October 2014

Page 72


GIMME CREDIT Helping consumers understand their worth and wealth


tories of millions of identities being stolen by thieves hacking into the software systems at Home Depot, PF Chang’s and Target have been hitting front pages across the country this year. The Russian Mafia was even tied to one. Crazy. Even if you’ve managed to escape these security breaches, you’re not in the clear. Credit breaches are a constant battle for consumers. As a consumer advocate, I fight the battle for you by covering these stories on my radio show, and also by detailing what you can do to protect your credit and credit scores. Credit is a popular topic that elicits tremendous response from listeners of “The Craig Sewing Show” (broadcast on KCBQ-AM 1170, weeknights at 6 p.m.) and viewers of “The American Dream,” (Saturdays at 10 a.m. on Cox or Time Warner channel 4). The word “credit” is used frequently, yet many do not fully understand its meaning. Can you remember studying the subject in high school or college? Doubtful. Given credit’s high level of importance when it comes to one’s finances, you’d think it would be included in curriculums. Until it is, I remain passionate about educating the public as to its implications. One of our listeners who proudly served in the military wasn’t able to get security clearance because of unpaid parking tickets that reduced his credit score. Like many others, he is learning that the city of San Diego sends parking tickets to collections, which hurts credit scores. This is so dumb, it hurts. Tickets are easy to lose, and even if you do not pay them, you do pay when you register your car. Right now, there is likely someone who is not able to buy a home because they didn’t have a quarter in their pocket to pay for parking one day. This is the city’s choice, to hop over a dollar to chase a nickel. The deck is stacked against the consumer. The question is, “Why is something so important so misunderstood?” The answer is simple: Money. Credit bureaus don’t make money on the accuracy of credit scores; they make their billions by generating the scores and selling them. Many of the companies that buy your information — banks, mortgage companies, insurance companies, Realtors, etc. — actually prefer you to have a lower credit score. Why? Lower credit equals a higher interest rate, which means bigger commissions. Nearly 100 percent of credit reports have inaccuracies. Shouldn’t the bureaus be required to be accurate with something so important? Yes, but unfortunately pinpoint accuracy doesn’t equal profits for these guys. The truth is quite the opposite. One of the many ways they make money is by selling your information to anyone who will buy it. You are a lead. Your name, address, Social Security number, mortgage company, amount of debt and more are easily accessible. It gets worse — the information is also inexpensive. Your name could be bought for the equivalent of

change found in a couch cushion. That may be scary or infuriating or both. Here’s a turnkey solution: First, never order a credit report from anywhere besides annualcreditreport. com. This is the only true free credit-reporting agency. You’ve seen the commercials with the cute jingles to go to freecreditreport. com, right? Avoid it. This website is owned by the bureaus and is another way they make money on you. Second, you can opt out from selling your information. My elite team of professionals can guide you through this process. Third, get a credit analysis and have an expert explain your credit score. If you have issues on your credit report, DO NOT go online to any “credit repair” company. Most are a sham, and at best just send dispute letters to the bureaus on your behalf in an effort to improve credit. ​The bureaus get hundreds of thousands of these letters daily… and trash them. This article is not the first time I’ve ticked off the bureaus, and it won’t be the last. It’s all about helping the San Diego consumer, and if that’s at the expense of upsetting some billionaires, so be it. For more information on your credit score, fill out the contact form at craigsewing.com to be connected with an elite team of professionals who will guide you through a credit analysis. —Craig Sewing

Craig Sewing is a San Diego talk show host who covers important issues and the local impact they make. His television show, The American Dream, which airs on Saturdays at 10 a.m. on Cox or Time Warner channel 4, involves discussions and panels with prominent San Diegans who aren’t scared to voice their opinions. His radio program is broadcast nightly on KCBQ AM 1170 at 6 p.m. and craigsewing.com. Sewing’s guests include politicians, financial experts and real estate professionals, some of whom are highlighted in the following pages.