Home > Personal Finance > 5 Things You’re Doing That Could Make Your Life Hell

Comments 0 Comments

Navigating your way through life is hard enough without those hopefully rare moments when you are stressed out or distracted and press the wrong button, take the wrong call, sign the wrong document, neglect to sign the right document or find another one of the countless ways we arrive at that “oops” moment that makes everything infinitely worse and has the potential to haunt you for years to come. (Just ask Carlos Danger.)

Here are five things people do, which they shouldn’t, that can really make life much harder than it needs to be.

1. Oversharing on Social Networking Sites

Do you share too much personal information with online “friends” who may not have your best interests at heart? Many people do. Here’s a shortlist: taking quizzes that are often little more than data-sucking platforms for marketing companies or hackers; providing birthdates, physical addresses or travel plans; using credit cards on unencrypted websites; sending credit card information to the new online love of your life so he or she can visit; posting geo-tagged pictures showing a new car, favorite artwork hanging in their den, or your children at play in the local park.

Be careful on social networking sites. The world doesn’t need to know your dog’s name, where you live and work, your mother’s maiden name, or the myriad of other factoids that enable an identity thief to cobble together enough of your life to convince someone that they are you.

2. Joining Accounts With ‘The One’

Just because you have reached an agreement with your ex-partner that he or she will take care of certain joint financial obligations doesn’t shield you from the credit consequences of late or missed payments. The world is awash with stories of people whose credit scores have been crushed because the former love of their life hit a financial bump in the road, decided to exact revenge through non-payment or is just plain irresponsible. When you open joint credit accounts with a partner, creditors look to both parties for payment unless one of you has made arrangements to be removed from the account.

Before the judge bangs the gavel and you leave the courthouse, make sure that you do everything you can to close joint accounts and that your creditors are informed of the responsible party vis-à-vis that account. If any joint accounts survive, review every bill, demand confirmation of every payment and give yourself enough time to step in and make a payment before you are exposed to the fallout of a 30-day late notice.

3. Focusing on Credit Only When You Need to Use it

Like friendship, credit isn’t something that should be nurtured only when convenient or necessary. It is ubiquitous and impacts almost every aspect of your life, which is why you need to build, nurture, manage and protect your credit portfolio. Obtain a free copy of your credit reports from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion every year; correct any errors you discover on your reports or notify credit bureau fraud departments when you find accounts you didn’t know you had. You can monitor your credit month to month and get your free credit score once a month at Credit.com.

Don’t forget to check your credit card and bank accounts frequently to make sure that every transaction you see is yours and not a mistaken entry or early warning sign that you are a victim of identity theft (you can use a service like Mint.com to see all of your accounts in one place). Beyond that, sign up with your bank, credit union or credit card company for free email or text notifications of transactions that occur in your accounts so you can quickly detect unauthorized activity. And of course, always pay your bills on time and try not to use so much of your available credit (more than 10%) that it negatively impacts your credit score.

The ultimate guardian of the consumer is the consumer. Your credit is an asset and you are your own personal manager. You want your credit report to read like a résumé and not a rap sheet.

4. Clicking on a Link in an Email From the IRS

So you just got bad news from the IRS via email. There’s a link to click. You do it. And just like that… Mazel Tov! You’ve been spearphished. The IRS doesn’t send bad news like this via email. There are lots of bad people out there who count on your knee-jerk reaction to do whatever it takes to satisfy your curiosity or solve a problem. It’s best to assume that if you click the link, you will be creating a newer, much bigger problem for yourself.

The IRS communicates through snail mail. Never click on unfamiliar links or pictures, always go directly to the official website, and do not transmit personal information through email.

5. Spilling the Beans Over the Phone

During the past few years, fraudsters have scammed thousands of unsuspecting citizens into disclosing their personal identifying information over the phone to someone representing any number of organizations — from employment recruiters to the Jury Commission. Then there are the con artists claiming to be from your credit card company who call to inform you that your account has been compromised. Why are they asking you to confirm your account number, expiration date, security code and, in some cases, your Social Security number? A good question that too few people ask.

Never provide personal information over the phone to someone you don’t know. If you get a call, hang up, check the information on the back of your credit or debit card, call the customer service department and ask if there’s an issue. Only when you are in control of the conversation should you provide personal authentication information.

When people hear the word “portfolio,” their natural response is to think “investments.” Your investments should be managed by a professional — your financial security depends upon it. However, your credit and your identity are two other portfolios that must be properly managed and you are the only person in a position to do that. How you manage them will either enrich your life or put you in harm’s way.

Image: Blend Images

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team