Thursday, April 10, 2014

Be on the lookout for identity theft red flags

It’s an unfortunate reality of our times that no one is immune to identity theft. Identity theft, a crime in which an impostor obtains key pieces of personal information and uses them for their own personal gain, is becoming one of the fastest growing crimes in North America.
It can start with lost or stolen wallets, stolen mail, a data breach, computer virus, “phishing” scams or discarded paper documents. Once you become a victim of identity theft, it can be a long and difficult process to restore your credit, address fraudulent debts and clear your name.
Luckily, there are some steps you can take to minimize the damage if you become a victim of identity theft.
The Identity Theft Resource Center, a non-profit organization that aims to educate consumers, corporations and government on the dangers of identity theft, recently published a list of common identity theft red flags. By keeping a watchful eye for these red flags, you can recognize identity theft early on and reduce the impact it might have on your finances.
Here are some things to watch for:
  • ·        Statements from unknown credit card accounts
  • ·        Errors or misinformation on your credit report
  • ·        Denials when applying for loans
  • ·        Denials on utility or rental applications
  • ·        Collection notices for unknown accounts or loans
  • ·        Bills for goods or services you didn’t purchase
  • ·        Increases in your rate of interest on credit cards (due to unknown credit activity)
  • ·        Missing mail
  • ·        Regular communication (bills, emails, statements) from your financial institution ceases
If you notice any of these red flags and discover you are a victim of identity theft, immediately contact the police, then freeze any fraudulent accounts or credit cards and request a credit check.

Reality of retirement not quite what many envision

Jetting off somewhere warm every winter may be the retirement dream of many Canadians, but the reality appears to be quite different.
An Ipsos Reid poll conducted in 2013 found that while more than a quarter (27 per cent) of Canadians who have not yet retired say they plan to be snowbirds in their retirement years, just 16 per cent of retired Canadians actually regularly get away in the winter.
While a number of different factors (health issues, financial concerns, changing interests) may play into this discrepancy, the fact remains that if you want your retirement years to resemble your retirement dreams, it’s best to begin planning early.
Develop a budget, contribute early and often to an RSP or tax-free savings account (TFSA), avoid unnecessary or careless spending and talk to your partner or spouse about where you’d like to be — financially and geographically — in your golden years.

Young people demonstrating increasing financial savvy

Learning how to save well and spend wisely is a skill anyone would benefit from learning. Creating a budget is one of the best ways to get your finances on track. Encouragingly, that message seems to be sinking in with young Canadians.
According to a recent MasterCard Canada study, 40 per cent of Canadians ages 18 to 34 have a budget in place, ahead of those ages 35 to 65 (33 per cent).
Drawing up a household budget doesn’t have to be complicated, either. Start by recording any and all sources of income you receive each month, which will give you an idea of how much money you have to go around. Then list all your monthly expenses, big and small. This list should include mortgage or rent payments, car insurance and gas, loan or credit card payments, bills and a monthly amount for things like food, clothing, entertainment and other expenses. It’s also a good idea to set aside some money each month for those inevitable extra expenses, like unforeseen car repairs, dental bills or home repairs.
If your expenses exceed your income, you may have to look for ways to cut back or, ideally, increase your income. However, if your income exceeds your expenses you now know how much spare cash you have to use towards saving for things like RSPs, a new car, a new home or other items. By sticking to your budget you can take control of your finances and give yourself some peace of mind.

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