Times are tough. You’re working hard for your money, and you want to protect it.
In the final Solutions town hall meeting the Register hosted to provide advice, experts offered tips on how to protect your property and credit rating. Here are some of their best ideas:
Q. How can I keep my property and myself safe?
A. Lock your car doors every time you park, and don’t leave valuables in plain sight inside the car, said former Sandusky police chief Kim Nuesse. Park the car in a well-lit place.
Lock your doors at home, keep the yard well-lit and consider installing inexpensive motion-sensor lights.
Introduce yourself to your neighbors. Keep an eye on their homes when they are gone and collect their newspapers until they return. If they know you and your routine, they are more likely to call police if they see something suspicious.
A dog at home can also deter burglars.
If you think somebody might be following you or planning to attack, be proactive. Duck inside a store and let the person go by. Cross the street.
Q. What if I’m struggling to pay my debts or bills?
A. Talk to your lenders about the situation.
“We don’t want to repossess vehicles. We don’t want to foreclose on homes,” said Jamie Garcia of Vacationland Federal Credit Union. “If you’ve just been laid off, go in, speak to your lender. It’s always better to communicate than to hide.”
Contact the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, a nonprofit that offers free help. The Sandusky office is at 419-625-3433.
Use free services such as the CCCS rather than businesses that charge a hefty fee. Check with the Better Business Bureau to find a good nonprofit, said Jason Leher of CCCS.
If you can’t find the right agency for your particular problem, dial 211.
Q. Is filing bankruptcy a good idea?
A. It should not be a first resort, particularly if you owe a relatively small amount of money or you know you’ll need access to credit.
“The bankruptcy attorney is not going to be the guy trying to borrow money,” said Jim Nabors, a vice president of Citizens Bank. A nonprofit such as Consumer Credit Counseling Service may be able to help if you are struggling with debt.
Still, bankruptcy is a better option than pillaging your 401(k) and other savings and can be the best option in a bad situation, said Tim Ott of Union National Mortgage.
Q. What can I do to avoid identity theft?
A. Shred unsolicited credit card offers and other mail that has personal information. Shred the document so that the shredder cuts across the lines of writing.
If you seem to have become a victim of identity theft — for example, a collection agency is trying to collect a debt you never ran up — file a report with the police department and call a credit reporting agency to report fraud.
Q. If a bank sends me an e-mail asking me to log in and enter my information, what should I do?
A. Delete the message.
“They would never ask you for it, certainly not by e-mail,” Ott said.