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. You can also check out hot europe deals to ensure that you’re getting the best price on the market.

“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.

Taking a trip you can’t afford? Join the club

Taking a trip you can’t afford? Join the club

You may have earned a vacation this summer for all your hard work, but have you earned enough money to take one?
Family vacation, motorhome trip.

In a national survey from financial planning company LearnVest, 74 percent of respondents said they’ve gone into debt to pay for a vacation. On average, that debt topped $1,100.

While two-thirds of Americans said a week-long vacation would cost more than their monthly housing expenses, more than half have forgotten or failed to include a vacation as part of their annual budget.

Paul Oster, president of credit repair company Better Qualified in Eatontown, said folks who’ve spent beyond their means for a trip — or plan to do so this summer — should set up an “aggressive post-vacation payment plan” to avoid getting buried with fees and interest down the road.

“You should have a plan in place to pay off any of the expenses that you’ve incurred within a six-month period of time for sure,” Oster said. “One thousand dollars on a credit card can quickly become $1,200, $1,500, $1,700 and even $2,000.”

Oster said a repayment plan could mean cutting back on other, smaller expenses, such as the daily coffee run on the way to work, or buying lunch.

Read More at Read More

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What’s The Deal With Credit Inquires

As a certified FICO Pro, I get this question on a daily basis. There is so much confusion surrounding the topic of inquiries. It is very important that consumers understand how this process really affects your credit score.

What is an “inquiry”?

When you apply for credit, you authorize those lenders to ask or “inquire” for a copy of your credit report from a credit bureau. When you later check your Credit Report, you may notice that their credit inquiries are listed. You may also see the inquiries by businesses that you don’t know. But the only inquiries that count toward your FICO Scores are the ones that result from your applications for new credit.

How much will credit inquiries affect my score?

The impact from applying for credit will vary from person to person based on their unique credit histories. In general, credit inquiries have a small impact on one’s FICO Scores. For most people, one additional credit inquiry will take less than five points off their FICO Scores. For perspective, the full range for FICO Scores is 300-850. Inquiries can have a greater impact if you have few accounts or a short credit history.

Large numbers of inquiries also mean greater risk. Statistically, people with six inquiries or more on their credit reports can be up to eight times more likely to declare bankruptcy than people with no inquiries on their reports. While inquiries often can play a part in assessing risk, they play a minor part. Much more important factors for your scores are how timely you pay your bills and your overall debt burden as indicated on your credit report.

FICO Scores ignore inquiries made in the 30 days prior to scoring. So, if you find a loan within 30 days, the inquiries won’t affect your scores while you’re rate shopping. In addition, FICO Scores look on your credit report for rate-shopping inquiries older than 30 days. FICO Scores calculated from the newest versions of the scoring formula, this shopping period is any 45-day span.

Soft credit inquiry: When you look at your credit report, you may see inquiries from businesses with whom you didn’t apply for credit. While this may seem odd, it happens, for example, when creditors send you pre-approved credit card offers. To do these actions, they need to have a private investigator look at your report to determine your creditworthiness or as a background check for work. While they are listed on the version of the credit report that you (but not other businesses) can view, soft credit inquiries do not affect your credit score.

Hard credit inquiry: When businesses look at your credit report because of an application you made, these inquiries are known as hard, or voluntary, credit inquiries. These are the types of inquiries that can impact your credit score, and are the ones that potential creditors or lenders will see when they look at your credit report.

Inquiries are a core necessity in the lending world. The fact is that your it is worth your time and effort to shop around. The inquiry itself will have little or no effect on your credit score. Multiple inquiries can be explained to any lender, so the risk is nominal. The reality most scores drop because of missed payments, high revolving balances, and a lack of positive credit history.

About the author:

paulPaul Oster, FICO Pro is considered the “Nation’s Credit Repair Man”. A credit expert who has appeared on numerous network radio and TV shows (FOX BUSINESS NEWS, CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, PIX11). He has also written for Kiplinger’s, WSJ, and the Daily News. Mr. Oster is the founder and President of Better Qualified, LLC. Paul has over 20 years of experience in both the insurance and banking industries and, has dedicated his life as a consumer advocate. Paul is also proud to serve on the Board of Directors for the American Red Cross. His humor and intelligence is highly sought-after from executives in the C-Suite of major corporations, Realtors, and banks.

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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.

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.

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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.



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.


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.


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%.”


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.

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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.

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Kansas City Woman Awarded $82 Million In Debt Collection Case

Maria Guadalupe Mejia

A Jackson County jury ordered collection company Portfolio Recovery Associates LLC to pay $82 million dollars to KC resident Maria Guadalupe Mejia. Mejia had this debt mistakenly attached to her by Portfolio Recovery. The actual debt holder was a man with a very similar name.

Portfolio Recovery had failed to hand over documents requested by the judge regarding information in the case.

Portfolio Recovery Associates LLC is one of the largest debt buyers in the USA. “This company has gained a reputation for take no prisoners, ‘If you mess with us we’re going to take you all the way, you’re going to have to spend a lot of money on this litigation, you’re going to have to go all the way to trial,'” said Gina Chiala, one of Mejia’s attorneys according to KCUR. ““And so, among consumer lawyers, they are known to be very aggressive in litigation and to not stop; even when they’re wrong, they’re just not going to stop.” If you need to contact good lawyers, call the Noonan Law firm.

The jury determined damages and Mejia was awarded $251,000 and $82,990,000 in punitive damages for malicious prosecution.

Portfolio spokesman Michael McKeon said “We hope and expect the judge will set aside this inappropriate award, and we plan to file motions to make the request formally in the very near term. Any fair reading of the facts of this case makes plain that a verdict of this size is not justice by any means and cannot stand.”

“I am so thankful to the jury for giving me and my family justice. This should not happen to anyone, and I hope the jury’s verdict will stop Portfolio from doing this to others.” Said Mejia

According to  Credit Karma study, 1-in-4 or 25% of Americans have credit reporting errors. Mejia was just one of the many victims.


Get a Free Credit Consultation from a Credit Expert

Don’t assume your credit report is fine. If you are worried that you may have incorrect information reporting on your credit report, have one of Better Qualified’s credit expects take a look and go over your report with you.