Data Facts Blog


7 Steps to Protect Your Finances During a Divorce

We all hope it never happens to us. The “D” word.  Divorce.

It’s a sad fact that lots of marriages end in divorce, and sometimes the relationship is contentious and hostile. If you are facing divorce, protect yourself and your finances with these simple tips:

1.  Keep detailed records.  The first step is to commit to making certain that all financial arrangements and obligations are well-documented.  If you end up having problems with a creditor for a debt that is not your responsibility, documentation can help clear the issue up faster and with less effort.

2. Dissolve every joint account.   This is one of the biggest mistakes that divorcing couples make. One person will keep a joint account, and the other person finds out months or years later that the account has been paid late or sent to collection. Be aware that divorce decrees do not supersede contracts. In other words, if you and your ex split certain debts in the divorce, but your name is still on the debt, YOU ARE STILL RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PAYMENT OF THAT DEBT.  This is a biggie, and can completely tank your credit score and ruin your finances.

Remove your spouse’s name on any accounts that you plan to keep (such as your car, etc). Move the utilities and any other bills into one name. If you share joint credit cards, divvy up the balance and open a credit card in just your name, and transfer the balance over to the new account. BE SURE all joint credit cards are closed.

3.  Sell the house if possible. The best idea is to sell the house and split any profits. It is imperative to not walk away from your house with your name still on the mortgage.  If selling the house is not an option, the person who ends up with the house needs to refinance it in his/her name alone as quickly as possible.

4.  Divide all assets. Split all cash, property, and any other assets during the divorce. Do not share assets with an ex.

5.  Be on guard online.  An ex can do some real damage when armed with passwords to bank and credit card accounts. The first action should be password protecting your computer and your cell phone (this will ensure your ex does not add a sneaky spyware).  Change ALL of your passwords on all of your accounts to something your soon to be ex would not know. Do not use birthdays, anniversaries, mother’s name, dog’s name, or anything else that your former beloved would be able to figure out.  Phrases like “bobpleasedie” or “lovereallystinks” probably aren’t good ideas, either.  A long password (10 characters or more) with letters in upper and lower case and numbers is the best option.

6.  Check your credit report. This is a good all-round rule for everyone. However, it’s especially important after going through a divorce.  Pull a credit report every 3-4 months, and scour it to make certain all joint accounts are closed and that there are no accounts you do not recognize. Follow up on any errors and get them cleared up immediately.

7.  Change your will and life insurance beneficiaries.  When moving on after a divorce, make certain to review all important documents, and implement changes where necessary. Remove the ex’s name from your will and any insurance policies in which he/she is named.

Divorce is never a fun endeavor. However, by being educated about the financial facts and following these simple tips, you can make it much easier to move forward and avoid the financial pitfalls that many people fall into when ending a marriage.

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 23 year old Memphis-based company.  Data Facts provides mortgage product and banking solutions to lenders nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services.

Identity Theft: The Newest Open Door to Thieves

ID theft continues to be a rampant and expensive crime in the U.S.  Purse-snatching, dumpster diving, and mail stealing are all ways that criminals steal your identity. These thieves can then use your credit cards, social security number, and other personal information to rack up charges, open new accounts, and even apply for jobs!

Identity theft and ways to combat it have been topics of many tv and printed articles. You have probably viewed or read some of these tips and even implemented a few of them into your habits. So you are protected, right?

Uh, probably not.

Unfortunately, these crooks are very creative, and constantly scheming up new ways to steal pieces of information about your identity. So, while you may have a locking mailbox, a shredder you use faithfully, and guard your social security number as closely as you would your little sister, you could be overlooking one thing: your cell phone.

In today’s “smart phone world” a person can manage their entire lives. Paying bills, banking, stock trading, and online shopping can all be conducted over your nifty little phone. This makes your phone a goldmine to identity thieves.

Ways the thieves can steal it:

 They steal your phone. Cell phones are evolving constantly, and the amount of storage available on them is growing by leaps and bounds. By stealing your phone, criminals can access your credit card numbers, banking applications, and email accounts. This can supply them with a plethora of information that they can use to steal your identity.

They tap into your Bluetooth connection: Thieves can access your Bluetooth connection, and connect their device with yours, pilfering pieces of information that are not secure on your cell phone.

They can eavesdrop on you. A crook with access to your phone can download software that allows them to listen to your phone conversations. From there, they can extract any information you talk about on your cell phone, and use this to gain access to your accounts, credit cards, etc.

They buy it from you: There are unscrupulous people cruising the internet for used cell phones on sites like Craigslist and Ebay. Their goal is to buy a cell phone that has not been completely cleared of important, sensitive information that they can use to steal your identity.

When it comes to Identity Theft, ignorance is definitely NOT bliss.  Being aware of these sneaky ways to steal your identity can put you in a better position to protect yourself. Here are some ways to make sure you are not vulnerable.

1: Lock down your cell phone with a strong password. Utilizing a number/letter password is the first step toward securing your phone from intruders. Make sure the password is not easily guessable, and set your phone to auto lock.

2: Don’t auto-save your banking passwords. Any applications that deal with sensitive information need to also have a strong password, and take the few extra seconds to type it in every time you access the app.

3: Always turn your Bluetooth off if you are not using it. This can greatly minimize an identity thieves’ ability to hack your phone.

4: Don’t leave it laying around. Keep your cell phone with you when you are out and about, and out of sight at work. This will guard against a person being able to download software that can tap into your conversations and emails.

5. Erase it before selling. When it’s time to get rid of your old phone, make certain all sensitive information is completely removed from the device.

Identity theft is largely a crime of opportunity. By decreasing your cell phone’s exposure to criminals’ access, you can effectively guard against becoming another statistic.

 

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 22 year old Memphis-based company that provides mortgage product and banking solutions to lenders nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services.

Why a Strong Password is Your Best Friend

Your best friend would always protect you and never let you down. The same should be said of your passwords.
In today’s world, the average person needs 28 passwords. You need passwords for your bank, email, social network, bills, and any online ordering accounts. THEN you really rack up the passwords for different logins at work. It can get mind boggling to remember all the passwords that you use in a day’s time.
It’s tempting to use the same password for all the sites and accounts that you must access. HOWEVER, this is setting you up to have your password STOLEN. And the consequences of having your only password hacked can be disastrous.
Think about just how much a password protects.
Online banking and brokerage accounts: your password stands between your money and a thief!
Email accounts: your password protects your emails from being hacked. If you have online bills and bank statement, the thief could gain access to your account information.
Online shopping: Your credit card number and other personal information are guarded by your password.
And these are only your Personal Accounts!
Here are some very important tips to utilize in the creation of your passwords.
1. Throw your password loyalty out the window: Studies show that 1/3 of Americans who use a computer use the same password for every site. If a thief gets your password and hacks into your email, he can then access any accounts that he finds. He could literally clean you out and rack up massive debt within a very short period of time. Using only 1 password for all of your accounts hands the thief an open invitation to all of your accounts and information.
2. Easier isn’t better. A good portion of people actually use their birth date, their kids’ names, or even 12345 as their passwords. These types of passwords take hackers only seconds to crack. Easy passwords leave your accounts open and waiting for thieves to take advantage. You may as well leave your money laying on the front porch.
3. Keep it in the noggin. Even if people have more than one password, they often write them down and leave them by the computer, under their keyboard, in their calendar, or store them in their smartphones. This basically gift wraps them for a thief. Once he scores the password list, its bye bye money and hello fraudulent charges.
4. Mix it up. Passwords that only contain letters are easy to observe or guess, especially if they are only lower case.
5. Get long-winded. Never use a password that is under 8 characters. A short password is more easily observed and guessed than a longer one.
6. Remember you didn’t marry it. Keeping the same password month after month allows a hacker all the time he needs to crack it.
The CONSEQUENCES of having your password hacked are too high to not take immediate action. Here’s what to do:
1: Make a list of all your emails, accounts, banks, and shopping websites that require you to have a password.
2: Make sure your main email address has a password different from any other account.
3: For the remainder of your accounts, have a minimum of 4  hard to crack but easy for you to remember passwords
4: Change your passwords every 3 months.
5. Don’t write the passwords down anywhere. If you are afraid you will forget them, scribble a hint that only you could decipher, and keep it in a safe place. (Do not store this in your wallet or near your computer).
Let’s create a good password.
A. Think of a word that is easy for you to remember, but is not closely tied to you personally (ie: not your spouse, child, or dog’s name). We will use Teague (the name of my Kindergarten teacher)
B. Add a capital letter in the middle of the word. We will use the G. So now we have TeaGue.
C. Randomly choose 3 numbers. Do NOT use the last 4 digits of your social, your birthdate, or your anniversary. We will use 206 (the date of the last Superbowl). Your weight is another easy to remember number.
D. Now choose a character. I will choose ! since I’m trying to make a point.
RESULT: one of my new passwords is TeaGue!206. This will be easy for me to remember, but difficult to guess. My hint to myself would be: Kindergarden!superbowl.

Passwords are the gateway to your money, credit cards, and personal information. Strong passwords, like best friends, keep your secrets secure.  Utilize these tips to make sure you will not become just another identity theft statistic.

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 22 year old Memphis-based company that provides mortgage product solutions to lenders nationwide.


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