What To Do If You’ve Been a Victim of Identity Theft

Oh NO! This is a horribly situation if it happens to you! Credit Sesame tells us the

5 Steps to Take Immediately If You’ve Been a Victim of Identity Theft

January 15, 2014 by 
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Identity theft has topped the list of consumer complaints filed with the FTC for 13 consecutive years and there’s no evidence that this year it won’t make the list for the 14th. Just how many victims of identity theft are there each year? While we don’t yet have the figures for 2013,  a Javeline report puts the numbers from 2012 at 12.6 million. Factor in the more than 70 million Americans impacted by the recent Target and Niemen Marcus data breaches, and it’s clear why identity theft is a major concern for many Americans.

Identity theft takes many forms. Some of the most common include:

  • Credit card fraud
  • False applications for new credit
  • Fraudulent withdrawals from a bank account
  • Fraudulent use of telephone calling cards
  • Fraudulent use of an IP address in order to engage in illegal acts online
  • Fraudulent use of medical care
  • Social security fraud (for tax and employment fraud)

If you know or suspect that you are the victim of identity theft, there are steps you should take immediately to stop the theft and minimize the damage.

1. Put a security freeze on your credit report with all three credit reporting agencies: ExperianEquifax and TransUnion.

Be sure to request a copy of your credit report from each agency. If you find fraudulent items on your credit report(s), the simplest way to begin the dispute process is to click the item while viewing your credit report online. The agency will tell you what steps to take next.

With a security freeze in place, no one can obtain new credit in your name. New applications will be automatically denied. Each agency has a procedure for temporarily “thawing” your file in order to allow a legitimate application to be processed.

2. Contact any institution directly affected. For example, if you know your credit card was stolen, report the theft to the credit card issuer. If your checkbook was stolen, contact your bank.

For this step it’s really helpful if you’ve prepared a list of institutions and phone numbers in advance. You don’t have to write account numbers down on the list – that would be just one more way for a thief to gain access to your personal information. But do keep a list of what’s in your wallet, along with the contact information for each item.

3. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), to file an Identity Theft Affidavit and create anIdentity Theft Report. You can file your report online, by phone (toll-free): 1-877-ID THEFT (877-438-4338); TDD (toll-free): 1-866-653-4261, or by mail — 600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington DC 20580.

The FTC will provide you with information about what to do next, depending on what type of fraud was (or may have been) committed.

4. File a police report. To complete the Identity Theft Report, you’ll need to contact your local law enforcement office and report the theft. Be sure to get a copy of the police report and/or the report number. Both your police report and the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit combine to create your Identity Theft Report. Your Identity Theft Report will help you when working with the credit reporting agencies or any other companies the identity their may have used to open accounts in your name.

5.  Protect your social security number. If your social security number was or may have been compromised, contact the Social Security Administration (800-269-0271) and the Internal Revenue Service (800-829-0433).

It’s important to talk to the SSA if you have reason to believe your social security number has been compromised, even if you don’t yet see any evidence of financial fraud. A thief could be planning to swipe your tax refund, or to obtain employment in your name.

In addition to these five steps, if you have reason to believe the identity thief may have submitted a fraudulent change-of-address to the post office or has used the U.S. mail to commit the fraud against you, contact the Postal Inspection Service, which is the law enforcement and security branch of the post office. Fill out the online form.

For more information about how to prevent or recover from identity theft, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission offer a wealth of information and will walk you through the steps.

Costco: Triggers and Treasure Hunts from its Store Designer

Costco – one of my favorites places! It is almost the “happiest place around”. I go there often, but not as often as I did when we had a houseful of hungry growing kids! I still go there. Many fun/funny stories, but that is for another time.

Here is a great article by the designer of almost ALL of Costco’s 648 stores – from FastCo:

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THE CHOREOGRAPHY OF DESIGN, TREASURE HUNTS, AND HOT DOGS THAT HAVE MADE COSTCO SO SUCCESSFUL

THE DESIGNER OF OVER 500 COSTCO WAREHOUSES ON WHAT MAKES THE BRAND SUCH A TRUSTWORTHY BUSINESS.

BY STAN LAEGREID

Costco, the sixth largest retailer in the world, succeeds because of its adeptness in breaking the rules of retail common sense. Costco has no advertising for non-members, though contained in a vacuous space, they offer no signage, then when you check out they do not bag your purchase. On top of that, the Costco store contains a mere 3,600 SKUs. Supermarkets offer around 25,000 and a typical Walmart can tally 142,000 SKUs under its roof. At Costco, if you want ketchup, you get just one choice, not 12. And all this comes with a membership fee; the shopper has to pay to even enter the store. But it works, and here’s why:

PANORAMIC STORE PLANNING

After transcending those barriers to entry, once you walk through Costco’s doors, the store is clearly set before you. It’s a carefully choreographed movement. The store–a three-acre, 148,000 square foot warehouse–at first glance appears overwhelming. The store layout however, offers a panoramic view of each of its shopping districts.

In comparison, Ikea stores create a circuitous but forcefully maneuvered “yellow brick road.” You survey each Ikea district only at your point of arrival there, whereas at Costco, the consumer can visually survey the entire store at its entrance, taking in the racetrack retail plan that will lead them past each of the Costco shopping districts they have already visually anticipated.

Upon entry, the Costco visitor is met by the “luxe” offerings of televisions, computers, and electronics. Add the unexpected but exotic offerings: a Cartier watch or a Prada handbag, or, on at least one occasion, an original Picasso. They may be for sale at a much reduced price, but likely for only a fleeting moment.

As the customer continues along, the racetrack infield features home, seasonal, and lifestyle selections on low-profile racks that allow for open sight lines across any point of the store. Beyond, floor-to-ceiling racks of hard goods ring the outside of the racetrack while fresh food is found at the racetrack’s far end. The very outside of the track is home to practical staples, including toilet paper, whose location requires consumers to pass many impulse buys.

PERISHABILITY TRIGGERS THE HUNT

Another element of Costco’s magic is the constant, storewide rotation of target staples–such as light bulbs, detergent, and paper towels–referred to as “triggers.” The shopper must search storewide for triggers, which, again, exposes them to a greater number of products. This is a “treasure hunt” in Costco’s parlance.

Costco rotates upward of 25% of its hard-goods and its products inside the racetrack as triggers. The result is that, of the 3,600 items for sale, a full 1,000 may be offered only for that particular moment and may not be available upon a future shopping visit. In fashion retail, Zara has mastered this version of perishability, which creates a high turnover of unique and current offerings that, when sold out, are replaced by a new set of fashion looks or unique new offerings. The ensuing sense of urgency to impulse buy is stemmed by the fear that the item might be gone if you wait to reconsider.

A DANCE THAT DEFIES CRITICS

This choreography has resulted in astounding, perennial success: Last June, the Seattle Times ranked Costco as the 10th best company in the Northwest, placing it ahead of Amazon.com, Microsoft, Nordstrom, and Nike. The Times acknowledged that this kind of ranking is relative, but the recognition is still impressive. To qualify the retailer’s success further, we can look at rankings by specific factors, which offer more concrete comparisons.

In this case, it actually produces an even more staggering result: Costco is the fourth largest retailer in the country, and this year it’s No. 22 in the Fortune 500. The Costco private label, Kirkland Signature, is one of the most successful brands in the industry. Jim Sinegal, Costco cofounder and former CEO, just won the National Retail Federation’s Gold Medal Award for 2014, that organization’s highest honor. Since its inception, the company has never posted a negative same-store sales result, and Costco averages among the highest sales figures per sale in the industry.

Despite this success, greed has not overtaken its operation. Costco engenders loyalty among both its employees and members with a strategy that looks out for both. For its members, Costco religiously limits its mark-ups to a maximum of 15%, straining its profit margin compared to the average mark-up of 25% for supermarkets and in excess of 50% for department stores.

For its employees, a full-time hourly Costco worker with customary raises can make upward of $40,000 annually after three to four years. With an average pay approaching twice the minimum wage, Costco also offers health care for upward of 90% of its employees. That results in one of the lowest turnover rates in the industry.

3025312 inline i 1 thinking inside the costco box the choreography of design treasure hunts and hot dogs Costco: Triggers and Treasure Hunts from its Store Designer
A Costco store, located in Chicago.Photo courtesy of Brian Fritz

FRUGALITY BEGETS SUSTAINABILITY

Costco thrives on a sense of simplicity and sustainability. The store recycles packaging boxes for customers to use instead of bags, and displays are often just stacks of pallets from the loading dock. Costco also recycles tires and grease, and each warehouse uses around 150 individual skylights to provide a majority of the store’s illumination through natural lighting. Customers are unaware of many sustainable strategies, such as advanced heat recovery from the refrigeration system, or the increased introduction of solar panels. These efforts to maximize efficiency, from operations to store design and production, help Costco scale worldwide and still offer the benefits to its customers and employees.

CURATE MY KETCHUP

Costco also serves as a commodity editor that we can trust. There is a sentiment in shopping psychology that we as consumers suffer from a burden of choice and resultant overload anxiety. More than ever, we rely on social editors–people in whom we have faith or institutions whose values we identify with–to make simple decisions for us. Shoppers can freeze at the sight of an entire corridor of breakfast cereals, but Costco pre-selects and makes only one or two offerings. While Costco’s motivation may be efficiency, it ends up offering the customer simplicity and less stress, increasingly valued commodities.

INNOCENCE BELIES STRATEGY

After the checkout, the food court offers–in this case very similar to Ikea–a hot dog at $1.50, the same price since 1985. It’s again indicative of the company’s concerted effort, if not culture, to provide ever more value for its members while holding prices steady–or reducing them. It creates a situation where even the most determined single-item hunter shopper will be persuaded into many additional purchases. This carefully orchestrated layout of temptation and choreography results in an unexpected shopping spree that makes Costco a genius at seducing and catering to its customers at the same time. All this contained in a seemingly innocent warehouse.

Stan Laegreid, AIA, is senior principal of MulvannyG2 Architecture, Bellevue, WA, which has designed nearly every of Costco’s 648 warehouses and counting, worldwide, since the retailer opened for business in 1983.

How to Wrap Cheese

We love cheese – here are some great tips on how to store it to last a little longer. I bet the cheesemonger in Edinburg knows all about this!

How to Store Cheese
Cheese storage tips and tricks

By  • December 11, 2013

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we’re sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Good cheese is an investment — protect it.

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When it comes to cheese, sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. Ideally, you shouldn’t buy more cheese than you can consume in a few days. However few of us have a strong enough will to resist the jewel-like beauties of the cheese aisle, despite their often hefty price tag. One thing’s for sure: if you’re dropping a bundle on some curdled milk, you better make sure to keep it as fresh as possible for as long as possible.

First thing’s first: steer clear of plastic wrap.

This may come as a surprise, especially to the vegetarians in the room, but cheese is actually a living thing. It sweats. It ages. It even breathes. When cheese is wrapped in plastic wrap it can no longer intake oxygen — in short, it suffocates, resulting in an amoniac flavor and possibly even harmful bacteria.

As self-professed “curd nerd” Jake Lahne of Serious Cheese explains, plastic wrap can also cause the cheese to taste like, well, plastic. Which is not the flavor you were hoping for when you invested in a $15 hunk of funky Scharfe Maxx from the cheesemonger. So if your cheese was wrapped in plastic at the supermarket, free it from its bonds as soon as you get home. Because you know better.

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Next, we wrap our own way.

If plastic wrap is a no-no, what should you wrap your cheese in? The overwhelming consensus is: cheese paper. This specialty item allows the cheese to breathe, but also protects it from drying out. If you don’t want to invest in cheese paper, parchment paper (which we went with) works just fine.

Assemble your tools: cheese paper (or parchment paper), scissors, masking tape, a marker, and, of course, the cheese in question. It’s time to wrap.

Cut off a large square of wrapping paper — we recommend it be 2 to 3 times the size of your cheese, just to be safe. Place your cheese diagonally with the thicker end at one corner and the thinner end pointing toward the center.

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Fold the corner over the fat end of the cheese. Crease. Flatten the paper along one side, as you would do wrapping a present.

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Pull the side you had flattened tightly across the cheese. Crease. Repeat this process on the opposite side of the cheese, being sure to keep the paper pulled tightly.

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Crease the tail sticking out from the end of your cheese. Pull it up towards the thicker part of the cheese.

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Ta-da! Tape the final flap to secure your beautiful, secure cheese package. Make sure to write the type of cheese, as well as the date on which you purchased it, on the tape. That way you can tell what’s what without unwrapping, and can keep track of how long it’s been sitting in your fridge.

If you’re still feeling iffy about your wrapping skills, watch this handy-dandy video.

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Hard Cheeses:

Hard cheeses should be true to their name, but you still need to be able to cut it. Tami Parr of The Pacific Northwest Cheese Project says that from the moment the curds are separated from the whey, your cheese begins to dehydrate. Refrigerators accelerate the dehydration process.

To help your firmer cheeses retain moisture put them inside an open plastic bag after they’re wrapped. This should help keep the cheese from becoming an unappetizing rock while still allowing it to breathe. You can also wrap the whole thing loosely in plastic wrap, as suggested by Nora Singley of The Kitchn.

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Blue Cheese:

If you love blue cheese, you really love it. You love the pungent, acrid explosion that floods your tongue upon first contact, and then slowly mellows into a creamy backdrop. You also apparently love “karaoke, swing dancing, and shouting ‘WOO HOO’ when you’re having fun.” If you love your blue cheese, you’ve got to store it properly — and keep it away from your other cheese, who might not love it as much as you.

Blue cheese is kind of a flavor hog. It knows it’s got the sharpest taste around, and if you’re not careful its flavors will infuse your more-mild specimens. To avoid this wrap your blue cheese in the same manner as above (you can even double-wrap to be extra safe), then store it in a plastic container.

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Soft Cheese:

This is where things get a little sticky. Remember when we said never to wrap your cheese in plastic wrap? Well, here we contradict ourselves a bit. Because when it comes to softer, creamy cheeses — like a lovely, gooey, stinky brie or camembert — people are in a bit of a disagreement about how to keep them at their peak.

Some, like Eat By Date, argue that wrapping softer cheeses in plastic wrap helps prevent them from drying out. Others, like the folks at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, opt for paper. In the end, if you decide to go the plastic route, just make sure to change your cheese every couple of days.

Very soft cheeses, such as ricotta or mozzerella, should be stored in its natural liquid in a plastic container. Watch it carefully because it will not last as long as some of its firmer cousins.

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Storage:

Now that your cheese is wrapped up pretty, where should you keep it? Real Simple advises to store wrapped cheese in a crisper in the fridge, which will have the most consistent temperature and humidity. If you’re a true fromage fiend, devote a whole drawer of your fridge to cheese — and then invite us over for a cheese party.

 

A few more assorted cheese storage tips:

If you unwrap your cheese and are surprised by something fuzzy clinging to its surface, don’t panic. Just cut it off and continue munching; unless it’s on a soft cheese in which case it may be past its prime. Trust your instincts — if the cheese looks or smells off, it probably is.

Don’t freeze cheese! It will muddle the flavor and texture. However, if you’re just using the cheese for cooking, freezing is kosher.

If you take out your cheese for a cocktail party or for a late-night snack, be sure to re-wrap it in fresh paper.

In the end, your cheese is a living, breathing thing. Treat it like one, and it’ll treat you back.

Photos by James Ransom

Health Supplements

I have taken my fair share (or more?) of health supplements. Always thinking they were adding something – here or there. Not too sure anymore. Take a look at this very cool and interactive infographic – details from io9:

How many of your health supplements are actually snake oil?

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Click on the above to go to main interactive guide

In this brilliant chart by David McCandless from 2010, you can see a gorgeous visualization of how many supplements are actually helpful — based on scientific studies — and how many are basically nothing more than snake oil.

McCandless, writing on Information is Beautiful, explains:

This image is a “balloon race”. The higher a bubble, the greater the evidence for its effectiveness. But the supplements are only effective for the conditions listed inside the bubble.

You might also see multiple bubbles for certain supps. These is because some supps affect a range of conditions, but the evidence quality varies from condition to condition. For example, there’s strong evidence that Green Tea is good for cholesterol levels. But evidence for its anti-cancer effects is conflicting. In these cases, we give a supp another bubble.

via Information is Beautiful (h/t Nicholas Thompson)

Disposable Water Bottles

Wow – take a look at this infographic and never buy another bottle of water! Details from Greatist:

WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER BUY DISPOSABLE WATER BOTTLES AGAIN

We’ve all been there: You’ve just finished a heavy-duty sweat session at the gym, you’re thirsty, and the water fountain looks like it’s covered in eight million people’s saliva, plus a little bit of mold. The easiest solution? Ducking out to buy a bottle of water from the first drug store you can find.

It seems innocent enough — we’ve all gotta hydrate, right? But unfortunately, bottled water is wreaking havoc on the Earth’s precious resources. Plus, it’s almost definitely not any safer or cleaner than tap water — and in fact, sometimes it’s worse.

If you’ve been wondering about the consequences of a bottled water habit (whether it’s personal, national, or global), then look no further. This handy-dandy infographic outlines the stark consequences — environmental, physical, and economic — of guzzling the bottled stuff. Ready to quit it? Then check out our action tips at the bottom.

 Disposable Water Bottles

 

DITCHING THE BOTTLE: YOUR ACTION PLAN

  1. The best long-term solution is to make tap water safe for everyone. Write to your representatives in Congress, the FDA, and your state’s governor and ask them to maintain high standards for municipal water (and to adopt strict standards for bottled water safety and labeling, while you’re at it).
  2. Carry a reusable water bottle (ideally BPA-free) everywhere you go. That way, you’ll always be able to hydrate without purchasing bottles. Fill up for free at water fountains and most take-out restaurants — just ask an employee if they’ll fill it up for you. If you’re worried about contaminants, consider buying a water bottle with a filter.
  3. Learn more about your tap water. Call your water provider (the one that sends your water bills) and ask them about water quality in your area. All tap water suppliers must provide annual water quality reports to their customers.
  4. If your tap water does contain contaminants, select a filter that removes them. Check out the National Resources Defense Council’s Consumer Guide to Water Filters to learn which filter is right for you.
  5. Pledge to Take Back the Tap and Ditch Disposable. These two campaigns help to spread awareness about the consequences of drinking bottled water and encourage participants to commit to living a life that’s disposable-free.
  6. Do not reuse disposable plastic water bottles. They can’t be properly cleaned and may leach chemicals over repeated uses.
  7. Support initiatives to ban bottled water. Thus far, New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, and Chicago’s Cook County have banned the use of government funds to buy bottled water, and some universities have started to ban the sale of bottled water.
  8. If you have to buy bottled, buy it better. Learn where your bottled water was sourced. Check the bottle’s label and/or the cap — if it says “from a municipal source” or “from a community water system,” that means it’s derived from tap water and there’s no point in paying for it in bottled form. If it’s not labeled, call the bottler and ask where it came from. Choose only varieties that come from protected sources.

Here’s how you can help: Encourage your workplace to go bottled-water free with these steps, take the Ditch Disposable Pledge, and share your commitment on Twitter with the hashtag #DitchDisposable.

Wrappz Skin – and FREE Offer!

I recently had the opportunity to try out a new custom personalized skin for my iPad Air. Besides the actual product, I wanted to let you know about the entire process of designing my own skin all the way through receiving it and installing it.

I was very impressed with the process and love the skin!

wrappz logo uk Wrappz Skin   and FREE Offer!

Disclaimer: Wrappz.com sent me the skin free of charge….and I was able to negotiate a free personalized skin when you visit the Wrappz site; you just need to pay postage! Cool, huh? Details of how you get your free skin are at the end of this post.

The Wrappz.com site is very well designed and laid out. It was easy for me to navigate and find my way to their customized skins for iPads – specifically for the new iPad Air. It was so easy to upload and crop my own image (cool picture don’t you think?):

photo 3 1024x768 Wrappz Skin   and FREE Offer!

Out of everything, the only less than ideal part of ordering my Wrappz.com custom skin was waiting for it to arrive. I was hopeful it would look nice and be of high quality, but I would need to be patient to find out. Since Wrappz is based in the UK and I ordered my personalized skin just before Christmas, my wait was a couple of weeks.

Once it arrived I must tell you that I was extremely impressed! The quality of the skin and the clear instructions for installing it made it easy to put it to its test quickly. And test it I did: I had all four of my grandkids here for Christmas and they ALL love to play on Papa’s iPad. The new skin came through unscathed even with all the extra usage.

A little background on Wrappz.com: they are Europe’s largest producer of personalised cases and custom skins for mobile devices including phones, iPads, iPods, Laptops, Game Consoles etc.

For your FREE skin, just use the Voucher Code freeskin. This code is for a FREE Wrappz personalized skin; you will just need to pay postage.

Overall – a huge thank you to Wrappz for letting me go through the process of ordering and receiving my great skin. I am very happy and DanLikesThis!

 

One Coin

I love tech AND finance AND efficiency AND ease! Take a look at this package that wraps all of that up in one cool bundle!

Click here for more details and watch the video below.

One Coin for All of Your Cards

Coin - is a connected device that contains all your credit, debit, gift, loyalty and membership cards in one place. Instead of carrying all those cards in your wallet just carry your Coin. The best part? Coin works anywhere those cards are accepted. Dip, swipe or slide; Coin knows all the moves.

pixel One Coin