(Originally posted on May 20, 2007)
It won't happen to me
We've all seen the funny commercials that Citibank runs where the little old lady is channeling the voice of a street thug, telling the story of all the stuff she just bought. We all laugh and think it's clever advertising - until it happens to you.
They did WHAT?
While I out shopping, my wife calls on my cell phone in a panic. She says, "Do you have your American Express card?" "Yeah, it's in my wallet." "Double check", she says.
My wife was on the phone with Citibank security, and they were calling due to some suspicious activity on my American Express card. It seems that within a half hour, almost $5,000 was charged on my card -- all over New York. New York! Hey, I'm in Las Vegas, and the card is in my hand!
Will the real Mark Karten please stand up?
It seems thieves don't have to pick your pockets anymore. In my case, I had bought something on the internet, and the (less than reputable) company I purchased a Bluetooth headset from seemed to have helped themselves to my credit.
However, they didn't just use my card number, they made a phony credit card. Wow, that was pretty surprising to me. The good news is that it was caught early by Citibank, the bad news is that I had to fill out an affidavit that the card was stolen, and work with the fraud department so that it wouldn't be a part of my credit report.
What does this have to do with Real Estate?
No matter what you read in the papers, there are no lack of people who want to buy a home, especially in Las Vegas. What's stopping a lot of them is their credit. Unfortunately, much of the problems with their credit are self-inflicted. Many of these problems can be overcome by having a down payment. If you can put 20% of the purchase price down on your home, 9 times out of 10, you can start packing.
I have come across some folks who were the victims of identity theft, and here's my point. It takes a lot of work to clean up your credit report once this happens to you. Each year, 9 million Americans will become a victim.
Your FREE gift
As a public service, I am helping distribute the "Identity Theft Prevention and Response Manual." You can visit my website at www.YouCanAffordVegas.com and download your free copy. If you, or anyone you know ever needs this, by having a copy handy will save you lots of time in minimizing the damage to your credit, and future purchases. I hope you never need to use it.