What Is a Bedroom Community? All About Those In-Demand Locales Just Outside Cities

For people looking for a place to live that’s budget-friendly and near a major city, a bedroom community may be the ideal choice. It was for Susan French Gennace, a writer who grew up in Lehigh Valley, PA—a bedroom community of both Philadelphia and New York City.

“When I got a job in New York, I couldn’t afford to actually live there, so I made the commute,” she recalls.

Many people just like Gennace work for city-based companies and then head home to bedroom communities, usually within an hour’s drive, because they enjoy either the residential environment or the lower cost of housing—or both.

Simply put, “bedroom community” is used to describe a suburb or exurb populated primarily by professionals who commute to work in the city.

Characteristics of a bedroom community

Houses in these communities generally offer more space and a lower cost of living. Because there’s less hustle and bustle, people are seemingly more relaxed.

The challenge with bedroom communities, however, is that they can be a significant distance away from urban centers. So even though you get plenty of benefits, you may still have a lengthy work commute.

“Longer commutes and more traffic mean you have to leave earlier in the morning to avoid rush-hour traffic and you get home later at night—just in time to go to bed and wake up to do it all over again,” Gennace says.

Unlike large cities, bedroom communities often have limited options for entertainment, dining out, public transportation, employment opportunities, shopping, and schools.

“Residents who move to bedroom communities typically consist of couples with children where one or both parents travel to the city for their jobs,” says Dave Hyman, a Re/Max real estate agent based in Encinitas, CA. “Rather than apartments or condos, people in bedroom communities tend to live in single-family homes.”

Is a bedroom community for you?

Where you choose to live and work is obviously a personal choice, for which you must weigh both the pros and the cons. For some young adults, bedroom communities only emphasize what they’re missing.

“They are a reminder that you are somewhat close to where all the fun and action is, but far enough away that visiting the city is still a special occasion,” Gennace says. “Some people might complain how boring they are and count down the days until they can finally leave them.”

But for many working professionals, the cons of bedroom communities are minor compared to the following perks:

  • Affordability: Housing costs and taxes on property, food, and sales tend to be lower.
  • Less noise: Noise from automobile traffic, emergency vehicles, and construction projects is replaced by relative peace and quiet.
  • More privacy: Crowding is not a problem as homes tend to be more spread out, keeping nosy neighbors at bay.
  • Lower crime rates: Let’s be clear: Crime happens everywhere. But in bedroom communities, a smaller population means fewer people are behind bars.

Source: realtor.com

NJM Insurance Review

  • Car Insurance

The NJM Insurance Group was founded way back in 1913 and offers a wealth of insurance products to individuals in New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

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It’s one of the highest-rated car insurance companies in the United States and offers a wealth of products in a direct-to-consumer model, with transactions completed over the phone or at NJM.com, and not through insurance agents.

In this NJM Auto Insurance Review, we’ll see how New Jersey business holds up against the competition.

NJM Car Insurance

All NJM Insurance products are offered direct, much like Esurance. This has its benefits and is the preferred method for countless consumers who have grown up in the digital age. But if you prefer dealing with someone face-to-face, the lack of an insurance agent can be a pain.

NJM Insurance offers all of the basic, state-required forms of insurance, including bodily injury and property damage liability cover. It also offers underinsured/uninsured motorist cover, medical payments cover, and both collision and comprehensive coverage. If you opt for the latter, you will receive all the following benefits:

  • Pet Coverage: Always a welcome sight on car insurance policies, this extra feature will payout up to $1,000 if your pet is hurt in a car accident. It only makes sense, because if your dog or cat is in the car with you and you’re in an accident, your repair bills and medical bills aren’t the only things you have to worry about.
  • New Car Replacement: Your new car will be covered if it is completely destroyed or stolen within the first 12 months, providing it has less than 15,000 miles on the clock. NJM Insurance will give you the money needed to buy a replacement vehicle.
  • Car Rental Reimbursement: Not only does NJM Insurance offer car rental coverage if your insured car is in the shop or has been stolen, but this also extends to taxis and rideshares, depending on the policy and the location.
  • NJM SafeDrive: This program works in much the same way as DriveEasy, DriveWise, and the countless other similar programs out there. NJM Insurance tracks the driving habits of all applicants who agree to this program, changing their premiums accordingly.

NJM Insurance Car Insurance Discounts

Like all good auto insurance companies, NJM Insurance offers a wealth of car insurance discounts. These can be added to all applicable auto policies and provide significant savings:

  • Multi-Car and Multi-Policy: Offered when you add more than one vehicle to your policy or purchase a homeowners insurance policy as well.
  • Driving Courses: Available for all applicants that complete a defensive driving course and other safety courses.
  • Paying Upfront: Offered when you pay for your premiums in full.
  • Safety Equipment: Provided for safety equipment such as airbags and anti-lock brakes, as well as anti-theft features.
  • New Car: Obtainable if your car is no more than 2 years old.
  • Good Student: A discount provided to young drivers who maintain a specific grade point average. NJM Insurance also has discounts for students who spend a lot of time on campus.

Other NJM Insurance Products

In addition to auto insurance policies, NJM Insurance offers homeowners insurance with all the following features and benefits:

  • Extra Coverage: Get extra coverage for expensive items, including jewelry, high-priced electronics/equipment, and family heirlooms. If you have anything in your home that carries a substantial value, this feature can ensure it is covered completely.
  • Earthquake Insurance: If your home is damaged in an earthquake, resulting in significant loss, NJM Insurance will ensure you’re covered. NJM Insurance doesn’t offer insurance products in any of the ten states where earthquakes are most common, but they can occur anywhere, so it’s still a good option to have.
  • Water Coverage: You will already be covered in the event your home suffers from internal water damage, such as leaks. But with this feature, you will also be covered for up to $5,000 following an overflown sump pump.
  • Mold and More: Dry rot and mold can spread rapidly and cause serious damage to your home. Before you know it, the fungi have taken over and left you with expensive repair work. Fortunately, with NJM home insurance, you may be covered.
  • Fraud and ID Protection: The amount of money stolen by fraudsters in the United States has remained relatively stable over the last 5 years or so. However, the number of victims has increased significantly, suggesting that fraudsters are now targeting more vulnerable people, including those who have very little to lose in the first place. With these extra protection options, NJM home insurance will cover you for the financial damages that result from fraud and ID theft.

A multitude of home insurance discounts are also available and offer policyholders a chance to save a few cents on their cover. Discounts are available for all the following:

  • Smoke-Free: NJM will shave some money off your policy if you install a smoke alarm or sprinkler system. You can also save some money if you are a non-smoker. There are over 350,000 house fires every year in the US resulting in nearly $7 billion worth of damage. With these two benefits, you significantly reduce the risk of such an issue.
  • Safety Features: There are over 7 million property crimes in the United States every year, leading to the theft of belongings and property damage. By installing features such as burglar alarms, there’s less chance you will be the victim of this type of crime, and your premiums will match this. 
  • State-Only Discounts: In the state of New Jersey, policyholders can save money by installing impact-resistant glass, while a paperless billing discount is offered in Pennsylvania.

NJM Insurance Car Insurance Rates

​NJM Insurance has cheap rates in general, but these rates won’t suit everyone. It’s one of the cheapest car insurance providers in the state of New Jersey and offers especially low rates for drivers with at-fault accidents and other blemishes on their driving records.

However, this usually only applies if those drivers have good credit scores.

With lots of insurance claims, speeding tickets, and other marks, and a bad credit score, you likely won’t get the best insurance rates here or anywhere else for that matter. Still, be sure to get a quote, compare it to other auto insurance quotes, and choose the best one.

NJM Insurance Reviews and Ratings

NJM Insurance has an A+ rating from AM Best and has maintained at least an A rating for several decades. It has also received high ratings from JD Power, who have previously voted this insurer as one of the best for claims satisfaction and customer satisfaction.

You don’t have to look far to find bad reviews and complaints, but the same can be said for all car insurance companies.

The simple fact is, more consumers leave bad reviews than good ones. If a company provides them with the service they expect, they’ll just move on, maybe tell a few friends, and leave it at that. If they falter in any way, the consumer will leave a bad review and maybe even complain, as that’s the only way they feel like they can get through to big corporations.

Contacting NJM

NJM Insurance has several offices, the biggest of which is located at 301 Sullivan Way, West Trenton, New Jersey.

If you have any questions, you can get in touch via a contact form at NJM.com or dial the following phone number: 1-800-232-6600.

As noted already, there are no NJM insurance agents and you will need to go through the website or, if you prefer, to speak with someone directly, opt for a phone call. In any case, the process is quick and easy.

Bottom Line

We definitely recommend getting an auto insurance quote from NJM Insurance, but this shouldn’t be your only quote. As always, it’s important to see what you can get elsewhere, as the chances of you getting the best possible coverage from the very first provider you try are pretty slim.

Get quotes from the likes of State Farm, SafeCo, Allstate, Progressive, Nationwide, and more. If NJM Insurance has the cheapest and the best, great! You can sign up for an auto insurance policy with a very competent and highly reputable provider. If not, other providers are just as reliable.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

How To Freeze Your Credit Report

The potential for becoming a victim of identity theft is greater than ever before. In fact, some figures estimate that as many as 15 million Americans personally experience some form of this crime each year. Cleaning up the mess that comes along with identity theft is likely to be a lengthy, troublesome process.

confused woman

You’re bound to spend an excessive amount of time on the phone in an attempt to get your money back and get your credit to return to normal. You’ll have to call the companies where the fraud occurred and place a fraud alert on all 3 of your credit reports. Luckily, there’s a way to prevent going through this hassle.

A simple tool called a credit freeze can save you the headache of dealing with identity theft by potentially stopping it from happening altogether. Read on to find out more about a credit freeze and why you need one.

What is a credit freeze?

A credit freeze (also known as a credit report freeze or security freeze) allows you to restrict lenders and credit card companies from accessing your credit information. This helps to stop identity theft because it prevents anyone from applying for loans or credit cards until you lift the freeze.

For example, let’s say an identity thief submits a credit card application using your social security number. The credit card company will most likely try to access your credit history to gauge how likely you are to make your monthly payments.

If you have a credit freeze in place, they won’t be able to access that information. They will deny the identity thief’s application.

When you have a security freeze in place, there are still a couple of situations in which your credit report may be accessed. Your existing creditors or their debt collectors can still access the information. Government agencies who have received authorization from a court order, subpoena, or search warrant can also.

However, since these companies and agencies aren’t associated with opening new lines of credit under your name, you don’t have to worry about identity theft in these situations.

What is a credit lock?

A credit lock is similar to a credit freeze. It allows you to restrict access from most lenders. However, it allows you to unlock your credit report at any time. It can be done immediately on your computer or mobile device.

So, what’s the difference? The main difference is that it’s easier to unlock a credit lock than it is to unfreeze a credit freeze. A credit freeze requires the use of a password-protected account or PIN number.

Why freeze your credit?

Freezing your credit report is a smart move because it offers credit protection even if your personal information has been compromised. That being said, you should consider freezing your credit report even if you’re not aware of your personal information being stolen.

It’s an easy step to take care of in advance of potential identity theft and is important to do because you may not even know that your information has been stolen.

Security Breaches

Major companies around the world are constantly being attacked by hackers in an attempt to steal credit card numbers, social security numbers, and other personal information. To make matters worse, they may not even know about the compromised information until well after the attack has happened.

For example, 80 million members and employees of health insurance company Anthem had their social security numbers stolen in early December 2014.

However, Anthem didn’t even realize the data breach had occurred until late January of 2015 and didn’t make any announcements for another week. That’s nearly two months where millions of consumers’ credit reports were available to identity thieves without them even knowing it.

Anthem eventually offered credit monitoring services to members. However, having a simple security freeze in place would’ve provided an additional level of security, particularly during those first two months of ignorance.

How does a credit freeze affect your credit score?

Implementing a credit freeze does not affect your credit whatsoever. In fact, the only effect that it has on your credit score is keeping it intact against potential threats from thieves.

A security freeze also doesn’t prevent you from receiving your free annual credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. You can still request that information each year through AnnualCreditReport.com.

You’ll also still receive prescreened credit offers when you have a credit freeze in place, however, you can still opt out of those.

Another important point to note is that credit freezes only restricts lenders’ access to your credit report. It does not in any way monitor your bank or credit card activity. So, you still need to keep an eye on those transactions to make sure there is no suspicious activity.

Many banks will often set up alerts to detect odd spending patterns in your accounts, but you shouldn’t strictly rely on them to keep track of your money. Identity thieves opening new accounts in your name and using current accounts are two separate crimes. Therefore, they must be monitored and treated differently.

How much does it cost to freeze your credit?

The cost of a credit freeze depends on a few different things but is generally decided by the state in which you live. If you’ve already been the victim of identity theft, then the security freeze is usually free.

Many states also offer this service for free to seniors over 65 years old. Otherwise, the costs typically range between $3 and $10. Unfortunately, you have to pay the fee for each individual credit bureau. So, realistically the total fees can range anywhere between $9 and $30.

You’ll also be charged fees for lifting the freezes, either temporarily or permanently. These costs range from $2 to $10 for each agency. It may seem like the expenses associated with a credit freeze could add up quickly.

But in reality, they are quite minimal considering the time and cost of recovering misused funds and repairing your credit that has been hijacked by an identity thief.

How do you unfreeze your credit report?

There are two ways to lift a credit freeze: either temporarily or permanently. A temporary lift is used when you’re applying for a loan, a credit card, or even a job that requires an extensive background check.

Just be sure to plan in advance because it can take up to three business days after you submit the request for the agency to actually lift the security freeze.

To save yourself a bit of time and money, you can ask the lender or potential employer which credit reporting agency they plan on contacting. That way you can just lift that one specific credit freeze.

Permanent Lift

A permanent lift, as the name indicates, entirely removes the credit freeze from your credit report. Whichever option you choose, you’ll need your PIN. You should’ve received it in a confirmation letter when the freeze was initially put into place.

You’ll have separate PINs for each credit reporting agency so be sure to place all three in a secure location.

What happens if you lose your security PIN?

If you lose or misplace your security PIN for one (or all) of the three credit bureaus, you’ll need to individually contact each one in writing.

Along with your request, be sure to send a copy of your proof of identification, such as your driver’s license, birth certificate, or passport. There will likely be a fee assessed for sending you a new PIN. Fees typically range between $5 and $10 depending on your state.

What other things can you do to prevent identity theft?

There are three types of identity theft as categorized by the Bureau of Justice:

  • Unauthorized use of an existing account.
  • Unauthorized use of personal information to open a new account.
  • Misuse of personal information for fraudulent purposes.

Attempts at any of these actions also constitute fraud.

In addition to implementing a credit freeze, there are a few other proactive ways to prevent identity theft. The first is placing a fraud alert on your credit report.

Fraud Alerts

A fraud alert requires credit companies to verify your identity before offering any credit. To do this, the company will try to get in touch with you so make sure your contact information is up to date.

You only have to request a fraud alert from one credit reporting agency, and then that agency will notify the other two of your request. Fraud alerts are free for 90 days and can be renewed.

Credit Monitoring

Another option is to sign up for a credit monitoring service, which can track your credit activity, notify you of any changes to your credit score, or potentially both.

The exact services and costs vary depending on the company you select so do your research before choosing one. To help you out, we’ve created a roundup of the best credit monitoring services for 2021.

Final Thoughts

Identity theft has unfortunately become a common occurrence in the modern world. It’s becoming more and more likely that you’ll be affected by this criminal practice at some point in your life.

Protect your finances by taking proactive steps to fight against becoming a victim. While there are plenty of products and services available today, implementing a credit freeze is a simple, low-cost solution to prevent thieves from opening new accounts with your personal information.

The Best Renters Insurance Companies in Washington, D.C.

If you’re lucky enough to rent an apartment or house in the Washington, D.C. area, you already know that it’s not exactly a bargain hunter’s paradise. But it is possible to find renters insurance in D.C. that is cost-effective and comes with a side dish of responsive customer service and extensive coverage.

Do you need renter’s insurance in Washington, D.C? We’d say so, unless you want to be stuck shelling out cash if you are faced with a fire, theft of your belongings, or other mishaps.

We’ve done some of the legwork for you to find the best renters insurance in D.C., using our SimpleScore Methodology. We looked at a number of qualities — accessibility, coverage options, support, customer satisfaction and discounts — to find the best options for D.C. renters, no matter where in the District they live.

America’s top-rated renters insurance

  • Policies starting at just $5/month
  • Sign up in seconds, claims paid in minutes
  • Zero hassle, zero paperwork
In this article

The best renters insurance companies in Washington, D.C. 

Best renters insurance overall – Lemonade

They may be the new kid on the block, but Lemonade knocks it out of the park when it comes to pricing and support.

J.D. Power Rating

5/5

AM Best Rating

N/A

Standard & Poor’s

N/A

SimpleScore

3.6 / 5.0

SimpleScore Lemonade 3.6

Discounts 1

Coverage Options 3

Customer Satisfaction 5

Accessibility 5

When Lemonade Insurance started writing policies in 2015, it unsettled the big insurers by doing business totally online, with excellent resources and near-instant claim satisfaction. Since then, it’s only continued to improve, and currently holds the top spot in J.D. Power’s Overall Customer Satisfaction Ranking for renters insurance. You can get a comprehensive policy for as little as $5 a month. Customizable options include higher coverage rates for jewelry, bikes, and more; water back-up; and pet or water damage. As an added perk, Lemonade donates a portion of its earnings every year to a charity you choose when you sign up.

Best renters insurance for customer service – Erie

Erie’s 12,000+ independent agents are on the job 24/7 to help you file and manage your claims and handle all your insurance needs cheerfully and professionally.

J.D. Power Rating

3/5

AM Best Rating

A+

Standard & Poor’s

N/A

SimpleScore

2.4 / 5.0

SimpleScore Erie 2.4

Discounts 1

Coverage Options 2

Customer Satisfaction 3

Accessibility 3

With nearly 100 years of policy-writing experience, Erie insurance is worth a look when you are purchasing renters insurance. This is especially true if you like working with a live agent, rather than an online chatbot (as you’d get with Lemonade). Erie has agents on the ground in the D.C. region who understand the needs of renters living in the metropolitan area. They can write you a policy that will cover your stuff, as well as provide liability coverage and living expenses if you should have to leave your apartment following a disaster. Bundle your renters policy with auto insurance from Erie and you stand to save money on your premium costs, which is never a bad thing.

Best renters insurance for military members – USAA

USAA’s policyholders sing their praises for the company — and they should, because it excels at pricing, customer service and more.

J.D. Power Rating

5/5

AM Best Rating

A++

Standard & Poor’s

N/A

SimpleScore

3.8 / 5.0

SimpleScore USAA 3.8

Discounts 2

Coverage Options 5

Customer Satisfaction 5

Accessibility 4

USAA may just be the best company you’ve never heard of — unless you’re in the military or are a veteran, in which case you’ve probably heard good things about it from your peers. And that’s the catch: USAA only sells policies to those in the military, veterans, and their family members. That demographic is well-represented in Washington, D.C., so if it fits you, USAA should be your first choice for a quote. In addition to competitive pricing, the company is known for its exemplary support of its customers. That support shows itself in everything from quick claims satisfaction to an excellent blog that is filled with information, financial and otherwise, with a military bent.

Most Customizable Policies – Capitol Benefits

A regional independent insurance agency, Capitol Benefit’s agents can write a policy for you that is geared exactly to your needs — at a price that works for your wallet.

J.D. Power Rating

N/A

AM Best Rating

A+

Standard & Poor’s

N/A

SimpleScore

3.5 / 5.0

SimpleScore Capitol Benefits 3.5

Disconts 4

Coverage Options 3

Customer Satisfaction N/A

Accessibility 4

Capitol Benefits is a regional supplier of renters insurance policies for residents of D.C. and its suburbs. The company works with a number of national and regional insurance underwriters to provide policies that can be tailored to your specific circumstances. Do you have expensive electronics, jewelry or art? Your policy’s pay-out for these items can be increased. Is your building particularly old or in a flood zone? The Capitol Benefits agents will be able to account for these factors when writing your policy. Since they don’t rely on a single insurer, you get the best from a range of suppliers, managed by an agent who knows the D.C. region intimately.

Most financially stable renters insurance – American Strategic Insurance

ASI offers the best of two worlds: the customer service that you find with smaller regional companies as well as the rock-solid financial stability that it earns through its partnership with Progressive.

J.D. Power Rating

3/5

AM Best Rating

A+

Standard & Poor’s

AA

SimpleScore

4.2 / 5.0

SimpleScore American Strategic Insurance 4.2

Disconts 5

Coverage Options 3

Customer Satisfaction 3

Accessibility 5

ASI offers standard renters insurance that covers theft, fire and smoke damage, wind and hail, and more, along with a handful of customizable options. It has feet-on-the-ground knowledge that comes with its agents’ presence in the D.C. metropolitan area. But it has an edge over other regional insurers: it is partly owned by national provider Progressive, and can tap into the benefits that come with having a mega-corporation standing behind you. One of these benefits is financial stability, as is seen with ASI’s A+ rating from AM Best. What does that mean to you? It means you don’t have to worry about your insurer’s ability to pay out on multiple claims following a large-scale disaster. With Washington squarely in the path of many summer hurricanes, that’s a nice reassurance to have.

America’s top-rated renters insurance

  • Policies starting at just $5/month
  • Sign up in seconds, claims paid in minutes
  • Zero hassle, zero paperwork

Choosing your provider 

We’ve included both regional insurers and large national corporations in our listing of the top renters insurance companies in D.C. No one company is right for everyone, and depending on your needs and wishes, the company that works for your neighbor might not be a good fit for you. Here are some pros and cons to help you determine where to start your search.

Local carrier 

Pros 

  • Agents knowledgeable about local area
  • Emphasis on friendly customer service and good agent relationships
  • May be less expensive

[ Read: What You Need to Know About Bundling Car and Renters Insurance ]

Cons 

  • Websites tend to be limited
  • Coverage options often not as extensive
  • Fewer discounts than national agencies

National carrier 

Pros

  • Often excellent websites, with online quote tools and more
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Broad range of coverage options and multiple discounts

Cons 

  • You’re one of thousands of clients: a number, not a person
  • Less coverage that is specific to your region

Additional renters insurance coverage in Washington, D.C.

Your renters insurance premium in Washington, D.C. will be determined by a number of factors. A few of these factors are common no matter where you live in the metropolitan D.C. area.

Weather

Washington’s weather is generally mild, with some snow in the winter and hot and balmy summers. But living this close to the Eastern seaboard leaves you vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms that sweep up the coast. In fact, depending on how close you live to the Potomac River, you may be in a flood zone — which means that it would be advisable to consider flood insurance coverage added to your policy.

[ Read: How much is Renters Insurance? ]

Crime

Unfortunately, some areas of Washington have fairly high crime rates. Your insurer knows what those rates are, and will adjust your premium accordingly. Since most renter’s insurance policies cover theft both from your apartment as well as items that are in storage or your car, you may find yourself paying more depending on your neighborhood.

High cost of living

Nobody lives in Washington to save money. In fact, the District lands on many listings of cities with the highest cost of living in the U.S. You’ll pay a premium rate for your apartment and you might pay a bit more for your renters insurance than you might if you lived in, say, Tulsa, Oklahoma. But that fact shouldn’t deter you from purchasing a policy. You can still get good renters insurance in Washington for $20 or $30 a month, and it will be more than worth it if disaster strikes and you need to replace damaged or stolen personal belongings.

How much does renters insurance cost in Washington, D.C.? 

The average cost of a renters insurance policy in the U.S. is $180, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Despite the high cost of living in D.C., the average renters insurance policy in the District is only $158. Your own rate, of course, will differ. Factors that play into that include the price you’re paying for rent, the amount of property coverage you purchase, and the neighborhood you live in. Each insurance company uses their own algorithms for determining premiums, which is why it pays to shop around and get several quotes when you’re looking for the cheapest renters insurance in D.C.

Washington, D.C. renters insurance FAQs

There is no law in Washington, D.C. that requires you to have renters insurance. However your landlord can require it as a condition of signing your lease. Your landlord should have their own policy to cover the building — but their policy will not cover your personal belongings. Even if it’s not a requirement, it’s a good idea to have a renters policy no matter where you live.

There is no one provider who always has the cheapest renters insurance in D.C. Each quote is unique, to reflect your own circumstances and location, and the insurer who gives your neighbor a great price may not do so for you. Your best bet is to get several quotes to find the cheapest policy for you.

Renters insurance averages $158 a year in Washington, which works out to about $13 a month. Your own premium may be more, but in general, renters insurance in Washington D.C. is fairly inexpensive.

We welcome your feedback on this article and would love to hear about your experience with the insurers we recommend. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

Home Burglary Statistics: How Safe Are You?

Do you feel safe in your home? What about when you’re not there? Home security is an everyday concern for many, so it’s important that you are taking the proper precautions to protect your valuables and loved ones. To help you understand the patterns and behavior of burglars, we have a guide on burglary statistics and how to safeguard your home.

Are people securing their homes?

We surveyed 1,000 Americans about their home security and found that:

  • 70 percent of people have security measures in place to keep their home from being burglarized
  • Almost as many people lock their doors and windows when they are home (40 percent) compared to when they aren’t (46 percent) home
  • Only 22 percent of respondents indicated that they use an alarm system and 22 percent said they use video cameras
  • 24 percent of respondents said they owned self-defense equipment

graphic that shows what americans do to protect their home from a burglarygraphic that shows what americans do to protect their home from a burglary

When it comes to securing their homes, respondents indicated that they are more likely to use old-fashioned techniques such as deadlocks (40 percent) on their doors rather than relying on technology such as alarm systems (22 percent) or video cameras (22 percent).

Seasonal break-in concerns

The majority of respondents (56 percent) were most worried about a home burglary in the summer. Half as many (26 percent) were concerned about winter and only 9 percent were worried about spring and 9 percent in the fall. These concerns align with seasonal burglary statistics. According to the FBI, burglaries are most likely to occur during the summer months, between noon and 4 p.m.

graphic that shows seasonal break-in concernsgraphic that shows seasonal break-in concerns

Despite the tendency for people to take precautions by having self-defense equipment and locking doors when they’re inside, a majority of break-ins happen when people are not there to protect the home.

Preventing a seasonal break-ins

The most break-ins occur in the summer months. This is when Americans are most likely to be on vacation or outside enjoying a sunny day. The second most popular season for break-ins is winter. During the holidays, people take trips to visit family and are away from their homes. This is also the time of year when they have valuable presents in their homes.

To prevent holiday break-ins this season:

  • Leave lights on a timer so it looks like you are home throughout the day. Break-ins are most likely to occur between noon and 4 p.m. If you aren’t home during those hours, leave lights or music on a timer so it seems like you are.
  • Don’t leave signs that you are gone such as mail piled up in the mailbox or garbage cans out in the street for too long. The average break-in lasts between eight to 10 minutes. Leaving signs you are gone lets a burglar know they have plenty of time to steal your belongings.
  • Don’t leave boxes from your holiday gifts on the curb. Forty-seven percent of burglaries aren’t planned. Someone might be passing by and see your new TV or PlayStation box on the curb which triggers them to try to break in.
  • Avoid posting that you are out of town on social media. Eighty-five percent of burglars know their victims so they could be following your public social media account.

Burglaries statistics by state

Wondering how your state compares? The FBI has a granular look at crime rates in your state. Below are the top 10 states with the most and least burglaries per hundred thousand residents in 2018.

states with the most and least break-ins per capitastates with the most and least break-ins per capita

Burglary vs. robbery

It is easy to misconstrue a burglary from a robbery. While they may seem similar, they are two very distinct crimes that have different implications and investigative processes.

Burglary is classified as a property crime, whereas a robbery is classified as a violent crime.

According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, a burglary is an “unlawful or forcible entry or attempted entry of a structure with the intent to commit a felony or theft.” The specifics of a burglary is relative based on your state laws.

On the other hand, a robbery is classified as “taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear.”

Since robberies are classified as violent crimes, if someone is convicted of a robbery they will find that it carries a more severe sentence than a burglary.

Additional burglary statistics

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that there were 1.3 million household burglaries, which was a 4.72 percent increase from the previous year. It’s important to be aware of when they happen so you can reduce your risk.

1. Burglaries are most likely to occur during the middle of the day

According to the FBI, in 2018 there were 346,312 daytime burglaries compared to 218,028 burglaries that occurred at night.

This is most likely because the daytime is when your home is left unoccupied. People have daily routines. Criminals are able to track this and take advantage of the times you aren’t home.

2. Burglaries are most likely to happen in the summer months

Seasonality can impact the number of burglaries that occur. These crimes are most likely to occur during the summer months. This is most likely due to a combination of good weather, longer days and an increase in vacations. With more daylight, there is a larger window of opportunity for burglars to break into homes.

We found that the majority of survey respondents (54 percent) indicated that they are most concerned about home burglaries during the summer months.

burglar climbing fenceburglar climbing fence

3 Burglaries are more likely to occur in rural states

According to the FBI, New Mexico, Mississippi and Oklahoma have the highest burglary rate per 100,000 residents. In contrast, Virginia, New York and New Hampshire have the lowest.

4. A burglary occurs every 23 seconds

According to burglary statistics from the FBI, burglaries happen every 23 seconds. This means, there are nearly three homes burglarized every minute and 3,757 burglaries each day.

burglar stealing jewelryburglar stealing jewelry

5. Your bedroom is most likely to be the target of a burglary

Burglars have to be strategic with their time, and this includes targeting the rooms that are most valuable. According to the American Society of Criminology, in two-story homes, burglars will bypass the living areas and head straight for the upstairs bedrooms where they will find the most coveted items.

When scouring the bedroom for your belongings, burglars gravitate toward small, valuable items. Rather than big bulky items like TVs that are difficult to carry, they steal small items that can fit into their pockets in order to avoid unwanted attention as they exit the home.

6. The average cost of a burglary is $2,799

The cost of a burglary is steep. At $2,799 this could set apartment renters back a couple months’ rent. Many renters get renters insurance so they can recoup these losses if burglary were to happen. While it is possible to get back your monetary loss, the feeling of security in your house is harder to recover.

breaking inbreaking in

7. White men are most likely to break into your home

According to the FBI, 80.4 percent of men are found to be the ones breaking in compared to only 19.6 percent of women.

When looking at race or ethnicity in 2018, the FBI found that 68.1 percent of all offenders were Caucasian, 29.4 percent were African American,1.2 percent were American Indian or Alaska Native, 1.1 percent were Asian and 0.2 percent were Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.

8. Only 23 percent of U.S. households are professionally monitored

According to senior analyst Dina Abdelrazik at Parks Associates, only 23 percent of all U.S. households with broadband internet have a professionally monitored security system and 2.5 percent have a self-monitored system.

person looking at home security systemperson looking at home security system

How to prevent a break-in

While thieves can be tricky, there are precautions you can take to prevent a break-in in your home. Here are some ways to prevent a break-in.

Install a home security system

The installation of a home security system not only will help secure your home, but it will also give you more peace of mind when you are away. Many systems include video cameras that allow you to see who is on your property at all times of the day.

Park your car in the driveway

This can be an indicator that you are home and burglars will be hesitant to break in fear that they will encounter someone. If you are on vacation, have your neighbor use your driveway as a parking spot to deter any possible burglars.

Lock doors and windows

Locking all points of entry will provide an additional layer of protection when you are away from your home. If you leave a door unlocked or window cracked it will be an invitation for any intruder looking for an easy target.

Install timers for your lights

Even if you are away from your home, putting your lights on timers can give the illusion that someone is home, which can deter an intruder from breaking in.

Be careful on social media

Social media can be a way that burglars track you. Posting that you are at a coffee shop or on vacation will let them know when your home is free to attack. Be cognizant of your social media use, especially when you are not home.

Advertise your dog

Your dog can deter a burglar even if it’s harmless. A simple “beware of dog” sign can make a burglar second guess if they should break-in.

Don’t let the mail build-up

Allowing your mail to pile up is a clear indicator that you have not been home for quite some time. This will make your home an easy target.

Hide ladders and tools

Don’t give burglars any accessories to break into your home. Hide or keep your tools in a safe place where no one can access them but you.

Now that you are more aware of the upward trend in home burglaries in the past years. Be sure to take the necessary precautions to better secure your home or apartment. It is always better to be prepared than to realize you have been the victim of a burglary.

infographicinfographic

Methodology

This study was conducted for Apartment Guide using Google Consumer Surveys. The sample consists of 1,000 respondents in the United States. The survey was conducted in November 2019.

References:

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Top 10 Apartment Search Websites

Happy couple laying on floor, looking at apartment search sites on laptopShopping for a new apartment can be overwhelming. Sure, many times you can jump into your car and scour the area in search of that perfect place. But, if you need to save time —or if you live in a different city or state — most searches for a new apartment begin online. But which site do you use? Are all apartment internet listing services the same? How do you choose? These questions alone can drive any apartment seeker mad. Luckily, we did the legwork for you and found the top 10 sites you can use to find your next apartment.

No. 1 ApartmentSearch
Whether you are a professional looking to relocate for work, a college student seeking an apartment close to college, or a family seeking a newer, better, furnished apartment, ApartmentSearch has you covered. As a division of CORT, the site’s national partnerships with apartment management companies offer an unparalleled resource for market information, all while making them a one-stop shop for furnished apartments. Also, they are the only national apartment Internet listing service that pays users a $200 reward for using them. Whether you are looking to move across the state, across the country, or from another part of the world, ApartmentSearch has you covered for everything you need to make finding your new apartment easy.

No. 2 For Rent
Another one of the most regarded brands in the multi-family industry, ForRent prides itself on a great experience for apartment shoppers. They have teams meeting with your potential apartment community on a daily basis so they can bring you the most up-to-date listing possible. College students seeking a new place to live also love ForRent University, specifically designed to help them find a great apartment for college.

No. 3 Apartment Guide
One of the most established brands in the nation, Apartment Guide is one of the top respected names in the multifamily industry. Easy-to-use with a huge assortment of apartment listings, Apartment Guide brings you up-to-the-minute info on the latest rental available. Just as with ForRent, their team is on the streets and in the offices of the apartments you are keeping in mind. This means they have the latest scoop on the apartment communities you are considering moving to.

No. 4 Lovely
Looking for an apartment? There is an app for that. Only a few of years ago, Lovely hit the apartment-finding scene and took the nation by storm. Lovely’s interactive app is one-of-a-kind and is an especially useful tool for people who are out and about looking for a great new apartment to call home.

No. 5 ApartmentList
For anyone who loves a great digital experience when searching for a new apartment, look no further than ApartmentList. Both the website and app are interactive, and a joy to engage with. ApartmentList provides some of the most fun you can have when looking for a new apartment.

No. 6 Trulia
Another one of the big dogs of the real estate finding world, Trulia is also a great place to find a single family home rental and they have plenty of apartments to boot. We love the info bar at the top of its search map, which gives info on crime, schools, commute and other factors.

No. 7 Zillow
Being one of the real estate search giants has its advantages. Zillow has an expansive listing of rentals in nearly every market in the U.S. However, Zillow’s site and app are not the easiest to use when seeking a new rental. While the service provides apartment listings to choose from, Zillow truly shines if you are looking to rent a single family home, though it still has lots of traditional apartments to search among. The way Zillow groups listings together by popular criteria is a great place to start.

No. 8 Rent Cafe
Rent Cafe has a very elegant layout and feel. The added information they provide for marketplaces via their “Rent Trends” tab is especially appealing. Also, the site’s informative blog is often cited by national news sources. They have limited listings in certain markets but are a great resource for those looking in a major metro area (especially in the western half of the U.S.).

No. 9 Apartment Finder
Being one of the most established brands in the industry, Apartment Finder remains a great choice for individuals seeking a new apartment. The 3D tour in the photo gallery is a stand-out feature, and the simplicity of seeing the amenities offered by thumbnail make for a nice, interactive experience. This is an especially good choice when searching in smaller cities and towns.

No. 10 Hot Pads
Hot Pads has a terrific interactive map when you start to search by city. It also sports a handy “Get Alerts” feature so you can be updated when new options that meet your search criteria come online. It is a great option for people looking to move within the same area.

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

Can You Go To Jail If You Don’t Pay A Debt?

Being in debt is never fun. You carry a weight on your shoulders, and are bound by the obligations that you must fulfill. It stinks, but at least there are some protections for people who aren’t able to pay, and rules that govern how debts can be collected. In the past, debtors were not given as much leeway. In fact they were treated quite harshly. They were often sent to debtor’s prison:

During Europe’s Middle Ages, debtors, both men and women, were locked up together in a single large cell, until their families paid their debt. Debt prisoners often died of disease contracted from other debt prisoners. Conditions included starvation and abuse from other prisoners. If the father of a family was imprisoned for debt, the family business often suffered while the mother and children fell into poverty. Unable to pay the debt, the father often remained in debtors’ prison for many years. Some debt prisoners were released to become serfs or indentured servants (debt bondage) until they paid off their debt in labor.

Debtor’s prisons continued to be used in the United States and United Kingdom into the 1800s, at which time both countries outlawed the practice of putting people in jail for their debts.  It was outlawed in the United States in 1833, and abolished in the UK in 1869.

You might be surprised to find out, however, that some countries to this day still use the practice.  Debtors in the United Arab Emirates, including Dubai, can be imprisoned for failing to pay their debts.

You Can Go To Jail For Your Debt – Even Today

While many people think being imprisoned for your debt in the U.S. is a thing of the past, they aren’t completely correct.

I was reading my local paper in Minnesota this past week when I discovered a series of articles talking about people who have been sent to jail for their debts.  While they have technically been sent to jail in many of these cases because they missed a court date related to their debt, or because they missed a court mandated debt payment, the fact remains that they were incarcerated in part because they have debt.

It’s not a crime to owe money, and debtors’ prisons were abolished in the United States in the 19th century. But people are routinely being thrown in jail for failing to pay debts. In Minnesota, which has some of the most creditor-friendly laws in the country, the use of arrest warrants against debtors has jumped 60 percent over the past four years, with 845 cases in 2009, a Star Tribune analysis of state court data has found.

Not every warrant results in an arrest, but in Minnesota many debtors spend up to 48 hours in cells with criminals. Consumer attorneys say such arrests are increasing in many states, including Arkansas, Arizona and Washington, driven by a bad economy, high consumer debt and a growing industry that buys bad debts and employs every means available to collect.

Whether a debtor is locked up depends largely on where the person lives, because enforcement is inconsistent from state to state, and even county to county.

While you’re probably OK if you follow up on court dates, and make your court ordered payments, if you miss a payment or a court date you could be in trouble.

Haekyung Nielsen, 27, of Bloomington, said police showed up at her house on a civil warrant two weeks after she gave birth through Caesarean section. A debt buyer had sent her court papers for an old credit-card debt while she was in the hospital; Nielsen said she did not have time to respond.

Her baby boy, Tyler, lay in the crib as she begged the officer not to take her away.

“Thank God, the police had mercy and left me and my baby alone,” said Nielsen, who later paid the debt. “But to send someone to arrest me two weeks after a massive surgery that takes most women eight weeks to recover from was just unbelievable.”

While I’m all for personal responsibility, and for following through on your debt obligations, some of the tactics being used by these debt collecters, and being followed up on by the law enforcement officials do seem a bit draconian. In some senses it seems like the debt collectors (credit sharks in suits as Dave Ramsey calls them) have taken over.

“The law enforcement system has unwittingly become a tool of the debt collectors,” said Michael Kinkley, an attorney in Spokane, Wash., who has represented arrested debtors. “The debt collectors are abusing the system and intimidating people, and law enforcement is going along with it.”

How often are debtors arrested across the country? No one can say. No national statistics are kept, and the practice is largely unnoticed outside legal circles. “My suspicion is the debt collection industry does not want the world to know these arrests are happening, because the practice would be widely condemned,” said Robert Hobbs, deputy director of the National Consumer Law Center in Boston.

Now if people are able to pay their debts, and are instead choosing to ignore their obligations and not pay, that’s one thing. If, however, they aren’t able to pay because of medical issues or other problems, why would you put them in jail?

Bail Is Often The Same Amount As The Debt

One thing people are finding once they’ve been put in jail is that their bail payment is set at the exact same amount of their debt owed.  When they post bail their money goes directly to the debt collector.

Hennepin County automatically sets bail at the judgment amount or $2,500, whichever is less. This policy was adopted four years ago in response to the high volume of debtor default cases, say court officials.

Some judges say the practice distorts the purpose of bail, which is to make sure people show up in court.

“It’s certainly an efficient way to collect debts, but it’s also highly distasteful,” said Hennepin County District Judge Jack Nordby. “The amount of bail should have nothing to do with the amount of the debt.”

If friends or family post a debtor’s bail, they can expect to kiss the money goodbye, because it often ends up with creditors, who routinely ask judges for the bail payment.

This does seem to be a bit shady – basically the law enforcement and judicial systems are being used as an extension of the debt collection agencies.   I’m sure the debt collectors will abuse this system since they’ve never been known for their fair debt collection practices.

How To Stay Out Of Jail For Your Debt

So how can you ensure that you’ll never end up on the wrong side of a jail cell door – especially if you have debt?

  • Don’t avoid bill collectors or warrants.
  • Make sure to read any documents you get from bill collectors or the courts.
  • If you get a summons and complaint, you are being sued. You must show up in court.
  • Respond promptly to a summons either denying or admitting to the debt.
  • Show up for all court hearings.

So to stay out of jail, follow up on your debts, and if you are being sued or given a court date – show up!  If you don’t you could end up losing by default, and have a warrant sworn out for your arrest.

What do you think about the ways that debt collectors are now using the law enforcement and judicial system to collect debts for them?  Do you think it is right? Should debtors be afforded more protections, or are they getting what they deserve? Should new laws be passed? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

Identity Theft and Your Credit Score

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Fraudsters and security experts are engaged in a constant cat-and-mouse battle. As the latter creates more advanced security methods, the former develops new ways to exploit them. This means that while cyber security is more advanced than ever, identity theft and online fraud is more common than ever and becoming increasingly common with each passing year.

It’s also impacting the average citizen more than it ever did. In 2012, over $22 billion was stolen from over 12 million identity theft victims. Five years later, that sum had dropped to $17 billion, but the number of affected individuals had increased to 16 million.

Identity fraud can happen to anyone at any time. It’s not always something you can prevent, and it doesn’t always have an immediately obvious purpose. Fraudsters don’t simply want your bank balance or assets—they’re targeting your livelihood, your reputation, the thing that you have spent years building.

If you’re a victim of identity theft, you stand to lose much more than a few bucks. If you’re not careful, the damage done by one fraudster could take you years to repay.

How Identity Theft Can Affect Your Credit Score

The reason identity theft victims are more numerous than ever before is because fraudsters have cast their nets further afield, focusing on pretty much every creditworthy citizen they can get their hands on. 

You don’t need to be the victim of a phishing scam to have your identity stolen. In most cases, victims are not even aware they have been targeted until they’re rejected for a loan or mortgage. At this point, they realize their credit report is littered with accounts they didn’t create and derogatory marks that had nothing to do with them.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft occurs when criminals steal your personal information and use it to pose as you. They may steal your social security number to commit credit card fraud or apply for a loan they have no intention of repaying. After all, they’re not the ones who will suffer the consequences if the account defaults or enters collections.

Why Does Identity Theft Affect Your Credit Score?

If a criminal has assumed your identity, they can use it to apply for loans and credit cards, open new accounts, establish large lines of credit, and more. And don’t assume they will be refused applications just because you face a brick wall every time you apply. 

Criminals are much less discerning. Not only will they flood your credit report with applications and send your score plummeting, they’ll also apply to high-interest loans and credit cards. 

What are the Most Common Forms of Identity Theft?

Identity theft can occur in many forms, from social security theft to credit card fraud and more. Here are a few of the most common types of identity theft:

Credit Card Theft

If a scammer steals your credit card information, they can use it to make purchases in your name, running a high bill. This information can be stolen any number of ways, including:

  • Physical theft of your card
  • Theft of your number by a bank or retail employee
  • Online data breach
  • Retail card machine skimmer

Email Theft

If a fraudster accesses your email address, they can pose as you on a number of websites and gain access to a host of details. Many websites will send you an email if you have forgotten your password, and scammers can use this to recover passwords for payment services, retailers, and even credit reporting agencies.

Email passwords are some of the most unsecured passwords we have because they are often one of the first accounts we create, which means we still use the same password we used any years ago and have since used on dozens of sites. But they are also one of the most important accounts and should be secured with unique passwords.

Snail Mail Theft

In the old days, scammers would rummage through your mail to find bank details and credit card offers, before posing as you. These days most scammers employ the same tactics via email, but there are still those who prefer to go old school. Your mail contains very sensitive information and needs to be kept safe.

Data Breaches

Data breaches are very common and account for a huge percentage of the billions of dollars lost to identity scams every year. Scammers target sites that store a lot of customer data and then sell this data on the dark web. 

In most cases, the data basic, and includes passwords and email addresses to accounts that you may have forgotten about and accounts that don’t hold any sensitive financial information.

However, the vast majority of individuals use the same passwords and usernames across a host of sites. Scammers know this, so they’ll take that user data and try to log into more secured websites, from online banks and payment systems to retailers and more.

Data breaches can happen anywhere; no one is safe. If you’ve been using the internet for more than a few years and have joined countless sites in that time, there’s a good chance your details will have been stolen. Just take a look at some of the biggest victims of this crime:

  • Yahoo
  • Marriott/Starwood
  • Adult Friend Finder
  • Equifax
  • eBay
  • Uber
  • Target
  • PlayStation Network
  • Adobe
  • Home Depot
  • Capital One
  • DoorDash
  • Zynga
  • Google Plus
  • Facebook
  • British Airways
  • Reddit
  • WordPress

There’s very little you can do to prevent this, except to make sure that you use a different password for all secured and personal accounts. That way, if your details are stolen elsewhere, they won’t provide criminals with access to the stuff that matters.

Phishing

A phishing scam typically begins with a spoof email claiming to be from an official retailer or government organization. These emails often play on the victim’s fear or greed, asking them to click a link and claim a cash sum (such as a tax rebate) or warning them that their account has been hacked by criminals (we’re sure the irony doesn’t escape them).

However, these emails have also been known to cover simple, seemingly innocuous subjects. For instance, many Amazon and eBay scams send the user a confirmation email, the same emails they get when they place an order. It confirms that their order has gone through, states the total order amount (often a large sum of money) and then reminds them that if they click a link and login, they can cancel the order.

In any case, when the recipient clicks that link and enters their details, they are sent straight to the scammers. One of the cruel ironies of this scam is that you may receive confirmations for products you didn’t order if your identity has been stolen or your account has been hacked. If you receive such an email, therefore, you may assume that you’ve been the victim of identity fraud, in which case you’ll be quick to click the link and resolve the problem.

In such cases, we recommend always visiting the site directly by inputting the URL into the toolbar and then logging in. If you’re contacted by the IRS, don’t click any links and simply call them.

Wi-Fi Hacking

It’s important to always make sure you’re using a secured connection. If not, your online activity and all the data on your computer could be at risk. Hackers use software to hijack unsecured networks and capture all the data transmitted through that network.

This is true whether you’re using a home network (they have been known to drive around looking for unsecured networks, before parking outside and hacking their way in) or a public network. Avoid these networks when possible and if you absolutely can’t resist, then make sure you avoid visiting any sensitive sites or inputting any passwords or personal data.

How to Get Rid of Fraudulent Accounts in your Name

If someone is opening accounts in your name and making a mess of your credit report, there are a few steps to clear your name and return your credit score to its deserved range:

Place a Fraud Alert

Contact one of the three major credit bureaus and file a fraud report. The credit bureaus will then inform the others and place alerts that will remain in place for 90 days. 

Once these alerts are locked-in, lenders are required to take additional steps to verify your identity before agreeing to provide you with any new loans or credit cards.

Remove Fraud Accounts

If your cards or bank accounts have been used without your authorization then contact your provider’s fraud department and they will resolve the issue for you. They should refund you the money that was stolen, but only if you report them quickly and it’s obvious that you were not at fault.

File an Identity Theft Report

An identity theft report can be filed via the government’s official ID theft recovery plan and allows you to quickly and easily despite activity with creditors and credit bureaus.

File a Police Report

Take the identity theft report to your local police department. This is a common, widespread issue and it’s often something that law enforcement can do little about, but it’s still a crime and you still need to file a report. The police report will also help you if you encounter any issues when disputing charges and accounts.

Start the Dispute Process; Initiate a Credit Freeze

You can now use the police report to start disputing all activity that doesn’t belong to you. Send the credit bureaus a letter with this report attached and make a note of all the accounts that you had nothing to do with. They are required to send you a response within 30 days.

You can also place a security freeze on your account, which will prevent any new lines of credit from being created and will also stop lenders and creditors from accessing it. It doesn’t cost you anything and can provide you with an extra layer of security while you go through this process.

How to Protect Your Credit Score from the Effects of Identity Theft

Anyone can be a victim of identity fraud. It doesn’t matter how diligent you are, and, in some cases, an overly cautious attitude can do more harm than good. 

There is an entire generation of non-savvy internet users who refuse to process payments online because they’re worried that their details will be stolen. Instead, they choose to phone the company direct and give their details over the phone. 

The irony here is that the sales representative on the other end of the phone will simply input those details into the same system used by all online customers. The only difference is that you’re adding an extra middleman to the process, creating a chink in what is otherwise a solid chain.

You can be a victim of identity theft if you have ever given sensitive information through the internet or over the phone. Social media has proven to be a goldmine for fraudsters, because while they can’t steal your ID by mining basic data such as your name, address, and age, they can use this data to dig a little deeper and access bank accounts.

To prevent this from happening keep the following tips in mind:

  • Only give out your Social Security Number when absolutely necessary and don’t keep it in your purse or wallet.
  • Check your mail on a daily basis, looking for letters regarding accounts you didn’t create.
  • Use secure passwords online, preferably with a unique password for each account.
  • Don’t give anyone access to your email address.
  • Only use secure Wi-Fi connections and install a firewall on your computer.
  • Keep a close eye on your credit report and check with all major credit bureaus.

How to Repair Your Credit Score After Identity Theft

It’s not the end of the world if you have been the victim of identity theft. Providing you didn’t open those accounts or make those applications, then everything should be cleared in time and your credit report will return to normal.

It can be a very stressful period and depending on the extent of the damage and how long it takes you to notice it, this process could take days, months or years. But it will resolve in the end.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Coronavirus Travel Restrictions, Airline & Hotel Cancellation Policies

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on the global travel industry, upending millions of travelers’ lives, and threatening countless livelihoods in the process.

It’s likely the pandemic will affect many travelers, either directly or indirectly. Because this is a fluid situation that changes by the day, bookmark this list to refer to frequently so you can get new information as it becomes available. The list includes:

  • A running tally of countries and regions with coronavirus travel restrictions
  • Guidelines for determining when to cancel planned travel and how to get a refund or credit if you do
  • A list of cancellation and change policies for major airlines, hotels, and cruise operators.

Countries & Regions With Coronavirus Travel Restrictions

Due to the fast-moving nature of this situation, this summary does not necessarily reflect all current restrictions. Before booking international travel, refer to your destination countries’ English-language government websites for up-to-the-minute details and check the U.S. Department of State’s list of country-specific travel advisories.

Entry Restrictions for U.S. Travelers

Many countries remain closed to U.S. citizens and nationals who don’t meet certain narrow exceptions, such as holding dual citizenship, having close family members in-country, or traveling on qualifying “essential business.”

The good news is that most countries and territories that continue to permit entry to U.S. travelers lie on this side of the Atlantic, within a few hours of the mainland United States by air. They include Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and most Caribbean island nations and territories, though some Caribbean nations impose arrival restrictions that can impede free movement. Farther-flung countries that remain totally open to U.S. travelers include Turkey, Maldives, and several Balkans nations.

The United Kingdom and Cambodia, among a few other popular tourist destinations, allow U.S. citizens to enter but generally require some combination of quarantine upon arrival, confirmed negative COVID-19 test result, ongoing health monitoring and check-ins for up to 14 days after arrival, and a sometimes hefty financial deposit to ensure compliance.

CNN has an up-to-date list of countries that allow Americans to enter and what restrictions or entry requirements, if any, American travelers face. The U.S. Department of State (State Department) maintains a more comprehensive and technical list of country-specific restrictions and requirements.

Because the situation remains fluid, neither this list nor CNN’s or the State Department’s should not be considered comprehensive. Refer to both before booking and commencing international travel but also check with local immigration authorities to determine whether you’ll even be permitted to complete your journey or required to quarantine on arrival for it renders travel impractical.

U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories

The State Department is closely watching the COVID-19 situations in other countries with an eye to keeping U.S. national travelers and expats safe abroad. Four travel advisory levels denote the relative danger of travel to each country and subcountry region:

  • Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions. These are low-risk countries.
  • Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution. These areas often present an elevated risk of property crime or exposure to novel illnesses not common in the U.S.
  • Level 3: Reconsider Travel. Travel to these areas is unusually risky due to political instability, widespread violence, disease outbreaks, and other dangerous conditions.
  • Level 4: Do Not Travel. The State Department does not advise travel to these areas, and U.S. persons already in Level-4 areas should leave as soon as possible. The State Department has little or no effective presence in some Level-4 countries.

On March 31, 2020, the State Department issued a global Level-4 travel advisory for the entire world outside the United States, effectively discouraging any international travel for the foreseeable future.

The State Department’s global advisory expired in early August 2020, but certain countries remain at Level-4 due to severe coronavirus outbreaks or other potential health risks. Again, because many international jurisdictions effectively prohibit entry by Americans and others require lengthy quarantines upon arrival, planning nonessential international travel remains difficult at best.

Depending on your home base, you might have trouble completing internal U.S. travel plans as well. Some states have (or had and may reimpose) strict quarantine-on-arrival or pre-arrival testing requirements. For example, New York State requires travelers from noncontiguous states and countries where COVID-19 is widespread to quarantine for up to 10 days, promptly take a COVID-19 test, or both upon arrival.

Check with your destination state’s tourism and health authorities for up-to-date information before making nonrefundable bookings.


Cancellation & Change Policies for Major Airlines & Hospitality Companies

This running list of coronavirus cancellation and change policies includes major airlines and hospitality companies, many of which are waiving change fees and dispensing credit for rebookings many months into the future. Refer to each company’s website for more details and cancellation or rebooking information specific to your destination.

Airline Cancellation Policies

All major U.S. airlines and budget carriers have coronavirus-related cancellation and change policies. Unless otherwise noted, rebooked flyers must pay the fare difference between the original and new fares, if any. If you’re flying with a smaller carrier, check their website for details.

Also, be aware of any airline-imposed hygiene requirements, as most major airlines now require passengers to wear masks or face coverings on flights and in boarding areas.

American Airlines

American Airlines’ policy waives change fees for passengers booked before Sept. 8, 2020, for travel between March 10, 2020, and March 31, 2021, to rebook and complete travel by Dec. 31, 2021. The policy applies to all airports served by American and allows changes to destination and connecting cities.

Separately, American Airlines now waives change and standby fees for all domestic and short-haul international flights (primarily within North America, Central America, and the Caribbean) booked after Oct. 1, 2020. This policy applies to paid and award fares in all fare classes.

United Airlines

United Airlines’ policy waived change fees for all international passengers booked before March 2, 2020, for travel between March 9 and Dec. 31, 2020. The rebooked itinerary must begin within 24 months of the original ticket date. This policy applies to all airports served by United.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, change fees may still apply to international itineraries originating and terminating in non-U.S. territories.

For domestic U.S. passengers traveling from a U.S. airport (including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) to any domestic or international destination, United no longer charges change fees on most new economy and premium cabin bookings. Per United, this change complements several other passenger-friendly updates to the airline’s ticketing policy. However, the policy may not apply to Basic Economy fares.

Separately, all electronic travel certificates issued for flight cancellations are now valid for 24 months from the booking date. United has not specified an end date for this policy. United also waives change fees on all new bookings for 12 months from the booking date, though this waiver will likely end at some point.

Delta Airlines

Delta has permanently eliminated change fees and award redeposit fees for most fare classes on flights from North America to anywhere in the world. This policy may not apply to Basic Economy fares.

Delta also waives change fees for all other flights booked after March 1, 2020, for travel through March 31, 2021. Affected travelers have at least until Dec. 30, 2022, to complete travel.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines’ policy waives change fees for all flights to and from all airports booked on or before Feb. 26, 2020, for travel through Dec. 31, 2020. The airline also waives change fees for all flights booked from Feb. 27, 2020, to March 31, 2021, for travel through February 28, 2022.

In both cases, rebooked travel must commence one year from the original travel dates.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest never charges change fees for rebooked travel. Under normal circumstances, travelers who cancel flights at least 10 minutes before scheduled departure receive credit equal to the fare for rebooked travel within a year of the original reservation date.

However, Southwest has made two important but temporary exceptions to this policy:

  • Beginning Sept. 8, 2020, any accumulated fare credits expire on Sept. 7, 2022.
  • Through Dec. 15, 2020, Southwest Rapid Rewards members can request to convert fare credits set to expire on Sept. 7, 2022, into Rapid Rewards points, which never expire.

JetBlue Airways

JetBlue has permanently eliminated change fees on most fares, beginning on April 1, 2021. Changes to Blue Basic fares may still incur change fees as high as $100 per ticket, however.

JetBlue’s existing temporary change fee waiver continues to apply on all flights booked through March 31, 2021, for travel at any time. Rebooked travel may commence at any time (provided JetBlue has scheduled flights far enough out). Canceled flights produce a travel credit good for 24 months from the original travel date equal to the original fare.

Spirit Airlines

Spirit allows passengers who change their travel plans due to coronavirus to make one free fare modification (to change the destination city or travel dates, for instance) for travel at any point in the future.

Passengers who choose to cancel rather than change their flights receive travel credit equal to the original fare for use within six months of the original travel date or a full refund of the fare.

Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines’ policy waives change fees for any booking, provided the change is made at least 60 days before the first date of travel. Later itinerary changes cost up to $119 per change.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines offers fee-free changes for all flights to all markets. The waiver applies to all flight dates. Tickets purchased through Dec. 31, 2020, for travel at any time, are valid for two years from the ticket purchase date. Tickets purchased through March 31, 2021, are valid for one year from the ticket purchase date.

Check with Hawaiian health and travel authorities before booking or commencing travel, as Hawaii has had stricter arrival restrictions than most other states.

Hotel & Resort Cancellation Policies

These major hospitality operators have coronavirus-related cancellation and change policies. If you’re staying at an independent property or with a smaller chain, refer to the operator’s website for more details.

Hilton

Hilton no longer has a coronavirus cancellation or change policy in place. However, the chain has made some important modifications to its loyalty program:

  • Extended 2020 Hilton Honors members’ status through March 31, 2022
  • Extended expiration on all unexpired Weekend Night Rewards issued until Aug. 30, 2020, through Aug. 31, 2021
  • Paused Hilton Honors point expiration through Dec. 31, 2021
  • Rolled over all status-eligible nights earned on stays through Dec. 31, 2020, into the 2021 calendar year, keeping them eligible for 2021-2023 tier status

Marriott

Marriott waived cancellation fees for all bookings worldwide (refundable and nonrefundable) through June 30, 2020. This policy was not extended past June 30, 2020, and it’s unclear whether it continues to apply on a case-by-case basis. Check with your destination hotel or Marriott’s customer service hotline for more information.

Separately, Marriott has extended 2019 elite status awards through February 1, 2022, for all Bonvoy loyalty program members, according to an October 2020 release from the company. In February 2021, Bonvoy members who earned elite status in 2020 were eligible for a one-time bonus equal to 50% of their 2020 tier’s annual Elite Night Credit requirement.

Hyatt

Hyatt is waiving change or cancellation fees for all bookings worldwide (refundable and nonrefundable) through July 31, 2021. Limited exceptions apply for certain Hyatt brands, including MGM Resorts.

Additionally, Hyatt is suspending loyalty point forfeiture through at least June 30, 2021. In other words, you won’t lose loyalty points or status due to canceled or deferred travel or because you simply didn’t travel as often as usual during the pandemic, as would normally be the case.

Other loyalty program changes include extending program members’ status tiers as of March 31, 2020, through Feb. 28, 2022, without requiring any additional stays or other qualifying activities.

InterContinental Hotels Group

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has relaxed its reservation change and cancellation policies indefinitely. IHG also instituted a new rate class (“Book Now, Pay Later”) that allows guests to change or cancel reservations up to 24 hours before arrival, with limited exceptions.

Choice Hotels

Choice Hotels offered fee-free cancellations to travelers booked worldwide (refundable and nonrefundable) until Sept. 30, 2020, after which local market policies resumed.

Additionally, Choice Hotels has paused points expiration for Choice Privileges members through at least Dec. 31, 2020. Further loyalty program changes may be on the horizon as well.

Airbnb

Airbnb is broadening its extenuating circumstances policy, which provides compensation when guests need to cancel for extraordinary reasons, to all markets it serves through Oct. 31, 2020. Qualifying bookings must have been made prior to March 14, 2020.

Bookings made after March 14, 2020, are subject to the host’s normal cancellation policy unless the guest or host is sick with COVID-19 on the scheduled check-in date.

Vrbo

Vrbo doesn’t have a global coronavirus cancellation policy, other than a promise to refund its Traveler Service Fee on successful cancellations. The platform encourages guests and hosts to heed travel and health warnings from the World Health Organization and work together to reach a solution when guests must cancel. Vrbo always encourages guests to purchase travel insurance.


When & How to Cancel Planned Travel for a Refund or Credit

Use these guidelines to determine whether to cancel planned travel to affected areas and how to get your money back (or credit toward future travel) if you do.

If you’re still not sure whether the pandemic impacts current travel plans or if you’re not sure you’re eligible to cancel for a credit or refund, check with your carriers, hotels, or tour operators.

When to Cancel Planned Travel Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Seriously consider canceling planned travel due to the coronavirus pandemic if you’re a member of a high-risk group, taking high-risk travel methods, or traveling to a high-risk region. Other considerations also apply.

  • You’re Planning International Travel. As the State Department’s global Level 4 warning suggests, international travel is extremely high risk and vulnerable to disruption in a pandemic environment, even when the destinations involved don’t appear to be hotspots. Moreover, the risk works both ways. Even if you’re healthy and relatively unlikely to become seriously ill from COVID-19, you could become a carrier and spread the disease to higher-risk people. Remember, due to the high incidence of COVID-19 in much of the U.S., many international markets require U.S. travelers to quarantine on arrival or prohibit them entirely.
  • You’re a Member of a High-Risk Group Who Has Not Yet Received a COVID-19 Vaccine. That includes people over age 60 and those with underlying health conditions, such as immune system disorders, diabetes, and hypertension. The risk of serious or fatal complications of COVID-19 is much higher for these groups.
  • Your Trip Includes a Cruise. If you’re booked on a cruise anytime soon, you should closely monitor developments and seriously consider rebooking at a much later date, especially if you’re a member of a high-risk group. Communicable diseases spread quickly on cruise ships and many cruise lines have yet to resume normal operations.
  • You Can Get a Refund for Any Reason. If you’re not going to be out money for canceling your planned trip, the calculus is a lot more straightforward. You can cancel altogether or rebook for a later date.
  • You Have “Cancel for Any Reason” Travel Insurance Coverage. Standard travel insurance policies don’t cover cancellations due to concerns about becoming sick. They only apply if you’re actually ill. More generous policies with “cancel for any reason” riders are a bit more expensive but allow you to cancel without penalty no matter what. If you were fortunate enough to purchase such a rider, now is the time to use it.
  • Your Destination or Transit Countries Are Considering Travel Restrictions. You don’t want to get stranded in a foreign country due to sudden travel restrictions. Check reputable local news sources in your destination and refer to English-language government websites for signs of pending restrictions.
  • Your Trip Is Not Essential. Canceling a trip abroad to visit an elderly relative you haven’t seen in years is much more difficult than canceling a destination bachelor party that’s easy to reschedule for after the wedding.

How to Cancel Planned Travel for a Refund or Credit

To get a refund or credit toward future travel if you need to cancel due to the coronavirus pandemic, you must likely rebook your flight, hotel, or tour within a period designated by its operator. Other steps could be necessary as well, including:

  • Checking the Operator’s Coronavirus Rebooking Policies. Check the list of cancellation and change policies in the preceding section and contact each operator for information specific to your booking or destination. When operators allow fee-free changes and rebookings, you could end up paying nothing out of pocket to reschedule.
  • Determining Whether You Can Cancel Without Penalty. If you prefer to cancel without rebooking, read each pertinent travel company’s cancellation policy. Unless you purchased a nonrefundable booking to get a lower rate, there’s a good chance your hotel or resort will allow you to cancel without penalty up to a week before your arrival (and sometimes even closer). If you’ve booked a short-term homestay through Airbnb or another rental platform, your host’s cancellation policy usually determines how much of your booking you can recoup, with options ranging from a full refund to total forfeiture. However, Airbnb has broadened its extenuating circumstances policy, which makes exceptions to host cancellation policies in times of crisis, for the countries hardest hit by the pandemic. Most airline bookings are nonrefundable after 24 hours, though you can pay more for a refundable fare if you’ve yet to book. Without a protection policy, which adds to the cost of the voyage, cruise fares generally aren’t refundable — but many cruise lines are making exceptions during the pandemic.
  • Buying Travel Insurance. If you booked less than three weeks ago, you could still be eligible to purchase “Cancel for Any Reason” insurance that’s valid for your trip. Policies vary by insurance carrier, but it’s worth a shot. You’ll be out the one-time insurance premium but not the full cost of your nonrefundable travel.
  • Calling Customer Service to Ask for a Refund. Expect to sit on hold for longer than usual, but the effort could be worth it. Even if your booking is nonrefundable, extenuating circumstances could curry favor with the rep you speak with (or their manager). For instance, if you’re flying with an elderly relative at high risk for COVID-19 complications, your decision to travel could literally have life-or-death implications.
  • Rebooking Within the Allotted Time Frame. If you can’t cancel your reservation for a cash refund, learn how long your rebooking credit remains in effect. Most airlines allow fee-free rebookings (less the difference in fare, if any) due to COVID-19 well into 2021, and a growing number of airlines now entirely waive change fees on most or all fares.

Final Word

The coronavirus pandemic is the most serious public health challenge caused by a communicable respiratory disease in living memory. Although the final toll is not yet known, this ordeal could well come to rival or exceed the Spanish flu crisis of 1918 to 1919 — the benchmark by which we judge all other modern pandemics — in its toll.

Until everyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccine can get one, we all need to do our part to slow the spread of the virus and protect the most vulnerable among us. If that means canceling the international vacation you’ve been looking forward to for years, so be it.

Source: moneycrashers.com