Tag Archives: protection

Review These Shopping Safety Tips Before You Whip Out Your Wallet This Weekend…

Thanksgiving is early this year. No, it really is. It falls on November 22nd, which is the earliest date it can fall on. So, it’s not your imagination. Thanksgiving did sneak up on you! And on us too, we admit, and because of that, we are all of a sudden realizing it’s time to talk about safe holiday shopping before the buying frenzy begins.

It’s going to be a big year for holiday shopping
And a frenzy it will be! Last year 174 million Americans parted with their money during the Thanksgiving weekend shopping, which includes Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You can expect that number to be higher this year because the economy is booming and consumer confidence is high. As a result, eMarketer predicts 2018 holiday season will bring strong retail sales: offline sales are expected to increase 4.1%, while online spending will increase 16.2% to $123.39 billion.

Will you be one of the confident consumers coughing up cash this weekend? Before you whip out your wallet this Thursday, Friday or Monday, review these safety tips first, so your holiday won’t be more expensive than you’d planned.

While shopping online
More money will be spent online than in person this Thanksgiving weekend, so be ready to be safe for any shopping that involves your laptop or mobile phone:

  • When at a website, check the URL and look for https:// rather than just http://. You can also look for a lock or similar symbol, showing that the site is confirmed secure.
  • Change up your passwords on a regular basis.
  • Pay with a credit cardinstead of a debit card.
  • Have a plan for any packages that will get delivered to your house, so they’re not sitting on your front porch and easily stolen.

While shopping in person
Despite the allure of online shopping, many of us still like to go spend our money in person. If you’re going to be hitting the Black Friday sales, pay attention to these safety tips:

  • Don’t flash any cash and only pull out your wallet when you’re ready to pay.
  • Keep your purse close to your body or carry your wallet in a front pocket.
  • Only purchase what you can carry at one time.
  • Keep your phone charged.
  • Set up meeting times and places if you’re shopping with others.
  • Park under a light if you’ll be shopping until after dark.
  • If you put packages in your car and do more shopping, keep those packages out of sight by hiding them in the trunk.
  • Once you’re back home, don’t advertise expensive purchases. Don’t leave boxes on the front porch and break down large boxes as soon as possible to keep your buys to yourself.

Don’t spend what you don’t have
Although the buying and giving is fun, and these tips should help keep you and your property safer, we offer one caveat to all this: Avoid the debt. Consumer debt is set to reach $4 trillion by the end of 2018. You might think that’s unrelated to home security and safety, but when debt affects our physical health, marriages, and financial futures, it’s totally related. No matter how good the Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal might be, if you have to borrow to buy it, you’re going to end up paying more for it anyway.

And on that note, have fun, buy smart, and stay safe this Thanksgiving weekend!

What’s New in Home Security? We Look at the Latest in Locks

If your car is new enough, you probably don’t have a key to unlock the door or even to start the engine. Instead, you have a “proximity key” which means something you’re carrying will unlock your car door for you when you are close enough.

As someone who drives an older car with an old-fashioned key, I can’t quite wrap my head around that yet, but I’d better get caught up soon because door locks for houses are going high tech too!

A home security or home automation system is a smart way to protect your home, but—as we’ve said before—it’s not enough. You must take other steps too, including secure door and window locks. And those locks are getting ever more sophisticated while offering multiple advantages as high-tech locks. You can lock or unlock your door remotely using your smart phone when necessary. You can assign a temporary code to a non-family member who needs to access your house—say a neighbor who’s feeding the cat while you’re away. You can get a notification when the lock is used. And those are just a few of the new-fanged features!

When your lock’s looks count…
Your lock is a security feature, but it’s also prominent on the entry point of your home, so appearance might be of utmost importance to you. If you care about appearance and you want a lock that looks like a lock, you can find them. Some smart locks can be opened with a code on a keypad, as a keyless entry, or with a key, but they have a classy low-tech “lock look” even though they’re high tech on the inside.

When you want high-tech features with a low-tech look
Some new-fangled locks do double duty when they look like a regular deadbolt but are all high-tech. You can even find locks with a place to insert a key, but they work via a biometric scanner that’s hiding behind an innocuous looking lock. You put your finger under the scanner to gain access.

When you want your high-tech lock to have a high-tech look
Other new locks look as high tech as they perform–all sleek and streamlined, screaming they’re high tech and not pretending to be anything but!

Of course, you have other options for locking your front door that are low tech, and those options are fine too, as long as you’re using high-quality locks and the whole family is diligent about locking them. But if you want something more sophisticated, one of these high-tech options might be the best choice for you!

Preparing for the Flu Season in the Wake of a Deadly One

“Flu season deaths top 80,000 last year” read the headline that caught my eye last week. Last year was the deadliest flu season since 1976, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, with 80,000 Americans dying from the flu and flu complications during the winter of 2017-2018.

It was an unusual flu season for other reasons too, according to the CDC. We had a record-breaking 900,000 hospitalizations due to the flu, and we had three weeks during which the entire country was affected by the flu at a high level as compared to the usual region-by-region activity of the virus.

Why was the flu season so bad?
Why was it such a deadly flu season? According to one source, the flu season was so bad for a combination of reasons:

  • The flu vaccine used was less effective.
  • The strains of flu were stronger and deadlier.
  • The number of sick people who passed along the flu to others was higher.

Although we can use hindsight to see why last year was so deadly, we can’t know what the next flu season will bring, so we must be prepared, to keep ourselves and our loved ones protected.

The flu can hurt us financially too
As we’ve written before, the consequences of the flu go beyond being sick or even hospitalized. Many of us are also negatively impacted when kids miss school and parents must stay home from work to care for them. Many of those parents are staying home without pay. And when you’re talking about millions of school days missed and 22% of those days uncompensated for the parents who had to take time off either to care for their children or because they were sick, you can see a huge financial impact due to the flu.

What can you do to prepare for this year’s flu season?
Experts say to assume this year’s flu season will be as bad as last year’s, and they recommend getting a flu vaccine by the end of October. However, getting a flu shot does not mean you won’t get the flu. So in addition to getting your flu shot, you should also follow this advice to minimize your risk:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
  • Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, and take good care of yourself. This strengthens your immune system. (Plus it’s plain old commonsense for healthy living!)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. The flu virus can survive 24 hours on hard surfaces and you won’t know if someone sick has touched that gas pump handle or ATM machine before you got there.

Also go to the CDC website to learn more about the flu vaccine and prevention.

To read about all those deaths from an illness we consider to be a “normal” one is heartbreaking. Let’s try to prevent another deadly year as we take steps to protect ourselves knowing a new flu season is coming.

6 School Safety Tips to Protect Your Teens and College Kids from Theft

Your teens are heading back to school, and they’ll be even more distracted than they were this summer because, you know, teenagers. That means now is the time to review some basic school safety tips, before they get wrapped up in classes and homework and sports—and don’t have time to listen. OK, they might not listen anyway, but you can at least try while they have time.

Last time, we went over cyber safety tips. This time, we offer six school safety tips designed to help your teen not to become a victim of theft. As we’ve done before, we’ve written it directly to your teen…so maybe have them read it, and we’ll nag them for you:

  1. If you don’t want to lose it, leave it at home
    Leave anything you don’t want stolen at home. Yes, your new jacket is to be admired and you want your iPod near, but taking them to school means losing them to theft or forgetfulness.
  2. Lock the car and keep valuables out of sight
    Just as you would when parking your car in any public area, hide anything of value under the car seat or in the trunk of your car if you drive to school—or carpool with a friend. If you leave a purse, backpack, iPod or some other tempting thing in plain sight, you invite a break-in.
  3. Lock your locker
    It sounds like commonsense, right? But my own kids confessed to leaving their lockers unlocked for a whole list of reasons. Sometimes it was because they forgot the combination. Other times it was a sticky lock they didn’t want to mess with during the short time between classes. Or there was the time one of them was sharing a locker with a friend. Your locker has a lock for a reason. Use it.
  4. Lock your gym locker
    When it comes to the gym locker, kids assume they’re coming back soon, so why bother? When one of my kids was in high school, she told me phones were stolen from gym lockers on a regular basis. As with the advice above, it locks for a reason. Lock it.
  5. Do a double-check before leaving the classroom
    When my youngest was still in high school, she suggested this safety tip because forgetting a jacket, purse, cellphone, charger or other piece of property can mean it disappears forever. Teens are distracted anyway, but even more so when in class trying to keep up with the lessons and homework, and then thinking about where they need to be next. If they can get into the habit of doing a double-check before leaving a room, that’s a safety habit they can use anywhere, even when out on their own.

Personal safety and security don’t just happen except through luck. And who wants to trust to luck? Instill good habits in your teens and college students now, and those habits might just stick into adulthood. Now that’s a lesson learned!

Safety for School Days: 9 Rules for Safer Travels to and from School

Although we no longer have kids living at home, and the first day back to school is now on college campuses without mom needed (or wanted) to send anyone off, I still see all the first day of school pictures posted by friends on social media. And that reminds me once again of the importance of safety rules for kids getting to and from school.

No matter the age of your children, if they are going to and from school, they need some rules. And the sooner you instill those rules in them, the sooner the rules will become habits—habits that can last a lifetime.

To get you started, we offer nine rules for safer travels to and from school below:

Rule 1: Stick to the sidewalk
For those kids who walk to the bus stop or to school, they need to stay on the sidewalk. No walking out behind cars or in the road, or even in people’s yards. The sidewalk is there for a reason. Stay on it.

Rule 2: Avoid shortcuts
Shortcuts are a no no. Your kids should take the same route every day, and walk with other kids whenever possible. Talk to other parents with kids taking the same route to get all the kids traveling as a group, even if they’re just walking to the bus stop up the street.

Rule 3: Be careful when crossing the street
Kids are kids and, at any age, they can be careless when crossing the street. Remind your kids to look both ways, make eye contact with the drivers of the cars they assume are going to stop for them, and use crosswalks. Then remind them again.

Rule 4: Put the phone away!
Kids really should put their phones away when going to and from school. If they don’t, they are more likely to be distracted and step out into traffic, trip and fall, or not notice suspicious activity. If they are teenagers who drive, they most definitely should not be on their phones! Kids can send you a text when they leave the school, put their phones in their backpacks, and then pull their phones out to let you know they’re home. Period.

Rule 5: Stay safe at the bus stop
For kids who taking bus, the rule is to stay in the designated bus stop area. After school, they should go directly from the bus stop to their home or their daycare.

Rule 6: Don’t be too early
Although teaching kids to try to arrive early to events is a good habit to teach, many schools don’t have supervision outside the building until shortly before the school day starts. That leaves kids who arrive really early unsupervised by adults. Teach kids early is good, but too early is not safe, and have a designated time for your child’s arrival, when you know the school will either be open or have supervision.

Rule 7: No dawdling
Also make sure your kids know not to dawdle after school. They need to head straight to their next destination, whether that’s home, practice, daycare or somewhere else.

Rule 8: Know the rules of the road
For kids who ride their bikes to school and those who drive, reiterate the safety rules of each.

Rule 9: Have a password
Especially for younger kids, have a password. That password would be used if someone had to pick up your child unexpectedly, say if you were in an accident, for example. If your child is approached by a stranger who claims you sent them, the child should be taught to ask for the password. If the stranger doesn’t know it, the child should be taught to yell for help.

These days it seems fewer kids walk to school because parents are driving them in cars. But kids are still getting to and from school, and still need safety rules for doing so. And since the rules can apply to almost any situation, consider making one of the first lessons of this school year safety first.

Don’t Come Home to a Stench! 8 Ways to Prepare Your Home Before Your Vacation

Getting ready for your getaway? Good for you! But first, make sure your house is ready for you to be gone. We’ve talked before about preparing to be away, with a post on five ways to make your house look occupied while you’re gonein order to deter burglars. Those tips are:

 

  • Tip 1: Get a house sitter
  • Tip 2: Leave a car in the driveway
  • Tip 3: Hire someone to take care of your lawn and yard
  • Tip 4: Keep the electronics going
  • Tip 5: Keep your vacation to yourself

And of course there are the obvious tips like put your mail and newspaper subscription on hold so papers aren’t piling up and screaming “this house is empty!” to interested passers by.

But there are other precautions to take before you go to besides making it look lived in, steps you can take to make sure you’re not neglecting important tasks or leaving behind a potential mess you’ll have to contend with when you get home. Definitely follow our advice to make your house look occupiedwhile you’re on vacation, but also do the following so your homecoming can be as pleasant as can be:

1) Tell a trusted neighbor you’ll be gone. If you have a house sitter lined up, make sure your neighbor knows so they’re not wondering who the stranger is. It’s also nice for your house sitter to know there is a neighbor to reach out to should something happen. If you don’t have a house sitter, you’ll want that neighbor to keep an eye on your house while you’re gone. And if you’ve arranged for lawn care or something while you’re gone, make sure that neighbor knows it’s okay for those people to be on the property!

2) Make sure the bills are caught up. I get so caught up in getting ready to get away—like trying to get ahead of work or shopping for last minute items—that I sometimes forget to keep up with the regular household duties like paying the bills. Try to be mindful of anything that will be due while you’re gone and take care of it ahead of time.

3) Clean out the fridge. Now we’re moving into the territory that drives my husband crazy. He doesn’t understand why I have to clean out the fridge before we go away. But if I don’t, we risk coming home to stinky spoiled food that will have to be thrown out anyway—leaving behind a stench! Or produce that’s gone slimy that I won’t want to touch. Or milk that has soured. Ugh! It also helps to keep the grocery shopping to a minimum ahead of time or plan to eat up leftovers or have your own episode of “Chopped” in order to use up what you can before leaving. Even if we have a house sitter, I will toss food rather than assume they’ll eat it.

4) Wash all the dishes. There are two things that can be left in the sink when we leave: a water glass and a coffee cup. Even if it’s the last thing I do before walking out the door, I’m washing dishes. Otherwise I not only have stink to come home to, but the equivalent of cement to chisel out of that bowl or pot. Is that something I want to take on after a restful get away? No!

5) Take out the trash and the recycling. Like cleaning out the fridge, emptying all garbage cans and recycling bins will cut down on possible stench when you get back. Yes, recycling too, because that trace of milk in the carton or dogfood in the can will probably stink after a few days, even if you’ve rinsed it out. If the cans need to go to the curb while you’re gone for pickup, make sure to arrange for that.

6) Run the garbage disposal. Not having a garbage disposal, I’m not sure about this one, but I have read that you should pour ½ cup of vinegar and some water into your garbage disposal and run it—again, to avoid coming home to a stinky house.

7) Do the laundry. You’ll probably come home with lots of dirty laundry, so having those laundry baskets empty before you go will be much appreciated when you come home. But dirty laundry can also hide stench in the making, which is why you want it all clean ahead of time. We’ve had that happen with only a weekend getaway, coming home to a stinky house because of a kitchen towel used to clean up who knows what that was left sitting in the basket. Ugh!

8) This last one is optional: Clean! I don’t usually have time to clean the house before we leave, but I want to, because the last thing I want to do when I come home is to tackle housework! For me, it’s like giving myself a gift to clean the house before leaving so I can ease back into the daily grind rather than jump back into. But—it’s optional.

However you prepare for your time away this summer, stay safe, be smart, and enjoy your well-earned rest!

Protect Your Passport! 6 Passport Safety Tips

Do you have a passport? Having one is a good idea for U.S. citizens. It’s identification, it’s proof of citizenship, and it’s necessary for traveling outside of the U.S. In some cases, however, it’s not just necessary for international travel any longer. In nine states, a passport is now required to fly domestically, because the driver’s licenses issued by those states are not compliant with TSA standards. And because the wait for a passport can be several weeks, it’s probably a good idea to get one even if you’re not planning on travelling abroad or you don’t live in one of those nine states targeted by TSA.

Regardless of the reason for needing a passport, you need to keep it safe once you have it. Passports can be lost and they can be stolen to be sold on the black market. And if you’re without a passport in a foreign country, you could be in a very bad way.

To practice passport safety, follow these six tips:

  1. Photocopy your passport and keep the copy separate. That way if your passport is lost or stolen, you have the duplicate for proof of your identity and to speed up replacement. Better yet, make two copies. Keep one with your luggage and one with you—but separate from the original, as in keep it in a different bag or pouch. And to be extra careful, make a third copy to leave with someone back home.
  2. Scan it as well for a digital version. This you can keep on your smart phone.
  3. Keep your passport with you when traveling—and we mean close with you. Don’t tuck it into a backpack or purse that’s easily stolen, but carry it where a pickpocket can’t get it, like in a money belt or a neck wallet that you wear under your shirt.
  4. Regularly make sure you have it with you when traveling, but not in an obvious way. If you do lose it or it gets stolen, you want to know right away.
  5. Don’t hand it over to anyone else, not the hotel staff or tour guide. Keep it with you.
  6. If you’re going somewhere or doing something that makes hanging on to your passport impractical (like bungee jumping or scuba diving), lock it up in your absence.

Are you heading somewhere that requires a passport this summer? I am! And I am looking forward to the getaway! I have my passport and my neck wallet, but I will also be following my own advice and making copies both paper and digital, plus practicing diligence while out of the country. We will have some of our adult children traveling with us too for the first time internationally, and everyone will be getting these safety tips above as we practice what we preach. I hope you will as well, for passport peace of mind!

Facebook Faux Pas: Giving Away Your Privacy When You’re Getting Away on Vacation

Are you planning a getaway this summer? Don’t answer that! Or at least don’t answer it publicly. Because you really don’t want to make your vacation vacancy public knowledge, although it’s easy to be tempted to do so.

Maybe you’re not one of those people who share just a little too much on Facebook. You know, the ones with no filters and apparently no need for privacy as their every mood, whim, argument and meal is documented on the social media platform. But when it comes to your vacations, you could be just as guilty of over-sharing, because you’re sharing information that puts your home and you at risk. To avoid giving away too much, follow these tips for protecting your property and your privacy when going on vacation:

Keep it to yourself
It’s shocking how much information people will reveal on Facebook, including details about their upcoming trips. Sure, you’re anticipating that getaway, whether you’re headed to the annual family reunion or you’re going to the beach. But posting about it ahead of time puts your home at risk when someone who does not need to know your house will be empty finds out your house will be empty!

Postpone your pics
Once you’re gone on your trip, post your pictures after you get home rather than advertise to the world that your house is sitting empty. This also gives you time to sort through the pictures so you only post the best of them, not all of them, because really, no one wants to see all of them.

In addition, not posting means no geotagging of photos, which can happen automatically without your knowing. Geotagging tells people wherea picture was taken, and not everyone needs to know your exact location at every minute of the day. Even if you don’t think you have reasons to keep your location to yourself, wouldn’t you rather err on the side of just a little more privacy than a little less?

Speaking of tagging…
If you simply can’t help yourself and you’re going to post pictures while away, avoid tagging the people you’re travelling with just in case they have different views about privacy. What’s fine for you to share might be too much for them.

Enjoy telling your tales after you’re home
None of this is to say you shouldn’t be allowed to do some bragging once you’re back! Of course you want to talk about the wonderful time you had and share your favorite pictures…and you should! It’s just the timing that we’re concerned with. Wait until you’re home again and your home is no longer vacant before you tell your vacation tales.

P.S. For tips on posting pictures people will like and respond to (while avoiding pictures you might regret later), see this useful advice.

When May Means Graduation, Give Gifts to Keep Them Safe

May has definitely become the month that kicks off graduation season, with both May and June seemingly full of elementary kids moving up to middle school, and middle school to high school, and then high graduates going off the college and college graduates going off to life! Oh my!

If you have friends or family moving into a next life stage—with a transition into or out of college—consider giving gifts that put safety first, because it’s an uncertain world out there. Don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be a suit of armor or anything overly pricey. There are several ways you can give the gift of safety and security with ease…

For the kids headed to college in the fall For those graduates heading off college dorms, look for gifts at DormSmart.com. They sell “dorm room essentials” and have a section of their website focused on safety and security, including both items for sale and helpful hints. (Read more about dorm safety and security here.)

For those who will be driving, consider car safety kits, or this emergency preparedness backpack kit sold by the Red Cross. Other good ideas include gift cards for car maintenance or oil changes, so they can prepare their cars for the road trips to and fro.

For the kids headed out into the world
Not all kids are headed to college. Some will be entering the military while others go straight into the workforce (an increasingly popular choice these days). And even those going off to college won’t necessarily live in a dorm, as many choose apartments instead. (If you’ve ever had dorm food or tried to sleep in a building full of immature 18-year-olds away from home for the first time, you might not blame them!)

For those new graduates who are moving into an apartment or a home of their own, an emergency preparedness kit like the one mentioned above makes a great gift. Or pull together a few basic items they probably won’t have, like flashlights and batteries and a hand-cranked radio, and make a gift basket with those. Or make a gift basket with canned good and a can opener, in case the power goes out. These can be very clever but very useful gifts, because they help prepare the new graduate for an emergency but also get them thinking about being prepared.

And of course either the car safety kit or the emergency backpack mentioned above make great gifts for your new graduate, no matter where they are headed.

More than anything else, however, make sure you talk to them about staying safe and secure. It is a scary world out there. Talk to them about intangibles like identify theft and password concerns. Be honest with them about the importance of staying safe on campus or while out at night. Prevention really is worth a pound of cure, and their schooling probably didn’t teach them how to stay safe in the first place. So now’s your chance…

It’s Good News, Bad News for World Password Day

Passwords. They are a necessary part of our lives, but we simply do not give them the attention they deserve. Just like exercise keeps us fit and healthy eating keeps us slim, so do strong passwords keep us safe. So why do we continue to neglect them?

Since we just had World Password Day on May 3 this year, the day we should all change our passwords, it seemed a good time to revisit the topic and see if we can’t up our game—and our level of security. So here’s the good news bad news on passwords in 2018…bad news first.

The bad news: We still use poor passwords
First, the bad news. We are still using poor passwords—as in really, really bad passwords. When SplashData published the worst passwords of 2017 list, they reported that almost 3% of us are still using 123456 as a password. Worse, almost 10% of us are using one of the 25 worst possible passwords, listed here:

  1. 123456
  2. Password
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. 12345
  6. 123456789
  7. letmein
  8. 1234567
  9. football
  10. iloveyou
  11. admin
  12. welcome
  13. monkey
  14. login
  15. abc123
  16. starwars
  17. 123123
  18. dragon
  19. passw0rd
  20. master
  21. hello
  22. freedom
  23. whatever
  24. qazwsx
  25. trustno1

You can see a full list of the 100 worst passwords of 2017. And if you see your password on that list, change it!

The good news: An easy way to beef up your passwords
It’s not all bad news for World Password Day, however. Despite our tendency to choose poor passwords still, technology is making it easier for us to keep our information and data secure—should we choose to act on it.

This year at the World Password Day website, you’ll see a campaign for #LayerUp. Layering up simply means adding another “layer” of protection by requiring more than one step to access your data. Called either multi-factor authentication (MFA) or two-factor authentication (2FA), it’s a way to make your password require something else too, like a fingerprint or a code sent to your cellphone.

To try it out, I logged into my bank account online and sure enough found the setting to add the second layer right away. Now when I log in, I will need my password and a code sent to my cell phone. It took me less than a minute to do, and I’m glad I took the time. All you do is visit www.twofactorauth.org to find out if a website offers the extra layer, and many popular banking and social media websites do.

The World Password Day website still encourages a strong password (see password advice here), and we still encourage you to beef up those passwords a.s.a.p., but in addition to that, you can easily add this extra step or layer—and keep your information that much safer from those who would like to compromise it.

View all of our security plans and features!

Customer Reviews

I feel so much better knowing my family is protected! I spoke with SafeStreets USA in the evening and a technician was able to come install the system for me then for my parents first thing the next morning. Very impressed with his knowledge and care!

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We had our ADT system installed by SafeStreets USA and were really impressed with the service we received from our technician. He was very friendly and answered all of our questions on the system and how it worked. He set everything up in a couple of hours and was a real pleasure to talk with []

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