With all the junk mail we get these days, it can be hard to spot a bona fide bill, especially from a company you don’t recognize. A Post Falls reader recently ran into this problem with CareCredit.
A few months back he had a tooth pulled at the dentist and hadn’t yet paid the bill. When he went into the dentist’s office to make a payment, he was told he didn’t owe anything. Turns out that was because he somehow signed up for CareCredit for the treatment.
CareCredit is a line of credit that one can sign up for to pay for out-of-pocket expenses not covered by medical insurance; it can be useful as a means of low to no interest financing if paid in full within the time offered through the medical provider.
Pay attention when you go to the dentist or doctor and are told about a program that you can use to pay out-of-pocket expenses. If you sign up for this service, the bill will be mailed from the credit provider and not your doctor’s office. The reader said the bill wasn’t clearly marked as services he received from his dentist and now he owes the initial bill, plus late fees and finance charges.
Bottom line: If you sign up for a service like this, don’t ignore the bill when it comes or you could find yourself repaying much more than the original amount.
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CREDIT SCORE IMPACTS: Did you know that in 2017, all three credit bureaus implemented changes to eliminate civil judgment records from your credit report? This means debts owed from a lawsuit shouldn’t show up on your credit report anymore.
For example, tax liens or outstanding debt you owe the IRS no longer appear on your credit report, which means these events can no longer impact your credit score. For some this could mean as much as a 30-point bump in their credit rating.
Prior to April 2018, even if you paid off a tax lien, it would stay on your credit report for up to seven years, while unpaid liens remained on your reports for up to 10 years. The updated rules are the result of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau study that found issues with reporting such information correctly. Turns out a lot of judgments and liens were linked to the wrong people, so someone who shares your first and/or last name even if they lived in a different part of the country could be erroneously linked to your credit file.
You should constantly monitor your credit reports on all three bureaus to make sure the information being reported is accurate. If you don’t already do this, check with your bank or credit card companies to see if they offer this service for free; many do. That way you can keep an eye on your score and detect anything that gets posted to your account that doesn’t belong.
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ROBOCALLS ON LANDLINES: A reader called to say that Spectrum has a service for landlines that helps block those pesky robocalls. According to our reader the service is free. She said that while the service doesn’t eliminate all robocalls, it certainly has cut down on them. So if Spectrum is your carrier, you should ask them to hook you up with their robocall blocker service.
If you don’t mind spending some money to purchase a robocall blocker device, that might be another option for other landline users. For $25 to $100 it looks like you can get a device that will do a decent job of blocking calls, according to the online reviews. Another reader chimed in to say he uses one of these robocall blocker devices and it has cut down on the number of calls he receives. He does have to flag the call and add it to his blocked call list but he says it beats the 6 a.m. annoying calls that used to wake him up every morning.
If you want to check out these devices, do a Google search on “best landline call blocker” and see if any of those options might be of interest to you.
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FAKE SSA CALLS: Lots of readers are reporting that they’ve received fake calls from the Social Security Administration office, saying their Social Security number has been used in a crime or are told their number will be canceled or terminated. If you get one of these calls, report it to the Social Security Administration office at 800-772-1213 or on its website at www.ssa.gov.
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Remember: I’m on your side.
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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at email@example.com or call me at (208) 274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. Please include your name and a phone number or email. I’m a fulltime copywriter working with businesses on marketing, a columnist and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.