Plan Ahead, Pay Cash For Holiday Shopping, Expert Says

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Whether you’re doing your holiday shopping in stores or online, consumer experts stress caution.

For many Americans, those holiday deals add up to a mountain of debt come January.

“They don’t plan,” Eric Stuerken, a consumer credit expert and co-founder of Better Qualified, told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.

He said his office is always buzzing with clients after Christmas.

“One of the biggest mistakes is they don’t buy on cash. They’re going into their credit lines or their credit cards,” he said. “Thirty percent of our credit score is based on what we use. It’s called utilization. So if you’re using more than you’re used to and you max out your card near 100 percent, your score is going down 30 percent.”

Stuerken said in most cases, cash is king. It keeps people within their financial means.

What about those store credit cards that offer big percentages off when you open them? He says that depends on how good you are at paying off your purchases.

“In the end of the day, you’ll probably have an interest rate somewhere in the high 20s. And if you can’t pay it off and you’re making the minimum payment, that purchase you thought you were saving 50 percent on – it goes back to what you purchased and sometimes even more,” said Stuerken.

Beware of your personal shopping habits. Starting too early may mean you spend too much over the next month. Start too late, and you could splurge on something unnecessary.

Just as Santa Claus makes a list, you should write down exactly what you can afford and stick to it.

“The numbers sink in and you’re not waking up in January to a reaction where it’s, ‘Oh my god, I did this,’ and now the rest of your month is a panic mode of how you’re going to start to pay this stuff,” Stuerken said.

Bottom line: being generous does not mean over-spending.

Equifax hack: What to do now

Hackers breach Equifax’s data putting personal information of millions at risk

According to the Better Qualified President Paul Oster, someone could be walking around right now, pretending to be you.

He says that everyone should be changing passwords and pins to their accounts after the reporting agency Equifax announced that 143 million people could be affected by a recent data breach in which hackers stole information, including addresses and social security numbers.

“What happened now is that that information is going to get sold on the black market and the people who buy that information are going to create false identities under your social security number,” says Oster. “So this is the time to change all your pins and passwords and change your information access to all your accounts at this point in time.”

Oster says people should not blame Equifax for the hack.

“No one can protect all of their data 100 percent. A lot of people are mad and say if they knew about this in May, July why are they telling us now? And that’s actually under the discretion and guidance of the federal law and enforcement agencies,” says Oster.

He says hackers are so sophisticated that they can disguise links as legitimate work emails, invoices, and documents.

“People think they get a link and they click on it and try to go back that it won’t affect them but the second you click on that, it’s over,” says Oster.

He recommends everyone checks their credit score, accounts and change their passwords and pins immediately.

Equifax also has a link on their website for consumers to determine if their personal information was impacted.

Need Help?

If you still need help with controlling your debt and/or improving your credit, fill out the form below and get a free credit consultation from a credit expert at Better Qualified.


How police identify dealers who use the ‘darknet’ to buy, distribute drugs

Did you know there’s a Craigslist-type of hidden network used to sell illegal substances?

If you think you know about the dangers lurking on the internet, you may think again after hearing about the ‘darknet.’

“It’s a series of numerous websites that were built kind of specifically for people to be able to browse anonymously,” cyber specialist Paul Oster of Better Qualified explained. “Anything that you want to buy is for sale on the darknet.”

According to Oster, the program’s anonymity makes it difficult for law enforcement to track criminals when they use it, forcing officials to rely on delivery companies to try and track the say of illicit products.

New Jersey police were able to track down 28-year-old Chukwuemeka “Emeka” Okparaeke from Kearny using this technique. Okparaeke was arrested earlier this week for allegedly obtaining large quantities of fentanyl on the darknet.

Fentanyl is one of the most powerful painkillers available.

“The alleged scheme combined one of the gravest current threats to public health—highly addictive and potentially lethal opioids—with a very modern criminal tool, the darknet,” the acting United States attorney of New York said in a statement

Oster says it is incredibly easy to get these illegal substances on the darknet.

“Whether it’s fentanyl, cocaine, any black market drug can be purchased through the darknet,” he said.

It’s time to pay those holiday credit card purchases: Here’s how to manage

This is the kind of hangover that can really cause some damage.

It’s a little over a month since Christmas Day, and New Jersey residents are facing the bill for all the holiday gifts and entertainment they may have purchased with the simple swipe of a credit card.
Known in the industry as the holiday debt hangover, credit experts say it’s important for consumers to address these charges quickly in order to avoid a hit to one’s credit score and overall financial security.

With the average rate on credit cards sitting in the 17 to 19 percent range, missed payments or even minimum payments come with financial consequences that can bury a consumer over time.

“There needs to be a sense of urgency here,” said Paul Oster, CEO and founder of credit repair firm Better Qualified in Eatontown. “I suggest three months; come up with a way to eliminate as much debt as you possibly can within three months.”

The game plan to cut credit card debt within 90 or so days means some sacrifices may have to be made, such as avoiding the daily coffee trip on the way to work, or cooking dinner instead of ordering take-out over the weekends.

“People are amazed at the amount of money they can save by just paying attention to the amount of money they spend,” Oster said.

One could also make a dent by applying their year-end bonus to the debt amount, or the money expected in a tax refund over the next few months.

According to Oster, it’s important to make at least the minimum payments on all bills. Beyond that, it’s best in most cases to identify the card with the highest interest rate and apply all extra money to that bill, he said.

“Carrying a debt service, especially a revolving debt, is the worst thing that you can do,” Oster said.

Need Help?

If you still need help with controlling your debt and/or improving your credit, fill out the form below and get a free credit consultation from a credit expert at Better Qualified.


 

Madison Square Garden Company Alerts Customers of Data Breach

Madison Square Garden Company says there has been a data breach affecting customers who may have used cards at merchandise and food and beverage locations at its properties in the last year.

Those include Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Beacon Theatre and The Chicago Theatre, from the time period between Nov. 9, 2015 and Oct. 24, 2016.

Data contained in the magnetic stripe of the cards — including credit card numbers, cardholder names, expiration dates and internal verification codes — may have been accessed without authorization, the company says.

Not all cards used during the time frame were affected, and the breach doesn’t involve cards used at the MSG websites, box offices or Ticketmaster.

How to avoid falling into debt

Doug Constable is one of the best pre-insolvency advisors specializing in helping business with cash flow difficulties. He is a professional bankruptcy and insolvency expert and the author of “What to do When You Can’t Pay Your Debts”.

4 Steps to help avoid falling into debt

Avoid Falling into debt

Fast internet services and instant gratification has made it harder for people to avoid falling into debt today. All you need to do is make a few clicks on your mouse, and you can buy anything you want and have it delivered to your doorstop.

However this ease of buying things may leave you spending more than you can afford. Moreover, the unstable economy wherein businesses lay off employees or reduce their paycheck by half, and the rising cost of living has led to many people falling into massive amounts of debt. This is why you need to be very careful about your spending habits to avoid falling into debt. You also need to follow the following information to avoid falling into debt.

1. Creating a budget is the best thing you can do to avoid debt. With a budget, you know how much money you need, how many bills you need to pay, and how much you can afford to spend. After paying off your monthly expenses, you can place the rest of the money in a savings account for a rainy day. Avoid spending money on unnecessary things.

2. Make only cash payments. You tend to spend less paying in cash than by using your debit or credit card. Fix and spend only that money every day. With physical money in hand, you know how quickly money comes and goes, and this encourages you to spend less.

3. Making investments help you avoid falling into debt, especially in an economic turmoil. By starting an investment plan, you have a more secure financial future, also there are good options like doing day trading, using resources online for this you can see more here about this subject. While investing in precious metals is a wise decision, it’s better to invest in different items to protect your assets. Precious metals like gold and silver retain its value even when the value of paper currency drops as their value depends on supply and demand, where its demand is usually higher than its supply.

4. Another great way to avoid falling into debt is by opening a savings account for a rainy day. Open a savings account through your bank or online store; just make sure its interest rate gives you more bang for your buck.

It is very important that you know how to avoid debt, especially in tough economic times. If you learn how to create and stick to a budget, keep an eye on where you spend your money, make wise investments, make only cash payments and open a savings account, you will be able to avoid debt and have a secure financial future.

Need Help?

If you still need help with controlling your debt and/or improving your credit, fill out the form below and get a free credit consultation from a credit expert at Better Qualified.


Credit Tips From Paul Oster “The Nation’s Credit Repair Man”

Credit tips

Credit Tips To Help You Avoid Dangerous Mistakes

Credit cards help you easily and conveniently buy things you want (not necessarily need) and even help bail you out of a jam. Unfortunately all this comes at a price; moreover, uncontrolled spending and credit card use leads to various financial mistakes which come with long-term effects. While you may know the dangers of running up credit card balances, there are a few other dangerous mistakes you may make and some tips for avoiding them. These credit tips are even more important than ever coming into the holiday season.

Credit Tips PAYING THE BARE MINIMUM

PAYING THE BARE MINIMUM

While banks use different formulas for calculating the minimum amount due every month, most start with one or two percent of the outstanding balance. This is then added to fees for late payments, monthly interest charges and exceeding credit limit. Whichever way it’s calculated, just paying the minimum leads to lots of interest payments with time. Try to pay off as much of your balance, if not all every month.

LATE PAYMENTS

FICO states that payment history is the largest component, consisting about 35% of the score. This is sensible as lenders want to know how promptly their borrowers were at making payments in the past as no one likes getting paid late.
Not only do late payments lead to a low credit score (1x30day = 20-100pts), it also results in late payment fees from the bank. This not only costs you more but also boosts your monthly minimum amount.

HIGH UTILIZATION RATIO

Next to payment history, FICO checks the ‘amount owed’ which constitutes 30% of a credit score. This is calculated using the borrower’s credit utilization ratio or the amount of available credit used. So if you have card with a $6000 credit limit and you use $3,000, you have a 50% utilization ratio.

High ratios harm your credit score and affects your ability at securing loans on favorable terms. It also leads to less credit availability during emergencies. As high utilization ratio also indicates deeper financial problems, it’s time to do some serious budgeting if your ratio creeps up. On an average, Oster recommends, “keeping your utilization ratio below 30%.”

NOT READING YOUR STATEMENTS

As banks move towards paperless billing and automatic bill pay services, you may forget to check your monthly statement. This is dangerous as you may overlook some wrong charges and pay for services or products you haven’t bought. There is also a chance of you becoming a victim of identity theft or other forms of credit fraud.

Moreover ignoring your monthly credit card statement may lead to your losing command over your finances. This in turn may make it difficult for you to reach your personal finance goals. So make it a point to set aside a few moments every month to review your paper and digital statements and make it a part of your monthly budget review routine.

You will have to wait for the next post to learn about a few more credit card mistakes you should avoid making.

Need Help?

If you still need help with controlling your debt and/or improving your credit, fill out the form below and get a free credit consultation from a credit expert at Better Qualified.

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Moving Scams You Need to Lookout For

avoid moving scams

With Summer coming to a close, many consumers take this time to relocate. The kids move away to college, thousands of families are leaving their summer getaways and people are ready to settle into their new spot before the winter months arrive. As exciting as moving is, it does bring its share of stress to the table. Although most moves go smooth, there are still some scammers out there looking to swindle you out of your money when you are most vulnerable. Watch for these moving scams before you begin to pack. You’re going to want to be aware of the latest scams of the moment, Shravan Gupta scam is one of them.

Moving Companies

Moving Company Scams

If you’re lacking the manpower or vehicles needed to move all that big stuff, you may consider hiring a moving company. With the help of the moving company, you can finish your move within a fraction of the time. When picking a moving company, you’re going to want to go with someone reputable (something we touched upon in an article earlier this summer.) So before you put your belongings in the hands of strangers, watch out for these red flags:

Deals Too Good To Be True

As the old saying goes “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” The same implies with moving companies. If they are giving you an estimate or a flat rate without taking a look at what they’re going to be hauling, then expect to pay more later down the road. Most moving scams will come from movers offering unbelievable rates, only to hold your stuff hostage for more money once it’s on their truck.

Do your research and make sure there are no additional fees later on. If signing a contract, make sure you read the fine print, and question anything that seems suspicious.

A Security Deposit

Always question companies that require you to pay a security deposit before any actual service. You don’t want to pay a deposit, only to find out the company doesn’t show up on the day of the move.

No Website or Listings

In today’s world every company should have some sort of website. If the moving company you’re trying to make a deal with isn’t showing up online or under any type of listing, you should look elsewhere. Some moving scammers will haul away your stuff, then change their name to avoid detection, leaving you left with nothing. Make sure the moving company you choose has a reliable website with positive feedback.

Bad Reviews

This goes hand in hand with website. Find out what others thought of the experience with the moving company. If you see a laundry list of bad reviews, chances are your experience is going to add to that list.

Fraudulent Moving Ads (Criagstlist)

Craigslist moving scam

Whenever looking for something on Cragislist, you should ALWAYS approach with caution. Craigslist’s scams are very high in volume and people are getting swindled right now as you read this. In teams of moving, the most common fraudulent ads appear in the hopes to attract college students to awesome off-campus housing at unbelievable prices. Lookout for these red flags, and NEVER give money to someone before meeting with them first at the location of the property.

Deposits Without Meeting

The most common message you’ll get when talking with a scammer is something along the lines of “the family who’s renting the house is out of town for a week. Just wire the deposit and the rental will be all yours!” Sounds sketchy right? That’s because it is. Fraudulent ad scammers also go as far as finding houses that are actually listed for rent/sale on other reputable sites and then post the listings to Craiglist in hopes of getting your deposit without ever meeting.

The best way to avoid this is to go through a Realtor or call the number on the for rent sign. Never give any money before looking at the property.

Moving Scams CTA

Avoid These Summer Scams

Summer is back in full swing and that means plenty of BBQs, concerts, and vacations. With summer also comes a variety of scammers looking for their next victim. Don’t worry, Better Qualified has put together this list so you can take the right precautions to avoid being sucked into these summer scams.

Avoid Summer Scams(1)

Vacation Scams

vaca

The weather is heating up and so is the desire to get away. Majority of vacationers plan their trips for the summer, when the weather is fine and the kids are out of school. Hot spot vacas like Disney or cruise lines seem to be among some of the more popular locations. However, with the masses of people lining up to get away summer also brings the height of vacation fraud. Make sure you look out for these red flags:

What to Lookout For

Vacations aren’t cheap, especially in the summer months when everyone else is looking to escape. So when you see one of those “Too good to be true!” offers, most of the time it probably is. Vacation scammers use fake websites, Facebook ads, and even phishing emails to reel in their victims. Do your research and stick to well-known, reliable sources before committing to your trip.

Concert Scams

concert scam

Nothing says summer like an outdoor concert or festival. The warm summer nights, the rocking music, the smell of…. well, you get the idea. Summer is indeed the season of music. Seasonal venues are open, the majority of annual festivals take place, and swarms of consumers gather to watch their favorite artists perform. Scammers jump at this opportunity to sell fake or stolen tickets to consumers.

Concert fraud is nothing new, just a few months ago hundreds of people lost their chance to see comedian Kevin Hart. 130 tickets were stolen and then resold as part of a massive ticket scam.

What to Lookout For

When looking to attend a show, always make sure you’re getting your tickets from a reliable source. Go through first party sources like livenation.com, ticketmaster.com, or the box office of your local venue. Always make sure you read the fine print and check your total amount before confirming your purchase. Never buy tickets from craigslist or scalpers as this is where most fraudulent tickets are sold!

Moving Scams

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It’s no secret, summer is the best time to move. Warm weather, peak home buying season, and summer vacation make moving more desireable in the summer months. In fact, 11 to 13 percent of moves take place during summer months as opposed to 8 percent or less during all other months of the year. Much like vaca and concert scams, moving scams are also at their peak during the summer. Summer moving scams can come in two forms: moving companies and false listings. Moving companies may offer to move your belongings for a cheap price, then hold your stuff hostage until you pay more money. Cragslist becomes flooded with fake listings asking consumers such as yourself to wire money in return for the house key.

What to Lookout For

As stated previously, do your research and look for reliable moving & real estate companies. When the price seems too good to be true, it usually is. Check the moving company’s reputation through the Better Business Bureau or with review sites like Yelp, Google and Facebook. Never go through Craigslist when looking to move. Craigslist is swarming with scammers out for your money. Always go through a real estate company to ensure you don’t get swindled.

Job Scams

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I believe it was Alice Cooper who said “School’s Out for Summer.” With the hordes of teens and young adults returning home from college, employers will start to hire for seasonal summer jobs. Scammers will use employment fraud as a way to steal an applicant’s identity.

What to Lookout For

Any jobs that make you pay fees for training, require background checks, or claim “no experience needed!” should be handled with caution. Never accept a summer job over the phone without actually visiting the place of employment. As always do your research and ask questions as needed. If something seems fishy, trust your gut.

More Tips

Scammers will never stop and with today’s technology are often hard to bring to justice. Following these general tips will ensure your aren’t the next victim of summer scams:

-Research your findings, only go with reliable sources

-Never give out personal information, especially over the phone

-Be Wary of fake emails and social media ads

-Never Wire Transfer Money

ID Theft Victim

If you suspect you’ve fallen victim to a scam, your identity may be in jeopardy. If that’s the case, follow these 6 Steps to Handling Identity theft. Make sure you know what’s on your credit report. If you need help going over your report. fill out the form below for a free credit consultation.