Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fabulous Fraud Prevention Tips

August is National Fraud Awareness Month. Identity theft continues to be the highest reported consumer crime to the FTC based on ITRC's research whitepaper, Identity Theft: #1 FTC Consumer Complaint 15 Consecutive Years, and has been for fifteen consecutive years. This demonstrates the need for increased awareness and education to protect consumers.

According to, approximately 15 million Americans have their identities used fraudulently each year with financial losses totaling $50 billion. If you feel you have been a victim of fraud report it to the police, Federal Trade Commission or other authority. Here are some fantastic fraud prevention tips.

1.      Virus Protection. Install virus software on your computer, smartphone laptop, iPad or other portable devices especially if you store personal information. Use email protection on your computer and smartphone. Clear the cache, cookies and browsing history daily. 
2.      Online. Shop online at secure websites that use https or shttp.
3.      Downloading. Download from trusted websites. Avoid downloading free software or shareware which may contain viruses.
4.      Wi-Fi. Use a locked secure Wi-Fi network.

1.      Smartphones. Don't text, email or store your personal or financial information such as credit card, financial account numbers, DOB, SSN on your smartphone. Make purchases from trusted websites and verify the transaction on your financial statement.
2.      Downloading. Download from trusted websites. Avoid downloading free software or shareware which may contain viruses.
3.      Don’t trust caller id. Technology can scramble telephones numbers to make them look legitimate. Don’t give out personal information over the phone unless it is a company you do business with. Ask for their direct number and call back to give your information to ensure it is a legitimate company.

1.      ATM. Avoid using an ATM in a secluded area or at night.
2.      Bank. Verify all monthly statements with your receipts. Verify your bank account either daily or weekly. Setup text or email alerts to notify you of any suspicious activity.
3.      Credit. When using debit cards use credit instead of debit.  

Personal Information
1.      Wallet. Don’t carry your SSN or birth certificate in your wallet. If your wallet is stolen so is your identity.
2.      Trash. Shred personal information including receipts and junk mail and mix in with other trash. Thieves go dumpster diving through trash to find personal information to steal.
3.      Passwords/PINs. Don’t store PINs or passwords in your phone, wallet or purse. Create passwords with 9 characters, a mix of numbers, one special character, 1 lowercase letter and one uppercase letter. Create a PIN or password on your financial accounts and portable devices.

1.      Security alert. Place a security alert on your Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports which prevents people and businesses from accessing your credit report or opening an account unless you are notified first.
2.      Sleeve. Purchase a credit card sleeve so there is a lesser chance of having your credit card read while walking down the street. Beware of people who stand close to you or who lean against you on the side where your wallet or purse is held.
3.      Aluminum foil. Wrap your credit cards and debit cards in aluminum foil which blocks RFID transmissions and it is less expensive than buying a credit card sleeve.

1.      SSN. Ask all companies and businesses that have your SSN how your information is protected. If you are applying for job don't provide your SSN unless you are called for an interview and the job requires a background check. Some applications are thrown directly in the trash without being shredded.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

How to Shield Yourself From a Company Merger


Companies merge all the time. The most recent approved company merger was AT&T and Direct TV. The insurance company Cigna will be merged with the Anthem Company. 

The advantages of a company merger can include: financial leverage by freeing up cash and credit, increased market share, lower cost of production and operation, greater competitiveness, increase in stock value, acquired research and development information and patents, support from the other company through advice and name recognition, additional equipment and improved profitability.  

The disadvantages of a company merger can include: termination of employees, elimination of equipment, process time – mergers can last for year, legal expenses, merger costs, intangible costs, consumer and shareholder drawbacks, tax laws, short-term opportunity costs, potential devaluation of equity, diminished corporate performance and/or services, potentially reduced industry innovation, suppression of competing businesses, and decline in equity pricing and investment value.

Wait until the merger has been finalized to get all the facts. Employees will have to wait until the merger plays out to see if employees and customers truly benefit as both companies have promised. Here are 9 strategic ways to shield yourself from a company merger. 

  1.  Plan for the worst. Reduce spending by 30-50%. Only buy necessities. Contribute as much as possible to a savings account.
  2. Always be on. Be prepared to explain in 30 seconds or less why you are an asset to the company in terms of numbers, i.e. I can save the company 20% in annual operating costs, etc.
  3. Resume. Update your resume and keep a copy at your cubicle and on your personal hard drive.
  4. Skills. Make a list of all your certifications and training and keep a copy at your cubicle and put a copy in your work personnel folder.
  5. Documentation. Update all your work documentation with the latest information: password lists, configurations, policies and procedures, technical documentation, user guides, etc.
  6. Map. Create an individual work plan that lists your career goals for the next 3-5 years. Mention this during the transition and with the new merger staff.
  7. Emotions. Keep your emotions intact. Don’t make any decisions based on emotions. Plan all decisions out carefully.
  8. Employment. Be proactive. Contact head hunters and inform them your company might be experiencing a layoff and send them your resume. If you are laid off you will have a head start on everyone else.
  9. Files. Delete any personal files and emails from your work computer. Copy them to an external hard drive. Also copy your employers human resource policies and procedures and other important work documents. When interviewing you may need to bring a sample of work documents you created.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Top 25 Ways to Save Money on Your Cell Phone Bill


There are over 292 million cell phone users and over 60 cell phone providers in the U.S. This can make it difficult trying to select a cell phone providers not to mention choosing from the different cell phone models. Cell phones have different pricing depending on the company and features offered. The average cost for basic cell phone service can range anywhere from $10 to $100 a month. More if you get additional features and can range up to $500 a month. The average cost of an actual cell phone can range from $19.95 to $1,000. 

Most cell phones offer additional features for a cost such as ring tones, unlimited texting, unlimited nights and weekends, roaming and more. Prepaid cell phones charge by the minute and/or charge a daily fee. 

Most cell phone plans included caller id, voicemail, call forwarding and long distance. Most cell phones only last 2-3 years and after that time the features of the phone stop working or start to diminish in quality or the phone itself stops working. This is by design of the cell phone companies. So why not save as much money as you can while your phone still works. Here are top 25 ways to help you save money on your cell phone bill. 

  1. Review. Review your bill each month to ensure they are no errors and inquire about any new charges or information you need understand.
  2. Switch. Sign up with a non-major cell phone provider such as T-Mobile, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Cricket or Metro PCS. Before switching verify if your cell phone runs on a CDMA or GSM network. Not all phones can be used on all networks. Find out if the provider offers good coverage in your area.
  3. Basic plan. Get a basic plan with basic features. Comparison shop online or by calling different cell phone companies to see what company provides the best value for your money.
  4. Discounts. Ask about discounts and specials. Some discounts are provided through employers and certain organization memberships. Call every 3 – 6 months to find out about discounts and specials.
  5. Bundle services. If you have multiple services with the same company get your cell phone service with the company to save money.
  6. Features. Eliminate unused or unnecessary service features such as: caller id, caller ring tones, conference call, detailed billing, etc. to save money.
  7. Calls. Don’t make calls during times when you will be charged, i.e. out of service areas, after 7:00pm, on holidays or weekends.
  8. Prepaid. Get a prepaid phone to save money and keep track of your usage at
  9. Contract. When your contract ends contact the company to negotiate a lower price or a new phone. Ask for free activation, a free phone or other discounts.
  10. Pay upfront. Pay for your phone upfront versus signing up for a contract. The latest phones range from $200 to $999 or more. If you sign up for a 2 year contract and pay a monthly bill of $60 you would have paid for the phone plus have money left over.
  11. Payment. Get a month to month service which is the least expensive. The most expensive service is signing up for a two year contract, the next most expensive is a payment plan, then pay as you go.
  12. Assess. Review your plan including data usage/data minutes used and text messages sent per month. If you are not using near the maximum amount allowed consider getting a cheaper plan. Review your last 3 statements and compare your usage to see if you can get a cheaper plan. Use apps such as Viber.
  13. Phone. Don’t get the latest model of a phone. The latest model always have bugs. Get a model one or two versions behind. You can also buy out-of-contract phones which are usually an older model.
  14. Avoid expensive calls. Avoid using 411 or calling toll-free numbers. You may still be charged although the phone number is free.
  15. Data usage. Track your data usage if you have a pay-per-usage plan. Turn off your mobile data connection so your apps cannot connect to the internet and drain your bandwidth. Don’t waste your data usage checking your social media profiles, watching videos or listening to music.  
  16. Add-ons. Skip the add-ons such as mobile roadside assistance, monitoring, extended warranties, insurance, etc. You can insure your phone on your own for a lot cheaper.
  17. VoIP. Use VoIP apps such as Google Voice or Skype to make phone calls in the U.S.
  18. Seniors. Ask about senior discounts. Discounts usually start at age 55.
  19. Avoid contracts. Contracts include hidden fees. You can save money by buying your own phone whenever your contract expires or when you need a replacement. You can also consider switching providers.
  20. Local only. Switch to a local-only plan if you do not make long-distance calls. These plans are usually cheaper.
  21. Apps. Use free apps. Use TextFree or Use WhatsApp Messenger to send free text messages. Use textPlus to send text messages and make calls. Use Fring for free video chat. Facebook allows iPhone users to use the Facebook Messenger app to make free phones to other iPhone users. TMobile offers an app called Bobsled the allow users to make free calls over Wi-Fi.
  22. Alerts. Setup alerts to notify you when you are close to your usage limit for text message, calls, and data usage.
  23. Roaming. Turn off roaming. Also turn off Wi-Fi when not in use.
  24. Promotions. Call customer service to find out about any specials or ways to reduce your bill. If you are still not happy contact the Retention department.
  25. Family Plan. Skip the family plan. You will only save money if everyone keeps track of their usage and for parents with children this rarely happens which results in overages and extra charges. Make teens pay for their own cell phone plan.