Florida residents may have been impacted by the Equifax breach that may make them and others vulnerable to identity theft or other fraud. In response, some may choose to put a freeze on their credit reports. However, this may not offer the level of protection that an individual may believe it does. While it may be difficult for new accounts to be opened in a person's name, it is still possible for fraud to occur on existing accounts.
Several large credit card companies and banks that operate in Florida and other parts of the U.S. are reporting increased credit card delinquency rates. Levels of non-payment remain below where they were during the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. However, banks reported increased delinquencies in July and August of 2017 after reporting decreasing non-payment levels for four consecutive months prior to that.
Florida residents and Americans in general have reverted back to spending habits last seen prior to the Great Recession. Credit card debt in particular may be worth tracking carefully as interest rates on credit cards are usually higher than on other debts. Carrying balances on those cards could make it harder to save for retirement or meet other long-term goals. The best way to start getting out of debt is to acknowledge it exists.
In the first quarter of 2017, Americans reduced their credit card debt by a combined $30 billion. However, Florida residents and other Americans put $33 billion back on their credit cards in the second quarter. It is estimated that another $60 billion in new credit card debt will be accrued by the end of the year. If that happens, Americans will have in excess of $1 trillion in such debt.
Florida residents who are looking for an easier way to pay off debt may benefit from debt consolidation. A consolidation loan allows an individual to take many debt payments and combine them into one monthly payment that usually carries a lower interest rate. One option to consolidate debt may be to put existing balances on a credit card that charges 0 percent interest.
When a Florida resident receives a call from a debt collector, it could be a valid collector trying to collect a debt based on incorrect information. It could also be a scammer trying to dupe an individual into handing over their cash. To determine if a debt collector is legitimate, it is important to understand the restrictions placed on them by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Many Florida residents find themselves in need of a fresh financial start regardless of the broader economic climate. So far in 2017, consumer access to credit has continued expanding, and there have been further increases in credit limits for the most responsible borrowers. Despite some observers suggesting these developments point to a strong labor market and increased productive activity, a growing number of consumers appear to be using credit card debt to put off financial troubles.
Some Florida consumers who have paid off debts may have been targeted by collectors who were charging them with debts they did not owe or that the collectors lacked authority to collect. On Aug. 24, a federal judge placed a temporary restraining order on a North Carolina debt collection company that is being sued by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The FTC says the company used deceptive practice and intimidation to collect debts that either were not owed by the people they collected them from or that they did not have the right to collect.
Medical debt can be a serious problem for Florida residents. It is estimated that 43 million Americans have delinquent medical bills on their credit reports, but changes to reporting that will take effect on Sept. 15 could help some people, though experts say it won't help enough.
Florida residents may be interested to learn that the average household has $5,700 in credit card debt. That number increases to around $16,000 if a household doesn't pay off its balances in full at the end of each month. The first step in paying off a credit card debt is determining how manageable the monthly payments are. One rule of thumb is that an individual should be able to pay off a credit card balance within six months without liquidating assets.