Today's guest blogger is Sharon Naylor, the bestselling author of over 35 wedding books, including Bridesmaid on a Budget, The Mother of the Bride Book and more. She has appeared on Good Morning America, Martha Stewart Weddings, the BBC, Lifetime, ABC News, and countless other media programs. Visit her website sharonnaylor.net and follow her on Twitter @sharonnaylorwed for her latest news and to potentially be featured in her upcoming wedding articles, blogs, and television segments.
Your credit score is paramount to your financial wellbeing, credit card interest rates, and that loan you will (or won't) receive towards purchasing your first house, so guard it with your life! Brides are a prime target for identity theft: It can be painful enough to pay for all of your wedding purchases and vendors, but what would be even more stressful is to have your credit get destroyed in the process. Follow these smart steps to protect your finances while planning your special day.
1. Shopping on shady discount websites.
TheWeddingReport.com reports that online spending for weddings was up 48% in 2011 and purchases using a mobile device were up 55% over 2010. Technology is making it easier for brides to buy and book everything they need for the wedding, but credit dangers lurk everywhere, so think twice before buying something that sounds too good to be true (like that unworn $5,000 dress they're selling for $150). Here's a secret: Misspellings or a different top-level domain in the URL (.net instead of .com, for instance) are dead ringers for scam sites that can steal your info, which are designed to look just like another company you might know, but they aren't.
Never buy anything online from a site that doesn’t have a SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption, or that little padlock icon on the bottom of the page. It might also appear in the URL line, depending on which browser you use. The site's URL should also always start with "https:" not "http."
2. Working with an unreputable vendor.
Work only with reputable vendors who belong to wedding industry or professional associations. These pros must adhere to strict rules of conduct, and can be better trusted with your credit card purchases than random vendors you might find.
Reputable sites and vendors don’t need your social security number, birthday or mother’s maiden name to secure your purchase or booking. If they demand it, find another vendor or store, no matter how great their package or sale prices may be. A reputable vendor also won’t ask for you to risk your credit and identity with an email containing your credit card information, so avoid this unsafe move.
3. Not signing up for a credit report.
Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get your credit reports from all three major credit reporting bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) for free once a year. Unlike other sites, they don't require you to sign up for a monthly fee membership. Review each of the credit reports in detail: If you see something suspicious, contact them to file a request to fix your report and improve your rating.
Also get into the habit of reviewing your credit card and bank statements online multiple times a week, looking for unusual charges—don't be embarrassed to call them up if you don't recognize a charge. They'll tell you where and when a payment was made, so you can remember that second invitation order or Etsy purchase that showed up under a different name. Most agencies will only give you up to 30 days to question or fight a fishy charge, so be sure to look into it ASAP.
4. Being lax with your mail.
Be sure to use a cross-cut shredder to destroy any bills or statements you’re not keeping for tax records. (It’s very smart to add a cross-cut shredder to your bridal registry to protect your credit in the future.) Also put a "Hold Mail" order in at the post office for your girls' bachelorette getaway, destination wedding or honeymoon, so that thieves don’t steal your mail (and your credit or identity information along with it).
5. Closing credit cards right after the wedding.
Don't close credit cards when you pay them off with your wedding gift money. This actually hurts your credit score since it drops your credit limit. If this is the card you’ve had for the longest time, that also registers badly on your credit score.