(BPT) - Resourceful thieves and cybercriminals continue to find new ways to hack U.S. consumers’ sensitive personal information. Dumpster diving, stolen or lost wallets and mail fraud should still be concerns, but the digital age of tablets, smartphones, PCs and Wi-Fi networks leaves people more vulnerable than ever.
Have you ever stored credit card information on your phone for added convenience to make payments in a checkout lane? Do you ever store passwords in apps to transfer funds between accounts? And what’s to keep hackers from accessing a wireless network you check your email on while you’re grabbing a quick cup of coffee?
”More than 15.4 million people a year will experience identity theft, with an average loss of more than $1,000,” said Jane Li, Mercury Insurance’s director of product management. “When one access point closes due to added levels of security, cyberattackers find another. Insurance companies like Mercury provide services that allow homeowners and renters to enjoy the convenience of accessing their connected devices at home and on the go, while also helping to protect customers from the potentially devastating effects of criminal infiltration, cyberextortion and identity theft.”
The following five do’s and don’ts can help stop criminals in their tracks and protect your connected devices, as well as your electronic identity.
Li recommends homeowners and renters speak with their local insurance agent to learn more about the endorsements they may be able to add to existing policies to help safeguard their finances if their identities are compromised or connected devices are attacked.
“It can be daunting to try to regain your financial footing if a criminal takes advantage of you,” said Li. “Insurance exists to help protect consumers from unexpected events and, in this case, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
There are obvious benefits to shopping online. You can skip the lines and congested parking lots all while taking your time and enjoying the comfort of shopping in your pajamas. One of the biggest draws, however, is the potential money savings. Learn how to make the most of your online shopping and nab the best digital deals with these tips.
How to Get the Best Deals Online
(Family Features) There are obvious benefits to shopping online. You can skip the lines and congested parking lots all while taking your time and enjoying the comfort of shopping in your pajamas. One of the biggest draws, however, is the potential money savings.
Learn how to make the most of your online shopping and nab the best digital deals with these tips:
Subscribe to email lists. In the past, most people avoided email lists like the plague. However, email subscribers get some of the best deals that retailers offer, so if you can tolerate a few more messages in your inbox, it’s a good way to stay in-the-know about sales and promotions.
Combine membership benefits. Many member-based programs are expanding their partnerships with other retailers to offer enhanced benefits. Keeping tabs on the latest offers can ensure you’re maximizing your membership. One example is Woot.com, which features daily deals on items ranging from top tech gadgets to kitchen gizmos to sporting goods, and now offers free shipping for Amazon Prime members. Visit woot.com/prime to learn more.
Seek out discount codes. Whether you subscribe to a site that aggregates codes, rely on a browser extension or even do a manual search, wait to confirm an order until first checking to see if there are any discount codes available. Some retailers make it easier than others by having a code tool built into their checkout screen, but even if they don’t, it can be worth the extra time to verify the current offers.
Check in on daily deals. Many online retailers specialize in daily deals and site-wide offers, which you can explore by visiting the individual sites or, in some cases, registering for notifications. Be aware that many of these deals are available for a limited time and in limited quantities, such as on Woot.com, which launches new deals every 30 minutes on select days. It’s to your advantage to understand how often your favorite sites post new deals and the flash sales they offer. Some of the best ways to stay connected are by subscribing to the site’s newsletter or following the site’s social media channels.
Use your shopping cart. Retailers have become quite sophisticated at monitoring shoppers’ habits and behaviors, and while it may feel a little invasive, it can pay off to your advantage. For example, if you place items in your shopping cart then close out of your browser, it’s possible you’ll receive an email within the next day or two with an offer to incentivize you to complete your purchase.
Take advantage of free shipping. If your purchase isn’t time-sensitive or you have some flexibility, take advantage of free shipping offers. Look for sites that provide free shipping for shoppers, or those that don’t offer free shipping every day but regularly run free shipping promotions. Check shipping thresholds to see when free shipping becomes available (often based on the price of the order) and consider combining purchases to take advantage of free shipping offers.
Once you have a few tricks in place, scoring savings online can be more lucrative and easier than old-school coupon clipping. Combine that with the convenience of shopping from home and you’ve got one smart deal.
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In this digital era, it pays to be just as diligent when it comes to virtual properties as it does physical ones. These seven steps can help you create a more secure environment that protects your family from online attacks.
7 Steps to Better Security Online
(Family Features) Virtually no one would park a car in a busy area, leave the keys in the ignition, roll the windows down and walk away. Yet many people who would take precautions to protect their vehicles leave access to their personal and financial information wide open. In this digital era, it pays to be just as diligent when it comes to virtual properties as it does physical ones.
These seven steps can help you create a more secure environment that protects you from online attacks.
Make your device a fortress. Whether you’re using a desktop, laptop or mobile device, taking proper precautions to safeguard the device itself is your first line of defense. Use reliable internet security software, apply firewalls, block pop-ups and prevent sites from logging your location. Make it a habit to log out of websites and regularly delete your history and cookies, especially if you’re using a public system or one that others access regularly.
Shop smart. Only make purchases from encrypted sites and limit purchases to a single credit card that you regularly monitor. It’s a good idea to make online purchases using a card with a clear policy about your liability in the event your card number does get stolen or you unknowingly purchase from a fraudulent seller and need to recoup your funds.
Be wary of strangers. Although social interaction with people you’ve never met is the norm via chat rooms and other internet-enabled sources, it’s still smart to treat those encounters with caution. Never divulge personally identifying information or financial details, and avoid opening emails or following text or message links from unknown senders.
Keep privacy in mind. Know that virtually anything you post online can become public at the hands of someone with ill intentions. This even applies to things you post that you intend only for friends and family to see, as one of them can easily copy and forward on your photos, words, etc. If you’d be worried about the general public seeing it, don’t post or share it.
Go ahead, be vain. Looking for yourself online isn’t really an ego move, it’s a smart one. Periodically searching your own name could reveal information in the public domain that you’d rather keep private or it could point to potential identify fraud.
Monitor your credit and accounts. Particularly if you have an active online life, whether for social, work or practical purposes like banking or shopping, pay close attention to your credit and bank accounts. Hackers find all sorts of ways to get to your identity, but regular monitoring can help you identify a problem before it spirals out of control.
Manage passwords responsibly. If you’re like most people, you probably use the same (or a variation of the same) password across numerous accounts. It’s human; it’s easy to remember. However, once a thief or hacker figures out your log-in credentials, all of your personal information and finances are ripe for the taking. Avoid repeating passwords across multiple sites and change passwords often for better security.
For more tips to protect your family’s privacy and stay safe while online, visit eLivingToday.com.
4 Tips to Make Sense of Cyber Security
It’s no secret that kids have a sense of invincibility. While that trait can bring some endearing reminders of the innocence of childhood, it can also have some highly unfortunately consequences. In the context of cyber security, an action by an unknowing child can impact the entire family.
The majority of U.S. households are filled with devices that pose a potential threat to your personal security. In fact, according to the 2016 Global Consumer Security Survey by Trend Micro, nearly half of households have two or more computers and nearly a third have three or more smartphones.
Despite the many benefits of a highly connected world, the potential for danger is strong. While there are plenty of parental controls and blocks available, they aren’t foolproof. Educating children about potential risks and how to avoid them with these tips from Trend Micro can go a long way toward protecting your family from potential cyber problems.
1. Understand what you’re saying yes to. Be involved, knowledgeable and interested in the devices, apps and sites your children use for school and for fun. For sites they use for school, ask their teachers for more information. For apps they’re using at home, spend 15 minutes trying it yourself.
2. Use privacy settings and features. Make sure you understand what privacy protections your browser or devices offer for your family when your kids are accessing their favorite sites, apps and online services. Many browsers allow you to prevent sites from tracking what you do and where you go online, so spend some time looking at web browser settings to see what privacy options are available to you.
3. Use features and services available within an app or website. Also take a look at the privacy settings available in the specific apps, websites or games your family uses. Most will let you have a private account, which means the whole world won’t be able to see what you post or who you’re connected to.
4. Remember that being online is a public life. Nothing is truly private online. If you and your family keep this in mind, it can help you all think through what you are about to post, like and click on, as well as who you connect with online.
Explore more ideas to keep your kids and family safe online at internetsafety.trendmicro.com.
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(BPT) - How much data do you really need on your monthly cellular plan? Buy too much and you're simply wasting money. Buy too little and you could end up socked with overage fees, or find your data speeds slowed significantly.
The average U.S. wireless customer consumes about 1.8 gigabytes (GB) of data each month, far below what's included in many standard wireless plans. As a result, many carriers are beginning to shift away from rigidly structured monthly data allowances. Consumer Cellular, for instance, offers no-contract plans tailored to the 50-plus crowd that allow you to change your data plan whenever you need, without paying any additional fees.
Whether you're a heavy or a light user, the data plan you choose represents a significant part of your investment in wireless service. By understanding some of the basics, as well as the potential pitfalls involved, you're sure to find the plan that's right for you.
How it's measured
Anytime you send email, download a photo, stream video, view a web page, or post on social media, your phone is sending or receiving data. A megabyte (MB) and the larger gigabyte (GB) are the units used for measuring data.
It's hard to determine exactly how much data an activity consumes, since file sizes and download times can vary significantly. As a general rule, for most cellphones, one megabyte of data is typically required to perform each of these tasks:
* Sending or receiving 50 emails, without attachments;
* Streaming 2 minutes of music;
* Viewing one web page;
* Posting three photos to your Facebook page;
* Watching 30 seconds of video on YouTube.
One gigabyte, equal to 1,000 megabytes, is consumed by:
* Sending or receiving 50,000 emails (without attachments);
* Streaming 33 hours of music;
* Viewing 1,000 web pages;
* Posting 2,800 photos to your Facebook page;
* Watching more than 8 hours of video on YouTube.
Tracking your usage
The best way to accurately assess your cellular data use is to review your monthly bill, which provides precise details about your utilization. Most carriers now even offer mobile account management apps so you can keep tabs right from your phone. This will give you a feel for how much you're actually consuming, and let you develop an accurate forecast for the future.
In addition, both smartphone and iPhone models give you the ability to track overall usage, as well as the individual usage of specific apps, right from the Settings menu on your phone. You can choose to receive usage alert notifications from your carrier, either by text or email. These are helpful reminders that are triggered when you've used certain percentages of your monthly allotment of data. It helps to eliminate surprises and avoid running over your plan.
Unlimited has its limits
Regardless of how closely you track it, your data needs can fluctuate wildly from month to month. This is often due more to life events than technology; you might be in more places with Wi-Fi access one month versus the next. As a result, some cellular companies will push you to sign up for plans with a higher data cap, including expensive "unlimited" plans.
Like an all-you-can-eat buffet, most "unlimited" plans are more enticing than practical. In fact, some carriers promising "unlimited data" will actually limit your high-speed data to just a couple of gigabytes per month. Once you use up that allotment, you'll have unlimited access, but it's at much slower speeds. This makes it more difficult to load pages quickly, or to stream video, even though you're paying a premium for "unlimited" access.
The choice is always yours
Cellular competition is fierce, so make sure you get what you pay for. Before you buy an unlimited plan, shop around. You may very well find a less costly plan that offers far more data than you're likely to use.
Ultimately, your choice will be driven by the type of data user you are, or at least the one you plan to be. Invest time in a little analysis of your current habits. You'll come away with the information you need to find the plan that fits both your needs and your budget.
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