Protect Yourself Against, and Mitigate Damages From, Identity Theft

We’ve all heard of it. But we all think that we’re invincible to it. Identity Theft!

What is it? It refers to the preparatory stage of acquiring and collecting someone else’s personal information for criminal purposes.

Identity theft techniques can range from unsophisticated, such as dumpster diving and mail theft, to more elaborate schemes.

If your identity is stolen, do you have a plan in place to mitigate the damages? If not, you should at least bookmark this, just in case you need it in the future.

Identity thieves are looking for the following information:
• full name
• date of birth
• Social Insurance Numbers
• full address
• mother’s maiden name
• username and password for online services
• driver’s license number
• personal identification numbers (PIN)
• credit card information (numbers, expiry dates and the last three digits printed on the signature panel)
• bank account numbers
• signature
• passport number

There are things that you can do to protect yourself from identity theft, and there are steps that you can take to minimize the damage and help bring the thief to justice.

Here are 5 things that you can do right now to protect yourself:
1. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put ‘PHOTO ID REQUIRED.’
2. When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the ‘For’ line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your cheque as it passes through all the cheque processing channels won’t have access to it.
3. Put your work phone # on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a PO Box, use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO Box, use your work address. Never have your SIN printed on your checks. (DUH!) You can add it if it is necessary. But if you have It printed, anyone can get it.
4. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place.
5. When you travel abroad, carry a photocopy of your passport. We’ve all heard horror stories about fraud that’s committed on us in stealing a Name, address, Social Insurance number, credit cards, etc…

If your identity does get stolen, what kind of things can you expect to have happen?

Here are just some of what they can do:
1. Access your bank accounts
2. Open new bank accounts
3. Transfer bank balances
4. Apply for loans, credit cards
5. Make purchases
6. Buy cell phone packages
7. Credit line approved by retail stores
8. Access your driving record, and change your information online

If you are a victim, here’s some critical information to act on immediately:
1. Cancel your credit cards immediately. But the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them. This is why we photocopy them (see above). Call your local bank/financial institution as well.
2. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).
But here’s what is perhaps most important of all:
3. Call the nationwide credit reporting companies immediately. Ask them to put a fraud alert on your name and credit report. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

Here are the numbers for two national credit bureaus:
1.) Equifax: 1-800-465-7166
2.) TransUnion Canada: 1-877-525-3823
3. Order free copies of your credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies.

Have you even been a victim of identify theft? Tell us your story and maybe others can learn from what you did, or didn’t do.

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Six Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

If you are thinking about the holidays right now and frowning, smooth your face, square your shoulders and take a cleansing breath. A little positive thinking can go a long way in helping you to enjoy the holidays this year instead of agonizing over all the little details. These 6 tips for a stress-free holiday season will start you off on the right foot.

1. Plan ahead. Print out return address labels for cards (I’m really doing it this year – bad hand cramping), update your address book, make room in your front hall closet for guest coats instead of piling them on a bed like usual, and prepare guest rooms ahead of time. Tackling a few of these tasks before you get really busy can make a world of difference.

2. Rethink your gift giving. Cut down on the mad shopping rush and stress of finding exactly what everyone wants this year – consider giving experiences instead of material gifts, and maybe even implement The Four Gift Rule. My extreme-gift-giving mom is actually trying it this year. Thanks, Mom!

3. Keep things simple with food and décor. Stick to your favourite recipes instead of trying something complicated and new, and a simple homemade centrepiece is all you need on your table. Please don’t belittle yourself for not having matching napkins and candleholders! Focus more on the family and friends you are gathering with rather than stressing over too many fussy preparations.

4. Have a few extra gifts on hand. A small stash of thoughtfully wrapped gifts is perfect for unannounced friends or last-minute invites. Choose items that have universal appeal and can be used by you and your family if they are still around come January. Think locally-made condiments, soy candles, handmade chocolates, wine and preserves.

5. Be choosy when it comes to events. This can be tough for social butterflies (my husband) and people who have trouble saying no (me). Only accept invitations to gatherings that are pertinent to the holiday and meaningful to your family. When planning your own event, keep it small and intimate with just a few close friends and relatives. We used to have a big Christmas open house but after a few years, we realized it was too chaotic as we spent most of our time greeting and seeing friends out, refilling glasses and snack bowls, and making sure little ones didn’t trash our house (even if they were adorable). Choose to host big parties at a different time of the year, when there is less going on and you are not so taxed.

6. Live in the now. As you trim the tree or make cookies with your kids, don’t forget to pause and really live in the moment. Don’t worry about what’s still on your to-do list (there’s always something), because before you know it the holiday will be over and you’ll be disappointed that you didn’t make the most of it. Also, carve out some time to do something just for you – take a walk, read your book, have a hot bath – it will go a long way in helping you to keep your sanity during the holidays.

Find the Best Advertising Space for Your Business

Advertising in the right place is just as important as what you have to say in your ads. You probably spend a lot of time finessing your marketing material to convey just the right message, but how much time have you spent analyzing where to broaden the reach of your marketing efforts?

Ask the Right Questions
To find the best space for your marketing message, think about where your customers are:

What do your customers do for a living?
What do your customers do for fun?
What TV shows do your customers watch?
What radio stations do your customers listen to?
Do your customers read news in a paper or online?
What websites do your customers frequently visit?
What kind of giveaway would your customer remember you by?

In selecting advertising space, it’s important to get your message to the places where your potential customers are likely to be. Ever blasted your marketing out to the world only to receive nothing in return? It’s equivalent to a fisherman randomly going out into the ocean and casting his net without a clue as to whether there are actual catches to be had. Make sure you know where your fish hang out before casting your net.

Think Beyond Normal
Sometimes this requires thinking outside the box.

Traditionally, marketing efforts focus on the same old marketing channels, such as TV, radio, and print. To keep up with modern marketing trends, you have to think beyond what’s worked in the past, and look for new ways to get your message broadcast to the most potential customers.

Hence the internet. It is safe to say that where traditional channels dominated for decades and decades, the age of the internet has taken over. Companies like Apple, Google, Olark, Twitter, and LinkedIn have literally made billions by either being the first to optimize or get in front of the internet craze. Startups have since made millions by approaching the masses online in a new way, like Imgur, who saw a need online, started an app, and proceeded to become a stable in millions of people lives.

All that to say, your target market is online and taking advantage of the internet every single day. Companies have proven that if you can get in front of your market online you can generate viral amounts of traffic for cheap or free. Take advantage of the new markets before they become the old markets.

In the same vein, find products that think outside the box, maybe tapping a new marketing space like screen cleaner stickers that are customized with your logo and info but sit on the backs of phones or tablets. These products are innovative and take up some primetime space.

At Pristine Screens, we help businesses get their message out to the widest audience possible through custom sticky screen cleaners.

Business Start with A Low Cost

To started a low cost business in the traditional world of bricks and mortar is very challenging. You need to make significant investments in recruiting, stock, apparatus and property to trade from. However, an online business is different. All you need is one person, one computer, limited capital and access to the internet.

You will need to spend some money purchasing a website domain name and hosting for your website. You can build your own website (it’s not as complicated as you might think) or you can employ a freelancer to build it for you. But these are minimal costs as compared to the substantial costs of renting a physical building to operate from, buying stock or employing staff.

So what options do you have to start a low cost business online?

1. Sell Other People’s Products

This online business model, known as affiliate marketing, is like being a commission paid sales person. You don’t have to buy any stock, deal with any payment programs or arrange any deliveries. The product owner takes care of that. Your job is to find the customers and get them to visit the product sales page. You can sell tangible products that get shipped to the customer’s front door or you can sell digital products which the customer downloads to their computer.

2. Freelance Your Services Online

If you have a specific level of knowledge or expertise there will be people looking online for them. Freelance websites like UpWork have countless numbers of customers looking for copy writers, creative designers, linguists, website developers, marketing and advertising staff, legal and financial specialists and more.

3. Create A Digital Product

The greatest advantage when you a create digital product is that once you have produced it, you can sell it online again and again. And you don’t need to be an expert in a particular subject to create a digital product like an eBook, video tutorial, white paper, or report. You just need to know more than the average person on your chosen subject.

4. Build A Membership Website

A membership site is like being like a consultant in the traditional offline world. You help and advise clients with your knowledge about your specialist subject. Every month you provide new content for your paying subscribers. You can produce content in advance that drip feeds to your clients when they sign up.

5. Become An Online Teacher

If you have particular know-how about a certain subject, you can pass on your knowledge to students from all over the world. People may not have a teacher near to where they live and don’t want to travel for long distances for their learning. But, the internet makes it easy for you and your students to use online video and audio connections. You can set up one-to-one classes or group classes.