Internet Security 101: 10 Things You Should Never, Ever Post Online

Networking via social media is one of the newest and most popular ways of interacting with people around the globe. About 35 percent of adults have accounts with at least one social networking website and there are those who have multiple accounts on different platforms. In a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 89 percent use these sites to catch up and communicate with friends, 57 percent do so to set plans with friends, and 49% to meet new people.

 

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, and Instagram are just some of the top networking sites that connect people around the world. Sometimes we become too excited to share our thoughts, feelings, and important events. It has become a habit for us to share details about our daily lives. But when do we set a limit on what we share about our selves, our families, and friends?

 

In the same Pew Research Center study, about 40 percent of users have public access to their online profiles, which allows anyone to view all their information posted. The 60 percent have limited access. Sharing your personal information online can be dangerous because there are certain things that should never be announced. Here are 10 things that you should include on your “never share” list.

 

  1. Your Full Date of Birth. While it is a great feeling to be showered with lots of birthday wishes posted on your Facebook page, posting your complete date of birth on your profile can make it easier for identity thieves and online scammers to get one of the most important information about you. Your birth date might be used to steal your identity and open accounts under your name.

 

  1. Your Location. Many people may not realize that when you post a tweet or a status update, you can also reveal your current location. Sharing where you are exactly can be risky because it signals to potential thieves that you are not home. This also covers your photos and “check-ins” that have been geotagged. Geotagging reveals the location of a photo that you just posted. Your phone may record the location of the pictures without your knowledge. Make sure to check the privacy settings of your profile because that innocent post from your getaway might give the thieves an idea to rob your house because you’re not home.

 

  1. Pictures of your kids or your friend’s kids tagged with their names. Now, this topic can be very sensitive. For users who don’t restrict their profile, the photos you share on social networking sites are there for the public to see. The sad thing is there are a lot of online predators who use these sites to stalk their prey. To ensure your children’s safety, you can opt to share these photos with a selected group only like your family, trusted friends, and co-workers.

 

  1. Your complete home address. Again, you never know who might be lurking at your profile. Don’t share this information because it will make it easier for people with bad intentions to get to you. By sharing your address, you are doing identity thieves a favor by giving them the information they can use to impersonate you and take out loans and purchase items under your name.

 

  1. Your phone number. Yes, you might consider publishing this on your profile, so your friends can contact you. However, imagine if your phone number goes into the wrong hands. It is possible that your location can be tracked using a reverse lookup tool which is readily available on the Internet. If you really want your friends to know your contact number, you can contact them directly or send them a private message instead of posting it on your public profile.

 

  1. Relationship status. Posting your status in your profile can signal your stalkers, especially when you post stuff that you’re alone at home, etc. You can be mysterious, instead, and just put “It’s Complicated” or don’t include anything about your lovelife, at all.

 

  1. Private Conversations. Most social media sites have a feature where you can send personal or private messages. Personal matters should never be shared on your Facebook Timeline. The same goes for taking a screenshot of your exchange. This is part of your social networking etiquette. There’s really no official guideline for these things but you can be the best judge. If it’s something that you find uncomfortable sharing, then you shouldn’t post it on your wall.

 

  1. Social Plans or travel plans. You shouldn’t be sharing this information because this again signals to criminals that you won’t be home, giving them an opportunity to rob your house. While it can be nice and fun to share your vacation photos as they happen, you can wait until you’re back home to upload your vacation photos, instead. Also, sharing your social plans can pose some security issues. What if a jealous ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend knows that you’re out on a date and would suddenly show up and cause a scene?

 

  1. Embarrassing things that you don’t want to be shared with anyone. This is where the saying “think before you click” applies. Before you post anything, think: would I want my family, friends or co-workers to see this? If not, then don’t post it.

 

  1. Information about your job or work-related projects. Talking about work-related stuff online is not a good idea. Even if it’s just an innocent status about how frustrated you are about a project can provide information to your competitors and use it as a leverage against your company or business. Any information about your company’s plans for a project or anything at all should be kept private.

 

Always keep in mind that not everything that happens in your life ought to be shared online. Posting personal and confidential information can put your life, your families’ or your friends’ lives at risk. While it is fun to share about what’s going on, it is best to choose and limit what you post. Better yet, secure your privacy settings so that everything you post will be viewable only by a select number of people – but even THAT isn’t totally foolproof. We should know when to draw the line. It is better to be safe than be sorry.

March Is Fraud Prevention Month: 10 Ways To Protect Yourself From Scammers

It’s an unfortunate fact that many people still get victimized by thieving crooks. These fraudsters often integrate old tricks and new technology to entice people to send personal information or their hard-earned cash.

You’ll never know when they’ll strike, but chances are you’ve already had a fair share of questionable posts on social media, fake online ads, ambiguous phone calls, and fraudulent emails. You got lucky if you’ve avoided one or two of these scammers, but don’t get too comfortable. Learn how to outsmart scammers using these ten tips below.

  1. Avoid Money Transfers

Unless you’re sure of the person’s identity, let’s say you’ve made arrangements with a family member or a close friend, don’t wire cash. Electronic transfers are really convenient but don’t go on sending money to people without confirming who they are first. Additionally, don’t send partial refunds from “secret shopper” or “overpayment” checks.

  1. Don’t be a Serial “Clicker”

You know those links in your inbox that don’t seem to have a purpose but demand you click them anyway? Do not click them.

Unsolicited links are a dime a dozen on social media these days, and sadly, a friend of yours might have “sent” it to you. Never trust the sender even if you know him/her personally. If you must click, confirm if it was intentional. While you’re waiting for a response, simply ignore the link.

  1. Get a Security Software

Anti-virus software has its uses, but it’s better to choose products that offer internet security, preferably ones that integrate with your current browser.

Make sure that your software is working properly by keeping it updated, so it automatically informs you of malware. When you receive a warning indicating that your device is infected, check the source. If it doesn’t come from the software you installed, ignore it. This might be a phishing scheme and could be the reason why you got your personal information exposed.

  1. Beware of Charity Scams

Money collectors aren’t confined to doorsteps anymore — they’re online as well. What’s worse is that not all of them are legit; some use charities to siphon money from you.

If you want to donate, do so personally, or give the charity or non-profit organization a call to confirm if the panhandler or collector is one of their own. If you spot collection boxes in stores, confirm if it’s genuine first before dropping cash in it. You don’t want your money wasted, do you?

  1. Allow Yourself to Think

Don’t be hasty when making decisions, no matter how enticing the offer is, or how persuasive an offer seems. Often, sales reps will insist you purchase something on the spot to acquire a discount but don’t fall for these tricks.

Remember that a genuine offer from a salesperson will give you time to think before you make a purchase. Although, there are those limited-time offers that pop up once in a while. If you’re really so into a product or service, confirm first. Don’t stress about it. It takes seconds to get a company’s contact information, so choose to spend time confirming the offer rather than falling into regrets later on.

  1. Take Care of Your Personal Info

Legitimate companies never ask for sensitive information unless you initiated it. Come to think of it; even online banking services don’t ask for your PIN upon logging in — you have an entirely different password. For online purchases, use established services like PayPal, debit or prepaid cards, or one-off credit card numbers. Also, check the address line for an “https.” If a website is without an “s,” avoid it.

  1. Avoid Buying from People You Don’t Know or Whose Credibility isn’t Verified

This one is a bit tricky, considering most transactions happen online these days. But it’s an undeniable fact that there a lot of questionable websites and online sellers. Good thing you can do a quick credibility check — simple Google search ought to do the job. Better yet, trust bigger sites whose names have been trusted for years now.

Should you choose lesser known sites, always seek references and get feedback from people who have bought from them.

  1. Avoid Paying for Something That Offers You Earning Opportunities

If you’re one of those people who prefer to seek job opportunities online, don’t spend money upfront. Your goal is to earn cash, so paying for it simply defeats the purpose. It’s not like you’re trying to invest in a business, wherein you’re expected to have a capital. Money-making opportunities online hire workers that they pay, not the other way around. Legit online work doesn’t ask you to pay for training supplies or kits. That’s just sketchy.

  1. Don’t Believe in Something Without Verification

Or don’t believe that someone is who they say they are unless you know them personally. You might receive a phone call or an email asking to visit your house, maybe to introduce you to a new product or do maintenance check-ups. Confirm their identity first before agreeing to the visitation.

Always ask for an identification card or any proof that they represent a legit company or important person. If they arrive at your doorstep without warning, don’t let them in. Remember that visitations from a company do a follow-up first, or a confirmation that you agree to see any of their representatives. They don’t just appear out of nowhere. This should be your first red flag.

  1. Always Ask What the Catch is

Offers too good to be true shouldn’t really exist. After all, everybody wants to earn, and they all have a motive. You might spot a bargain that’s hard to resist, but these offers are often bogus and cannot be trusted.

An exception, though, is if you know the seller well. A legit offer always has a catch. Do not be afraid to ask what this is. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Fraudsters are getting increasingly sophisticated and smarter in their attempts to get your personal information and money. It wouldn’t hurt to be extra vigilant instead of feeling sorry in the end.

7 Ways Your Social Media Account Is Putting Your Safety At Risk

Social media has changed the way we interact with friends and family. In fact, it seems it has helped bring people together by allowing us a peek into their daily lives and special moments. However, our accounts have also made us more vulnerable to people who want nothing but to cause trouble. While social networks like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube play a significant part in our lives, they have also exposed us to security threats.

There are hundreds of millions of Internet users all over the world. And while these tools are great for keeping tabs on people we care about, they also attract those who want to know us for the wrong reasons. It’s not just on a personal level. With more businesses opening up accounts and using these as advertising platforms, the connections made via Likes and Comments on public spaces can open doors for criminals. Some click-bait schemes are even posing as “legitimate” pages to get information out of unknowing individuals.

Here are seven threats to security we should watch out for when using social media.

    1. Who Viewed Your FB Profile?

This scheme is clever because it preys on your natural curiosity. This usually appears as a message posted on your friend’s wall via accidental spamming or through ads. The moment you click on this, spammers gain access to your account and the people on your network. Even if you see this sent by your friends, don’t fall for any link unless you get verification that it’s legitimate — but this one certainly isn’t.

  1. Instant Twitter Followers

Avoid tweets that offer to give you “instant followers” by clicking a link. While a large following will lend more credibility to your online image, especially if you’re a business, a simple one-time authorization can lead to an attack on your entire profile. Scammers know exactly what you need online and they will exercise all means possible to get you attracted and clicking away. This is one such scheme that is so tempting, but know that it can and WILL compromise your security.

 

 

 

 

  1. The Facebook Color Changer

Apps that promise to get you out of that boring blue Facebook profile and turn it into a rainbow complete with “confetti” are a scam. Clicking this offer will lead you to phishing sites where you are asked to either enter your information, share the same “fun” app with your friends, or watch a video (while its bots creep into your account). This can also affect mobile devices, so be wary.

 

 

 

  1. “Shocking,” “Outrageous” and “NSFW” Video Scams

We all love controversy and almost any post with these labels are certainly intriguing enough to click. Don’t. This popular bait method is a favorite among cyber attackers and scammers. They present outlandish titles that promise explicit content to get attention and sometimes even controls your account to create a “viral” frenzy. When you click it, you will be led to fake websites or random surveys that ask you to enter information. Take note this can ruin both your social media account and your computer.

  1. Naked Video Scams

Similar to number 4, this preys on one’s curiosity. But, more importantly, it is an invasion of privacy. This scam poses as an “interesting”

video but all it leads you to, really, is a fake site that will plant malware on your system. It will usually say that your Flash player crashed so you can’t view the video and will need to “update.” Now that you’re wiser, stay as far away as possible from these things. They usually contain a Trojan virus.

 

  1. The “Just Saw This Photo Of You” Scam

the general content of this type of scam. This “invasion” on your personal space preys on one’s paranoia so you will feel compelled to click. Again, DON’T. It will hijack your account and spam your followers, making YOU the purveyor of the scam. Reportedly, this malicious post also installs spyware on your computer.

  1. Bogus Pinterest pins

Normally, people wouldn’t think Pinterest would be a target for hackers, but cybercriminals really know no platform and prey on everything. Users will be asked to click on fake pins that eventually ask them to answer “surveys” or lead them to phishing websites. These bogus pins usually come in the form of promotions, contests, or freebies that seem to come from legitimate brands. But, a closer look at the account will reveal one or two letters off. Once you click, this malicious code gets downloaded to your system and start spamming your network.

Protecting Yourself On Social Media

Of course, while these scams are easily avoided, one major issue about one’s security on social media is forgetting to change your settings to “Private” and oversharing information. Make sure that only your friends see your updates and posts. Sift through your Friends or Followers list to see if there’s an account you don’t know or have accidentally friended people you’re not really familiar with. Avoid updating your account with your whereabouts every time you move so criminals won’t know where you are or are not alerted that nobody’s home.

When it comes to your security on social media, majority rests upon you being extra careful and vigilant. Our social networks are a fun way to update friends and family, but if you’re not watchful, you could also be giving criminals the same sensitive information. Check the URLs carefully and make sure no letter is out of place, see that the address starts with https:// to indicate it’s encrypted, or run it against a link scanner first before opening it.

Five things you should never, ever share online are your 1) financial information, 2) full address and date of birth, 3) your children’s names and school details, 4) your social security, license, and credit card numbers, and 5) your daily schedule. Knowing what threats make you the most vulnerable and protect yourself.

Online Dating Safety: 6 Ways To Prevent A Scam

The Internet is increasingly being a legitimate means of meeting someone for a real-life connection. This also applies in the search for Mr and Ms Right. However, sometimes in our excitement to meet and date somebody we met online, we tend to forego personal safety. Take note that while meeting people on the Internet is fun, it can also be potentially dangerous.

It’s very easy to fall prey to a good feeling, especially when you think you’ve met The One. So when the other party invites you to finally meet face to face, you tend to let your guard down thinking that you “know” the other person already. Some people are lucky and end up with either a love connection or a lasting friendship from an online meetup, but some are not so and end up in deep trouble.

 

  1. Sign up only on reliable and reputable dating sites

There are literally thousands of websites offering to have the right mix of singles that can potentially be the love of your life. And with that vast statistic comes a huge number of fakes and fraud.

 

ds. There are websites that are created for the sole purpose of duping people, so even if you live in a safe neighborhood you can never really be totally protected.

To be on the safe side, depend only on the larger, more reputable dating sites, such as Tinder, OkCupid, JDate, and more, because these sites have a better system and policy in protecting your private information. Of course, being in a reputable and paid dating site is not a full guarantee of your safety, so you still need to be vigilant.

  1. Ensure that your personal information stays private

Being cyber secure is different from being cyber savvy. A detailed Internet search by potential dates will likely reveal your social media accounts, LinkedIn URL, office location, your home address where you “checked in,” or telephone number listed on an ad.

That said, whenever you enter any personal information online, be sure to check those boxes that say your info will be available to you only unless you purposely share it. On virtual platforms, limit the amount of information you reveal about yourself. Your security settings should be set at their maximum level and never ever allow any app

How do you ensure that you are safe without hampering your chances of finally meeting the right person for you? Here are eight way to keep in mind at all times in your search for love on the Internet.

to access and post your location.

  1. Do some sleuthing on your potential date

While you shouldn’t be revealing too much about yourself to the other person on the screen, don’t think twice about taking advantage if he or she isn’t protective of his or her info. Google your date, search for his or her social media profiles or if there’s anything posted online about this person. You’ll be surprised by the stories that can get from the results. Some people have found their dates selling an engagement ring on Ebay a few weeks before the Tinder encounter, or revealing how old they really are.

Also, checking their social media posts will give you a better sense of how they really are in person. Because people are less filtered on these platforms, you might spot some traits that are not exactly to your liking, thus, saving you and the other person from wasted time and effort.

  1. Talk to the other person before the meet-up

While it’s very tempting to just schedule a first date, it would be to your advantage if you talk on the phone first so you get a better feel. This is the perfect time to vet the other party and you can even ask some pretty awkward questions to see if he or she is the right fit for you. You can even ask if they’ve ever been arrested before. While you probably won’t get a 100% truth, the way the other person will react to your bold question will send off signals on whether you should push through with an actual meet-up.

 

 

 

  1. Tell a friend

If after the screening and the phone chat you find that you still like to meet this person, you must let somebody know of your plans to do so. Tell a friend or family member who you’re meeting, where it will happen, and what time you are expected to be home. For added safety, show your friend your date’s photo, contact details, and other pertinent information, just in case.

Create a signal with your friend that includes calling you in the middle of the date to check if you’re all right. If you and your date decide to switch locations, check in by phone. Do this until you are finally safe at home. This seems like a lot of work but it will certainly help guarantee your security. More importantly, if this is your first date, drive yourself home and don’t let the other person know where you live — at least not yet.

  1. Seek the safety of a crowd

The first date is a getting-to-know-you stage and while being by yourselves is a romantic way to start things off, it’s not practical. If you both like to go hiking, try those popular walking spots in your community; just don’t go for those remote locations where there’s nobody else and there’s no way to call for help. Better yet, choose a nice coffee shop or a restaurant that offers just the right mix of public and quiet so you can talk.

Reputable dating sites encourage their users to report people who engage in shady practices. This is not just to protect yourself but also to protect other people from possible danger. You can also block a person who is relentless in pursuing you. If after the first date you feel that a second should happen, you should still practice the same safety measures. In fact, because you are meeting a stranger, invites to your home should not happen until after five or more dates have gone by.

Remember that a person who is out to target you will put his or her best foot forward and it is really up to you to catch those signals. If you suspect anything that’s off or something that’s making you feel uneasy, don’t hesitate to cut the cord. If that person starts harrassing you, contact the site’s client services immediately or file a report with the police.

Safeguarding Yourself Online: 3 Common Identity Theft Scams And How To Prevent Them

Technology, for all its glory, is not immune to attacks and being solely dependent on it almost always means you will get hit by a glitch or a breach at any point. According to reports, over 200 businesses have fallen victim to hackers in 2017 alone (and in the US alone). As tech developers scramble to build fortresses that aim to block off any attempts at identity theft, hackers are also getting smarter.

That said, even if your system tells you it’s hacker-proof, the responsibility to protect your personal data, like Social Security and credit card numbers, still lies upon you. Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself from identity theft and to prevent it from happening to you. But, first, let’s understand what identity theft means.

Identity Theft

Any unauthorized access to your personal details can be classified as identify theft. These can cover financial data like bank account numbers and credit card details, Social Security numbers, your birthdate and physical address. These can also include passwords and usernames to your online accounts, your phone, computer, and more. In short, the loss of anything that can be used to falsely represent you is considered identity theft.

When somebody gets hold of these details, they have the power to assume your identity and open new accounts, access financial resources, or basically pretend to be you. It can be very difficult to erase all the damage once your identity has been stolen. If you didn’t have safeguards in place, you could face major financial turmoil that could take years to recover from. Even if the theft had been proven, all the trouble that you need to go through to fix everything is exhausting.

Watch Out For These Common Scams

While you cannot totally shield yourself from hackers, you can certainly reduce the odds of you becoming a victim. We’ve gathered some of the most common identify theft scams so we can all spot a tactic when it attempts to hit us.

  1. Ransomware

This happens when a software encrypts your data and then asks you for payment to recover it. Ransomware attacks are doubly dangerous because not only do they have their hands on your identifying information, they are also asking you to pay them to give it back (if they even truly will). It’s literally getting your information kidnapped for ransom. Some ransomware can even lock you out of your operating system.

How do you spot it? Ransomware usually comes as a fake website form, a corrupt link or attachment sent via email, and other software vulnerabilities. Once the malware is opened, it needs mere minutes to take over the data on your computer.

How to prevent it? One way to shield yourself from an attack is to back up all your data periodically into the Cloud or an external hard drive. That way, when it does hit you, all its efforts will be for nothing because you already have copies. Another way is by turning off macros in MS Office and removing plug-ins like Java and Adobe Reader from your browser. If you do need these plug-ins, pre-set them to ask you first every time they launch.

  1. Phishing

Phishing is perhaps the most common scam online. It happens when somebody tries to steal your data by using a webiste or an email posing as the legitimate one. Usually, you’ll see a message that asks you to click a link to either verify your information or update it. The moment you click it, malware enters your computer, giving hackers the chance to spy on your online movements and access to anything of value in your PC. If you do “update” your details, they also get access to your financials.

How to prevent? Check all the emails sent to you before opening any attachment or clicking a link. Take note of the email addresses they use. Most phishing scams use emails that look very much the same as the legitimate ones but with one or two letters off. You have to be very thorough and meticulous with checks. Sometimes, instinct plays a major role in your protection. If you think an email is suspicious, don’t open it. Better yet, call the company by phone or contact them through an email you’ve used before to ask them if they did send that email. In short, when in doubt, don’t.

  1. Fake online protection plans

This scam capitalizes on your fear of becoming a victim of identity theft. Clever, right? You will sometimes see emails, pop-up messages, and sometimes get phone calls from companies that will offer identity theft protection services and antivirus software. These claims will usually start with telling you your computer has been compromised. They will promise to get rid of all the threats before any “damage” can occur. Because you’re hell bent on protecting yourself, it’s all too easy to just give them what they need. That’s when the problems start.

How to prevent? It pays to always be wary and suspicious of offers like these. Never open emails or popups that claim your PC has been hacked. You can also use ad-blockers to ward off any sneaky attempts to reach you. Finally, to avoid getting victimized and getting to that situation where you will need to get your computer cleaned up, just invest in reputable antivirus software that will regularly sweep your computer and protect it from malware.

Protecting Yourself

To protect yourself, understand that identity hackers are here to stay so you shouldn’t be too confident that your computer is totally protected. In fact, their methods are advancing and looking too close like the legitimate ones. The best way to ward them off is to be vigilant and to educate yourself with how they operate. You can also invest in identity theft protection but work only with credible and reputable service providers with a strong and proven track record. If you suspect that you have been attacked, report it to the bank and the authorities right away.

Traveling With Children: 8 Safety Tips All Parents Should Know

The gift of travel is one of the best things you can give your family. The experience and the new knowledge that everyone gains is simply priceless. However, if you’re a parent traveling with little kids, it can also be exhausting and stressful if you’re not prepared.

Family vacations require meticulous planning, particularly with curious and quickly-bored kids in tow. From finding the right places to visit, to eat, to sleep, every parent’s goal is to make the trip as fruitful and enjoyable as possible while keeping everybody safe. Here are 8 safety tips all parents should know before booking those tickets with children.

  1. Do your research

Every vacation destination is appealing but not everything is child-friendly. Before you book those flights and accommodations, find out first if the place offers anything that the kids will enjoy. There are plenty of resources online and some even offer actual visitor reviews so you can definitely plan a trip that provides an equal share of fun for the adults and the young ones. Another thing that you should research on is the area’s safety issues. Is the crime rate high where you’re going? Is there an outbreak currently happening? These are crucial factors that should go into choosing where to go.

  1. Your itinerary should be child-friendly

Traveling with children calls for compromise. While they can’t do everything that you want to explore, you can plan in advance and make an itinerary that includes them and that both age groups will enjoy. You can find out online or ask the hotel if they have kids’ activities offered. Some hotels have “day use” programs designed for children that involves sports, art, and other learning activities. That way, while the grownups have their fun, the children can stay at the resort and enjoy, as well.

  1. Orient the kids with safety and emergency procedures

You never know when an emergency might happen while your family is on vacation. While you can’t predict what will happen, it helps to get your kids familiar with the basics. Practice with your children what they should do if a distressing incident happens. You can tell them to ask for help from uniformed personnel or another parent with kids. Alternatively, you can advise them to stay where they or go to a specific spot to meet you.

Practice makes perfect, so be sure to go over these instructions with your children several times so they remember it. To be sure, have them repeat it back to you so you can verify if they have understood what you said. You can also point out where there nearest community building or police station/outpost is so they can see where they can call for help.

  1. Keep them busy and entertained

There’s a higher chance that kids will give you meltdowns if they are bored. So, make sure you always give them something to do. Little kids are, no doubt, adorable, but they can also be really mischievous. Bring small toys or art kits with you when you travel, or be ready with movies or downloaded games they can watch and play on your gadget during those long waits. Or you can have them take a nap!

 

  1. Track your children

Curious kids are prone to pulling those heart-stopping disappearing acts. To prevent this hassle, you can have them wear tracking devices so you’ll know exactly when they’ve strayed from the group and where to find them. Now your family can get into the busy sections of the night market and crowded tourist attractions without you worrying constantly where your children are. These wearable gadgets come in cute designs and colors that your children won’t know it’s your way to monitoring them. Some even play music and have games built in.

  1. Make information cards or IDs

Have your kids wear IDs or keep information cards in their pocket in case they do get lost. These should contain your names, contact numbers, and anything else that can be used to reach you. Make sure to update these cards when you change destinations.

  1. Bring a medical kit and some snacks

Scrapes, bumps, and falls are normal when you have kids, so having a medical kit always with you is a smart decision when on vacation. Put in Band-Aids, mild painkillers, disinfectant sprays, and other medical essentials so you’re always ready for anything. If your child requires special attention, make sure that you’ve packed all his or her meds, as well (plus backup).

More importantly, always bring water and some snacks. Kids get thirsty and hungry at the most awkward times. Arming yourself with their essentials ensure that they stay calm and satisfied. You don’t want your kid wailing for treats when you’re all waiting in line for a ride at a theme park.

  1. Check your insurance

Go over your insurance policy and find out if it offers coverage for trips aboard, or even just local trips. If you don’t see anything travel-related on print, it’s worth calling up your insurer to ask about it. You might not think that insurance is necessary for vacations but you’ll be thankful that you included it in your planning should something untoward does happen. In its absence, you can also avail of supplemental insurance. Also check the hospitals where you will be going and find out if they take your insurance. Although nobody wants to dwell on the negative when planning a vacation, it pays to be on the safe side, especially since you’ll be traveling with children.

Overall, always have a Plan B. As parents, the key to an enjoyable vacation with children in tow is to prepare for the worst. That way, when something does happen, you know your heart won’t jump out of your throat because you’re confidently well equipped. Compared to traveling with grownups, trips with kids require extra research and readiness. Don’t fret too much over all the planning that you need to do. When you see those smiles and all the fun everyone is having, everything will be worth it.

5 Ways To Prevent Identity Theft And Guard Your Credit

Credit has been a viable means of gauging a person’s financial standing since time immemorial. When the 2017 Equifax data breach threatened the financial industry, the value of having good credit become all the more important. In fact, without it, you cannot get a loan, buy a car, purchase a home, and many more. Loan officers will definitely check your credit background before approving any of your applications. This is why ensuring that your credit score is high is crucial.

 

When the Equifax breach revealed that many consumers’ private data had been exposed and made public, people had become more wary about the possible threats. As many as 14.5 million were affected by the hack, with their private information and supposedly secure credit histories laid out in the open for anybody to exploit. This leads us to the question: If something like this happens to you, how to ensure that your credit is safe and your details don’t get stolen?

 

Fixing your credit report errors is a long and painful process. In fact, the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau even admits that its investigation and repair processes need to be updated and fixed, as well. With the time and effort it takes to go through the usual channels, many consumers just decide to correct the mistakes themselves to protect their financial integrity.

 

When an error shows up on your credit report, it can’t be taken out by simply telling investigators that it’s a mistake. It requires a long process that can take months, sometimes years. However, there are things that you can do to make sure that the major issues are addressed before the problem escalates. Here are 5 ways you can monitor your credit, ensure that your private information stays concealed, and improve your credit score.

 

  1. Be proactive and check your own report immediately.

 

The moment the 2017 Equifax breach happened, consumers were advised to check their credit reports right away to spot any discrepancies. You can visit the official Annual Credit Report website to file a request and see if your credit report had been exposed to anything suspicious in the past months. You can avail of one credit report every 12 months for free from either TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. There’s no other site to check because Annual Credit Report is the only one with permission granted by Federal law.

 

  1. Freeze your credit.

 

There’s no quick and immediate way of knowing the extent of the Equifax hack. In fact, investigators say that it might take years for the financial sector to feel its full effect. Setting up a credit freeze is one way to protect your credit report from outside threats. By “freezing” your credit report, you make it difficult for hackers and other third parties to access your data and open up new accounts using your name and details. Credit investigators will also not be able to access your report unless the freeze has been lifted.

 

However, if you want to take out a loan or line of credit in the future, you will need to have the freeze lifted. Contact any of the three agencies to make a request, which could cost you a small fee. Otherwise, a freeze may stay on for up to seven years, depending on which state you filed them. Some areas will allow a freeze on your report for as long as you don’t lift it.

 

  1. Deal with questionable accounts right away

 

Do not ignore disputed accounts and think the errors will go away on their own. Face the issue head on and correct what needs to be changed immediately. If you see something on your report that’s amiss, contact the creditor of that account, as well as any of the three agencies to dispute the information and have it removed from your report. Be careful not to pay the disputed amounts because that will create a negative impression on your credit score.

 

  1. Alert the authorites of fraud

 

If you don’t want to freeze your credit, you can file a dispute by setting up a fraud alert. This is usually done for a period of 90 days, depending on your state’s policies. You can also use it as backup protection when you decide to temporarily lift the credit freeze because you want to apply for a loan to buy a house. Having a fraud alert linked to your report will compel creditors to search you up first and verify your identity before they approve anything under your name.

 

Thankfully, applying for a fraud alert with TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian is pretty much straightforward. All you need to do is provide proof of your identity and file a request with any of the three. It will then notify the other two so that the alert is extended widely. An expanded fraud alert can go for as long as seven years.

 

  1. Monitor your bank statements and make sure bills are paid.

 

Bills are easy to overlook but they are the foundation of your financial health. Make sure you pay them on time. By checking your credit card and bank statements regularly, at least once a month, you can watch out for the early signs of potential fraud. Also, by committing to pay bills on time, you can shield your credit report from any negative impression. Take note that around 35 percent of your credit score is taken up by your payment history and ability to meet deadlines on time.

 

Good credit is very important because it allows us to enjoy life’s pleasures and comforts. Access to financial resources not only opens up opportunities for a better life, it also widens the net to include our families’ quality of living. This is why we should never take our credit standing for granted. When something like a hack threatens our report, we should make aggressive efforts to correct them and make sure that our ability to obtain a comfortable means of living is not hurdled by these errors. More importantly, we should always be vigilant and protective about our personal information, so none of this happens in the first place.

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