About Freezing Your Credit and Why You Should Think About It

A while back half the country – 143 million people – had their personal identities stolen. Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and a lot more. They were stolen from the “secure” files of Equifax, one of the three credit reporting agencies that are supposed to safeguard our personal information and provide lenders with a credit score based on our credit history. If your loan application is OK’d it’s because these guys have looked at how well you repay your debts and given your lender a number that says you’re OK.

Last fall, in response to the Equifax data breach Congress passed a law requiring Equifax and the other two, Experian and TransUnion, to place a “freeze” on any consumer’s credit file, if requested by that person, and not charge them for it, which they had in the past. Here’s the Buried Treasure in that. With a freeze on your credit file, the goons who inhabit the “dark web” can’t open a account in your name and run up a huge tab or buy a car with your name and SS# on the loan documents. That’s because lenders won’t be able to access your credit file because you’ve frozen it.

In other words, identity protection that’s free for the asking!

You have to contact Equifax, Experian and TransUnion individually but when you do they’re required to place a freeze on your account within 24 hours. All three have smart phone apps so you might be able to order the freeze online. And you’ll have to “unfreeze” your account if you’ll be applying for credit in the future. But it’s free and you should get it to protect yourself!

A credit freeze can’t undo the data breach but you know what they say. Better late than never.

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We Know Where the Buried Treasure is Buried

One of our long-time members needed some cash to cover storm repairs on her home. Not a problem. While processing her loan we asked permission to check her personal finances to see if we could find any “Buried Treasure.” She said OK and our loan officer went to work. Boy, did she.

By the time she was done she’d saved our long-time member over $650 a month in reduced payments. Here’s how she did it:

  • Paid off the existing higher-interest rate home mortgage and replaced it with a lower-interest rate Creighton Federal mortgage with nearly the same payoff date.
  • Paid off an existing high-interest rate credit card balance, consolidating it with the lower-interest rate Creighton Federal loan for home repairs.
  • Paid off, then replaced two higher-interest rate car loans with lower-interest rate Creighton Federal vehicle loans.

Our member was dumbfounded. She hadn’t even asked us to look. She didn’t have to. We do it all the time.

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A Question You’ll Probably Never Ask Yourself

If you can answer the following question you get a “high five” from all of us:

Q: How do credit unions differs from banks, especially big, mega banks? Here’s help: invest 3 minutes and 3 seconds watching Lesson 11, “Why a Credit Union is Not a Bank,” in our series of FREE lessons in personal finance. We call it FI-Q – stands for Financial IQ.

Think I’m nuts giving you help? I’m not nuts. I’m – what’s the $2 word – incenting – you to watch the FI-Q videos. I’ll be happy if you just watch Lesson 11. I’ll be ecstatic if you watch more. And you’ll be able to catch me in the Hubble telescope if you watch them all.

Look, we invest time and money in these video lessons and we want people – our members and non-members, too – to get smarter about their personal finances, saving money and protecting their identity. Believe me, there’s good stuff here. So, click here and get started.

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Reassuring Words About Setting Up a Budget

I’m not going to lecture you on why you should create and stick to a budget or how to do it. There’s plenty of information online and elsewhere for your reading pleasure.

No, instead I’m going to give you the single best reason to create a budget for yourself. And that reason is Freedom! The personal freedom that comes from not worrying about money. At least, not as much and, maybe, not at all.

Fear of running out of money before the next check is deposited is like a black cloud that follows you around. You can’t shake it, just like you can’t shake the fear of running low or – OMG – out of cash. Budgeting won’t put money into your checking account. It’ll keep money in your checking account and that’s just as good.

Here’s another good idea. Create a reasonable (as in do-able) budget and stick to it for a week. It’ll be easier than you think and you’re liable to find some “Buried Treasure” in your account when you’re done.

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