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Stop Getting Hacked: 4 Steps to Obtaining and Using a Free EMV Credit Card

Image By: tales of a wandering youkai

Most Americans can successfully play the “six degrees of separation” game when it comes to knowing someone whose credit card was hacked in the last couple of years. In fact, stolen Target cards in 2013 alone accounted for $53.7 million in income for hackers. Although many folks remember the Target breach, few people remember that 20 other major data breaches occurred in 2014. The reason, is at least in part, is due to the lackluster security technology in our existing credit cards.

The traditional magnetic stripe cards require only a signature for security purposes, and any security system built around low paid retail employees checking signature verification is destined to fail. Who hasn’t sent a friend or relative off with a credit card to buy gas or to purchase groceries where no one questioned the difference in signature on the back of the card and the signature on the terminal or receipt?

Thankfully, there is a more secure form of credit card. Chip Cards, known as EMV or “smart cards”, add another layer of fraud protection through an embedded microchip that turns card member information into unique codes that is difficult to replicate. Plus, if your card is stolen, thieves cannot use EMV data to create usable counterfeit payment cards.

EMV enabled cards, have been around for about ten years in about 80 countries worldwide, but are only recently being adopted by the US, due to legislation that forces merchants to accept them by October 1, 2015. Currently, about 10-15 million chip credit cards already have been issued to U.S. consumers. Additionally, about one million out of more than 10 million POS (Point of Sale) terminals have already made the transition, and as merchants renew with their existing provider or pick a new credit card processor, they are adding the capability.

What Can You Do Now?
1. Find Out If Your Card Is Available in EMV Format: Check out this page at EMV Connection, which shows an up-to-date list of EMV issuers and the availability of EMV cards in the U.S. You can use this list to know what to ask for when you call your credit card company for a replacement card. Or, you can learn more about the card you may already have in hand. In fact, if you received a new credit card from your issuer sometime in the past year, you may already have experienced the technology without realizing it.
2. Request a Free EMV Enabled Card: Will you need to pay for these chip cards? Not if you already own a credit card. All you need to do is call your card issuer or go online to that issuer’s website and request an EMV card. Although banks have been rolling EMV cards out as renewal card replacements, you may need to ask your issuer specifically for that EMV card if you are traveling soon. Most credit card companies won’t issue a card at any time other than renewal unless you ask.
3. Start Using It Wherever Possible: Most new cards issued will contain both the stripe and the chip. So, if you’re standing at a credit card terminal and you aren’t sure what to do, just enter the card in the card slot. If the EMV terminal isn’t ready for your card yet, the machine will show an error and you’ll be prompted to swipe it. If you try to swipe a chip card in an EMV-activated terminal, the same thing will occur – an error message and a prompt to insert the card differently so the machine will read the chip.
4. Memorize Your PIN: Unmanned terminals at automated kiosks may now ask for a PIN number with EMV cards. This is when you DO need to worry. In the past, card holders didn’t need to memorize their PINs, and now they do. Don’t carry a list of PINs around with you, either, because the risk of that EMV card and your PIN list being stolen is just as high as it’s ever been.
Trading out your old magnetic stripe credit card for a chip enabled credit card provides you with a more secure, but equally convenient, way to pay for your transactions. Additionally, remember, that you should use the chip on your card whenever possible, you shouldn’t carry a PIN list around with you, and you should shred your old cards. Taking these simple measures can go a long way to minimizing the risk of credit card and identity theft.
Rich McIver regularly writes about consumer protection and advocacy as it relates to the credit card processing industry. He is the founder of, and can be reached via Twitter or Facebook.

EFF Files New Lawsuit Against NSA

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of First Unitarian Church and multiple other organizations against the National Security Agency (NSA) opposing the illegal mass surveillance programs of the NSA. EFF represents will be representing the coalition of American organizations including political associations, churches, and regular people.

First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA is a lawsuit that will address whether the NSA violated the First Amendment right of association by illegally collecting call records. EFF has had years of experience fighting illegal government surveillance in court, but this will be a pivotal case for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“The First Amendment protects the freedom to associate and express political views as a group, but the NSA’s mass, untargeted collection of Americans’ phone records violates that right by giving the government a dramatically detailed picture into our associational ties,” said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. “Who we call, how often we call them, and how long we speak shows the government what groups we belong to or associate with, which political issues concern us, and our religious affiliation. Exposing this information –especially in a massive, untargeted way over a long period of time– violates the Constitution and the basic First Amendment tests that have been in place for over 50 years.”

The bulk telephone records collection program was Continue reading EFF Files New Lawsuit Against NSA

The power of kindness to overcome bullying and cyberbullying

download-key-logger-programThe power of kindness to overcome bullying
by Lauren Ivy Chiong

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

That’s the saying we learned as children to recite when picked on by bullies, but the statement that the words never hurt couldn’t have been further from the truth. The truth is that cruel words can hurt as much as a physical injury, even if it’s in a different way, and the wounds run deep and can last a lifetime.

I was the prototypical nerdy girl who got picked on in the locker room and chosen last in P.E. I’ll never forget what the mean girls said to me, even though it’s decades later. Now I’m the mother to a preschooler, and she’s on the verge of being old enough to understand what it means to get picked on for being different and to have her feelings get hurt.

How can the inevitable cruelty in the schoolyard be overcome? The first thing that comes to mind is kindness.

I was very pleased to find some current examples of how kindness is being used in schools to overcome bullying and foster compassion and friendship.

Performing random acts of kindness

In Terre Haute, Indiana, a local non-profit organization called SPPRAK, an acronym for Special People Performing Random Acts of Kindness, has unveiled a program at Dixie Been Elementary School called SPPRAK Pack. The program’s mission is to help students celebrate acts of kindness by allowing them to record fellow students’ good deeds on sticky notes, which are then placed on a large banner displayed in the school’s front hallway. The notes record moments of students sharing lunches, helping put toys away, opening the door for each other, and more. The program is expected to be available soon in all of the 28 schools in Vigo County, Indiana.

Stopping cyberbullying with kindness

Jeremiah Anthony, a student at West High School in Iowa City, Iowa, is combating cyber bullying one compliment at a time. He created a Twitter account called @WestHighBros to send out kind tweets about his fellow classmates when he became aware of the growing problem of students being bullied via social media. Anthony, along with two friends, send out tweets full of praise and encouraging words for students whom they choose randomly.

Here are some samples of the @WestHighBros tweets:

“Leader in so many ways. You don’t tell lies and you are forever real. Your infectious smile brightens everyone’s day around you.”

“One of the funniest and classiest guys we know. Fantastic on the soccer field and in the classroom. Keep up the great work!”

So far the friends have sent out more than 3,000 tweets and counting.

#26Acts of kindness for Sandy Hook Continue reading The power of kindness to overcome bullying and cyberbullying

Protect Valuable Data With Online Cloud Backup Solutions

Will cloud computing replace the hard drive, the flash drive and the DVD drive? It might. Google laptops and iPads don’t have hard drives, and similar technology is coming down the pipeline. Tech writers like Jeremy A. Kaplan of believe that physical drives will soon be obsolete, and artists, scrapbook fanatics and photographers are tossing away their flash drives and DVDs in favor of hosting their photos on social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest. These sites store photos (and more) to the computing is here to stay

What is cloud hosting? It’s an online storage system that allows you to back up data over public or proprietary networks on an offsite server. There are several types of cloud backup services that people use in their daily activities without even knowing it; iCloud, iTunes, Evernote and Facebook are a few consumer favorites, and Google, Amazon and Dropbox also offer cloud storage solutions for individuals and companies to store and share large files. If you haven’t considered using these cloud backup services yet and you’re still saving your data to your hard drive or on CDs and DVDs, find out why the rest of the world is moving to the cloud.

Storm’s Coming

There are a number of reasons why IT managers and computer users would want to push for cloud storage solutions to replace other means of storage. For starters, cloud storage solves the data-access problems brought on when natural disasters (think Hurricane Sandy) strike. Without a secured backup plan, Continue reading Protect Valuable Data With Online Cloud Backup Solutions

Secrets to Keeping Track of Family Records

Managing a family’s affairs requires keeping track of important records and paperwork. The problem with so many papers is that households can end up struggling to find ways to organize the paperwork and find storage solutions for necessary items that are not needed at the particular time. In addition, securing these documents can be a challenge, as most people don’t realize how important it is to protect their personal information. Even the smallest ATM receipt can give identity thieves access to someone’s account, and the typical person might not realize that leaving it on the coffee table could be a big mistake. Managing paperwork takes a little work, but ultimately it is worth the effort of getting organized.

Separate Documents Into Categories

According to Carolyn McKinney from the University of Ohio, households have documents that range from financial paperwork to medical documentation. With a wide array of different papers, a household should always begin the process of organizing by placing paperwork into different categories based on the purpose of the paper. Categories a family might consider filing paperwork under include financial, medical, religious and insurance. Organizing also makes it easier to differentiate between important documents and shredder material.

Break the Categories into 3 Groups

Get a good pad lock to secure important documents in a storage unit

Each category will have certain paperwork currently in action, papers that are necessary to keep for a certain time period and documents that are permanent to the family. Cynthia Ewer on suggests breaking down the paperwork into three separate files under the ABCs of organization. Her suggestion is to divide paperwork into sub-categories for paperwork that is currently in action, basic household files that include routine expenses, and classic files that are a permanent part of family life.

Throw Out Receipts

The traditional advice to maintain receipts for a certain time period relates to Continue reading Secrets to Keeping Track of Family Records

Keep the Change, You Filthy Animal: Home Security Tips From Kevin McAllister

In the iconic 1990 John Hughes-produced film, “Home Alone,” eight-year-old Kevin McAllister is accidentally left behind when his family frantically takes off for a Christmas vacation in Paris. While his mother desperately tries to get home to her unattended son, Kevin, played by Macaulay Culkin, has to defend the family’s home from a pair of blundering burglars, Harry and Marv. Kevin’s creative security devices and traps are hilarious and inventive and end up saving the day.

“Buzz, I’m Going Through All Your Private Stuff! You’d Better Come Out and Pound Me!”

Today, more than two decades later, the type of scenario in “Home Alone” could be solved instantly with cell phones, Internet, high-tech security and other technologies. Unfortunately, we also have more to worry about, like the valuable information stored on our phones and computers. While home security has come a long way over the years, we can still take a page out of Kevin’s book when it comes to protecting our homes, along with utilizing the tools we have today.

“This is My House, I HAVE to Defend It!”

Kevin tried to keep the bad guys out with rigged doors, creative traps and psychological confusion. Before realizing Kevin was left behind, his mother, Kate, tries to remember anything she forgot like turning off the lights and shutting the garage door. Thankfully, home security today isn’t so exhausting. The newest security technology even lets you turn off lights, lock doors and even see into your home when you’re not there. A resource from the LifeShield home security systems blog suggested using alarm sensors not just on your doors and window, but within your home as well. They can sound an alarm and/or send a text message to your phone. Many security companies offer apps that you can easily access your settings and monitor your home.

“When I Grow Up and Get Married, I’m Living Alone!”

Although we have many conveniences today when it comes to protecting our home and family, make sure you prepare for any situation. Talk to your kids about what to do in emergencies. In “Home Alone,” although Kevin was only eight, he obviously had the sense not to answer the door to strangers and to call the police (eventually). Talk with your family about emergency plans and teach your kids how to make emergency calls and how to set the alarm system. Keep phone numbers, addresses, medical information, etc. easily accessible and visible for everyone in case something unfortunate happens.

“Had Enough? Or are You Thirsty for More?”

To keep Harry and Marv from pilfering his family’s valuables, Kevin came up with some creative schemes to hold them at bay. He strung together cardboard cut-outs and played loud music to make it look like a party was going on. He even played a violent movie to scare the burglars into thinking there were already thieves inside the house. Realistically you don’t have to come up with such elaborate hoaxes, but you still might want to take a cue from this crafty kid. Leaving a light on and maybe some music or the television can make robbers second guess if someone is home or not. Again, home automation is a convenient development that can save you from a break-in and also save energy. You can use a single screen to control alarms, water sprinklers, lights, heating and air conditioner, according to

“It’s Only My Imagination, It’s Only My Imagination.”

If you have a bad feeling, don’t disregard it; go with your gut. In the movie, Harry poses as a police officer to get invited into the McAllister’s home and learn about their trip. This gave him information he needed in order to plan a heist. If you are suspicious, take measures to ease your mind. Unlike in the early 90’s, there are simple Internet sites that give you background checks instantly. If there is an instance of you inviting a stranger into your home, even a maintenance person, maid or babysitter, you have the right to know their history. Sites like Angie’s List and are good resources when looking to hire someone you can trust. In this digitally dependent age, information is key.

5 Steps To Safely Buy Or Sell A Used Computer

Our computers and mobile devices increasingly carry our whole lives—work files, personal photos, tax information, and more. This makes used computers a powerful tool for opportunistic cyber-criminals; but there are ways to keep yourself and your data safe when it’s time to swap out your old computer. Here are a few rules to follow, whether you’re buying or selling, so you can move forward with confidence.

1. Never throw an old computer away

Not only are landfills a prime target for identity thieves, but most computers contain extremely toxic chemicals that can leach into groundwater. If your old computer is unusable and not worth the trouble of selling, drop it off at a local e-waste processing facility. They’ll responsibly dispose of the chemicals, recover valuable metals from the computer’s components, and ensure that the device is destroyed so that any residual information is completely unrecoverable.

2. Back up your data

Before scrubbing your old computer, make sure to back up all of your files—you might be surprised at what you find yourself needing later on, and hard disk space is getting cheaper every day. For this reason, you should try to keep your computer’s data organized, so you can just grab a few folders and transfer them to a flash drive in the event of sudden computer trouble. Just remember to wipe the flash drive once you’ve transferred the files to your new computer—having your backup on a portable device that you carry around regularly is a recipe for identity theft.

3. Carefully read any paperwork from a computer retailer

Just like buying a car, new is safer than used, so carefully read any contracts or agreements you’re asked to sign when buying a used computer. In many cases, small retailers may not accept any responsibility for malware that might be left over from the previous owner, so you won’t have any recourse if a registry key infection or other deep-rooted malware causes financial harm. To be safe, take the new device to a computer specialist you trust, and have them give it a thorough wipe. Make sure that the cost of these security measures doesn’t offset the savings from going used—sometimes you’re better off just looking for new laptops for sale online.

4. Don’t just reformat your hard drive

If you intend to sell your computer, reformatting your hard drive is a good way to make your personal information less accessible to identity thieves, but it isn’t foolproof—skilled specialists can often recover credit card numbers, account numbers, and passwords even from a reformatted hard drive. For the best possible results, AutoClave or DBAN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke) are the best freeware erasure options. If you want a software provider that guarantees their work, you’ll have to find a paid option, but DBAN and AutoClave are extremely secure.

5. Be wary of used computers with pre-installed software

You should be careful about any used computer with “free” software, particularly if you’re buying the computer from a private party online. A deal that seems too good to be true may be a Trojan horse for virus authors to access your personal information. A used computer that seems way beneath the price range for models with comparable specifications should raise red flags. Having said that, you can safely purchase almost any working computer as long as you completely clean it out before using it. For best results, install the erasure software from a flash drive or via a public wireless network to avoid passing malware to other devices connected to your home network.

Buying or selling a used computer can be a great option. When it’s time for an upgrade, practice good identity protection by keeping these security tips in mind.


Patricia Shuler is a staff writer from Oakland, California. She’s an admitted tech-junkie who’s quick to share her honest opinion on all things consumer electronic—including up-to-date news, user reviews, and “no holds barred” opinions on a variety of social media, tech, computer, and mobile accessories topics.

You’ve Got Mail And Someone Is About to Steal it: What You Can Do To Prevent Mail Theft

My grandmother called me about a week ago and asked me if I had received the birthday card that she had sent. I told her I hadn’t and she became immediately concerned that someone had stolen the card from my mailbox to get the Best Buy gift card that she had sent with it. She then called back and asked, “Your address is still 88 Spring St, correct?” I told her that she had the right address (after I made her verify that she was in fact my grandmother – she laughed and so I knew it had to be her).

Fortunately, the card was sent back to her because she had neglected to place a stamp on the envelope, but for a moment I was concerned that I had been the victim of mail theft, not only because someone else was potentially spending the gift card my grandmother had sent me, but because if someone was able to steal my card sent in the mail, then there was a strong possibility that the same thief could steal a letter containing private information pertaining to my credit card, bank account or even mail that contained my social security number.

Although the experience was a false alarm, it made me think about how important it is to protect my mail from possible theft, and in doing so, prevent identity theft from becoming a reality.

According to, in 2005 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took a survey that showed over 8.3 million adults were victims of identity theft. Last year, the FTC reported that 9.9 million Americans were victims of identity theft and that many cases were directly related in some way to stolen mail. In response to the increasing threat, the U.S. postal service has teamed up with USPS officials to create rock solid strategies that will hopefully deter thieves from stealing mail in the future. Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim of mail theft: Continue reading You’ve Got Mail And Someone Is About to Steal it: What You Can Do To Prevent Mail Theft

Platinum Credit Card Company Closed by the FTC

As if you needed another reason to be weary of credit cards from unknown sources, the Federal Trade Commission has shut down the operation known as Apogee One Enterprises and Marquee Marketing. The company was found guilty of doling out platinum cards that weren’t what they claimed to be. It turns out that the platinum credit cards with limits up to $9,500 were only usable through the company’s website, even though the company claimed that users could purchase items wherever Visa, American Express, and MasterCard were accepted.

The company seems to have preyed on those that didn’t have good credit by not only offering high credit limits, but also be claiming they would report to the three major credit bureaus. In other words, it was supposedly a way for debtors to build up their credit. Unfortunately, the company never reported to any of the credit bureaus.

Applicants were asked to pay a one-time $99 fee and $19 per month in order to enjoy the “benefits” the company had to offer. However, the only benefits that customers saw was the ability to purchase off-brand items that were highly overpriced through the company’s store.

The FTC became involved when Continue reading Platinum Credit Card Company Closed by the FTC