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Tips For Recent Graduates To Help Avoid Identity Theft

If you’ve got a newly minted graduate in the family (or you’re one yourself), congratulations! Launching, whether you’re doing it from high school into a college or university, or from college into a new apartment and career, is exciting. Unfortunately, when it comes to your identity and personal information, it’s also a process that exposes you to more risk than usual.

According to research conducted by LifeLock, nearly two-thirds of students reported that they were not very concerned about fraud (one probable reason that fewer than one-quarter even detect fraud when it happens to them). Yet, when it does hit, 15% say the impact is moderate or severe—that’s higher than among other age groups.

More worrisome, colleges and universities—among them U.C. Berkeley—have been victimized fairly steadily by data thieves in recent years. As the head of information security for the school told reporters, it’s difficult to protect an academic institution because you can’t just shut it down in the face of a major breach.

Bottom line: The best way to keep yourself safe during times of life transition (graduation, as well as many others) is to take several steps to protect yourself ahead of time. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Lock up your personal information—and password-protect your computer and phone. Students are four times more likely than other computer users to be victims of “familiar fraud,” in other words, to have their information stolen by people they know. Living in a dorm with a person you don’t know (or don’t know well) and other students frequently popping in and out puts you at risk. Any documents with identifying details, from passports to bills, should be put (or even better locked) away. This is the same reason your mailbox should have a key.
  • Watch the sharing. It’s tempting to broadcast details and photos of this fabulous new life of yours on social media. Be careful. The more you share, the more you’re open to having your identity stolen. Why? Because by providing details like your pet’s name, birthday, mother’s maiden name, and location, you’re giving a smart thief all the information necessary to create a faux you and apply for credit in your name. Be selective about what you share and who you allow to see it.
  • Pay attention to your credit (or, parents, do this for your children). If you’re sending kids off to college or out into the world as an authorized user on your credit card, chances are you’re doing so to help them build a credit history. If you’re not doing this—and your kids haven’t applied for credit themselves—then the mere existence of a credit history is a sign of trouble. You can check your credit report (or your child’s) for free at

Finally, have the talk with your kids. Not that talk, the one about how important their identity is as they enter the adult world—and how taking steps to secure it is up to them.

#startTODAY Spring Forward

Ever wondered how to get your credit in order, or which debt you should tackle first? This morning on TODAY, Jill Martin, Joy Bauer and I answered your Facebook questions about “spring cleaning” as far as organization, health and finances. Check it out.


*Not seeing the video? Some browsers block videos on secure websites like ours. In your address bar, remove the “s” after http at the start of the web address, then reload the page. The video should appear. If you still have issues, contact us.

Are You Too Loyal When It Comes To Your Credit Card?

A new report shows that 25 million credit cardholders haven’t changed their go-to cards in at least 10 years. Another 20 million have never changed a go-to card once. If this sounds familiar, then you’re not capitalizing on the variety of rewards out there. As for choosing your new card, check out this morning’s Today Show segment for my top picks:

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#StartTODAY Is Back!

Happy 2016! I hope everyone had a fantastic (and safe) time ringing in the New Year. If you’re one of the 45% of Americans who made a resolution this year, then here’s some good news.

Whether you want to lose weight, get organized or – my personal favorite – spend less and save more in 2016, “The J Team” has you covered. For the entire month of January, I’m joining my pals – nutritionist Joy Bauer, organizing guru Jill Martin and new mom (who is looking to stop making excuses and start working out) Jenna Bush Hager – on the Today Show for our second annual #StartTODAY series, in which we offer advice and tips for starting and sticking to the changes you’d like to make for yourself.

We had the initial kick-off on Friday, and every Thursday, I’ll be on with segments devoted to earning more, spending less, investing what you can and protecting your financial life. Then, on Fridays, we’ll be on air answering questions on Facebook and Twitter. I hope you’ll join us!

*Not seeing the video? Some browsers block videos on secure websites like ours. In your address bar, remove the “s” after http at the start of the web address, then reload the page. The video should appear. If you still have issues, contact us.

4 Steps For Protecting Your Identity This Tax Season

itheftLast Thursday, as you may have heard, TurboTax put a halt to it’s filing of state tax returns after a spike in suspicious filings. By Friday at 6 p.m., it was back in business. But a number of states that stopped issuing state tax refunds amid similar worries – including Vermont and Massachusetts – have yet to turn the spigot back on.

What’s the deal? In the past couple of years, there has been an increase in fraudulent returns filed in the hope of gaining a tax refund that belongs to someone else. In 2013, 1.6 million taxpayers were affected – and the IRS paid out $5.2 billion in fraudulent refunds. This year, state tax refunds are being targeted in particular.

Why? Because they’re low-hanging fruit.


Protect Your Personal Information This Holiday Season

Locked WalletJP Morgan. Home Depot. Goodwill. And, yes, the IRS. Those are just four of the 636 data breaches that occurred through the first 10 months of 2014, a 30% increase over the same time period last year, according to the Identity Theft Research Center. Is it any wonder consumers are experiencing breach fatigue?

That’s what a new study of more than 1,200 consumers conducted by Morpace on behalf of LifeLock reveals. Consumers are very worried about their personal information being pilfered and used for identity fraud – two-thirds describe data breach as a serious life disruption, and half think it would be one of the worst things that could happen to them. But data breach is now so common that the overall attitude of many seems to be one of helplessness, with about half of consumers agreeing that they don’t know how to prevent data breach or what to do if it happens to them.


Mailbag Monday: Secured Credit Cards to Establish Credit

collegemoneyHi Jean,

I’m wondering — what is the best secured credit card I could open to reestablish my credit? Thank you.


Mailbag Monday: Using The Fair Credit Reporting Act

debitcardHave you ever heard of a person being denied obtaining a credit card with a FICO score of 811? I pay my credit cards in full every month. This credit card offered two plane tickets. I really didn’t need the card, but I travel a lot and thought it was a nice benefit. What are your thoughts?


Wednesday Welcome: Using Micropayments to Pay Down Credit Card Debt

This week we bring you a second guest post from Bill Hardekopf, the CEO of Last time he was here, he shared some little-known credit card perks, and today he’s helping you pay down your debt with micropayments. What exactly are micropayments? Read on.

Bill_Hardekopf (color)Summer vacations are just around the corner, and consumers need to have their credit card balances as low as possible in order to avoid costly interest charges. One way to do this is to make micropayments on their credit card bill.

Most consumers pay their credit card bill once a month, but cardholders can actually make a number of smaller payments throughout the month. Some banks and issuers allow payments to be made as often as once a day.

If you carry any balance from one month to the next, micropayments can reduce the interest because most credit card companies charge interest based on your average daily balance during that particular month. If you pay more often, you reduce your average daily balance and, as a result, the interest you pay that month. (more…)

Mailbag Monday: Solving Credit Conundrums

debitcardI need a reputable resource to help me with credit card debt. My husband and I make over $200,000 annually, but are drowning in debt.  Is consumer credit counseling a good option?

-Mary Beth

I am interested in consolidating my credit cards into one monthly payment. Please advise on organizations that offer this and please note that I am not looking for debt reduction.  Thank you




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