everyday information.
3. Keep vital documents safe and secure.

The whole family should be able to file and retrieve information from your household filing system. Filing your papers and personal information under consistent simple categories will help anyone quickly locate anything they need. Choose categories carefully by making sure they are broad enough to cover multiple subjects. Studies have shown that colors and graphics are recognized quicker than words, so consider using them in your system.

Keep your system simple by…

1. Limiting your main categories to five or six
2. Choosing a color or graphic to represent each category.
3. Keeping categories consistent in all containers.

Save time by using a pre-designed system like JOYS™ Brand Organizational Products.

If you can look at a piece of paper for what it is you can quickly make a decision to keep or toss it. Take the time to read the IRS publication on Record Retention (Publication 552) and know what personal documents are considered vital. This will help to eliminate some of the fear associated with tossing papers.

Any piece of paper can be classified as one of the following…

1.Documents provide proof of ownership, responsibility and identity and are considered most important or vital.
2.Records support past activity and information and are primarily needed for tax and insurance purposes.
3.References provide general or specific information and are considered the least important or clutter.

Remember, the rewards of a balanced life are worth the commitment it takes to get organized. This is especially true this time of year when locating support records for tax preparation can be time consuming.

16 January 2006

How To : Keep a Contact Log

If you are making a request, seeking information or attempting to correct a problem, you'll want a record of what has been advised, promised or denied from individuals or companies your are dealing with. A simple note in your household notebook will help jog your memory for basic maintenance and service. But if your situation requires ongoing contact, a dedicated contact log may be needed.

A detailed log includes:

01. Date
02. Contact Name
03. Company Name
04. Phone Number
05. Discussion Points
06. Action Required
07. Agreements Made
08. Confirmation Numbers

After contact, confirm in writing your discussion, include actions required, agreements made and timetable for completion. Make sure to send confirmations by return receipt requested mail. If you fax or email, request a written response for receipt of confirmation.

Download JOYS™ Contact Log if you want to add a log to any subject in your household notebook.

If you prefer to keep your log on you computer, check out My Little Note Saver shareware for your pc or Mac Journal for your mac. But remember, logging on the computer doesn't carry as much weight in court.

    14 January 2006

    07 Seven Good Reasons : Why Keep a Contact Log?

    If you are the victim of identity theft or have a child or family member with an ongoing medical condition or you are collecting child support it is vital you keep a contact log. The truth is people make mistakes. And someone else's mistake can hurt you. You will be the best keeper of information that supports you.

    Staying organized and keeping a contact log helps you:

    01. Bring your situation to a quicker resolution.
    02. Return your life back to a more normal state.
    03. Discredit inaccuracies and exaggerations.
    04. Appear and be more knowledgeable.
    05. Prove possible violations of court orders, law or policy.
    06. Clarify thoughts and memories of incidents.
    07. Provide clues to locating helpful records.

      09 January 2006

      What to Do : I Lost My Wallet.

      Take action quickly. For legal and tax purposes - keep a log of all conversations, including dates, names and phone numbers. Also note time spent and keeps receipts for any expenses incurred.

      First : Place a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Account. Don’t be frustrated if you never speak to a live person.

      Second : File a Police Report. Keep a copy in a safe location and make a note of the report number. You may need it in the future.

      Third : If you know what’s in your wallet, start making phone calls. If you don’t know what’s in your wallet, take a breath, it's ok.

      Read the straightforward information from the Identity Theft Information Center. It provides a checklist to help you remember what was in your wallet, actions to take and numbers to call.

      Even if you know what’s in your wallet, I might make one more suggestion. Print the information from the Identity Theft Information Center today and put it in your household binder or with the copies you made. Don’t waste time searching for this valuable information when you really need.

      07 January 2006

      Do You Know : What’s in your wallet?

      If your wallet was lost or stolen, how quickly could you notify all your financial institutions? What phone number would you call? What if you were on a trip and didn’t have quick access your files?

      It could take forever to locate all the number on all your cards. Besides that, could you even remember everything you had in your wallet? Save yourself some time and reduce stress. Make a copy of all the important stuff in your wallet. Front and back. Then file it away in a very safe and secure place.

      If you have a computer and scanner, it takes less than 15 minutes!

      01 Step : Review. Take everything out of your wallet and check it out. Ask yourself…Do I need to be carrying this with me? Does it have my social security number on it? (If the answer is yes to this question, it should not be in your wallet.)

      02 Step : Scan. Arrange as many cards as possible on your scanning bed and scan.

      03 Step : Scan. Flip to scan the other side.

      04 Step : Print. You may wish to print the document containing the front of your cards and then flip the paper to print on the back.

      05 Step : Check. Review your printouts. Make sure you can read the contact phone numbers. It may help to write the phone number next to the card. (Those numbers are always printed so small!)

      06 Step : Delete. Any scans you saved on your hard drive. You don’t need them. And make sure you shred any printed pages you are not going to file safely away.

      07 Step : File. The pages you just created should be kept in a secure location. File in your Vital File.

      Please Note : If your Drivers License, (or any card for that matter) is displaying your Social Security Number it is time to request a new one. It’s may even be law.

      05 January 2006

      Second Thought : Don't Toss Your Manuals

      Some organizing experts suggest tossing your product manuals. Reason being, “You can just get online to find the information you need.”

      It is a good chance you will have to refer to a manual during the life of any product, so I have to respectfully disagree. I like my paper references for so many reasons.

      1. What if your computer is experiencing “technical difficulties”?
      2. What if your internet "connection goes down"?
      3. What if there is a "power outage"?
      4. Even if you can get online, how long will you have to search for the information you “specifically need"?
      5. After finally finding the information, you’re probably going to want to print it out, because your computer doesn't provide "viewing flexibility".
      6. Now what if your printer is experiencing “technical difficulties”?

      I could go on…but in my humble opinion : Save some time and fileyour manuals.

      03 January 2006

      30 Days : To Less Clutter

      Let go of one thing. Go for it. Get rid of something. Just one thing. It can be anything.

      1. The lonely sock waiting for his mate to return from the dryer.
      2. The non-stick frying pan that has been scrubbed free of it’s non-stick powers.
      3. Any catalog dated 2005. It’s 2006, the prices have probably changed anyway.

      It’s less overwhelming when you let go of old stuff a little at a time. Once you start you may not be able to stop. So go ahead. Toss something. If you can’t bear to toss it give it away. But get rid of it.

      Do this everyday for the next 30 days and you’ll have less clutter in no time.

      02 January 2006

      01 One Simple Rule : Helping You Organize Life.

      Use it, need it or toss it, unless it makes you smile. This one simple rule can help you keep everything in your life organized.

      The main focus of is to help you get your personal papers and information organized. But eliminating clutter in all areas of your home and life will certainly help you find balance.

      Just start with a few small things. The feeling you get from letting something go will snowball. Take a few minutes each day to get rid of something you no longer need or use. If you haven’t used IT or needed IT in the past year, it is time to let go. If IT is still in good working condition you may want to or

      Be honest with yourself. Selling and trading stuff take time and energy. What is your time worth to you? Someone may truly benefit from your generosity. Stop hanging onto things because you think you can make a few bucks. Having more space and less clutter is worth a lot more that a couple dollars.
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