May 18, 2015 |
What matters to you most as a consumer? What impresses you about a business, or makes you likely to recommend it to friends? What gets your goat, or leaves you so frustrated that you take time to complain? I want to know, because that's my job - as it has been for most of the last 14 years, ever since my first Consumer Watch column appeared here in November 2001. With today's redesign of Sunday Business comes a new chance to invite you to speak up. Like it or not, consumers are like canaries in a coal mine.
December 29, 2014 |
Credit scores have become all-important to financial well-being - well, at least to whether someone will give you a mortgage. They reflect creditworthiness and are based on credit reports, which indicate whether you pay your bills on time. Lenders use someone's credit score to decide whether to lend that person money and at what interest rate. Credit scores also are used for screening insurance and other applications. In the heady years leading up to the collapse of the housing market, it became obvious that people with credit scores that weren't very good were being given mortgages that they would never be able to repay.
November 6, 2014 |
The investigators watching the sedan with the broken windows in the parking lot in Jessup, Md., on Wednesday evening saw two figures in the backseat: a man and a woman they hoped was a 22-year-old from Philadelphia who had been violently abducted three days earlier. Then the man climbed into the front seat and tried to pull away. The ATF agents closed in with guns drawn. The man surrendered without a fight. The terrified woman in the backseat gave her name: Carlesha. And with that, the three-day ordeal that stretched across state lines and galvanized police and the public came to an end, with Carlesha Freeland-Gaither injured but safe, and a wanted man with a history of violence in custody.
September 19, 2014 |
AS THE OLD saying goes, no man's credit is as good as his money. And yet we live in a society that judges our ability to get credit - and in many cases a job, insurance and even a security clearance - based on our good credit behavior. Following a recent column about the FICO credit scoring, many readers had questions about their credit situations. * One woman wrote: "My husband and I have been married for 52 years and have lived in our house for more than 40. We paid off the mortgage decades ago. All of our credit is in his name.
March 3, 2014 |
Consumers have always had a twisted relationship with the credit-reporting industry. The three key national players - Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion - each maintain files on more than 200 million Americans. But their primary business has always been about us, not with us. And that has led to maddening, costly, and even financially harmful results - say, when they get something wrong in your records but don't seem to care much about fixing it. Thankfully, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has stepped into the breach, by trying to untangle this Gordian knot of commercial interests and lack of interest.
January 24, 2014
SINCE THE major data breach at Target, many readers have asked how to best protect their credit. "My wife and I are vigilant and we replaced our debit cards because of Target," one reader wrote. "Our credit has been 'frozen' at the three credit agencies for years and we view the reports annually. Do you consider 'frozen' at the agencies as ample protection?" It's likely you've heard that if you're a victim of identity theft or you want to protect your files from fraud because you suspect you are vulnerable, you should put a fraud alert on your credit files at the major credit-reporting agencies - TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.
December 24, 2013 |
Give yourself the gift of losses. There are only six trading days left in 2013, so it's time to review your portfolio to see if there are any tax losses you can harvest. In other words, sell your portfolio's losers, use the losses to offset realized taxable gains, and lower your 2013 tax bill. Remember, you need to act by Dec. 31. Tax-loss harvesting, or selling investments such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds that have lost value, can reduce your taxes on capital gains realized from selling winning investments.
October 14, 2013 |
FOR EIGHT YEARS, Anita Howard has worked at a job she loves, helping homeless people move from shelters into apartments they can call their own. "I love this agency," Howard said of her work with Methodist Services in Wynnefield. "It does so much for so many people. We serve 2,600 women, children and families a year. " The agency also provides adoption and foster-care services. But when it came time for Howard to go from renting a house to owning her own home, Howard realized she needed help and found the counseling services at the West Oak Lane Community Development Corp., which is part of the larger Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corp.
October 5, 2013 |
When you or someone you know suffers identity theft, the typical loss is more than $4,900, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. So how can we protect ourselves? A June study found that the number of identity fraud victims annually in the United States totaled 11.5 million people. So we put together some tips to fight identity theft: Guard your mail and trash from theft. Have the U.S. Postal Service hold your mail while away from home, and install a lockable mailbox. Tear or shred receipts, insurance information, credit applications, doctor's bills, checks and bank statements, old credit cards, and any credit offers received in the mail.
September 9, 2013 |
Was Experian trying to cash in on innocent mistakes by luring consumers who mistyped AnnualCreditReport.com - the official source for free annual reports - to CreditReport.com, an Experian site that charges for credit data? Nope, it was just an innocent mistake, company spokeswoman Susan Henson told me Friday, after Experian - one of the Big Three in the U.S. credit-reporting industry - emerged as a surprise player in the ongoing saga of "AnnualCreditReport.com vs. the Typosquatters.