Tag Archives: theft

Changing Times Call for Changing Habits: 3 Ways to Keep Senior Citizens Secure

Gone are the days of leaving doors unlocked and not having to worry about securing all electronic belongings. Every year cyber predators get more sophisticated, but one rule still holds true: Most criminals like an easy target. Unfortunately, when it comes to cyber safety, senior citizens are that easy target. Handwritten checks, passwords written on a note taped to your computer, and trusting other online users are all red flags to criminals that they have found their mark. Whether you’re of the older generation or you’re worried about the cyber safety of an older parent, here are some tips to stay ahead of the bad guys and feel more safe and secure…

Guard Your Passwords
Creating a secure password is the first step to keeping your information private. A secure password is a unique, long (at least 8 characters), and personal code that you create. By personal, this does not mean your birthday or any other easily guessed and attained information, but rather something you will remember. A password that includes your favorite high school teacher and the year you graduated is a lot harder for a stranger to figure out than your anniversary. Once you’ve created this unique password, do not write it down to store near the device you are securing. This practice might be easy for your own access, but it could also lead to a breach in your security. Nor should you use the same password over and over again at different websites. If it’s compromised once, then it gives a thief access to everything.

Don’t Trust Every Phone Call
Many scam artists have begun to target senior citizens with phone calls pretending to be someone they are not. The IRS will not call and threaten to throw you in jail for delinquent taxes. Microsoft does not call you because there was a security breach. Companies and governments do not have the time to call individuals to resolve the issues over the phone. Mortgage companies and banks do make you confirm your identity before discussing your account, however, you should only trust that these companies if you called them. Do your research on the company calling before giving away personal information.

New Home, New Gadgets
Many senior citizens downsize or move to retirement homes as their children grow up and move out. In a previous home, you may have known your neighbors and felt safe and secure. There are no guarantees that your new neighbors will be as trustworthy. The best way to avoid problems is to equip your home with preventative security. Lights set on a timer are a great example! If certain lights turn on even when you’re not home, then a burglar or nosy neighbor will never be able to learn your schedule. Setting up a new WiFi? Make sure to connect one with a secure network. Most phones and devices will remember the password, so only visiting grandchildren will be inconvenienced. And not allowing strangers to access your WiFi will make everything you do online safer!

Sure, they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but personal security is no trick. Changing our habits comes with the changing times, and online or home privacy is no exception. Even if you yourself aren’t a senior citizen, helping a friend, relative or neighbor ensure their security is a great way to practice the habits for yourself. Here’s to longer, happier, and more secure lives for us all!

The Potential Pitfalls of Mobile Wallets–and How to Avoid Them

Every time I watch someone pay for their coffee with their watch, I stop for a moment to think “Wow, this is really the future!” Even though I use my phone to make payments all the time, like sending money from Paypal or using Uber, mobile wallets are still new to me. From Venmo to Zelle, Apple Pay to Google Wallet, mobile wallets and payment apps are on the rise. While convenient, is this new financial technology harming our money management skills?

A new study suggests that Millennials who use mobile payment transactions are more likely to be at risk for money mismanagement. They are “more likely to hold nearly all forms of debt, including auto loans (34 versus 29%), be charged credit card fees (58 versus 45%), overdraw their checking accounts (33 versus 19%) and turn to pawnshops or payday loans (50 versus 23%).” Fret not, for it is possible to embrace the convenience of mobile wallets without breaking the bank.

Conscientious of Your Cards
If you tend to carry around multiple credit, debit, or even gift cards in your physical wallet, it may be tempting to just add all of them into your mobile wallet. This can be great for getting reward offers for different purchases, but can also be confusing if you’re storing too many. While you may be able to keep track of two or three balances in your accounts, the more cards you add the easier it will be to forget. You also add the risk of using the wrong card for the wrong app. Maybe you link your business card to Uber, but that doesn’t mean you should link it to your personal Venmo as well. Only add necessary cards into your mobile wallet, and be sure to check an app’s settings for adding and removing payment options as needed.

Avoid Carrying a Balance
Cash can be a controversial form of payment. Some people find cash harder to spend than using a card since they have to physically hand it over and watch it leave their wallet. Others see cash as disposable, that it’s too easy to spend since it’s right there in front of you. The same could be said for keeping a balance in a mobile payment app. If you have $20 sitting in Paypal, maybe that Amazon impulse item is easier to buy since the money won’t leave your account. To avoid keeping balances, make sure to transfer your money into a bank account as soon as you receive it. This can also help you keep track of your spending if it’s confined to one place.

Don’t Forget Your Budget
Perhaps most importantly, stick to your budget. No matter how you pay for your transactions, keeping a budget will help you manage your money and actually save what you have extra. Taking a $10 Uber may sound a lot more appealing than taking the bus, but not if you only budget $20 for ride-sharing for the whole month. Consider linking your mobile wallet to a budgeting app, so you can easily learn your spending habits and keep them in line. Mobile payment transactions aren’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean we have to leave healthy financial habits in the dust behind them.

Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

Memorize Your Card Number so Your Favorite Retailer Can’t

I’m working as a receptionist at a salon for extra money, and guests have to use a credit or debit card to book their appointments. Some people don’t want to give that information over the phone and question why I need their card number at all. (The salon has a 24-hour cancellation and no-show fee for 50% of the service charge, that’s why.) When they realize they do have to give me that information, some must rummage around in their purse and wallet to find their card to read off the numbers. But others rattle off their card number without skipping a beat because they memorized all 16 digits. And those people are on to something…

The booking system at the salon deletes card numbers after a few weeks, so the information does not stay in our computers for long. However, many online retailers can store your credit and debit card numbers for years for your convenience—but at what risk and potential cost? Here are 3 reasons why you should choose security over convenience, and what you can do instead.

Credit Card Theft
Saving your card information on sites like Amazon and Target can save you time while checking out, but are those 2 extra minutes really worth risking your card’s security? If your account for any of these online retailers were to get hacked, someone would just need to select your card and they’re good to go. Some sites don’t even require the card’s security code! Taking the time to grab your wallet and pull out your card may even help prevent impulse buys, giving you an extra moment to reconsider that possibly unnecessary purchase.

Rather than saving your card information online, memorize the number, like some of the salon’s customers mentioned above. This still cuts down on time of trying to find your wallet or purse, but it also prevents the information from being stored anywhere other than your own head. If you happen to lose or forget your card and you’re in an emergency situation, you won’t be stuck penniless either. Some retailers will allow you to give the card numbers without the card in a pinch.

Data Breaches
There were over 1200 data breaches and 440 million records exposed in 2018 alone! With the number of data breaches rising year after year, keeping your personal information safe is more imperative than ever. While it may not be practical to create a new account every time you purchase something online, you should use a guest account on any site you don’t regularly use. This allows you to prevent your data from staying in the system, protecting you from breaches.

Little Ones
With smartphones and tablets a part of our daily lives, many children have grown up with easy access to this new technology—and put it to use. In 2017, Amazon had to refund $70 million worth of in-app purchases made by children without their parent’s consent. Apple has also had to refund money to angry parents. Parents do have ways to stop in-app purchases, but why not keep your card information off the child’s device in the first place? If they need to make a purchase, they can come ask a parent to input the card information for them.

I, for one, am not a perfect person. I have subscriptions that charge my card every month (say “Hi” to Ipsy and Netflix), but I have become more aware of just how many online retailers have my information stored without my making a purchase in months. No one is suggesting that you go completely off the grid and delete your information from everywhere, only to prioritize your time and safety. To save yourself the extra stress of a fraudulent charge on your card, just input the information yourself. When making a purchase, spending 2 minutes now may save you from someone else spending your $200 later.

3 Ways to Make Theft Prevention Part of Your Daily Routine

When leaving for vacation, we take all kinds of precautions. We hire a pet-sitter and have them bring in the mail every day. We pack a huge suitcase with enough clothing to survive the apocalypse. We make sure every door and window is locked and secure for the two weeks we spend getting away. All this effort for less than 4% of the year is great, but what about the other 96% of the time that we aren’t traveling? Because burglaries don’t just happen when you’re clear across the world

Three out of every five home burglaries happen during the day while people are away at work or school. You probably won’t think to take as many precautions before you go to work as you do before you go on a vacation. So here are three easy ways to make theft prevention part of your daily routine.

One, Don’t Be a Show-Off
Now, this doesn’t mean you should be ashamed of having nice things, only that while you are away from home, valuables should be stored and put away out of sight. While cleaning up any clutter, make sure that jewelry, cash and small electronics can’t be seen from any windows. If you’ve recently made any large purchases, such as a new TV or gaming system, break down the cardboard boxes they came in before putting them out on the curb for recycling pick up–so no one sees the evidence.

Two, Knock Knock…Anyone Home?
Making it appear that someone is home is a great way to deter break-ins. Leaving lights on a timer not only fools potential burglars but also allows you to come home to a nicely lit environment. (And a home automation system makes this incredibly easy to do.) If you’re out running errands and will be back in a few hours, you could leave the radio or the TV on for noise. If you have an extra car, consider parking it in the driveway instead of the garage for the day when you’re gone, to trick any would-be burglars into thinking you’re there.

Three, Invest in Home Security
There’s no shame in getting some help from professionals! Only 17% of homes have a home security system, and yet 90% of convicted burglars say they would avoid a home with an obvious alarm system. Whether you’re doing a quick grocery store run, heading to work for the whole day, or heading halfway across the world on vacation, you can have peace of mind that your home is safe with a professional home security system.

It may not be New Years, but it’s never too late to make some changes to your routine. By incorporating just a few small habits into your morning before heading out the door or investing in a home security system, you can help keep your home safe and secure. And maybe with all the comfort you get from a burglar-free home, you can push through that work stress until it’s time for your next vacation…

Data Privacy Day Is January 28: Time to Prepare and Protect!

Did you know that January 28th is a day dedicated to safety and security? It’s National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day! Yes, there really is a holiday for just about everything. However, January 28th is also Data Privacy Day, and that might be more important to observe than popping bubble wrap.

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) promotes international Data Privacy Day to raise awareness of the importance of privacy and protecting personal information. In today’s always-connected world that’s threatened by data breaches and data mining, it’s more necessary than ever to be aware of how your personal data is captured, stored and used.

In celebration of Data Privacy Day, here are three areas you can protect yourself and your personal information when it comes to data security…

In Your Home
Your “private” information may be more public than you realize. Now is the time to check privacy settings on your social media sites, apps and smart devices like phones or tablets. Also talk to your family members about what they share online, and how their information can be bought and sold without their knowledge. Yes, your personal data has a monetary value, so be sure to protect it.

In the Workplace
Data security is just as important at work. Make sure all systems or devices are up-to-date to help protect your company’s privacy. This includes any virus or malware protection you may (and should) have. Also check that your personal devices aren’t syncing to work devices, such as onto the same cloud. This helps to protect you, but it also protects the network at work, should your personal device get compromised.

In Your Community
Help members of your community by spreading the word and providing resources about Data Privacy Day. This could mean asking your elderly neighbor if they need assistance protecting their technology, or sending information to the parents of your children’s friends. Anyone lacking experience with cyber security is sure to benefit from your helping hand, especially if you educate them on the risks.

Knowledge is power, and in this case power means protection. Try to set some time aside on January 28th to secure your personal data, even if it means finally accepting those updates that have been popping up on your computer for weeks. Speaking of popping, maybe pop some bubble wrap too, because we could all use a little stress relief now and then.

Porch Pirates Now Part of the Holidays: Here’s How You Can Fight Back

It must be the holidays, because porch pirates are in the news again! In the same day, I heard about porch pirates in my part of the country (the Pacific Northwest) and Jersey City, where police are planting GPS tracking devices in boxes that look like Amazon deliveriesin order to catch thieves.

Porch piracy on the rise
Sadly, porch piracy is definitely increasing during the holiday season. One report released says 25.9 million Americans have had a package stolen during the holidays. That number was 23.5 million in 2015. And since Americans are doing more shopping online and will continue to do so, those “porch pirates” have plenty of booty to grab from front porches.

Ways to thwart thieves
Although you can insure packages in case they are stolen, what you really want is the package, right? That means you must take steps to thwart the pirates in the first place. Rather than risking packages getting delivered but never making their way to you, because someone absconded with them first, try these tips:

  • Use your home security system to see who is at your door and to unlock the door if it’s a package delivery. With the right home security setup, you can do this remotely—even while at work.
  • Choose to have your package delivered to a nearby Amazon locker, or have packages shipped to your local UPS store.
  • Have packages delivered to you at work or to a neighbor or family member who will be home when you’re not.
  • Look into getting your own P.O. Box at the post office.
  • Require a signature to confirm delivery.
  • Track packages while they’re en route and change the routing if you need to based on where you’ll be.

And now for the fun part…
The porch pirate topic isn’t all bad news. If you’d like to see someone get revenge on porch pirates, watch this 11 minute video of Mark Rober, a NASA engineer and YouTube star, doing just that. Rober spent 6 months designing and building a device that not only sprays glitter all over the thief when the booby-trapped package is opened, it also sprays fart spray and has four camera phones rigged to catch footage of the events while they unfold. Warning: If you watch the video, note that the thieves often use bad language when the booby trap goes off, although it’s all blanked out.

Porch pirates are now the new normal, but we can take steps to fight back…or maybe that NASA engineer will mass produce his booby trap, and we can put pirates off forever! We’ll only need a lot more glitter and fart spray…

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!

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!

Real-Life Lessons Learned When Scammer Uses My Password

So this happened: I received an email with my name and one of my passwords in the subject line. And the first words of the email are “Lets get straight to point. Neither anyone has paid me to investigate about you.”

Guess who got the latest sextortion scam email? Yep! Lucky me!

The email goes on to make accusations and to threaten exposing me unless I pay an extortion fee via bitcoin. You can read the text of the email here, as it’s making the rounds and plenty of people have received it. Warning: It’s nasty.

What set this email apart? My password
So it’s a scam. So what, right? Why didn’t I just delete it? Why was it such a big deal to get this email? There were two reasons why this email surprised me: One, I have my spam filter set very high, so I almost never get spam in my inbox. How did this one get past? I don’t know. And two, the subject line included a password that I’ve used a lot and no one would be able to guess. That got my attention right away, believe me!

As soon as I started to read the email, I knew it was a scam, but still: my password! How did they get my password? That’s when I started digging, and learned that more people are paying off these scammers because they see the password and think there might be some validity to the claims made. As Brett M. Christensen at the Hoax-Slayer website says, “The scammers know that if you receive an email that actually includes one of your passwords – even an old one that you no longer use – you may be much more inclined to believe the claims and pay up.”

So again, how did they get my password? When it was stolen as part of a data breach, it turns out.

Has your data been compromised? Find out
One very good lesson was learned with this disgusting email: I found out I could go to https://haveibeenpwned.com and see which data breaches have included my data. I strongly advise you to do this as well. I was shocked to see that my data had been compromised in eight (yes, eight!) different data breaches. That’s where the scammers got my old password.

I reviewed the list and made sure I had updated any necessary passwords or deleted accounts for each of the breaches. Sadly, one was a marketing firm that collects information on people to sell, and there isn’t anything I can do about that—except be annoyed that the information is collected and sold without my knowledge.

Changing old passwords
More good came from this: I then went through and discovered I was still using that old password in some cases. I was able to both change the password where necessary and delete old accounts that I don’t use any more. It was like cleaning out a digital closet! That felt good!

And finally, getting stricter about passwords
The final benefit to this experience was a renewed commitment on my part to using stronger passwords, as well as keeping up with changing passwords on a regular basis. To be more vigilant about your own passwords, follow this advice.

The sense of violation I felt to have this email in my inbox, the fear caused by the threatening tone even though I knew it was bogus, and the sorrow in knowing that there are people out there who will pay the extortion money are all still with me. It’s hard to shake off that negativity, and that angers me more than the actual email. But the scammers gave me a gift: new insights into keeping me and my data safe. I hope you’ll put these insights to work to protect your information as well.

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!

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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