In spite of a large number of retailers declaring bankruptcy, California retail is predicted to fare well this holiday season. With wages improving and unemployment going down, California consumers are expected to spend generously from now through December. This is great for retailers who, on average, earn about 20% of their annual profits during the holiday season. Of course, it is good that consumers feel confident, but they should exercise caution if they don’t want to damage their credit scores in the New Year. Also, in light of the recent Equifax data breach, identity theft is a bigger threat to California residents than ever. This means that consumers must exercise more caution with their credit cards. They should also keep tabs on their financial statements and credit reports before, during, and after the holidays.
How California Consumers Can Enjoy the Holiday Season Without Damaging their Credit Scores
Spending money on gifts and parties is inevitable for most California consumers during the holiday season. Although, if you use credit cards to overdo it, you could end up spending far more than you’d planned on holiday purchases. Unless you can pay off your credit cards in January, interest charges kick in, and balances grow. Then, if credit card balances are exceptionally high, you run the risk of getting behind on payments and hurting your credit score.
It is easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit in the season of giving. But remember to give yourself the gift of credit and financial health by sticking to a budget. When it comes to buying gifts, planning is crucial. Well before hitting the stores or your favorite websites, make a list and decide how much you can safely and realistically spend on every person. If possible, start putting a little cash out of every paycheck aside until it’s time to shop. This way, you won’t need to rely entirely on credit cards to complete your list.
If you know that your budget is tight, suggest drawing names with your family, friends, and co-workers. This way, you limit the number of gifts you need to buy without sacrificing any fun. Then, when it comes to parties, limit yourself to accepting just a few invitations. You’ll enjoy yourself much more at the festivities you do attend by being less stressed out about overspending on new clothes and hostess gifts.
How California Consumers Can Protect Themselves Against Identity Theft During the Holiday Season and Beyond
Using debit and credit cards online and in stores always increases identity theft risk. Therefore, it is important for California consumers to take measures to protect themselves while shopping. When using a payment card in a store, shield your pin numbers from potentially prying eyes. It’s also a good idea to keep your purse or wallet within sight at all times. Remember that some identity thieves aren’t hackers or cyberthieves, but old-fashioned pick-pockets.
When buying holiday gifts online, try to limit yourself to trusted, secure sites. Unfortunately, security breaches happen, and no site is 100% safe all of the time. Yet, on a normal day, some websites are much more secure than others. Always check for the small lock icon next to the URL in the browser bar, and double check the spelling of the site’s name in the URL. Often, hackers create clone websites to mimic real ones in order to take advantage of misdirected traffic. It’s easy for California web shoppers to stumble onto one of these bogus sites, and the phony web addresses are usually just one or letters off from the real websites. Never share payment information with a site with a misspelled URL.
While California Consumers Should File Their Tax Returns Early This Year
Finally, while no one likes to think of taxes during the holiday season, remember that this year is a little different. Hackers stole over 145 million Social Security numbers in the Equifax data breach. So, tax fraud incidents are likely to jump in early 2018. In order for California consumers to reduce the risk of a scammer filing a fraudulent tax return in their name, they should file their taxes as early as possible. A lot of Californians plan on using their tax refunds to pay off those holiday-inflated credit card balances. However, you can’t do that if an identity thief steals the money you have coming back from the IRS.
How Checking Your Credit Reports Can Help Your Credit Score and Limit Credit Report Damage Caused by Identity Theft
Checking your credit reports on a regular basis is a good way to find out if a scammer has used your personal information to commit identity theft. By finding and reporting suspicious items, you can have them removed and fix your credit score.
Frequently, California credit reports are damaged by errors and mistakes made by creditors and the credit reporting agencies. Many of these inaccuracies can bring down your credit score, so they need to come off your credit reports.
Every U.S. consumer can access their credit reports from TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian for free at least once a year under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA). Also, the easiest way to request all three at once is to visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
While looking through your credit reports, if you find evidence of identity theft or errors, contact Credit Repair Lawyers of America in California. When you do, an experienced credit attorney will fix your credit issues and get you clean credit reports for free. Even if it’s necessary to file lawsuits on behalf of our clients, they never pay anything out of pocket for our services.
The Free and Legal Way to Get Better Credit
Don’t let fraudulent items or errors on your credit reports bring your credit score down. At Credit Repair Lawyers of America, we’ve been cleaning up credit reports for consumers since 2008 for free. How do we do it? All of our fees come from the defendants in settled cases. This is why our clients pay nothing for the work we do.
Let’s start the conversation about what we can do for your credit. Set up your free consultation today by calling Attorney Gary Nitzkin at (916) 438-9400 or sending him a message through our contact page.
For more information about Free Credit Repair, please visit https://www.creditrepairlawyersam.com/california/credit-repair-ca/. Or, to learn more about Free Credit Repair After Identity Theft, check out https://www.creditrepairlawyersam.com/california/fix-identity-theft-ca/.