Attorney General Educates about Finaces
By Sara Owen, Managing Editor
Attorney General Roy Cooper, accompanied by three associates, gave advice to students on Nov. 12 during a stop on his College Cash and Credit Tour to educate college students about credit and debit cards, debt, loans, financial aid, identity theft and safe banking.
“I wanted to provide a resource for students to protect themselves,” Cooper said.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Liles, Assistant Attorney General Carrington Skinner and Outreach Specialist Nimasheena Burns also gave advice on making smart financial decisions.
Liles, of the Consumer Protection Division, focused on student loans and scams. He said he “goes after scammers.”
“Americans have $1.3 trillion in student debt,” Liles said.
Student debt is a problem across the state and nation.
•59 percent of North Carolina students graduate with debt.
•In 2012, average North Carolina graduates owed $23, 893.
•51 percent of student loans are not paid on time.
•45.7 percent of borrowers had to cut expense.
•Student loans are not discharge able in bankruptcy.
“There are people struggling,” he said.
Liles warned against misapplication of payment, abusive loan collectors, debt settlement scams or anyone on the phone claiming to want to help for a price. He said to never give out your bank information over the phone if you don’t know who the person calling is. He suggested calling your lender, who most likely sends letters or emails to inform you that they are your lender.
“Never be afraid to call your lender,” Liles said.
Credit cards and debit cards were the topic of focus for Assistant Attorney General Carrington Skinner, who said it is more difficult for consumers under age 21 to get a credit card. Debit cards are easier to get, according to Skinner.
“Debit cards are good in some ways,” he said.
He said debit cards do not help you build credit. A credit card is needed to build credit.
As a result of the Credit Card Act of 2009, credit card companies can no longer offer incentives to students on college campuses for signing up for one.
Thirty percent of undergrads carry a credit card, while 77 percent of undergrads use a debit card, according to Skinner.
Outreach Specialist Nimasheena Burns focused on identity theft and safe banking. She said to avoid using public free Wifi at places like coffee shops because they are unsecure.
Any hacker using that Wifi can steal your information if you log into your online bank account or similar service where you enter sensitive information.
Burns said you need to check your mail and dispose of credit card offers by shredding them and not just throwing them away. That is the same as giving away your personal information. She also blamed the younger generation’s “high usage of social media” for high numbers of identity theft due to over-sharing.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, there is a one in five chance a college student could be the victim of identity theft.
Identity theft and fraud take many different forms.
Cooper said some people can steal your medical information for medical benefits. The thief runs up medical bills for you, while getting free medical care.
“Identity theft progresses in a way that will get you in real trouble,” Cooper said.
Cooper said the reason he decided to do this college tour was because he has children in college and wants students to be aware and knowledgeable when it comes to their financial decisions.
Cooper has visited High Point University, Queens University of Charlotte, Shaw University, East Carolina University, Cape Fear Community College and UNCP.
Tips for financial protection:
•Only use www.annualcreditreport.com to check your credit score. You can check it three times a year, once for each of the three credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.
•Watch out for supposed Credit Monitoring Agency Promises.
•Beware of scams and anyone offering to settle your student loan debt for a fee. Most debts resolution can be done with the U.S. Dept. of Ed.
•Contact the Consumer Protection Division of the N.C. Dept. of Justice if you think you have been scammed. Call 1-877-566-7226.
•Student loans: borrow only what you need.
•Debit cards: check balance daily and avoid costly overdraft fees.
•Keep track of your spending.
•Credit cards: be aware of interest rates and choose the best card for your needs.
•Read the fine print on everything.
•Find out if fees apply to a credit card you are considering.
•Develop a budget and a plan for paying the money back.
•Only use secure websites if shopping online.
Photo by Sara Owen. Attorney General Roy Cooper advises students about finances and identity fraud on Nov. 12 in the UC Annex.