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Beware of Halloween shopping

Sept. 30, 2010 at 4:30 a.m.

By Alan Bligh

Fall is upon us; the season of festivals, camp fires and trick or treating.

It is the time of the year where every kid in Victoria is trying to decide what costume to wear for Halloween.

Halloween supposedly is the second largest commercial holiday in the U.S.

Better Business Bureau suggests you exercise caution especially for mail order and online purchases. If you're interested in trying a new online merchant who you're not familiar with, ask the company for its physical location so you can check on its reliability. Determine the company's refund and return policies before you buy.

Nail down the delivery date. Federal law requires that goods and services be delivered within 30 days, unless a different delivery period is specifically stated by the merchant. Best bet buy local.

In today's economy, a good credit score is more valuable than ever. There is plenty of advice out there. But not all advice is good advice. Here are nine credit score myths that could actually do more harm than good:

1. Closing out old, inactive accounts will help your score. Canceling old accounts can make your credit history appear shorter and, as a result, actually lower your score.

2. Opening (but not using) accounts will help your score. This strategy is more likely to raise eyebrows than your credit score.

3. You should avoid not using your credit cards at all. If you're not using your credit, you're not building credit history.

4. Dispute letters can clean up your bad credit. Errors on your credit report can and should be disputed, but don't expect to magically erase accurate but negative credit history.

5. Paying off old debts and judgments will help your score. Negative reports remain on your credit report for seven to 10 years, regardless of any remedies you've made.

6. Credit inquiries hurt your score. Inquiries alone have little impact on your score.

7. Using a credit counseling service lowers your score. Credit counseling services no longer figure into the FICO scoring system.

8. There's a set formula for obtaining good credit. Nope. The methodology is much more flexible than that.

9. You can get a perfect score. Don't go to Herculean efforts trying to obtain that elusive 850 - getting a perfect credit score is nearly impossible.

And remember consumers are not entitled to a free credit score. The only thing free is a credit report which may be found at www.annualcreditreport.com. Don't believe the ads that offer free credit scores. They are not free, you will have to sign up for a credit monitoring service to get the "free" report.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by e-mail at abligh@corpuschristi.bbb.org.

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