Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How to prevent check fraud with a $2.48 tool

What is check fraud? Well, there are the cases where a blank check is written on and cashed, but today we're focusing on an even more devious method: The washing of checks you've already written on and signed and the adding on of new information.

Check washing is performed by taking a check that you have filled out, covering your signature with tape, and soaking the check in acetone. The acetone removes almost all types of ink from the paper of the check and the tape that is over the signature leaves your signature intact. Thus, leaving a blank check with your signature on it for any scammer to use for any amount he or she may wish. It's a pretty easy method of attack and there are numerous post on how to do it accessible on the internet.

So why does this work? Well, most pen's ink just applies it's marking to the top level of the check, making it easy to remove and leaving a near intact check behind. It's a scary thought, but it is preventable by using the Uniball 207 pen. The Uniball 207 uses an ink cartridge that embeds itself into the check paper, making it unwashable. There is even a press release by Frank Abagnale, the person the movie "Catch Me If You Can" was based on, stating the secureness of this in available on Uniball's webpage. The statement also goes further into the details of check washing and is definitely worth the read.

A four pack of these pens goes for $9.58 at Amazon.com, which is a great deal when you consider them as a tool for additional financial security. They write smooth w/ their gel cartridge and have a great rubber grip....but to keep from sounding too much like an advertisement, I still prefer my Dr. Grip Gravity pen when doing all of my writing other than checks.

Also, for those of you who use fountain pens, Noodler's ink produces cartridges that have the same properties as the Uniball 207. Click on this link and read the "Bulletproof" section (Section 3) to learn more.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Multiple Cokes for the price of 1 at vending machines

Now I'm in no way condoning this, but you have got to admit this is a pretty neat no-tech scam of a newer Coke machine. This is for demonstrative and educational purposes only.

It pretty much goes like this:

1. Insert change and choose drink
2. When drink enters chute, have hand up drop door ready to stop soda from falling through
3. Hold soda in place until drink chute drops again
4. Your money is then returned into the change slot.
5. Repeat steps 1-4

And here's a video of it in action:

Remember, this is for demonstrative and educational purposes only. What you do with this knowledge from here is on your own accord.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Unplugged: Trading Cable TV for Internet TV

"Unplugged: Trading Cable TV for Internet TV" - This was the headline that struck my attention on dealnews.com today. I've always had an issue with the cable company in general (it would be nice if my internet access would always be 24/7), and I do agree with most peoples view about how most of the channels/shows on TV are pretty much junk. I've considered doing the same thing as the author many times (cable is currently included in my rent though) and love reading about other's experiences.

The first paragraph of the moderately sized article goes like so:

"Having control over 600 cable channels is the greatest thing ever. Having to pay $74 a month for that privilege isn't so grand. As prices for food, gas, and everyday needs continue to rise, we here at
dealnews wondered: Is it possible to save a few dollars every month by replacing our cable service with free, legal Internet content? Has the Internet evolved to the point where cable service is unnecessary? There was only one way to find out, and so on the first week of May I unplugged my cable box and replaced it with my laptop."

Sounds pretty interesting right? Well you can check out the full write up of Louis Ramirez's experiences without cable here.

Oh, and also check out the main site of dealnews.com I try to keep you up to date on some good deals, but keeping up on deals is their job and they do it better than any other site I've seen, been using them for years and still check them daily.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hypermilling: Increase gas mileage with these tips

There's no question about it that the drastic increase in gas prices has almost every one of us looking for ways to increase our bang for the buck when it comes to driving. Well, I have 2 ways for you to do this. One is by checking for the best gas prices in your area and the other is hypermilling, which doesn't have a set definition, but is known as a way to increase your MPG in the super-fuel efficient crowd.

There are numerous ways to do this, and instead of rehashing what has been already written I'll point you over to this list of 105 hypermilling tips at ecomodder.com.

This list contains some known tips such as: Close the sunroof at higher speeds, avoid peak traffic, and combining errands into one trip.

There are also some lesser known tips like: Drafting a vehicle in a crosswind and avoiding idling upon startup.

Then there are some of the crazier tips: Listen to slower music, avoid parallel parking, and driving shoeless.

It's a pretty interesting read, some tips you may use, some you probably won't. Odds are though, you'll learn a bunch of new ways to get better mileage. Tips that might come in very useful once the pumps hit the $5/gal. mark, if not already at the $4/gal. mark.

Check out the 105 hypermilling tips to decrease your fuel consumption!

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

30% off coupon at all Ann Taylor stores and online this weekend

Once again, it's Friends and Family weekend at Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft from today, June 12th, until June 15th. This time around they're offering 30% off instead of the 25% off offered last time. Ladies, now's the time to buy..and fellas, most girls I know love both gifts and Ann Taylor clothing, so you might want to check it out as well. Click on the pic below for the full-size coupon, it is printable for in-store use and also has the coupon code for their online store.

Air_Make it to Ireland this Autumn! One-Way Flights From $310+ w/ Aer Lingus > Expires 6/30/08

Monday, June 9, 2008

Free internet at Starbucks..and that's just the beginning

Just this week Starbucks announced the Starbucks Card Rewards program. Even if you drink there only occasionaly, this is definitely worth jumping on.

The perks are as follows:

- Free beverage coupon if you join by July 14th
- Free refill on regular brewed coffee
- Free select syrup and milk options to add to your drink
- Free tall beverage with every purchase of 1 lb. of beans
- 2 hours of free WiFi access per day (must use card every 30 days to remain valid; it is good for one session daily up to 2 hours worth)

So how do you get these perks? It's incredibly easy, all you need to do is purchase a Starbucks giftcard and register it online here. That's it!

I'm not a regular at Starbucks by any means, but w/ free refills and free internet I may be frequenting the one at my local Barnes & Nobel's a little more often.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

How to prevent identity theft in 8 easy steps

I picked up a book the other day entitled Scam Proof Your Life by Sid Kirchheimer. Pretty good read with alot of decent tips in it covering a wide range of topics. One of the main ones I read over was the Identity Theft section that I'll cover and add my own two cents on.

1. Be sure to shred all documents and mail that concerns any personal or financial information. Be sure to use a cross-cut shredder. I personally own a Fellowes Powershred DM-12C, which I love, but may be a bit more heavy duty than you need. Any cross-cut shredder will do.

2. Review your credit history at least once a year to make sure everything on it is the way it's supposed to be. Earlier I wrote about how to get free credit reports from all three bureaus courtesy of the US government here.

3. Mail your bills and other items with personal or financial information from a locked postal box. A home mailbox with a flag up is a target for identity thieves, but tampering with a locked USPS mailbox is a federal offense and most ID thieves don't want to risk that.

4. Opt out of all pre-approved credit card mailings and other offers. I wrote about this and included the information on how to stop these mailings here.

5. If any telemarketer ever asks for your social security number, bank account information, or any other sensitive personal data, just hang up on them. It may seem rude, but your bank account will thank you.

6. Be sure to never carry your ATM PIN code or Social Security card on you when you're outside of the house.

7. When you receive email from someone or a group you don't know, delete it. There are many scams running on the internet that involve this in one way or another, so it's best to just avoid the situation. If you get an email from a bank or company you deal with requesting an account number or other sensitive data, contact that company via a phone call first asking if they sent the email. Most companies do not ask for this information due to security risks, so be sure to check via a phone call first.

8. Always be sure to check your monthly account statements for your bank and credit accounts. If you find something wrong, report it immediately. I was once taken for a monthly charge of about $40 by a company that had a clause in their fine print. It took me 4 months to notice it and I was out $160, don't let this happen to you.

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