1. To prevent your assets from being garnished, don't take out loans that must be paid from your checking or savings account or prepaid debit card. Don't have your Social Security payments sent to the same bank where you have loans that are automatically paid from your checking or savings account. Avoid taking out loans from banks that are linked to a checking account where you receive benefits by direct deposit.
2. Do not opt in for overdraft protection on debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals. Once you opt out, there is no fee if your debit card purchase or ATM withdrawal is denied because of lack of funds.
3. Avoid loans that promise to improve your credit score or come with onerous fees or terms you don't understand. Many factors influence your credit score, and taking out subprime loans can actually hurt your score. Never pay an advance fee to get credit.
4. Seek alternatives to using payday lenders, including social service and faith-based organizations. If you're on Social Security, you might be eligible for help with food, rent, mortgage payments, energy bills or cash assistance that you don't have to repay. To get help with improving your credit and finding alternatives to payday lenders, meet with a reputable nonprofit credit-counseling agency that is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). To find one, contact the NFCC at 800-388-2227 or nfcc.org.
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