Credit Card and ATM Skimming – a Growing Threat

Most people know the basic safety precautions to take when using an ATM, such as looking for safe, well lit locations and being careful to cover the keyboard when entering a PIN – but far fewer people are aware of the increasing threat posed by ATM and credit card skimming. With card skimming, thieves attach a camouflaged card reader over a legitimate card reader, such as the one at your ATM, gas pump, or store checkout. One might think it would be easy to recognize a phony card reader – but like thousands of victims worldwide, one might be wrong. The ruses are getting more and more sophisticated and harder to detect. Some devices are placed over a keypad to record your transactions and gather your data for later use. Others are micro-hand held devices that thieves can use to quickly scan a card.
NetworkWorld offers an excellent article on ATM and credit card skimming that describes how the con works and offers an illustrated guide with examples of what to look for when using a credit or debit card. This is definitely an article worth reading and passing on.
To protect yourself from being a victim, make sure that you check out credit card readers before using them to look for any unusual signs – if you spot anything strange or get any error messages, report the problem to the bank or the responsible outlet immediately. Don’t let anyone help you at an ATM outlet – this “helpfulness” is a common ploy for skimmers. Also, sign up for the online services associated with your account and check your account activity and statements every few days.

Spring Reminder: Bike Safety for Kids

With spring in the air, it’s a good time to issue a reminder that bicycles are associated with more serious childhood injuries than any other consumer product except automobiles. Every year, about 300,000 kids wind up in the emergency room because of bike injuries. Head injuries can result in serious brain injury or death. Most states have laws about mandatory bicycle helmets – some laws are for all riders. Most pertain to kids under age 18.

Here are some resources to help ensure your kids safe when they bike:
Testing Your Child’s Readiness for Riding a Bike
Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
Kids and Bicycle Safety
Teach Your Child Well: Bicycle Safety Issues

More laws to restrict cellphone use & texting while driving being introduced

According to a recent report in USA Today, more and more laws aimed at limiting cellphone use and texting while driving are being introduced. According to the report, “More than 250 bills prohibiting or restricting cellphone use while driving are pending in 42 state legislatures despite disagreement over the risks cellphones pose and the effectiveness of enforcement.
The number is up from about 120 bills in just 18 states 10 months ago, according to an analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a safety research group funded by insurers. Four states — Georgia, Idaho, North Carolina and Texas — are considering banning all types of cellphone usage behind the wheel, including hands-free devices.”

In an accompanying article, the paper compiled a chart listing a sampling of pending legilation that would restrict texting or cell phones.
These laws are controversial – many of the public, particularly younger drivers – are opposed to any restrictions whatsoever. While police often support some restrictions, they worry about enforcement. Many favor a broader policy aimed at all “distracted driving” issues, and many others suggest that prohibitions should focus on novice drivers or drivers of public transportation. But others are in favor of total restrictions. Some of the legislative activity was spurred by the National Safety Council’s (NSC) call for a nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving. This recommendation was based on a study by the Harvard Center of Risk Analysis which found that cell phone use while driving contributes to 6 percent of crashes, equating to 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries and 2,600 deaths each year. NSC also cited several other safety studies in their recommendation.
Cell phone and texting laws in your state
The Governors Highway Safety Association maintains a chart listing state driving laws related to cell phone usage and texting. The chart was updated in February of this year, so it is pretty current.
Here is a summary:

  • CA, CT, DC, NJ, NY and WA ban hand-held phones outright for all drivers; several other states allow banning by jurisdiction or have provisions limiting the use of handhelds. Some states treat cell phone use as a larger distracted driving issue.
  • No state completely bans all types of cell phone use (handheld and hands-free), but many prohibit cell phone use by certain segments of the population, such as novice drivers or school bus drivers.
  • 8 states AK, AR, CA, CT, LA, MN, NJ and WA ban text messaging