66 ways to protect your identity and privacy


PrivacyNot again. The news is full of reports that more than 500 million online users had their privacy breached in the recent Yahoo online hack. Yahoo is not alone – LinkedIn, MySpace, Dropbox, Target, Anthem, Sony — it’s impossible to keep track, but you can see a list of the largest data breaches of all time for a trip down memory lane. And now we learn that Russian hackers are trying to compromise our voting and election systems.

What’s a person to do?

Well, if you fear your info was leaked in the recent Yahoo leak, the company has an info page of signs of a hacked Yahoo account and what to do.

But taking remedial steps after the horse gets out of the barn doesn’t help you much for protection  from the next attack. If your house was robbed, you’d take steps to beef up security, and online isn’t much different – you need to take serious preventive steps now to avoid exposure. It’s human nature to put this off – plus, it can be hard to know just what steps to take. That’s why we were happy to see that the recent Consumer Reports has made online security a focus of the new issue.

Their excellent article 66 Ways to Protect Your Privacy Right Now is a comprehensive must-read, covering online, mobile and real-world security matters. It includes concrete tips, how-tos, and videos on the following topics:

  • Screen locks
  • Snail mail privacy
  • Unbreakable passwords
  • Mobile account safety
  • Connected devices
  • Handling public WiFi
  • Everyday encryption
  • Facebook settings
  • Home WiFi settings
  • Boosting web browser privacy
  • Beating ransomware
  • How to avoid phishing schemes
  • Google settings

If you find 66 steps a little overwhelming, here’s their suggestion for a shortcut: The Consumer Reports 10-Minute Digital Privacy Tuneup

Here are some related resources that we’ve previously posted:

 

Are you spending more at the gas pump than you need to?


pumping gasoline fuel in car at gas stationIf you use premium gasoline for your car, you may want to rethink that. Unless your car manufacturer specifically designates the use of premium fuel, you are wasting your money, according to new fuel performance research by AAA. How much money? A whopping $2.1 billion in the aggregate. Yikes. Here’s a summary of what they learned:

“According to new AAA research, American drivers wasted more than $2.1 billion dollars in the last year by using premium-grade gasoline in vehicles designed to run on regular fuel. With 16.5 million U.S. drivers having used premium fuel despite the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation in the last 12 months, AAA conducted a comprehensive fuel evaluation to determine what, if any, benefit the practice offers to consumers. After using industry-standard test protocols designed to evaluate vehicle performance, fuel economy and emissions, AAA found no benefit to using premium gasoline in a vehicle that only requires regular-grade fuel.”

Why do drivers pick premium fuel when they don’t need it? It essentially comes down to the power of advertising and language: “Premium” sounds better to many people – and it sounds like it would be beneficial to your car. But the research shows that, ““Premium gasoline is specifically formulated to be compatible with specific types of engine designs and most vehicles cannot take advantage of the higher octane rating.”

AAA says that if you want to upgrade to better fuel, drivers should choose TOP TIER gas rather than a higher octane. Here’s a AAA Premium Fuel Fact Sheet that explains the research and offers more recommendations.

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Keeping Kids safe: Tips for childproofing your home


children playing

Injuries are the leading cause of death in children ages 19 and younger, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The home should be the safest place for kids, but that isn’t always the case. SafeKids reports that every year, 2,200 children – or six kids a day – die at home in the U.S. from unintentional injuries, and another 3.5 million go to the emergency department to be treated for the kinds of injuries that commonly happen in homes. They offer great information and prevention tips on types of kid injuries that occur most frequently in the home. These include:

  • Button Battery Injury Prevention
  • Falls Prevention
  • Fire, Burns and Scalds Prevention
  • General Home Safety
  • Laundry Packet Safety
  • Medication Safety
  • Suffocation Prevention and Sleep Safety
  • Toy Safety
  • TV and Furniture Tip-overs Prevention
  • Water Safety

We also like this Childproofing 101 Infographic from fix.com that highlights key areas in the home that you should pay attention to.


Source: Fix.com Blog

3 important things converge this month: Pets, Insurance and National Preparedness Month


It’s National Preparedness Month, your annual reminder to plan in advance for how you’d weather an emergency or natural disaster such as a hurricane, wildfire, flood or crippling winter storm. Ready.gov urges us all to prepare in advance for emergencies, and offers great tips for how to do that. Part of that planning includes preparing for your pets. Every time there’s a national disaster, we hear heartbreaking stories of pets that were left behind in the rush to safety. Thankfully, dedicated pet rescuers join the recovery efforts and manage to save many of these animals – but they are sometimes never reunited with their humans. Planning for your family includes emergency planning for your family pet.

There’s another kind of pet planning you might consider this month, too: It’s National Pet Health Insurance Month. Pet veterinary care can be costly: “A report from the American Pet Products Association (APPA) shows that Americans spent $60.59 billion on their pets last year, a quarter of which was spent on veterinary care.” (See Before Your Dog Gets Sick, Consider Pet Insurance).

Today, there are more and more pet insurance or veterinary financing options available than ever before. Why not pick up the phone and talk to your independent agent about insurance options for taking care of your pets?

And as a bit of motivation, and because it’s Friday, here are some pet videos that might melt your heart.

Anticipation … you couldn’t leave this poor fellow at home alone in an emergency, could you?

Your moment of Zen – these kittens are still in the pet store but they need your care.

“These sure are funny looking leaping puppies,” thinks Maymo …

This bird will never let you hear the end of it if you forget about him in an emergency

Without human help, cats could take over the world

Get free emergency apps for National Preparedness Month


September is National Preparedness Month – here’s one simple thing you can do: Download some free apps for your phone so that if you find yourself in an emergency, you are ready. Pass them along to your family members too, so you can all be informed. Here are a few suggestions.

The free FEMA app

FEMA-appThe free FEMA app is a must. One great new feature is that you can get weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations across the nation. That allows you to follow severe weather alerts for friends and family located anywhere in the country – even if your phone is not located in the area.  The app is available in English but it will default to Spanish if those who have set that as the default language. It can be downloaded from the App Store for Apple devices and Google Play for Android devices.

The new weather alert feature adds to the app’s existing features: a customizable checklist of emergency supplies, maps of open shelters and Disaster Recovery Centers, and tips on how to survive natural and man-made disasters.

Some other key features of the app include:

  • Safety Tips: Tips on how to stay safe before, during, and after over 20 types of hazards, including floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes
  • Disaster Reporter: Users can upload and share photos of damage and recovery efforts
  • Maps of Disaster Resources: Users can locate and receive driving directions to open shelters and disaster recovery centers
  • Apply for Assistance: The app provides easy access to apply for federal disaster assistance

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Red Cross has an excellent suite of free emergency apps:

first-aid

 

First Aid – Get instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies.

 

 

pets

Pet First Aid – Be prepared to help your furry friends with veterinary advice for everyday emergencies.

 

 

 

blood

Blood – Schedule blood donation appointments, track total donations and earn rewards as you help us meet the constant need for blood.

 

They also have emergency apps for tornado, hurricane, wildfire, flood, earthquake and general emergencies, along with a few apps for kids.