Credit Card Fraud & Tips To Protect Yourself

cardsWhen someone steals your personal information, such as address, phone number, account information, social security number, etc., it leads to identity theft. They use this information to open various lines of credit in your name, they could possibly take out a mortgage, secure credit cards and run them up, or even buy a car.

Credit card fraud is when someone gains access to your open credit card account and then uses it in order to buy items, or indulge in other illegal behavior. It costs credit card companies millions every year, and while the consumer isn’t responsible for it there is long term damage. The perpetrator still has your personal information, and could repeat the process ad nauseam. It can also take quite some time to clear up your credit score, and the other issues that come with credit card fraud.

However, it is far worse in situations of identity theft, so when it comes to credit card fraud your involvement should end as soon as you report it to your credit card company. As soon as you realize your card or information has been stolen you must report it.

The number of cases has risen over the last 5 years, however, you can take steps to protect yourself from credit card fraud and identity theft.

Sign your credit card as soon as it arrives, and never let it out of your sight. Do not give your credit card to anyone.

Checkout ABC’s Dan Harris’ piece on cards with chips.

When you are asked to provide personal information consider who is asking for it and what it will be used for. That includes basic information like your name, address, phone number and date of birth. Extend that to requests for account numbers and social security numbers.

If you aren’t the initiator of the interaction be wary. Con artists rely on their charm and persuasiveness to take advantage of others, so they will say anything to get the information that they want. Do not respond to emails, phone calls or text message seeking your credit card information.

This is especially important when you are ordering over the internet, by phone or through a catalogue. You will more than likely be asked for the three-digit security code on the back of your card. It is what merchants use to prevent fraud and verify that the card itself is in the possession of the person placing the order. If you’re dealing with a reputable brand then you should feel comfortable providing this security code, but be aware of who you give this number to. Ensure the website is secure.

Another way to ensure that you are extremely safe is to use a shredder.  Shredding all of your documents that contain personal information is an excellent way to ensure it is difficult for anyone to gain access to your personal information. Be sure to shred those pesky credit card applications that arrive, too.

Use a secured mailbox. Consider the amount of information that is sitting in your mailbox on a daily basis- checks, credit card bills, plenty of sensitive information. Another way to combat this is by setting all of your bills to electronic. You don’t need to worry about personal information in your mailbox or dumpster diving if all of your personal information is coming to you online.

If receiving your bills electronically is wise, then paying them electronically is just common sense. It saves you time, you don’t need to buy envelopes and stamps and you don’t need to worry about sending checks through the mail.

When creating your password don’t pick anything involving birthdays, family names, or other information that is easy to discover. It’s important to create strong passwords and the majority of websites will give you an idea of just how strong your password is when you create it. The best way to create a strong password is to include both upper and lowercase letters, as well as including numbers in the middle. The longer you make your password the harder it will be to crack. Change your passwords regularly, too, and don’t use the same password for every website. In the event that someone does crack it they would then have access to everything.

Keep your PIN number safe. They’re as common as passwords are now, so you will use it at the ATM, at payment points and sometimes even websites are requesting them in a bid to prevent fraud. Make sure you memorize all of your PIN numbers and passwords. Don’t write them down, do not carry them in your wallet and do not save them on your computer. Do not send your information via email, or text.

Don’t carry all of your personal information in your wallet. You don’t need your social security card in your wallet, and you don’t need every form of identification. It might sound like a hassle to take limited cards out, and only carry the credit cards you need, however it is much less hassle than dealing with credit card fraud or identity theft.

Everyone is always on their cell phone, but remember where you are. If you’re talking on your phone in public, then everyone can hear you- so don’t share personal information over the phone.

Make sure you check your credit card charges when each bill comes in. Beyond that, check your credit score regularly. Federal law entitles you to at least one free credit report on an annual basis. There are some states that require even more than one free report a year.

You can also subscribe to a credit monitoring service from the credit card issuer or a credit bureau- they will alert you via text or email if there is a change to your credit score.

The tips above are meant to help you protect yourself from credit card fraud, while it may seem like an effort- it will save you both time and money in the long run.

 

Harmful Interactions – Mixing Alcohol With Medicines

shotWhen discussing mixing alcohol with medication the majority of people assume this direction is with regards to prescription medications. That is not the case, however, there are a number of over the counter medications that can cause reactions when mixed with alcohol.

Most people don’t take the risks seriously, because a lot of people have mixed meds and alcohol and not suffered any adverse effects. That doesn’t mean your liver hasn’t been left with long lasting damage, though. Additionally, mixing alcohol with medicine can lead to dizziness, confusion, overdoses and in some cases- death.

This doesn’t happen every time to every person who mixes concoctions, but it could happen at any time depending on a number of variables.

If you drink frequently you are more likely to have a negative interaction with medication, and vice versa.

Elderly people are especially at risk, as they develop chronic diseases and take regular medication.

Additionally, medication sticks around in your system far longer than you think. If you’re unsure look at the manufacturer’s website to check for the half-life of your medication. Many common medications take as many as 3 or 4 days to be completely out of your system.

The following information is based on this fact sheet that the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism. It is important to note, however, that these are not the only medications that can have adverse effects when mixed with alcohol- this is a list of the most common medications we take today that can lead to adverse effects.

 

Acetaminophen

Also known by name brands such as Advil, Tylenol, Aleve, Motrin and Excedrin.

Mixing acetaminophen with alcohol can lead to severe liver damage, if you drink 3 or more alcohol drinks in conjunction with this medication. Drinks quite commonly pop a couple of acetaminophen after drinking in order to stave off a hangover- this in itself can lead to an upset stomach or worse: ulcers and bleeding. With particular non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like naproxen and ibuprofen, there are already potential side effects relating to upset stomachs- but that risk rises as you drink while taking these medications.

Prescription Pain Killers

The common ones being Vicodin, Demerol and Percocet.

This is a common way to abuse painkillers, in order to boost your buzz. However, you could die by doing this. For those who already suffer side effects with prescription pain killer’s alcohol will only serve to exacerbate them. Mixing pain meds with alcohol can leave you feeling dizzy and drowsy, slowed breathing, short memory, unusual behaviour, and impaired motor control. This can lead to a number of other dangers in addition to the immediate health impact.

Blood Clot Medication

Namely: Coumadin (warfarin).

This is a common medication for the elderly, but the dangers of mixing with alcohol are deadly. It can cause internal bleeding, and in the event of heavy drinking can lead to blood clots, strokes, or heart attacks.

Blood Pressure Medication

To name a few: Norvasc, Losartan, Lopressor, Norvasc.

As well as drowsiness, dizziness and the risk of fainting- mixing blood clot meds with alcohol can lead to a number of heart problems, namely arrhythmia.

Cholesterol Medication

Niaspan, Zocor, Crestor, Vytorin, Lipitor and a whole host of other medications.

All medications relating to cholesterol can cause liver damage, some can increase bleeding in the stomach, while some will leave you itching.

Diabetes Medications

Micronase, Diabinese, Gylnase, Glucotrol, Orinase and more.

Drinking while taking these medications makes it far more difficult to control diabetes. It can cause dangerous low levels of blood sugar. Additionally, it can bring on flushing, which leaves you feeling nauseous, vomiting, with headaches, a racing heartbeat and issues with your blood pressure.

Allergy Meds

In addition to the Benadryl’s and Claritin’s of the world- cold and flu meds like Sudafed Sinus, Tylenol Cold and Flu, and more fall into this category.

Many of these medications cause drowsiness, alcohol exacerbates this. Additionally, many of these medications also contain acetaminophen which means they have the added side effects of damaging your liver.

Cough Meds

Robitussin C and Robitussin Cough are common types.

There are been an alarming emergence of “Lean” abuse in recent years, which has been popularized by a number of young popstars. This is mixing a codeine based cough syrup with candy and lemonade and lime soda. This can lead to serious, even life threatening, side effects as it increases the risk of overdose.

Anxiety & Depression Medication

Klonopin, Valium, Xanas, Paxil, Ativan, Prozac, St John’s Wort, Nardil, Effexor, Zoloft, Seroquel, the list goes on and on.

The majority of these meds come with side effects of varying degrees. Mixing them with alcohol not only renders them useless, but leaves you at greater risk of overdose. It can impair your motor control, cause memory problems, leave you feeling drowsy and dizzy, and impair your breathing.

Additionally, it can leave you feeling hopeless, and more depressed than you were originally.

Attention Deficit Medication

Ritalin, Focalin, Adderall, Strattera to name but a few.

Mixing these with alcohol can actually make concentration incredibly difficult. You can be left feeling dizzy and drowsy, with liver damage and an increased risk of heart problems.

Indigestion Medication

Zantac, Reglan, Axid and more.

This could leave you with a racing heart and a lower alcohol tolerance. Reglan and alcohol can have an impact on your blood pressure.

Sleep Aids

Sominex, Lunesta, Ambien, Valerian, Lavender, Chamomile and more.

All of these are designed to make you feel sleepy to enable you to get to sleep and rest throughout the night. However, combining these with alcohol can cause overdoses, as well as impairing motor control, affecting memory and leading to strange behavior.

 

It might not seem like a big deal at the time, or it might even appear to be fun, but the long term effects that mixing alcohol and medication can have is dangerous.

It’s important to read the pamphlets that always come with medicine- if something says to avoid alcohol while you are taking it then you should do so.

How To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

A review of statistics available from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed that between the years of 1999 and 2010 an average of 430 people lost their lives due to carbon monoxide poisoning. The total deaths for that period of 12 years was over 5,000.

These were unintentional CO deaths that were not related to CO poisoning from fires. These were accidental poisonings from the exposure to carbon monoxide vapors or gases.

Carbon Monoxide is colorless, and it is odorless- it is undetectable to the human senses and you may not realize that you are being exposed to these dangerous gases until it is too late.

The initial symptoms of CO poisoning are much like the flue:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

The above are the low level symptoms, the high level poisoning lead to more severe symptoms, such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Mental confusion
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death

The severity of symptoms is related to the level of CO exposure as well as the duration someone is exposed to it. It is common for occupants to mistake mild CO poisoning for the flu, which can sometimes result in death. For high levels of exposure victims become confused rapidly, and the loss of muscular coordination will lead to death quickly.

How can this be prevented?

  • All appliances should be installed and operated as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions, as well as building codes. The majority of appliances will require installation by a qualified professional.
  • The heating system should be inspected by a professional and annually serviced to ensure it is operating properly. In addition, the professional should check chimney flues for blockages, or corrosion, possible disconnections or loosening connections.
  • Do not attempt to service your own fuel-burning appliances unless you have the proper knowledge and skills, plus the correct tools.
  • Do not operate a portable generator in an enclosed space- this includes the house, garage, shed, or any other building with at least 3 walls and a roof. Opening the doors and/or windows does not make it safer to do so.
  • Do not use fuel burning camping equipment in your vehicle, a tent, garage, shed, or home. It is not designed for use within an enclosed space. If you purchase one that has been designed for use in an enclosed space, ensure you read through the instructions for safe use.
  • Do not burn charcoal inside a tent, vehicle, shed, home or garage.
  • Do not leave a vehicle running in a garage attached to your home, even if the garage door has been left open.
  • Do not use gas appliances to heat your home- this includes ovens, ranges and clothes dryers.
  • Do not use unvented fuel-burning appliances in a room where people are sleeping
  • Never cover the bottom of propane or natural gas ovens with foil. This will block the combustion air flow and will produce CO.
  • When renovating your home, you must ensure that tarps do not cover appliance vents or chimneys. Also ensure that debris is not blocking these areas.
  • Install Carbon Monoxide alarms throughout your home. This is not a substitute for the rest of the list above, however it can provide added protection and alert you to the presence of CO in your home. CO alarms should be in every hallway where sleeping areas are- they should not be covered by curtains, or furniture. They should not be placed near heating vents or in kitchens above fuel burning appliances.

 

When considering what level of carbon monoxide is dangerous to your health it can depend on a number of factors. The length of exposure, the concentration of CO, and the health condition of the individual who has been exposed.

 

The concentration of carbon monoxide is measured in ppm (parts per million). The majority of people can withstand prolonged exposure of up to 70ppm without experiencing any systems. A heart patient, however, may begin to experience chest pain. Carbon monoxide levels above 70ppm will see the introduction of noticeable symptoms, like nausea, fatigue and headache. It is sustained exposure of CO concentration levels over 150pmm that lead to disorientation, and possibly death.

 

If you believe you’re experiencing CO poisoning symptoms head outside for fresh air immediately. Call the fire department to report your symptoms from your cell phone, or a neighbor’s home. Do not re-enter your home under any circumstances. Contact your doctor to explain your circumstances and have CO poisoning confirmed. If your doctor confirms this, you must employ a qualified technician to check all of your appliances. Do not operate them until this has been completed.

alarm

The purpose of the carbon monoxide alarm is to detect levels of CO before they reach life threatening levels. The manufacturer instructions should be followed for installation and use of the CO alarm. To ensure it is operating use the test button. This tests whether the circuitry is operating, but not the sensors accuracy. CO alarms are not lifetime guaranteed, so it’s important to check the instructions to find out when it should be replaced.

 

If your CO alarm sounds do not ignore it, and do not search for the source. Get out of the home immediately into fresh air. Call the emergency services and ensure that everyone is accounted for. Do not go back into your home until the emergency services have cleared you to do so. Re-entering your home could result in death. If a malfunctioning appliance has been determined as the CO source, make sure it is off and do not operate it until it has been serviced for a qualified technician.

 

If you have been cleared by emergency services to reenter your home and the alarm reactivates within 24 hours repeat the steps above. However, follow up by calling a qualified technician to investigate and repair the source. If possible stay elsewhere for the evening.

 

CO Alarms should comply with UL 2034 and will state this on the packaging.

 

Here’s a great video that talks about carbon monoxide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMnaLKlVXxo