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.

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.

3 Essential Tips for Hiring the Best Probate Lawyer

Last week, I talked about some of the benefits of hiring a probate attorney. If you’re sold on the idea of hiring a probate attorney to help you through the Will or probate process, but you’re not sure how to go about hiring the best attorney, this post is for you! I’ve come up with some great tips to follow when hiring a probate lawyer that will ensure that you find the best probate lawyer for you.

  1. Ask the right questions. Once you have a few free consultations set up, you want to ask the right questions during these consultations, to make sure that you fully understand the attorney’s qualifications. Ask questions such as:
  2. Find lawyers that offer free consultations. If you’re like me, you don’t like making impulse buys. You want to do your research and figure out who the best attorney is for you. The good news is that you can actually do this! If you find lawyers that offer free consultations, you can meet with several lawyers before deciding which one you want to retain. At no cost to you, you can get your questions answered and get a feel for the lawyer you’re meeting with and decide if you want to retain that lawyer or not.
    • How long have you been a probate lawyer? You want to find a lawyer that has experience in the field so that you know he or she has worked with cases similar to yours. Experience can make a lawyer a valuable asset.
    • Do you have any client testimonials? Client testimonials, whether on file or on a website, can give you the information that you need from people who have been in your shoes. If you see reviews from many satisfied customers, the lawyer is probably effective and efficient.
    • What would you do in _____ situation? Test out a situation and see how the lawyer responds. Especially if there are uncommon aspects to your probate process or Will, see how the lawyer would handle that situation.
    • What do you charge? If the attorney beats around the bush or won’t give you a straight answer, they might have hidden fees. If a lawyer is upfront and honest about their fees, you can probably trust the quote that they give you.
  3. Check out the reputation. Client testimonials are great ways to get a feel for customer satisfaction, but they’re not the only way. Sometimes, lawyers will only show you the best reviews that they get, not necessarily the reviews that give the most accurate picture of customer satisfaction. For this reason, you should consider asking friends or coworkers for suggestions of probate lawyers that they have used in the past. This feedback will probably be honest and it will come from people that you can trust.

Finding the right probate lawyer can be a difficult process, but it doesn’t have to be! If you follow these tips, you will be able to find the right lawyer for you! To set up your FREE consultation with me, click here!

Please Join Us for a Fun & Fabulous Evening in October!

As the Vice President of the Milford Network of Executive Women, I am pleased to invite you to our annual scholarship fundraiser called Girls Night Out on October 27, 2016, from 5:30 to 8:30 P.M., at St. Barbara’s Greek Orthodox Church in Orange, CT.

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I will be hosting a Vendor Table at the event which will spotlight my Law Firm, Consumer Legal Services, LLC.  We will have a Free Raffle and give away an Estate Planning Package to the lucky winner.

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The event will include shopping (clothing, jewelry, etc.), entertainment, a fashion show, food & wine tastings, a lottery tree, general raffle and silent auction.

Men and Women are welcome, and all proceeds go towards the Phyllis Holt Scholarship Fund which helps dozens of women further their education and careers year after year.

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Please join us and bring friends! Purchase tickets by clicking on the link below.

Thank you for your support!

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PURCHASE TICKETS HERE!

Introduction to the Probate Process

The death of a loved one can be an incredibly devastating and traumatic time for close family and friends. Unfortunately, the mourning process is oftentimes complicated by things like planning the wake, planning the funeral, choosing a coffin, making sure the burial plot is in order, writing the obituary, etc. Once all of the wake and funeral arrangements are made, there is still the issue of distributing property and assets based on the Will left behind. While this might seem an unpleasant and overwhelming task, it is important to “probate” the Will. This article will cover the basics of that process.

Probating a Will basically means executing the deceased’s wishes in the Will. If the deceased owned property, it will be distributed based on the Will that he or she left behind. Probating the Will essentially means passing property titles onto heirs and determining how the assets will be divided among family members.

To probate a Will, an executor is determined. This person is in charge of managing the distribution of property based on the deceased’s Will. Basically, the executor just has to follow the instructions left by the deceased and make sure that his or her interests are honestly represented and carried out.courts

Probate can be a long and expensive process depending on what the deceased (referred to as the decedent) left behind. If a Will was left behind, transferring the ownership of property can be slow and costly. It is much easier and quicker to do if the decedent has a living trust.

The following things can be accomplished in probate:

  • The decedent’s property is identified and an inventory is made of it
  • An appraisal is made on the property
  • Taxes and creditors are paid with the decedent’s assets
  • Retirement accounts and life insurance are given to the joint owner or heirs

Probate must occur in the county where the decedent has property, not necessarily where he or she was at the time of his or her death. In order to probate a Will, a probate petition must be filed with the court. Roughly a month to a month and a half after this petition is filed, there will be a legal hearing to determine how the property will be divided.

As mentioned above, probating a Will is generally a long and slow process that can become expensive. If you want to avoid probate, you should use a living trust. Using a living trust is the most common way to avoid probate.

If there is no living trust or if you want to probate the deceased’s Will, it can be a confusing and tedious process. This is where a probate lawyer comes in. I can help you through this process and make it as painless as possible. For more information, you can contact me for a free consultation. I will answer any questions that you have at no cost to you!

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