Saturday, April 30, 2011

Identity Theft Update

Identity Theft Update
by Cindy Calhoun


A law has been passed and the rules implemented for Red Flag/FACTA, Gramm, Leach, Bliley (GLB) as well as state and federal agencies.

How does this impact you as a potential victim of Identity Theft?

Birthdates, names, addresses, credit card numbers etc. will be held liable for any breach of data that results in a loss to the customer, employee or vendor partner.

What’s that mean to me? Well, it is one more area to secure. However, to date 87% of businesses do not comply. Either because they are unaware of the law or simply don’t want to take the time to comply with the law.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today in the US there is a new victim of Identity Theft every 6 seconds! The average person spends 600 hours (that’s 75, 8 hour days) clearing their name and credit. We’re all aware that this country runs on credit; it determines if you’ll get hired, whether or not the utility company will provide access to their service, what interest rate you’ll pay on that new car just to name a few.

Wake up! Many people confuse credit card fraud with Identity Theft. Actually only 26% of credit card cases are Identity Theft. You invest in car insurance in case of an accident, but what do we do to protect our good name and credit?

New information released from the Department of Homeland Security states that on average 800 illegal aliens enter the US on a daily basis. 200 of those, on average enter with a SSN and driver’s license. You’ve got it. That personal information belongs to someone else! They are willing to pay $400-$600 for that information. What’s even more frightening is that they are willing to pay up to $5,000 for a child’s SSN. Think of all the years it would take to detect fraud on that!

Law enforcement reports that about 2% of these criminals are ever caught.

Don’t be fooled into thinking it you don’t buy products on the internet OR that you’re vigilant with your credit cards that it will not happen to you. It’s no longer a case of “if” but “when.”

Your information is already out in the system

Who are the third parties who have your data?

1. Financial institutions
2. Schools, colleges and universities
3. Employer
4. DMV offices
5. Hospitals and medical offices
6. FDIC, DOJ/IRS
7. Phone and utility companies
8. Merchants
9. Card networks
10. Credit reference agencies
11. Data and brokerage firms
12. Payment processing agencies

Still think you’re not at risk?  Learn more.

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Price-Shop a Medical Procedure

Before undergoing an elective medical procedure, such as LASIK eye surgery or dental veneers, find out how much this costs. Knowing the range can help you choose between comparable care providers.

Healthcarebluebook.com lists what it considers to be a fair price, based on how much providers receive from insurers. For example, if you’re in need of knee arthro scopy in Denver, Healthcare Blue Book says a fair price for the procedure at a hospital would be $6,980 (that includes the physican’s fee and anesthesia).

Newchoicehealth.com, a similar site, shows what health care providers actually charge consumers, on average, based on its surveys. Its figure for knee arthroscopy at a Denver hospital: $11,500.

Source: AARP Magazine - October 2010

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Standard Amounts of Insurance

Check with your insurance company regarding standard amounts of insurance, instead of the amount of your non-standard coverage.

For example, a $250,000 policy may have a lower premium than a $200,00 policy simply because the company's standard policy is $250,000.

Source: AARP Bulletin - August 2010

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Slash Your Investing Cost in 3 Easy Steps

The Markets are fickle. But costs are something you can control, and keeping them down is crucial to your success as an investor.

Cut your fund fees. Okay, so you've wisely learned to avoid sales fees, but do you know how much your mutual funds really cost you each year? Morningstar's "Instant X-Ray" feature (click on "Tools" at www.morningstar.com) will break down your funds' fees into hard dollar figures and compare them with the average costs of similar funds. Boot out any funds with above-average expenses along with poorly performing actively managed funds, and replace them with low-cost index funds or exchange-traded funds.

Find a bargain broker. Our favorite online broker, Fidelity, doesn't have rock-bottom commissions, but we like its wide range of research and investment options. For bare-bones service, we favor ... Read the entire article.

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Turn Crafts Into Cash

Are you tired of hauling your work to shows? Colorado ceramicist Deb Babcock, opened a store on Etsy.com - an online sales site for handmade goods - joining more than 400,000 other sellers. Etsy has captured most of the market (2009 had 180.6 million in sales). However, other sites such as ArtFire.com and 1000 Markets.com are ever expanding too.

Log on to become a seller - if you're crafty - or just browser unique gifts from jewelry to housewares.

Source: AARP Magazine - November 2010

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Fixups That Work - Spend But Don't Overspend

Sprucing up your house can help it sell, but don't go overboard.  Most major home improvements - including kitchen and bath remodels - don't pay for themselves.  Currently, for every dollar you spend remodeling,  your average return is 64%.

Go for inexpensive fixes, such as new paint in a neutral tone, carpet cleaning and a little fresh landscaping.  Bring in light by washing your windows, removing heavy drapes and cutting back on vegetation that may be covering the windows or walkways.

Then pack or store up to half of your possessions to make the rooms and closets appear as large as possible.

Source - AARP Magazine November 2010

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Monday, April 18, 2011

New Release Movie Saves Big Cats in Africa

What a great movie opening for Earth Day, April 22.  DisneyNature's doing something great!  Seeing it will allow YOU to do something great also!

If you go to this movie during it's first week of release, Disney will contribute to an African wildlife fund that works to keep the wild lands of Africa wild forever.

View the video trailer.  Read the story line, meet the characters, download educational materials for the children .. all on the African Cats Movie Website.

Saving the Savanna Can Save African Cats:
The Amboseli ecosystem stretches between Mt. Kilimanjaro, Chyulu Hills and Tsavo West National Parks in Kenya.  Field research over many years has documented that wildlife frequently use the community lands outside the Park boundaries and travel through the corridor that connects Amboseli with the Chyulu Mountains (see map).  Protecting this area, the Amboseli Wildlife Corridor, is critical to the future of lions and other animals such as elephant, cheetah, zebra, giraffe and eland.  We encourage you to join with AWF, Disneynature and the people that live in the Amboseli region to make this project a success - and take pride in helping to see that Africa's lions and other imperiled wildlife will survive and thrive.

About AWF:
The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), together with the people of Africa, works to ensure the wildlife and wild lands of Africa will endure forever.  Celebrating its 50th anniversary, AWF is a credible and well respected conservation leader in Africa.

Program Details:
Disneynature will contribute $0.20 per ticket to the African Wildlife Foundation for the Amboseli Corridor project for everyone who sees Disneynature AFRICAN CATS during the opening week (April 22-April 28) with a minimum of $100,000 pledged to this program.

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Wonderful Frugal Eggs

Eggs are a good investment for your grocery dollar. They are inexpensive, a good source of protein and can be used in many different ways, from breakfast to midnight snack. Eggs also act as an emulsifier in baked goods, such as cakes or other foods, such as custards. Take advantage of this staple to stretch your food dollars. Get lots of egg ideas in this article.

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Toll-Free Telephone Directory Service

Call 1-800-GOOG-411 give your location, and speak a name or business category. You'll get a list of matches, and the service then will dial your choice.

The big advantage over 411; It's free!

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Free Sightseeing Excursions

Receive an educated perspective from a local resident, in select cities around the globe.  Find no cost walking tours with locals in New York City, Houston, Chicago, European cities and Israel.  Many times the Chamber of Commerce of your destination can help too.

This is a sure-fire way to get the questions answered only the locals know the answer to. Visit the GlobalGreeterNetwork site.

Free Birding Excursion When You Travel
If you enjoy birding at home, when you travel you surely take along your binoculars and/or camera hoping to see something new at your travel destination. Unless you spend a lot of time online trying to determine where to find the birds, you won't have a clue where to look ... unless!

You contact somebody before to schedule a birding expedition with a local who has volunteered to show you the neighborhood. It's free because they have a passion to share their love of birds with others. There are volunteers around the world. Get more information and join in at the Birding Pal website.

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Find Free Wi-Fi Hotspots

Recently, we took a trip and needed to find a hotspot in town. Unfortunately, we didn't find one but it caused us to search out a wifi hotspot locator on the web.

We found there are many places and I am sure each have their own merit. So here is a list of web sites that provide this service.

1. wififreespot.com
2. youcanworkfromanywhere.com
3. jiwire.com
4. hotspothaven.com
5. allworldphone.com
6. makeuseof.com

We haven't tried any of the listed websites since we are back home now. However, we hope they prove helpful to you next time you need a hotspot.

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Find Every Bargain

Are you getting the best deal on your cell phone plan? Clothing? Peanut butter? These online services promise they can find you better prices.

Billshrink.com says it can start saving you money "in under a minute" on your cell phone and cable TV by comparing your current plan with the website's selected offerings. And you can always take BillShrink's best offer and try to beat it on your own.

Billeo.com flags savings opportunities when you search for products on the Web. Its Offer Assistant, part of a suite of browser add-ons, matches any results with its database of online coupons. When any discount is available, a Billeo icon appears next to the listing.

Source:  AARP Magazine - October 2010


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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Don't Buy Animals For Easter

From Cheryl Falkenburry, Animal Behavior Coach

With Easter fast approaching, we see images of cuddly rabbits and cute chicks hopping around on green grass littered with colorful eggs. Children see these adorable creatures and beg their parents for one of their very own. Before you dash off and purchase a live animal for your child’s Easter basket, really consider your decision.

Are you prepared to care for this animal for an entire lifetime? Rabbits can live 10 – 15 years when properly cared for. Pet chickens live around 10 years and stop laying eggs around 3 - 4 years. Children, no matter how many promises they may make, are not able to care for animals on their own. They loose interest quickly. Animals also cost money for proper housing, food, and veterinarian care. Perhaps a chocolate bunny or a marshmallow chick or duck would be a better idea.

People often don’t realize what is involved with caring for an animal. I talk a lot about training dogs and cats, but other animals that are kept for companions need to be trained and cared for as well. Rabbits can make wonderful companions when cared for properly, but most people don’t realize what is involved. Just throwing a rabbit in a small cage and bringing her food and water every day is not enough. Rabbits need proper nutrition like fresh greens, fruits, and timothy hay; a large clean enclosure; plenty of time to romp outside of their enclosure; and lots and lots of love and training.

Yes, training. Rabbits can be housebroken in order for them to have supervised time outside of their enclosure. They can be taught proper manners of how to get your attention (a hard nibble is not appropriate, a soft nibble is, in case you are wondering how rabbits try to get your attention). Time must be spent teaching a rabbit to be handled by a human so you can safely check the rabbit’s teeth and trim nails. Some rabbits may never learn to be held by humans — it’s just too scary. Can you imagine a big giant coming down and swooping your entire body off the ground? Scary stuff if you ask me.

Animals also go through different stages of life that cause changes in behavior -- just like humans. Many people will call me and say their animal has suddenly become possessed. The first thing I do is inquire the age of the animal which reveals clues to the reason for the behavior change.

When adolescence occurs depends on the type and size of the animal. For rabbits it can occur as early as five months (sometimes earlier) for the dwarf breeds and as late as a year for other breeds. Rabbits need to be spayed and neutered usually somewhere around 5 to 6 months (although some are altered earlier). An altered rabbit is much easier to train and will remain healthier than an unaltered one. Unaltered rabbits cannot live together no matter what sex they are. The aggression problems will be numerous not to mention the number of rabbits that will be produced with opposite sexed pairs. There are enough homeless rabbits in the world, so a responsible family will always spay and neuter.

And what about a cute cuddly little chick? Fortunately, new laws have decreased the number of chicks that are being dyed Easter colors and sold at Easter time, but the giving of chicks still occurs. Chicks given as presents at Easter often die within the first week because they do not receive the proper care. Chicks require a heat source, a clean enclosure, and quality food and water every day. Hand-rearing a chick takes a minimum of 10 minutes a couple of times each day in order for the chick to bond to the human family.

They must be vaccinated against a variety of diseases. Many people do keep chickens as pets, yes pets, but as with any animal it takes time and care. Housebreaking is difficult but not impossible. Chickens can be trained to do a number of tasks. (Most positive training methods used today started with studying chickens!) However, a pet chicken is not something to jump into lightly.

Any animal is a major commitment and responsibility, not a novelty. Research what is needed to care properly for an animal before having one join your family. If you do decide you have the time, money, patience, and commitment to care for an animal, please consider adopting one from a shelter or local rescue. There are many wonderful animals, including rabbits, looking for a wonderful forever home.

If you have young children or aren’t ready for an animal to join your family, consider a nice little stuffed (fake fur) animal for your child’s Easter basket this year. Chocolate is a sweet idea too!

Cheryl Falkenburry, Animal Behavior Coach, helps make sense of mind-boggling animal behavior. Visit her website for other behavior tips. Set up a private session to work directly on your pet's problem.

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How Can I Tell If a 'Skimmer' Is On My ATM?

It can be hard. These devices that thieves attach to the card slot in order to capture account information from your card's magnetic strip have become more sophisticated. One tipoff: Most ATMs have a flashing light at the card slot. If the light is obscured, that's a sign of tampering. Other giveaways: a card slot that is not securely attached or has a different color than the rest of the ATM. Use ATMs in bank lobbies and other places with 24-hour video surveillance. And always cover the keypad as you enter your PIN, because a thief's spy camera may be watching.

Source: AARP Bulletin - November 2010

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Need A Specialty Wrench?

Don't have the specialty wrench you need? No problem, you can still tighten or remove a specialty (Allen-head, Star or Square) head screw; just try different sizes of plain screwdrivers until you find one that will turn the screw head.

You will need to wedge the standard screwdriver in the recessed openings of the screw heads. Or, if the screw is protruding above the work surface you can remove it using 1 of 2 methods:

1. Grip the head of the screw with a pair of locking-grip pliers to loosen.
2. Use a hacksaw to cut a slot in the top; then use a standard screwdriver to tighten or remove it.

Please note: please try these methods in order, gripping the head after a slot has been cut may weaken the head causing it to crumble.

Before the cut







After the cut







Source: The Frugal Life.com - Do It Yourself Section

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A Thief in the Photocopier

 A public copier is handy, but it may put your secrets at risk.

Several months ago, more than 400,000 New Yorkers received a data breach notification from health care provider Affinity Health Plan. But the warning wasn't due to the usual culprits, hackers who break into corporate computer systems. Rather, it was prompted by a single office copying machine.
You might not think a photocopier could cause such harm. But consider this: Starting in 2002, most copiers manufactured for use by businesses, libraries and copy centers have been equipped with computer hard drives.

"Every time you make a copy, print, scan, e-mail or send a fax from that machine, it makes and stores ... Read the entire article.

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"Simplicity of living, if deliberately chosen, implies a compassionate approach to life. It means that we are choosing to live our daily lives with some degree of conscious appreciation of the condition of the rest of the world." Duane Elgin

"Do what is good with your own hands, so that you might earn something to give to the needy." Ephesians 4:28