When debt collectors are wrong
Plus: Answers to reader mail on 401(k) rebalancing and checking your credit.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- QUESTION: I am challenged with a collection notice from a new debt collector - and I never had an account with the original lender. It is NOT my debt. What can I do to stop this madness? - Anonymous, California
You must send a letter to the collection agency within 30 days after you receive the collection notice. Make sure you state in the letter that you do not owe money.
The debt collector can't contact you until you are sent proof of the debt, like a copy of the bill for the amount owed. You should report any problems with a debt collector to your state's Attorney General's office or the Federal Trade Commission. To get a list of your rights go to FTC.gov.
QUESTION: How often should a person revisit their 401(k) and redistribute investments? Where can people get 401(k) portfolio information without having to consume too much time? - Rob
Rebalance at least once a year and no more than four times a year, says David Wray of the Profit sharing/401(k) Council of America. Distance yourself from the emotions of the market by picking the same time each year to rebalance.
Details of your plan should be up on your company's Web site. That's where you can get your fund's historic performance. Or ask for the short-form prospectuses from your Human Resources office, which can give you a summary of your portfolio's goals, the management style and any fees you're paying.
A growing number of companies are offering an automatic rebalancing option.
QUESTION: Lowe's recently lowered my credit limit from $750 to $100 based on my credit history with other creditors. I have never been delinquent with Lowe's or carried a balance higher than $150. Can they do this? - Sheryl, Atlanta
Some credit cards have a Universal Default clause attached. This means the company can increase your interest rate or otherwise change the terms of your credit card agreement based on how you handle OTHER credit accounts, according to the US Public Information Research Group.
We called Lowe's on Sheryl's behalf. The company said this isn't a case of Universal Default since the annual percentage rate didn't change. The company did say however, that with some of their credit cards, credit reports of cardholders are checked periodically.
Your first move should be to call the company's card resolution hotline to find out what happened. Then you need to get your credit report. Go to annualcreditreport.com. This way you can see exactly what lowered your credit score. You also want to make sure that you're not a victim of ID theft. Check to see that multiple credit lines were not opened up under your name.
QUESTION: I am an international student doing his MBA at a university in Philadelphia. Financing is a major problem. Where can I get help? - Krunal
Federal Student loans are out of the question. But there are a few places that will loan money to international students.
Start with the school's financial aid office. The school itself may give money to international students, especially in areas like engineering or chemistry. You may also want to try Global Student Loan Corporation at GlobalSLC.org, says Mark Kantrowitz of Finaid.com. This is a lender that will work directly with banks in your home country to finance your American education.
Another site to check out is Edupass.org. Click on financing college and you'll find a number of loan programs designed especially to help you out with finances. But beware - a lot of these programs require a U.S. citizen as a co-signer. So, the better their credit score, the better interest rate you'll get.
Are you paying off major debts? Or have you already paid off loans that loomed large over your household? If you'd like to share your story for an upcoming article, e-mail George Mannes at email@example.com