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Expert Advice to Prevent Vacation Credit Card Fraud

 

Summer is coming and with the it the annual travel season begins, something data thieves count on. A particular target this time of year is hotel credit card fraud. Data breaches and information theft is easier for thieves to manage when there are multiple points of access, as can occur at resorts and hotels. Every time you visit the restaurant, gift shop, or spa, you are increasingly vulnerable to fraud.

Justin Lavelle at BeenVerified has the goods on what to watch out for and how to prevent becoming a victim. BeenVerified is the leading source of online background checks and helps people discover, understand and use public data in their everyday lives.

You use your credit card all the time but probably never more so than when you are on vacation: it’s convenient and you can easily track your expenses. The flip side is that hotels and resorts are easy picking for data and identity thieves, for a couple of reasons:

  • Tourists are using their cards for most transactions and aren’t going to notice invalid or inaccurate transactions until they’ve gone home and seen the statements, allowing thieves a head start without compare!
  • Travelers at a resort will often use their cards at multiple points of access, including restaurants, gift shops, bars and spas, making them more vulnerable.
  • Hotel technology at the front desk and other points of sale is often out of date and ripe for a breach.
  • Hotels and resorts have a high rate of staff turnover and are not always performing intensive background checks. In fact, a large percentage of hotel based credit card fraud cases involve some sort of internal collusion with staff.

So while a large chain resort will have measures in place to keep their customer’s data safe, no system is completely infallible and the ability of a thief to install data retrieving software on the point of sale payment processing systems is certainly possible when you consider the points above.

Many data or identity thefts take place at the point of sale, as opposed to a database breach, which means that all of the card information is being captured, including the verification codes. And the methods used can be as unsophisticated as someone standing beside you at the front desk and capturing your information, and your PIN, on their smartphone.

While most credit cards offer some measure of protection against this kind of fraud, so that you aren’t responsible for charges that you didn’t make, it’s still a huge aggravation to have to deal with the issue: going through and verifying all your recent transactions, dealing with a maxed out card that leaves you with no credit until it is resolved, having your card cancelled by the bank after suspected fraud and the time lag until another arrives, and so on.

How can you protect yourself from vacation credit card fraud?

Book your stay through a central reservation center

If you book your stay through a central reservation system, rather than at the hotel or directly through the hotel itself, you would not be affected by the kind of malware that causes the majority of these data breaches because your card would not be processed at the location where the breach was taking place.

Bill to your room

Every time you use your card at your hotel or resort, you’re more vulnerable to this kind of malware attack. The simple answer is to not use your credit card at the hotel, but rather bill your purchases to your room. And if you do have to use your card, don’t let it out of your sight. While most hotels and restaurants are wiser to this these days and use a portable swipe machine to handle your transaction tableside, some are still going old school, which means having your credit card out of your sight and vulnerable to having the data skimmed, or otherwise copied.

Be wary of public internet connections

Often hotels will offer free WIFI in their common areas, but these aren’t necessarily properly secured and could leave you open to identity theft if you are using your phone or computer to engage in any financial transactions, or anything with private information and passwords. If you must do more sensitive transactions using public connections, make sure they are secured (https:// instead of http:// – the ‘s’ stands for secure, where the data used is being encrypted for protection).

Use bank ATMs only

Avoid using private ATM machines, at times provided for convenience but which are more vulnerable to tampering by the installation of a card reader, than a unit located in a bank. Better still, stick to putting your travel purchases on your credit card. If it is compromised, the money is not coming directly from your account, so your exposure to financial liability is more limited. Different debit cards have different rules about how much liability you will have if your card is lost and you don’t report it right away, or if it is compromised. While most will honor zero liability policies (where you are not responsible for fraudulent transactions), the money is still at least temporarily gone from your account, which can cause financial and personal distress.

Use only one card for travel

By using a dedicated card for travel, you will more quickly find out about breaches that occur after your travel dates because they will not be blended in with your day to day credit card transactions.

Keep a close eye on your statements

Even if you only use a certain card for travel, continue to check your statements or your account online regularly to make sure there aren’t latent fraudulent charges. Thieves will often steal information but then not use it for months, long after your trip is over.

Change passwords and PINs

If you can, change your passwords or PINs for your credit card, after your vacation. If your data was obtained fraudulently, it will be of more limited use to a thief without the all important PIN codes.

Ultimately, there is no foolproof way to protect yourself from credit card fraud, on vacation or otherwise, but staying vigilant and protecting your data when you can need to be top priority.

Bio
Justin Lavelle is Communications Director at BeenVerified (https://www.beenverified.com). BeenVerified is the fast, affordable, and easy way to access public records and search for people. Find out ages, marital status, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, criminal records, and more.

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Do you have a teen driver? If so, you need to check out the Drive Safe Challenge website

 

Passing a driver’s license test is a milestone for any teen driver. But, while teenagers gain a new-found sense of independence when they’re issued their license, parents are often left feeling a mix of excitement and anxiety.

The worry isn’t unfounded – teen drivers are the most inexperienced drivers on the road and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the leading cause of death for teens is motor vehicle accidents. So, how can parents help keep their young drivers safe on the road? The best answer is education. Fortunately for parents, Mercury Insurance has created the Drive Safe Challenge website, a comprehensive resource designed to aid parents in teaching teens collision avoidance techniques and safe driving practices. The site also includes statistics, driving tips, a driving contract and more.

Many states require teens to have a minimum number of supervised driving hours and to complete a driver’s education course before they’re eligible for a license. New York, for example, requires teen drivers to finish a minimum of 24 classroom hours and 24 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction.

Currently, all 50 states have a graduated driver’s license program limiting driving privileges for teens. Most include a learning stage, an intermediate stage that limits unsupervised driving in high risk situations like driving late at night, and a full privilege stage. These restrictions have a positive effect: states with stricter guidelines for young drivers have seen a reduction in crash rates as reported by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Parents can work to reinforce the good driving practices taught through formal driver’s education by spending more time in the family vehicle with their teen. Providing guidance while teens are behind the wheel and leading by example are important aspects of driver education. The more driving practice your teen driver receives, the better. Visit the Drive Safe Challenge website to learn more about how you can help keep your teen driver safe on the road.

*This is a sponsored post. The opinions expressed are that of the author’s and do no necessarily reflect my own. 

 

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Cold Weather Woes – Here are 6 tips to avoid a chilly trip to the vet’s office

 

 

Our dog Espn enjoying the snow.

Our dog Espn enjoying the snow.

During these winter months it can be challenging to keep our pets healthy and happy. The cold weather often brings a slew of things to watch out for when it comes to keeping Fido and Fluffy out of trouble. 

Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM offers a few essentials to get your furry friend through these cold months without a trip to the vet’s office.

When using ice melting products like Rock salt and De-icing chemicals, spritz your pet’s feet with water when they come back inside to avoid irritation of their skin and paws. Signs of ingestion include excess drooling, depression and vomiting.

Antifreeze is deadly for pets. Clean up spills/leaks immediately and make sure that it is stored in a sealed container locked in a secured cabinet. If you think your pet has consumed anti-freeze, this is a true life or death emergency! Go to your vet ASAP and call ahead while you are on your way!

Keep your pets protected from the frigid temperatures (if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet. Offer a little extra food during the winter months because more calories are burned trying to maintain body heat)

Frost bite risk areas include your pet’s ears, nose, tip of the tail and ears. Frostbitten areas of skin initially turn a reddish color then become gray.  To treat frostbite: give your pet a warm bath and wrap him or her up in warm towels. Don’t rub an area that has frostbite!

Homemade meals for your pet are a healthy and cost effective way to ensure your pet is getting essential nutrients without the risk of indigestion, weight gain due to over eating and the high caloric intake of processed foods. Cuisine made of equal portions of a lean protein (chicken, turkey, beef, veal, duck, fish or eggs), long-acting carbohydrates (potatoes, rice, pasta or oatmeal) and fresh vegetables (broccoli, spinach, green beans, lima beans, peas and carrots) are ideal. Cats require more protein than dogs, so 80 percent lean protein and 20 percent veggies is perfect.

Rat and Mouse baits are usually used more often in cold weather. Place baits in areas inaccessible to your pets. Peanut butter baits smell good and are tasty to pets. Save labels, and if you think bait has been eaten by your pet, get to your vet ASAP. Call ahead while you are on your way! Most pets are treated with Vitamin K therapy and recover.

Cat Snow

About the author: 

Dr. Carol Osborne is an author and world-renowned integrative veterinarian of twenty plus years. After graduating she launched a very successful private practice and became founder and director of the non-profit organization, the American Pet Institute. Dr. Carol offers traditional veterinary care for dogs and cats with a softer, natural touch. For more information visit chagrinfallspetclinic.com.

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The Holiday Gifts You Hate Getting Can Also Sicken Your Pet

 

jack russel terrier and kitten

They say you should never look a gift horse in the mouth, but finding flaws in holiday presents could save pet parents an unexpected trip to the vet—and a blow to their budgets.

Petplan claims data shows that treatments during a holiday week can cost twice as much (or more!) than at other times of the year, mainly because pets end up at emergency vets when their regular docs close for holiday hours.

“Never has the phrase ‘the gift that keeps on giving’ been more ominous for pets,” jokes Petplan Veterinary Manager Elyse Donnarumma. “When you consider that the average claim paid for food poisoning is $585, or that foreign body removal surgery costs an average of $1,327, it is sobering to realize that those costs can easily double during the holidays.”

Which gifts top the naughty list? Many of the same ones you dread getting yourself!  According to Petplan, these are the top 10 gifts that can unwrap disaster:

  1. Bows & Ribbons

Most presents do come wrapped, but the danger of gift ribbon adds insult to injury with less-than-stellar gifts. Ribbons can easily become linear foreign bodies. Avoid an expensive surgery by tossing wrappings in the trash (whether you pitch the gift, too, is completely up to you).

Just ask Petplan policy holder Amanda Tollen, of Conshohocken, PA, about holiday ribbon. Her eight-year-old cat, Bella, racked up a $2,004.70 vet bill for a linear foreign body on December 27, 2015, when she got into the gift ribbon. (photo below)

bella-3

“I am so happy we got pet insurance for Bella,” said Tollen, who was reimbursed over $1,800 thanks to her policy option. “It really saved us a ton of money during one of the most stressful times of the year for our budget. You never know what your pet is going to get into or what illness they will come down with. Having Bella Petplan protected was one of the best decisions we ever made.”

  1. Fruitcake (and its modern-day equivalent, Panettone)

If it wasn’t bad enough that someone spoiled good cake by adding fruit, fruitcake contains a trio of ingredients that can make furry friends sick. Currants, raisins and nuts are toxic to pets, and the spirits the cake is soaked in can be deadly to dogs and cats.

  1. Holiday Plants

The fact that this gift will die in a few days isn’t even the worst thing about it. A snack on Christmas cactus can upset tummies. Christmas lilies can cause kidney failure in kitties. And while poinsettias aren’t as toxic as previously thought, its sap can cause an unpleasant rash.

  1. Scarf/Mittens Set

You probably have half a dozen sets of scarves and mittens, but you’re bound to get another one during the holiday season. Donate the duds before your pet gets his paws on them; yarn can become a linear foreign body if swallowed.

  1. Lottery Tickets

You may have a 1 in 14 million chance of winning your gift, but your pet is much more likely to suffer a foreign body ingestion if he eats the envelope and paper.

family, holidays, generation, christmas and people concept - smiling family with gift boxes at home

  1. Houseguests

There are inevitably some relatives who believe their presence is your present, but they’re not always welcome in the eyes of furry family. Extra people in the house can trigger stomach upset due to stress, and all that coming and going can make it easier for pets to dart out the door and get hit by a car.

  1. Coffee/Hot Chocolate

Coffee mug gift sets are a staple of office holiday giving, but whether there’s beans or cocoa inside, be sure to keep them away from your pet’s paws. The caffeine in coffee and chocolate can trigger hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, seizures and even death.

  1. Bath Products

Nothing says, “I bought this present on the way here,” like a basket of bath products like lotions and salts. It also poses the very serious threat of salt poisoning to your pets. Bath salts often contain magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) and sodium chloride (table salt), both of which can kill or permanently injure furry friends.

Box of Chocolates

  1. Boxed Chocolates

While it can be argued that chocolate is always a good gift, even a diehard sweet tooth is on overload during the holidays. Extra confections lying around the house can be a recipe for disaster. Chocolate contains theobromine, which can cause illness or even death in dogs and cats.

  1. Socks

You don’t want them, you hate getting them, and you’ll loathe them even more when you’re forking over upwards of $1,000 to have them removed from your pet’s intestine. Socks take Petplan’s top spot for the worst holiday gift, whether you’re on two legs or four.

Donnarumma concludes, “For the safety of all involved—including your wallet—we suggest sticking to electronic gift cards for holiday giving.”

holidayhazards_infographic

For info about Petplan and more pet safety tips, point your paws to www.gopetplan.com.

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Pet Proof a home for the holidays

jack russel terrier and kitten

Shockingly it’s December already and too many pet owners may walk in on a similar scene as in the photo above. In addition to the wonderful holiday festivities, we need to consider the health and safety of our pets. Certified Humane Education Specialist and award-winning author, Diane Rose-Solomon has a quick list to Pet Proof a Home for the Holidays. She is available for interviews.

This year, Chanukah and Christmas fall on the same day. Here are some tips to create a save environment for everyone living in your home:

In the home…

  • Christmas trees and their decorations can be beautiful. Make sure the tree base is solid to avoid tipping over, or being knocked over by a rambunctious dog or a cat exploring tree branches. Yes, it’s hard to stop them from climbing, but a sturdy base will eliminate tree crashes and potential fires.
  • Wiring on the lights should be done properly and the wires should be in good shape. Any electrical wiring should stay far away from a curious pup- especially if he’s a chewer. Ornaments should stay high up away from dogs and cats. Way too appealing for a toy loving animals.
  • Get down on your hands and knees and check for safety from your pet’s eye level.
  • If you light candles make sure your dogs stay away while they burn and the candles aren’t left to burn unattended. Pets often to get up on the table to lick crumbs. With candles burning it could be disastrous.
  • Holly, mistletoe and poinsettia are all toxic to dogs. So is chocolate. Keep them out of your dog’s reach.
  • Will your family be unwrapping gifts? Wrapping and gift-wrap decorations along with toys with small parts, or any toys that can be chewed or even that pair of socks from Aunt Gertrude, can all pose a potential danger to your pooch or kitty.

Holding a holiday celebration?

  • If your dog isn’t too friendly to strangers, consider placing him in his crate and be sure to give him plenty of love and exercise prior to lockdown. Cats either hide or are fine with most guests, but can be food thieves. So no food can go out onto the table unattended if your cats are mixing with the party. It is a challenge!
  • When entertaining, Diane suggests you ask your dog walker if she can take the dogs out for a bit. It gets them out of the house, stimulated and it’s an alternative to the stress of having them here- at least for part of the time.
  • Will there be noisemakers or fireworks on New Years Eve? Dogs are rather sensitive to loud and sudden noises. Help reduce their stress and keep them from fleeing by using the crate.

Traveling over the holidays?

  • Traveling with or without your pup is a great option too. If you travel and Fido stays home, be sure to find a trusted pet sitter or doggie daycare to care for him while you are gone.
  • Bringing Fido along? Check airline regulations if you are flying and he is small enough to have in the cabin with you. If you are driving make sure he’s securely fastened in a crash tested car harness or car seat. Pack enough food, treats, leash, travel food bowls, a dog bed and his favorite toys for the adventure. And don’t forget poop bags. You will likely need them wherever you go!
  • Be sure the information on his tags and microchip are up to date with your cell phone number just in case he gets lost while you are traveling. Always know where the nearest emergency vet is located. The unexpected always happens at the worst time.

Once pet parents have the safety matters handled their minds will be free to enjoy a fun and joyous holiday.

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About the author:
 
Diane is a charming and relatable guest, a strong animal advocate and gracious pet lover who delivers helpful information with simple steps any pet parent can do. She lives in Santa Monica with her family and two rambunctious dogs.

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Pet Safe Holiday Tips

 

jack russel terrier and kitten

Keeping your furry family members safe during the holidays can be a difficult task. Many pet parents plan to include their furry companions in the festivities. This holiday season, it’s important to be mindful of your pet’s eating and exercise habits. Also, remember to steer pets clear from harmful toys and other gifts. Dr. Julie Hansen, DVM, cVMA is the Program Chair of the Veterinary Technology program at Argosy University, Twin Cities.

Here are Dr. Hansen’s tips for a Pet Safe Holiday:

Great DOG gift ideas:

  • Stuffed animals with squeakers (be sure to make sure the dog doesn’t “liberate” the squeaker and swallow it!)
  • Chewing treats: look for products with the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal of approval. These will help reduce plaque and tartar. See http://www.vohc.org/AcceptedProductsTable.pdf
  • Sweaters and coats for small dogs in cold weather
  • Boots for dogs that love to go for long walks in the snow
  • Tennis balls and soft frisbees for dogs that love to retrieve
  • Treats! But give in small quantities

Great CAT gift ideas:

  • Scratching posts and boxes
  • Hiding spaces – boxes, tunnels, cat condos
  • Anything with catnip!
  • Small balls to chase (but not if you also have a dog that might eat them!)
  • Treats, especially dental chewing treats!
  • Toys you can use to play WITH your cat

Gifts to avoid:

  • Any toy too small for your dog – choose toys that they can’t swallow
  • Deer or elk antlers – these natural chews are unfortunately too hard and can easily break teeth
    • If your dog is a big chewer, look for softer chewing items (Kong products are great) that won’t be able to be chewed apart easily
    • Don’t leave your dog unsupervised with anything they can chew apart
  • Human “treats” – especially anything with chocolate, raisins, and/or macadamia nuts – all of these are toxic to dogs
  • Avoid toys with strings or ribbons that your cat could ingest, unless they are always supervised while playing

kitten exotic shorthair and chihuahua

*This is a guest post. The opinions expressed are that of the author’s and do not necessarily represent my own. 

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