• Benefits Corner

    By Bill Dodge, CRA Benefits Chair

    Bill Dodge

     

    Included in this article:

    Protect Your Credit- Obtain FREE Credit Reports,  

    New CRA Benefits Committee Member Contact for BenefitHub and Cell Phone Discounts

     

    There’s more than enough to worry about in the world right now than to spend time fretting over your credit score. With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and a global economic crisis, you likely have a lot on your mind—the last thing you have time for is to keep a close eye on your credit report and fight identify fraud or an unnecessarily damaged credit score to the list.

    The fact of the matter is consumers, retirees especially, simply cannot afford to ignore their credit. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reminds consumers who are concerned about debt obligations to know their rights, take steps to protect their credit, and guard against debt collection scams.

    If the coronavirus crisis has affected your finances to the point that you’re having difficulty repaying a loan, you should reach out to the lender right away to discuss your options. 

    At the same time, don’t let the current crisis mindset distract you from keeping a close on your finances and credit — and don’t fall prey to scammers taking advantage of the crisis.

    Consumers who are working with a lender on forbearance or other flexible repayment options should obtain written documentation of such arrangements. They also should monitor their credit reports to be sure it accurately reflects their repayment efforts. Consumers can obtain a free credit report from each credit bureau—TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax—for free once per year, thanks to AnnualCreditReport.com, the only federally approved source for free credit reports. Most recommendations say to check your credit report three times a year, to order it from a different bureau each time, and to keep an eye on your report year-round. If you’re making a large purchase for which you’ll need a loan—like a car or house—you might want to get all three reports at once to ensure everything is correct.

    During the COVID-19 crisis, all three bureaus have been offering free weekly online credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com. , but only through April 2021.This simply means those that desire can keep a closer eye than ever on their credit. To access your free weekly reports, simply visit AnnualCreditReport.com and click the button to request your free credit reports. The website will ask you some identification questions—your name, address, social security number, etc.—and then take you to the individual credit bureau sites. (You’ll be able to click through to get each credit report, one at a time.) You’ll be asked more challenging questions to prove your identity, and then you’ll be able to download your report. You can download one, two, or all three with each request.

    Your credit report offers a comprehensive look at your financial history. It shows all the names you’re registered under—if you’re married and changed your name, for example, it will likely display both names for you, all the addresses you’ve lived at, phone numbers, and other private information. (Remember that your credit report contains highly confidential, private information and should be handled with care, particularly if you receive a paper copy.)

    Beyond your personal information, the report will display all the loan accounts you’ve ever had, including credit cards, mortgages, and installment loans. It will record all monthly balances and whether payments were made on time; essentially, it tracks whether you’re in good standing with all the debt you’ve already borrowed or taken out. If you made late payments, carried balances (as on a credit card), or otherwise didn’t pay what you owe, your credit report will show that.

    When you’re checking your credit report for fraud, look for listed addresses you’ve never lived at or accounts you’ve never opened — these can be signs that your identity was stolen. There may also be errors in reporting—a lender reporting that you didn’t pay your balance off when you did, for example—that you can dispute to preserve your credit. If you’re trying to figure out how to get out of credit card debt, seeing which accounts you’ve missed payments on can also help you plan your repayment schedule.

    Beyond taking steps to freeze credit, checking your credit reports regularly is one of the best ways to fight identity theft. If you notice something incorrect on your report, you can catch it early and take steps to stop the theft and preserve your credit. If you’ve never paid much attention to your reports, now can also be a great time to study them closely and get a better sense of your credit history. Just remember: These reports show your credit history, but not your credit score. If you want to check your credit score, your bank might offer a service that allows you to do so. Also, you can sign up for a credit monitoring service that will show your score and track shifts.

    Not everyone needs to check their credit report as frequently as weekly, but if you’re concerned about identity fraud right now or are accumulating debt because of financial hardship, keeping an eye on it can help you understand how events may affect your financial outlook.

    Web Links with Helpful Credit Report Information

     

    Content sources: Better Busines Bureau ; AnnualCreditReport.com

    New CRA Benefits Committee Member Contact

    for BenefitHub and Cell Phone Service Discounts

    I am pleased to announce that Jim Bonwell, recently retired from Chevron after 27 years and a member of the CRA Contra Costa Chapter, has volunteered to be a member on the CRA Benefits Committee. Before retiring, Jim was a software engineer and web developer, volunteered as President of San Ramon Chevron Recreation, and created the first intranet website for the employee recreation association.  In retirement, Jim continues his volunteer role as the Chev/Rec BenefitHub website administrator. The BenefitHub is the go-to source for many of the corporate discounts available to employees, contractors and retirees. As a member of the CRA Benefit Committee, Jim will serve as the Committee’s resource and retirees contact for information, updates and changes to Chev/Rec’s BenefitHub website. He will also serve as the new contact for eligible Chevron retirees who desire to obtain a discount on their cell phone service. Jim ‘s contact information is shown in the Benefits Guide which can be found on the CRA Benefits page located on the CRA website.