Security freeze for children
Parents and legal guardians can now safeguard their children’s credit history from identity thieves by placing a “security freeze” on their credit files. A security freeze prevents anyone who has fraudulently obtained a person’s personal identifying information from opening a new account or borrowing money using that information.
Placing the freeze is a two-step process: the parent or guardian creates a protected record for the minor child through the three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – and then places the security freeze on that record. There is no charge to create the protected record. However, each credit-reporting agency requires a $10 fee to freeze the record. The freeze continues until the child turns 18. At that time, the child can delete the protected record.
Beware of health insurance scams
With health insurance open enrollment for 2014 starting Oct. 1, beware of scams. People may pose as representatives of Cover Oregon, the state’s health insurance marketplace, to collect fraudulent fees, sell fake insurance, or steal personal identifying information.
Keep your information safe by following these tips:
- Do not pay for help. There is no charge to use Cover Oregon services.
- Make sure you are working with a certified Cover Oregon agent or community partner. Call 855-268-3767 (toll-free) or go to http://www.coveroregon.com.
- Protect your health care and financial information. Do not share your personal, financial, or Medicare information with anyone you do not know.
- Cover Oregon does not offer Medicare. For Medicare questions, call 800-633-4227 (toll-free).
- You can get tax credits only through Cover Oregon. Oregonians who purchase insurance through Cover Oregon may qualify for tax credits to help cut the cost. No one but Cover Oregon can offer these credits, and there is no charge to apply for the credits.
More information: CoverOregon or 855-268-3767 (toll-free)
Loan modification companies
Beware of loan modification companies that promise to modify your home mortgage loan. They often charge excessive upfront fees and do not make any modification to your loan. Get free help with your mortgage from certified housing counselors. For more information or to search for housing counselors, go to http://foreclosurehelp.oregon.gov/ or contact Debbie Myers at 503-947-7466.
Building permits are required for any new construction or alterations and additions to existing buildings. An electrical permit is required when you:
- Install or alter any permanent wiring or electrical device.
- Run additional wiring in your home.
- Install a new electrical outlet or light fixture.
- Install a receptacle for a garage-door opener.
- Convert from fuse box to circuit breakers.
- Install or alter low-voltage systems, such as security alarms, stereos, or computer systems.
- If you are still not sure if you need a permit, check out PermitsProtect or call the Building Codes Division, 503-378-4133 or 800-422-7457.
Missing life insurance policy
Have you lost a loved one who wanted to protect you with a life insurance policy but you can’t find the paperwork? The Oregon Insurance Division can help you easily search for a policy among the more than 300 companies that sell life insurance or annuities in Oregon. Learn how.
Auto insurance lapse in coverage
As long as you did not break the law by driving while uninsured, auto insurers cannot charge you more just because you dropped insurance coverage at some point in the past. Motorists might drop coverage for many legitimate reasons – they are not using their vehicle while away at college or on military service, they are using alternate transportation, or they no longer own a car, for example. Insurance companies can require people applying for insurance to explain why they went without coverage. Many companies provide a checklist so consumers can identify the valid reason that they dropped coverage. Info: Insurance consumer advocates, 888-877-4894 (toll-free).
Beware of upfront fees
If a finance or small-loan company states you have to make an upfront payment before a loan can be approved or disbursed, do not continue the loan process. Any fees will be disclosed and generally collected from the loan proceeds, never in advance. For information on whether you are working with a licensed consumer finance company or payday lender, call the Division of Finance and Corporate Securities at 503-378-4140 or 866-814-9710 (toll-free).
Foreclosure resolution conference
A new state law (Senate Bill 558) protects certain homeowners facing foreclosure. If your lender begins the foreclosure process starting Aug. 4, 2013, or later, it must offer you a face-to-face meeting to attempt to avoid foreclosure. Lenders must send homeowners a notice that includes possible dates and locations after the homeowner accepts the meeting in writing and pays a fee not to exceed $200. Information: Call 855-480-1950 (toll-free)
Insurance consumer advocates
Do you have an insurance question? The state’s consumer advocates are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. They can:
- Answer general questions
- Help you with a complaint about an insurance company or agent
- Look up a company or agent to make sure they are doing business legally in Oregon
Call 888-877-4894 (toll-free)
Be careful with credit cards
Credit cards are easy to get but hard to pay off.
- Closely read credit card offers. Companies will entice you with a low introductory annual percentage rate (APR) but can soon raise the rate.
- Do you understand how much it will cost if you don’t pay off your balance every month, or you get a cash advance or transfer the balance from one credit card to another?
- Pay off your credit card balance every month, if possible. Paying just the minimum each month could mean you pay more in interest than the value of your purchase.
- Remember, good credit card habits can equal a good credit score. You will need good credit history to rent an apartment, buy a car, or take out a loan for a house.
Most auto and homeowner insurers look at insurance scores, which use credit histories, to set premiums.
- If you get into a bind, the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services keeps a list of registered companies that can help you with debt management and budgeting. Call 503-378-4140.
Refunds for canceling a policy
If you think you can get lower premiums with another insurance company, you may be tempted to cancel an insurance policy mid-term. Before you do, see if your auto or homeowner policy has a “short rate” cancellation provision. If so, you may not get back the entire premium you paid for the canceled coverage.
Half of all Americans do not have a home inventory of their prized possessions, according to a survey by the nation’s insurance commissioners. Of those who do have an inventory, 32 percent lacked pictures, 58 percent had no receipts, and 44 percent had not stored the inventory in a safe place outside the home.
An inventory will ease your claims process following a loss. These tips and an app will help you create an inventory.
Building permits are required for any new construction or alterations and additions to existing buildings. A plumbing permit is required when you:
- Replace a water heater or underground piping.
Alter piping inside a wall, ceiling, or beneath a floor.
Install a plumbing fixture where one did not exist previously.
Make an emergency repair or alteration on a section of pipe five feet or longer.
- If you are still not sure if you need a permit, check out PermitsProtect.info or call the Building Codes Division, 503-378-4133 or 800-422-7457.
Debt management companies
Beware of debt management companies that promise to settle your debt for pennies on the dollar. They often charge excessive upfront fees and do not make payments to your creditors. This process will also ruin your credit. Check that a provider is properly registered to offer services in Oregon at this webpage or
call 503-378-4140 or 866-814-9710 (toll-free in Oregon).
If you are planning a big trip, consider whether to buy travel insurance.
Travel insurance policies vary widely. While they can offer you protection, some do not cover what you expect them to. Other offers are not legitimate. Several key points:
- Travel policies generally cover nonrefundable travel costs if you are forced to cancel or delay the trip for specific reasons. Examples are airfare, hotel, or tour expenses.
- Make sure you know what situations are covered and what are not.
- If you buy your policy within a set time period of booking your trip, you may get more comprehensive coverage.
Building permit requirements
Building permits are required for any new construction or alterations and additions to existing buildings.
This includes electrical, manufactured home, elevator work, structural, plumbing, mechanical, and boiler. Check out www.PermitsProtect.info for a basic list of what does and does not require a permit. Also, contact your local building department to find out the details on its permitting requirements.
Security freeze – A tool to prevent ID theft
There are preventive measures you can take to protect yourself from identity theft. One is placing a security freeze on your credit file. A security freeze prevents lenders and others, including those who steal your personal information, from gaining access to your credit report. Request the freeze by contacting Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion online, by phone, or by mail. Cost is $10 per credit agency ($30 total).
Health insurance changes
If you are a small employer or an individual who buys health insurance on your own, plans, rates and rules about insurance are changing in 2014. At Oregon Health Rates, you can find:
- Examples of rates that the insurance companies are proposing in your area.
- Summary of benefits for standard plans. These plans have the same benefits from company to company.
- Schedule of public hearings and information on how you can comment on a rate request.
- Link to more information on reforms to health insurance that start Jan. 1, 2014.
Auto total loss
If you total your car, do you know your rights in negotiating the value of your car with the insurance company?
- You are owed what you would have been able to sell your vehicle for before the accident.
- If you believe your vehicle is worth more, you must prove a higher value.
- If you and the insurance company cannot agree on your vehicle's value, and you transfer ownership of your vehicle to the company, the company must pay you the amount that is not in dispute while negotiations continue.
Victim of identity theft
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft:
- File a police report to document the crime for your creditors.
- Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission: 1-877-438-4338 (toll-free) or www.ftc.gov/complaint.
- Contact all your creditors such as your bank or credit union, credit card company, cell phone provider, and other utilities.