Saturday, January 18, 2014

Karma's a ----well, you know.

I never met my maternal grandmother, who died the year before I was born.  My paternal grandmother died when I was 19 which was....well, more than a few years ago.  I remember her well enough to know that she was vastly more honest than the stupid cartoon grandma on this stupid cartoon commercial.

I really don't get how a fascination with credit scores can meld so perfectly to a total cluelessness concerning how to find them.  Ads like this made it sound like credit scores determine everything about your life, but are also very closely-kept secrets that are hidden in a vault somewhere and which can be accessed only by those who have the Magic Key.  The trick, apparently, is to find someone who both has a copy of the key and a willingness to check your score and pass it on to you for free.

Which makes Credit Karma, Checkyourcredit, and all the rest prime examples of companies whose reason for being is to convince people to pay them for a product they can access for free if they just do a little freaking homework and ask a few freaking questions.  Other examples include all the Save Yourself From the Evil IRS tax "services" and Get Out of Debt schemes.  Their bottom line is- "you can't understand this (or you are too busy to understand this.)  We Understand It.  Let Us Handle It For You..." For a price.

Yes, for a price.  I don't care how many times Cartoon Granny tells me that paid good money to run an advertisement 400 times during an Ancient Aliens marathon out of the goodness of it's heart- at some point in the process of obtaining your "free" credit report, you are going to be asked to pay.
If actually provides a free credit report, you can bet it's part of a package in which you pay for one later- or, more likely, six later.   Because before you get off the phone with that operator, anyone convinced to call based on the assurances of a cartoon grandma will be convinced that if they don't check their credit report at least once every two months or so, it's going to explode and leave you living in a dumpster picking cheese out of discarded pizza boxes.

Here's another idea- want a free credit report?  Go to your freaking lending institution and ask for one.  If they won't give you a free report on a regular basis, pull your money and find one that will.  (I belong to a credit union which never charges for a credit report check- I've never asked for one, but my score was actually volunteered to me during a routine visit last year by a loan officer who practically begged me to buy a house.)  This isn't rocket science, people.

While we're at it- if you are deep in credit card debt, call your credit card company, explain the situation, and either work out a payment plan or offer a flat amount of money to wipe your balance clean.  I understand that most banks are generally willing to work with people the first time they get in over their heads.  Tax problems?  Call the IRS- they aren't hiding in your bushes (ask yourself why those companies on the radio don't want you to contact the IRS) and have counselors ready to work out a deal with you.   Oh, and don't know how to plan for retirement?  There are actual, licensed brokers who know how to maneuver money to your advantage.  You don't need a stranger on the phone from giving you exactly one option that will determine whether you have some level of comfort when society can't squeeze any more labor out of you, or you are in that previously mentioned dumpster.  Don't know how to start saving for college for your child?  Again- there are people at the bank who are experts at stuff like that.  You don't need to ask a baby food company for help.

Oh, and ID Theft?  It's the Shark Attack Scare of 2014.  The chances of your identity actually being stolen is almost zero, and drops even more if you just shred your freaking credit card bills and stop accessing your bank accounts while sharing the public WiFi at Starbucks or the airport, moron .

Ok, enough free advice.  You want any more, it's going to cost you.

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