Crime alert: more on card skimming fraud


card skimming fraud

Card skimming fraud is a type of fraud that uses devices to read your credit card and steal your pin or password. It’s a type of theft that frequently happens at ATM machines, but it also is common at gas stations and any place that you swipe the magnetic strip of a credit or debit card. The latest scene of the crime are self-checkout stations in supermarkets.

The problem is that data on your credit card is stored in magnetic strip on the back of your card and the magnetic strip is not encrypted. Cheap devices are readily available to scan that data. Devices used to be large and unwieldy, but have become increasingly smaller and cheaper. These devices can be cleverly disguised and affixed to retail outlets that read your cards. They can also be used anyplace your card is scanned.

To foil card skimming fraud, new cards contain chips with encrypted data so those cards are safer in theory. We say “in theory” because it’s an enormous undertaking for banks, gas stations and retailers to replace the card reader stations and convert to chip-enabled card readers, so many still rely on reading magnetic strips. As long as your credit cards have a magnetic strip, they are still insecure.

This ABC News video clip is about 8 minutes long  –  a good investment for a quick education about what skimming is, how to spot it and steps to take to prevent it.

Here are skimming fraud prevention tips we’ve gleaned from the experts over the years.

  • Use well lit, well-trafficked ATMS and gas stations with security cameras; go inside banks; be particularly careful at freestanding ATMs.
  • When using an ATM or paying at the gas pump, check for anything unusual and be alert for any devices that may be affixed. Look for anything that protrudes from or seems affixed to the machine, any color differences, any unusual stickers. Look for nearby mirrors, pamphlet holders, speakers, or devices that could house a camera.
  • Always cover the keypad with your hand to shield from any cameras that may be trying to record your PIN. It’s also a good idea to touch several keys with your fingers to thwart anyone trying to grab your pin via infrared heat detector readers.
  • Don’t let anyone “help you” at an ATM or credit card reader.
  • When paying at a restaurant or any retail outlet, don’t let anyone walk away with your card, have them read the card in your presence so that they don’t harvest your information with a small pocket-skimmer.
  • Check your bank account regularly to ensure funds have not been taken.
  • If you spot anything suspicious at an ATM or a  self-service gas or grocery kiosk, alert the business or the police right away.

A fresh look for 2017: Re-assess your insurance needs


financial planning

Insurance isn’t a once-and-done thing – it requires a periodic assessment of the changing circumstances in your life and a thoughtful evaluation of whether you should add  protection against any new risks. As you budget for the new year and prep for tax season, it’s the perfect timing to think about these things.

With the start of a new year and the emphasis on resolutions, there have been a few good articles on insurance that caught our attention. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners issued a handy Insurance Checklist for the New Year. It offers some considerations about common forms of insurance – life, home/rental, health, auto.

When new life events occur, you should review of insurance coverage. You may need to add a new type of coverage, you may want to raise or lower deductibles on an existing policy, or there may be opportunities for savings or discounts. Your independent insurance agent will be able to inform you about various coverage options – but can only advise you based upon what he or she knows.

Here’s a list of life events that should trigger a call to your independent insurance agent:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Birth or adoption of a child
  • Death of an immediate family member
  • Military deployment
  • Purchasing a new home, condo, or a second home
  • Home renovation
  • Adding buildings to your property
  • Renting out your home
  • Moving to a new geographic area
  • Renting an apartment
  • A teen child getting an auto license
  • Getting a new car
  • Joining a carpool
  • Acquiring expensive electronics, antiques, jewelry, furs, or specialty collections
  • Acquiring a recreational vehicle – boat, motorcycle, snowmobile
  • Getting a recreational drone
  • Changing jobs and job benefits
  • Retiring
  • Starting a small business
  • Joining the sharing economy, such as renting property through Airbnb or driving for Uber

Lacie Glover at Nerd Wallet, USA Today offers good risk limiting advice for us all with her 10 smart insurance resolutions for 2017.  We particularly like #1 – making an inventory – and #9 – informing beneficiaries about your policy. We’d go one step further and suggest that you look at any insurance policies and financial accounts and make sure your contact information and beneficiaries are updated. People often forget to keep those things up to date – unfortunate consequences can ensue: you might not intend to leave your home, your 401K or your life insurance to an ex-spouse, but it could happen if you forget to update your beneficiaries when circumstances change. See our best practices for updating your beneficiaries for insurance policies and retirement plans.

 

Two ways your garage door makes you vulnerable to burglaries


Garage Door Opener

Burglar garage door tactic #1: Thieves are often breaking into cars not to steal the car, but to steal the garage door opener. If thieves spot a garage door opener in your parked vehicle, they steal it, harvest your home address from the car registration or other identifying material in your glove compartment, and break into your garage while you are still out and about. And unless your garage is a free-standing unit, getting into the garage will offer easy access to your entire house.

The solution is simple – keep garage door opener on your key chain so you can take it with you in your purse or pocket when you exit the car.

Burglar garage door tactic #2: Most people feel pretty safe if they have their garage door closed, but in just a matter of seconds, experienced thieves can break in to your garage with a simple wire hanger by hooking the release valve. This short video shows how – it;s pretty scary — and the clip also offers a solution to deter this by using a cable tie.

You should test breaking the cable tie from the inside to be sure that the door could still be used as an emergency exit. Here are two alternate products that can help to secure your garage from Garage Shield.

Your garage is an entry point to your entire home – and as the article above notes, if burglars get in your garage and close the door, they have good cover for wreaking havoc. All too often, the door between the garage and the home is unlocked or insufficiently secure. Here are some ideas to increase your defenses: Top 10 Garage Door Security Tips to Prevent Break-Ins.

‘Tis the season


Portrait of Santa Claus carrying huge red sack with presents

 

It’s Friday afternoon in the middle of the holiday season, a perfect time to offer a seasonal serenade – a medley of songs and carols for your amusement!

If you’ll be shopping on or offline this weekend, be sure to check out our post from last year on seasonal fraud: Scam-apalooza! Don’t let fraud ruin your holiday

10 most and 10 least reliable cars


new car for Christmas

If you are asking Santa to bring you a new car this year, you probably have a particular style, a color and certain features in mind. But before you put your final request in that North Pole letter, we’d suggest that you take a look at the Consumer Reports’ list of 10 Most Reliable Cars from their recent Annual Auto Reliability Survey. They also name this year’s picks for the 10 Least Reliable Cars.

In their survey, Consumer Reports gathers data on 300 models and a half million vehicles. This is what they look for:

“Our survey takes a deep dive into the numerous things that can go wrong with a vehicle. We study 17 trouble areas, from nuisances—such as squeaky brakes and broken interior trim—to major bummers, like out-of-warranty transmission repairs or trouble with four-wheel-drive systems. We weight the severity of each type of problem to create a Predicted Reliability Score for each vehicle. That score is then combined with data collected from our track testing, as well as our owner-satisfaction survey results and safety data, to calculate each test vehicle’s Overall Score.”

Of course, if you are car shopping, we’d also recommend that you factor safety ratings in your purchase decision. For safety. we recommend the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety / Highway Loss Data Institute ratings. They test a vehicle’s crashworthiness — “how well a vehicle protects its occupants in a crash. It also rates vehicles for front crash prevention, systems that warn the driver or brake automatically to avoid or mitigate a frontal collision.”  You can check out their Top Safety Picks by year from 2006 through to 2017.

See more results of the CR Reliability Survey, along with some general trends. They also offer a great Guide to Car Reliability with more useful information, such as reliability by car type, used car reliability and owner satisfaction. Some of the information is freely available but some requires a subscription – and if you don’t want to subscribe for a full year, they also offer a month by month option, which could be handy if you are researching a car, home electronics, or any other pricey purchases this season.