Funny Russian insurance ad makes a serious point

Don’t worry – you don’t need to understand Russian to get the point of this clever Russian auto insurance ad. It uses fun special effects to make the point that some insurers will go to great lengths to avoid you when you have an auto insurance claim. If you are having trouble finding an insurer that will be there when you need them, that’s where your local independent agent can help!

Please rob me: when social networking turns risky

As social networking becomes more and more ingrained in people’s lives, many incautious, naive, or new users may be inadvertently heightening their risk of becoming a crime victim.
A site called graphically illustrates this point by highlighting recent tweets in which Twitter users are telling followers where they can be found. The site is simply aggregating public information that is available to anyone – you, me … and crooks. As the site founder notes,

“The danger is publicly telling people where you are. This is because it leaves one place you’re definitely not… home. So here we are; on one end we’re leaving lights on when we’re going on a holiday, and on the other we’re telling everybody on the internet we’re not home.”

The goal of the site is to raise awareness of the potential dangers of location sharing and to make people think twice about the way they are using various social tools such as Twitter, Foursquare, Brightkite, Google Buzz, and Facebook.
Last June, we posted Careful what you Tweet – crooks could be using social networks, too, about the highly publicized case of an active social networker who Twittered about his trip only to return home to find that his home had been burglarized while he was away. While the dangers of the Internet can sometimes be overly dramatized in the media, raising awareness of how social media tools are used is a worthy goal. It’s a new era of heightened transparency and we all need to learn to step with care.

Would you recognize this ATM fraud?

Technology security expert Brian Krebs asks if you’d have spotted this skimming fraud device when you went to use your ATM? ATM skimmers are card-reading devices that cover the real card slot, and are usually installed in conjunction with a camera to record the PIN number. Skimmers can be affixed at bank ATMs, freestanding ATMs, ATM-enabled gas station pumps, and anyplace else that an ATM might be found.
ATM skimming devices are getting more sophisticated – they’ve even been found in high-traffic bank lobbies. But experts say that by being alert and cautious, you can minimize your risk of being a scam victims. To help raise your awareness of what to look for, we’ve gathered some examples with pictures and visuals:

Tips to avoid ATM skimmers
We’ve gleaned these “best practice” tips from some of the articles, linked above:

  • Use well lit, well-trafficked ATMS with security cameras; go inside banks; be particularly careful at freestanding ATMs
  • When using an ATM, 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
  • Don’t let anyone “help you” at an ATM
  • Check your bank account regularly to ensure funds have not been taken
  • If you spot anything suspicious at an ATM, alert the bank or the police right away.

Keep Super Bowl Sunday super: fans don’t let fans drive drunk

On average, about 98.7 million fans tune into watch the game on Super Bowl Sunday. If you’re going to be hosting or attending a Super Bowl party this weekend when the New Orleans Saints take on the Indianapolis Colts, you should plan in advance for your safety and that of your guests.
The Insurance Information Institute (III) suggests that designating a driver should be at the top of everyone’s super bowl party list. They note that:
“According to the most recent figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2008, alcohol-impaired-driving crashes accounted for 32 percent of total motor vehicle traffic fatalities. On Super Bowl Sunday (February 3 to 5:59 a.m. February 4), 49 percent of the fatalities occurred in crashes in which a driver or motorcycle rider had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08 or higher. Overall, more than 13,000 Americans died that year in crashes involving an impaired driver.”
Whether you plan to be a party host or a party attendee, III offers a list of tips and suggestions to help you stay safe. Plus, party hosts have a particular imperative to protect guests. It’s the right thing to do – plus, it may protect you from liability.
Here are some additional tips from the Natioanl Highway Transportation and Safety Administration’s Fans don’t let fans drive drunk program.
Tips for party hosts
If you are hosting a Super Bowl party, remember, you can be held liable and prosecuted if someone you served ends up in an impaired driving crash. To protect both yourself and your guests:

  • Make sure all guests designate their sober drivers in advance, or help arrange ride-sharing with other sober drivers.
  • Serve lots of food—and include lots of non-alcoholic beverages at the party.
  • Stop serving alcohol at the end of the third quarter of the game and begin serving coffee and dessert.
  • Keep the numbers for local cab companies handy, and take the keys away from anyone who is thinking of driving while impaired.

Tips for party attendees
If you are attending a Super Bowl party or watching at a sports bar or restaurant:

  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol too fast. Pace yourself—eat enough food, take breaks and alternate with non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Designate your sober driver before the party begins and give that person your car keys.
  • If you don’t have a designated driver, ask a sober friend for a ride home; call a cab, friend or family member to come get you; or stay where you are and sleep it off until you are sober.
  • Research and use a local Sober Rides program.
  • Never let a friend leave your sight if you think they are about to drive while impaired.
  • Always buckle up—it’s still your best defense against other impaired drivers.

Additional resources
Drunk Driving Laws by State

Don’t get taken in by tax-time phishing via phony IRS e-mails

There’s a group of thieves who are scheming about how to get your personal financial data this tax season and make no mistake about it – they’re good at what they do. Consumer Report’s Money Blog offers this advice: as you plan for tax season: Don’t become a tax-time phishing victim. No matter how authentic an e-mail from the Internal Revenue Service may look, the IRS doesn’t initiate taxpayer communications through email.
Know what you’re up against – educate yourself about phishing
According to Wikipedia, phishing is:

“…the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Communications purporting to be from popular social web sites, auction sites, online payment processors or IT administrators are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting public. Phishing is typically carried out by e-mail or instant messaging,[1] and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one. Even when using server authentication, it may require tremendous skill to detect that the website is fake.”

Some of the best consumer advice and resources can be found at the Anti-Phishing Working Group’s (APWG) site. The following tips are excerpted from their consumer guide on how to avoid phishing scams:

  • Be suspicious of any email with urgent requests for personal financial information
  • Don’t use the links in an email, instant message, or chat to get to any web page if you suspect the message might not be authentic – call the company on the telephone, or log onto the website directly by typing in the Web address in your browser
  • Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal financial information – you should only communicate information such as credit card numbers or account information via a secure website or the telephone
  • Always ensure that you’re using a secure website when submitting credit card or other sensitive information via your Web browser
  • Consider installing a Web browser tool bar to help protect you from known fraudulent websites
  • Regularly log into your online accounts to ensure that all transactions are legitimate
  • Ensure that your browser is up to date and security patches applied
  • Always report “phishing” or “spoofed” e-mails to the following groups: forward the email to; forward the email to the Federal Trade Commission at; when forwarding spoofed messages, always include the entire original email with its original header information intact

Additional resources
FBI’s New E-Scams & Warnings
How to spot a fake website and not get phished
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