How Bad Are Things When the Crisis Hotline Calls You?

There is a crossed wire (or something like that for digital phone) in our phone system somewhere.

Last night Husband and I were watching the Florida State-Miami game and the phone rang. The Caller ID did not display a number, but we’ve been getting lots of political calls lately. I answered the phone and heard, “…press one for emergency response, press 2 for …”. How odd. I hung up the phone.

Twenty minutes later it happened again.

It was happening every 20 minutes or so last night, as if I had called them (which I did not) and clicked over to take another call and they never hung up. Why was the county calling me? What was Husband doing when I wasn’t at home???

So I pressed a number and was connected to the Crisis Hotline. How apropos. “Have I got a crisis for you, ” I deadpanned. I briefly explained the situation, telling the counselor that mine was not the type of crisis they specialized in, but if they’d please hang up on me – something they are trained NOT to do, my own little crisis might just be solved. The woman was slightly confused, but did as I asked. And the problem was solved…

…until 5:45 this morning, when it happened again. I was having a lovely dream involving things I cannot recall when the phone rang. Eyeing the clock as I reached for the phone, my sleep-muddled brain first registered alarm, and a fear that Something Terrible must have happened if I was getting a call so early. I was relieved but irritated to hear, “…press eight for non-emergency response…”

Again I pressed a # and asked them to hang up, and they did.

10 minutes later, another call. This time they said they were not having this problem with anyone else. So I called Comcast, who provides our digital voice service.

“Just let me reset your system, ” said the technician. I know they reset it only because there was no answer when a moment later I said, “Hello? Hello?”  I’d lost service in the middle of the call. Apparently he could not be bothered to say, “In a moment I’m going to reset the system. That will mean we will lose contact. That’s how you’ll know it is reset. This should take care of the problem, but if you have any questions please call back.”

Great! That was an easy fix. I snuggle back into the covers and…

Ten minutes later another call.

By this time some of the shine has rubbed off of my sunny disposition. And Husband? Not pleased. I once again called Comcast and they told me they’d “…open a ticket…”. Someone will contact me in one to two days. Greaaaaaaaaaaat.

We’ve only had one call since. And thank goodness. If they call me tomorrow at 5:45am I might need to call that Crisis Hotline back…

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Financial Instability Aftershocks Affect Your Credit, Too

In the wake of the ridiculous goings on in the financial world you could see some aftershocks right there on your credit card statement.

Credit card companies are tightening their belts, and reining us in, too.  Doesn’t matter how long you’ve been with them, how good your credit is, how many payments you’ve made on time.  According to the Wall Street Journal they are starting to reduce credit limits across the board.

If you’re like me you’ve seen a credit limit of $3,000 balloon to a limit of $25,000.  I’ve never paid much attention, as my strategy of paying of my balance each month has meant that I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to my limits and interest rates.

Many people are seeing their credit limits slashed with little notice, and those like me who are not diligent about checking those parts of their statement may find themselves dangerously close to their credit limit, and dangerously close to those over-the-limit fees.   When’s the last time you looked at your credit limits?  That would be a very, very nasty surprise, wouldn’t it?

Not only that, because your buying power is reduced your debt to income ratio goes up.   According to CNNThe debt-to-limit ratio is calculated by dividing what consumers spend each month by their credit limit, and it’s a key component of credit scores. If your limit drops to $1,000 from $2,000 and you continue spending $500 a month, your debt-to-limit ratio immediately jumps from a favorable 25% to an unfavorable 50%.” That means it’s harder to buy that car or that house, making your life less comfortable and making it harder for our economy as a whole to recover.

This just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?

What can you do?  The Wall Street Journal article had some great suggestions:

1.  Reduce your outstanding debt. Bigger balances make consumers prime targets for credit-card companies looking to reduce credit lines, since the banks worry that you may not be able to pay your tab.

2. Watch the mail. When credit-card issuers lower credit limits, they must notify you. Typically, that will be done by mail (unless you’ve agreed to online-only notification). You should also review your monthly statement for changes, including a lower credit limit, interest-rate spikes and new penalties.

3 Check your report. Credit-card issuers review consumers’ credit reports for red flags, like late payments to other credit cards, a sudden buildup of debt or high credit-utilization rates. Check your credit report for free online at AnnualCreditReport.com. If it includes any errors, report them to the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

4 Get online alerts. Ask your credit-card issuers if they offer online alerts that notify cardholders when they’re nearing their limit.

5 Shop around. If your credit limit gets slashed, don’t cancel your credit card. That will decrease your credit score. Instead, shop around for more attractive credit-card offers.

I’m going to add a few of my own:

6.  Check your account online at least twice a week. This  way you can have the latest updates, keep track of your balances and limits and catch errors early.

7.  Curb spending. Stay home, don’t shop.  Just buy what you absolutely need to so you have less to pay back.

8.  Pray. Whether you believe in a Higher Being, the power of positive thinking or your faith is in humanity, put your positive energy out there and pray.

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