September 19, 2017

Equifax Data Breach: What to do if your credit has been compromised

by Seena Gressin

Re-posted from the Federal Trade Commission Website

If you have a credit report, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies.

Here are the facts, according to Equifax. The breach lasted from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people. And they grabbed personal information of people in the UK and Canada too.
There are steps to take to help protect your information from being misused. Visit Equifax’s website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. (This link takes you away from our site. Equifaxsecurity2017.com is not controlled by the FTC.)
    • Find out if your information was exposed. Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.
  • Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring and other services. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. Write down the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date. You have until November 21, 2017 to enroll.
Here are some other steps to take to help protect yourself after a data breach:
    • Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
    • Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
  • Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
  • If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
  • File your taxes early — as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.
Visit Identitytheft.gov/databreach to learn more about protecting yourself after a data breach.
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2017/09/equifax-data-breach-what-do

 

5 Ways to Save Money at a Carnival

Carnivals are great places to go where families can have fun times together and make great memories.  With no admission fees to most Carnivals, often folks have the impression that they are inexpensive.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case.  The cost of food, games, and rides most certainly adds up and a so-called “inexpensive” family night out has run your credit card up the same amount of money as a five star restaurant would.

Below are five ways to save money on your next trip to a Carnival:

  1. TREATS: Treats such as funnel cakes, popcorn, corn dogs, and cotton candy are so expensive at Carnivals so be sure to eat at home before you go and try to bring your own drinks to the Carnival to defray costs.
  2. DISCOUNTS: Take a look at the Carnival’s website before you go (see below for a few local carnivals and links to their websites) to check for any deals that may be available.  Sometimes there are coupons and discounts for groups, seniors/grandparents, etc. available online.
  3. SOUVENIRS: These can get super expensive, especially if you are trying to win one!  Limit how many tries you take, and shop around to different vendors within the carnival before you drop hundreds of dollars on one stuffed animal.
  4. PARKING: Scope out the parking situation before the day of the carnival.  On-site parking can be costly, but definitely more convenient.  Alternatively, you can try to find an off-site parking lot that will most likely be much cheaper or try Uber.
  5. RIDES: Paying per ride can get very expensive.  Again, go online or look at the carnival ticket booth for discounts and special packages.  They may have bracelet options or special deals for different age groups.

Carnivals can be a fun filled family day, but if you do not plan your trip wisely, they can be quite costly.  So, use these money saving tips above in order to have a fun filled “money-saving” family day!

Check out some local Carnivals below and have a Safe and Fun Summer!

Whee,
Theresa Rose DeGray
Attorney at Law

Savin Rock Festival
West Haven | July 27-30

Orange Volunteer Fire Association Carnival
Orange | August 3-6

Holy Rosary Italian Festival
Ansonia | August 10-12

Gain Financial Freedom in your Pursuit of Happiness!

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Every year I re-read the Declaration of Independence and meditate on the amazing freedoms I enjoy (and sometimes admittedly, take for granted). This year I have been studying the history of Bankruptcy in America and came across this wonderful book called Republic of Debtors: Bankruptcy in the Age of American Independence by Bruce H. Mann.

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After reading a bit of this book, I realized how incredibility blessed we are to have the laws that allow us to file Bankruptcy with ease of process, and without judgment or fear. It wasn’t always that way and not everyone who suffered from crushing debt was given that second chance. It took years and a lot of legislation to get the laws where they are today; the laws that protect debtors from their creditors.

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I believe the secret to happiness is the freedom of choice. When you choose to take the first step to get out of debt you begin on the road to financial freedom. Bankruptcy will help you keep your home, relieve you of unsecured debt, keep your utilities on and give you the freedom to start over. It was the best thing that ever happened to me (read my personal Bankruptcy story here) and was my own declaration of independence.

The Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

 He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

New Hampshire:

Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts:

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:

Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut:

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:

William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

 New Jersey:

Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland:

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:

William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:

Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia:

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Chapter 7 Series | Part Three: Means Test

STEP TWO: If your current monthly income is greater than the median income for your state and household size, there is, in technical terms, a “presumption of abuse.” In order to rebut the presumption, or in other terms, to pass the means test by using the second step, the means test’s second section allows you to subtract from your current monthly income certain allowable and deductible expenses. These allowed deductions include, but are not limited to, expenses for living (mortgages and property taxes), transportation (car loans and car taxes), health insurance and charitable donations. After the calculations are performed, and the allowed deductions are taken, and if you then have no disposable monthly income available, you will than have passed the Means Test (with no presumption of abuse) and may file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. If, on the other hand, you do have remaining disposable income, you may consider a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy or Bankruptcy alternatives.

The discussion above is an overview of the Means Test in basic terms and is in no way intended as a specific analysis of your personal financial circumstances.

For an analysis of your own financial circumstances, please contact Attorney Theresa DeGray at 203-713-8877 to schedule your free consultation.

Guest Blog by Julie Avellino

A team of trusted advisors does not include co-workers, friends (tangible or virtual), strangers or even most relatives; each of those groups will have their own baggage and experiences, they instinctively want to be involved which often leads to riling things up and they will impose their experiences on you. When life is giving you a change it is also presenting you with a chance to manage that change and its outcome to best suit your unique needs. Don’t let the opportunity get clouded with the anecdotes of others. Lean on and confide in your trusted advisors.

As a Realtor and a divorce coach I often work with clients who are at the end of a marriage (I also work with clients who are experiencing other life changes such as downsizing, retiring, selling “mom’s house”, etc).  Often times selling the family home becomes part of the divorce agreement but there are a lot of emotions wrapped up in that transaction. I am typically the only advisor who represents both parties during a divorce, since they will find their own team of attorneys, financial advisors, etc.  Here is where I work not just as a Realtor but also in a capacity to manage the process of the sale and to limit the impact of the transaction on the family. As a Divorce-Realtor I take great care to get both parties to agree the items needed to be accomplished with the sale of the home. I will also speak with attorneys and financial advisors to give them my professional opinion on the value of the home as it sits today as well as the value of the home should deferred maintenance be addressed or updates be made.

Perhaps the most common question I get from divorcing couples is about whether or not to invest in a major renovation before selling the property.  I think this is the result of HGTV and its constant stream of “flip” shows. This decision can have great financial impact on the couple and I give it thorough research before giving my final recommendation. Here’s a look into some of my process:

1)      What condition is the home in now? If the property is in great disrepair and will limit the buyer pool to cash buyers only, deferred maintenance should be addressed if financially possible.

2)      If the home is dated and minor updates (removing wall paper, painting, landscaping) will have an impact on the selling price and length of time the property is on the market they improvements should be done if financially possible.

3)      If one party is interested in doing a major renovation project (remodel the kitchen is the common one) we need to dive deeper in the motivation.

  • Does on person really not want to sell the house? Is this a stall tactic?
  • Is one person trying to spend money prior to the divorce to avoid having to split savings?
  • Is there enough upside benefit in the post-renovation sales price vs. the length of time to complete the project to warrant the project?
  • Who is doing the work? Will the project be a DIY disaster with low budget finishes and shoddy workmanship? Can the couple agree on reputable, licensed contractors?
  • Who will manage the project and who will decisions on cost overages be managed?

These are just a few of the scenarios I walk through with my divorcing clients so that I can provide them with a clear financial picture as it relates to their shared property.  If you have a property in Connecticut that needs to be sold and aren’t sure what steps to take first to ensure you get top dollar at sale, we should talk. I’d be happy to help you determine what the next best steps are for you and your family.

julierealtorlogoBio: Julie Avellino is a licensed Realtor in Connecticut and has been selling residential real estate for 11 years. In addition to working with divorcing couples, first-time sellers and first-time buyers as a Realtor Julie is also an inspirational writer and speaker addressing topics including divorce, children, entrepreneurship and life in general from her unique perspective.  Julie’s love of photography supports all of her interests by showcasing her listings professionally as well as supporting her writing pieces. You can learn more about how Julie can help you with your real estate needs at www.FirstTimeSelling.com and you can read her writing, learn about her divorce coaching programs and see her other creative work at www.julieavellino.com  Julie can be reached at justsayjulie@kw.com or call or text at 203-414-9479.

We’re Moving!

We are packing up and moving down the street…

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…to 50 Cherry Street, Milford, CT 06460.

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The new office will be open for business on February 1, 2017.  To schedule a free consultation, please call us at 203-713-8877.  Thank you!

25% Off Estate Planning / Reminders & Announcements

For the month of January 2017, all Estate Planning Packages are 25% off.  They include a Will, Living Will and Power of Attorney.  Also, we are announcing that we are moving from 74 Cherry Street to 50 Cherry Street, Milford, CT as of February 1, 2017, and we will be starting a new Blog/Vlog Series in February 2017 regarding the entire Chapter 7 Bankruptcy process!!

My Gift to You and Yours!

 

Everyone over the age of 18, especially parents of young children, need a simple Will, Living Will and Power of Attorney (these documents together are formally called an “Estate Plan”).

Estate Planning can be given as a gift to others and/or it makes a great New Year’s Resolution for yourself.

As a mother, and an attorney, the importance of planning for the future is at the top of my list!

Therefore, my gift to you this holiday season is 25% off all estate planning packages for the month of January 2017.  Please feel free to share this with your friends and family.

The process of making an Estate Plan is as easy as 1-2-3: First we talk, then I create the documents and lastly, you come in to visit me and sign them.

To arrange a free consultation in person or over the phone, call our office at 203-713-8877.

Have a Safe and Happy Holiday!

With much love & gratitude,
Theresa Rose DeGray
Attorney at Law

PS: Stay tuned for lots of exciting announcements, information, seminars, videos, blogs and much more in 2017!

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Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE)

Notice to All Members of the Connecticut Bar and Authorized House Counsel

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Effective January 1, 2017, new Connecticut Practice Book Section 2-27A will require, with certain exceptions set forth in the rule, all members of the Connecticut Bar and attorneys certified to be Authorized House Counsel (AHC) in Connecticut to complete a minimum of twelve hours of continuing legal education each year, at least two hours of which shall be in ethics and professionalism.  Certification of compliance with the MCLE requirement will be done during the following year’s online registration process (e.g. the attorney or AHC will certify his or her 2017 compliance when registering in 2018).

The Commission on Minimum Continuing Legal Education has been established to aid attorneys and AHCs in understanding the rule and complying with it.  The Judicial Branch has also established a dedicated MCLE website at http://www.jud.ct.gov/MCLE/, where attorneys and AHCs can view the MCLE rule, FAQs developed by the Commission, forms, and a videotaped seminar conducted on November 7, 2016 regarding MCLE.  An attorney or AHC who watches the videotaped seminar may take 1.5 hours of MCLE credit in ethics/professionalism that can be carried over to the attorney’s or AHC’s 2017 twelve hour MCLE requirement.

Unlike many other states, Connecticut does not certify courses or providers. Connecticut lawyers are urged to independently review Practice Book §2-27A and make their own determination that a course qualifies for credit towards their MCLE requirement taking into consideration the delivery and content requirements of the rule.  If a course has been approved for CLE credit in another jurisdiction, then it automatically meets the content and delivery requirements in Connecticut, subject to the caveat that credit hours are awarded in Connecticut based on “actual instruction time” (e.g., 60 minutes of instruction time equals one credit hour of Connecticut CLE).

If after visiting the MCLE website and reviewing the information provided there, an attorney or AHC has a question about the MCLE rule, the attorney or AHC may contact the Commission at MCLE@jud.ct.gov for further information.

This firm is a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief amongst other things, under the Bankruptcy Code.