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Should You Be Concerned Using Your Credit Card Online?

Credit Cards

Long holiday weekends – something I look forward to every year.

It’s an opportunity for me to completely unwind and not have to really do anything but relax.

Black Friday morning shortly after 11, I was relaxing comfortably in my La-Z-Boy rocking chair watching TV. 

I glanced over when I saw my iPhone screen light up with a message.  My phone didn’t beep, so I knew it wasn’t a text or Facebook message or someone sending me a Snapchat.

Rather, it was notification from Capital One informing me my business credit card had just been authorized for a $149.79 purchase at  Considering I hadn’t been using my computer yet that morning and that my credit card was tucked safely in my wallet, I knew something was amiss.  (Plus, I don’t use the business card for personal purchases. 

So much for only relaxing the entire weekend!

I quickly called Capital One customer service to report the fraudulent activity.  I also explained to them the need to have a replacement card issued ASAP since this is the card used for nearly all my business purchases – including recurring bill payments, many of which would be attempted in three days .

Luckily, the phone call only took about 30 minutes of my time.  Now I could resume my important activity for the day – doing nothing!

When I’m assisting clients with their computers, the topic of the safety of conducting financial transactions online frequently comes up.

Some clients, like myself, never give a second thought to purchasing items from retailers’ websites, paying bills online, or transacting business on the bank’s website.

We consider the security protocols, the encryption settings, and other features to be sufficient to protect us the majority of the time 

Other clients, though, are either more hesitant or adamantly refuse to even consider the option of doing anything financially on the Internet – even when it’s with companies they trust.

For example, a client recently wanted to upgrade his computer’s antivirus protection to our Advanced Protection plan, which dramatically reduces the risk for a PC to become infected with viruses or malware by preventing you from going to websites known to harm your computer.

When I explained to him the process of doing so, and that it involved monthly billing to his credit card, he sternly said, “I’m not giving ANYONE access to my credit card or bank accounts.”

I understand the concerns of those who wonder if it’s safe to use credit cards online or do online banking with their financial institution.

Bottom line, yes there are risks involved.  But no different than other risks you and I take every day.

Think of how many times you expose yourself to risks in these scenarios:

  • You dine at a sit-down restaurant where the server brings your check and you pay him or her.  Do you think twice about handing your credit card to the server, who then walks away from your table out of sight to process your payment?

It would be extremely easy for a less than honest server to copy your credit card number, expiration date, and CVV code without you knowing – and then use it to make online purchases.

  • Do you have any funds direct deposited into your bank account?  Paychecks.  Pension checks.  Social Security payments.

Do you have any payments automatically deducted from your bank account?  Utility bills.  Insurance payments.  Car payments.  House payments.

If those institutions’ computer networks got hacked, the thieves could potentially get access to your bank account numbers.

I agree you and I must make wise choices and take safety precautions with our online financial activities. 

But you can’t live in fear – and totally avoid the conveniences technology offers you.

It would be akin to saying that because foreign or domestic terrorists might be plotting a sinister attack in a public place you or I frequent, we’re going to just stay home all the time.

Having made thousands of online purchases and countless other online transactions, this is only the second time one of my credit cards has had been compromised.

I encourage you – be smart, be vigilant, be proactive – but don’t live in fear.

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3 Ways to Protect Your Privacy on Facebook

Facebook undoubtedly is the greatest social networking tool created.  It has allowed millions of people the ability to easily and regularly connect with friends and family – no matter how far away they are.

Such platforms make it extremely easy to let down our guard and willingly divulge personal information without thinking about who may see it and how it may be used by others, and in turn, how doing so may impact us.

Two weeks ago in this column, I shared some alarming statistics and other details about how Facebook gathers information on you and how various individuals and groups use this information.  Today, I want to provide you three practical ways to protect your privacy on Facebook.

 1.      THINK before you type

Facebook allows you to share a wealth of personal details – your birthdate, relationship status, religious and political views, work and education history, where you live and more.  You need to ask yourself, how important is it that I share this information?  If you decide to share this information, you need to think about how much detail you wish to share – knowing that it can be used by less than honest people.

It’s also very easy to post a status update or upload a photo “off the cuff.”  However, you need to think about WHO can see your post and WHAT potential effects it could have.  For example, if you announce that you’re enjoying a weekend out of town, that could let the wrong people know that your house is empty and an easy target.

Remember, too, that even if you delete something from Facebook, it can remain stored on their servers for up to 90 days.

 2.      Understand you’ve agreed to how Facebook uses your information

When you created your Facebook account, you agreed to certain terms and conditions on how Facebook can use the things you share on the site.  For example:

  • Facebook can use any photos and videos you post in any way they wish without your approval.
  • Deleting any content does not mean that all copies of it are immediately removed from Facebook’s servers.
  • When you use an application within Facebook (such as Farmville or Birthday Calendar), you give the developer of that application access to and use of certain information contained in your profile, as well as potentially information from your friends’ profiles.

Knowing what Facebook and others can do with your information – always abide by Rule #1 – THINK BEFORE YOU POST!

For full Facebook terms and conditions, visit

 3.      Set and regularly review your privacy settings

Limiting who can see certain information about you, who can find you on Facebook, and more requires you to modify the default Facebook privacy settings.

You should take about 30 to 45 minutes to review and change the privacy settings to your liking.  You can download a step-by-step guide to help you choose the right settings by visiting our website at

Once you’ve set your privacy settings, you can’t simply forget about it.  Facebook constantly changes its site, which can affect how your information is shared.  I recommend reviewing your settings at least every other month to make sure your information stays locked down.

Above all, remember Rule #1 – THINK BEFORE YOU POST!  Just because you’ve set your privacy settings does NOT mean that you are completely protected from having personal information shared with others who shouldn’t see it.  You cannot completely lock down what you post or provide on Facebook.

In closing, while Facebook is a valuable and entertaining platform for interacting with others, you must always be on guard with how you use it and what information you share on it.

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What information are YOU sharing on Facebook?

Facebook. It’s the most popular hangout on the Internet – ranking #1 globally and #2 in the United States among the most visited websites.

The ability to “spy” on your Facebook friends can be rather interesting and humorous. Most people share way more about their personal lives and thoughts in this online forum than they would in normal day-to-day conversation. We know more about others than ever before.

But what people knowingly share on Facebook pales in comparison to the exorbitant amount of personal information collected behind-the-scenes by Facebook and other Internet sites. This raises serious questions about your online privacy: What information is being collected?  How is it being used?  Could it fall into the wrong hands?

In this two-part series, we will briefly examine the facts about your privacy on the Internet, followed by providing practical ways you can protect your personal information while still using the social networking sites.

A recent study by Consumer Reports found that:

  • 4.7 million people “liked” a Facebook page about health conditions or treatments (details an insurer might use against you)
  • 4.8 million have posted on Facebook where they planned to go on a certain day (a potential tip-off for burglars)
  • 20.4 million include their birth date on their profiles (can be used by identity thieves)
  • 900,000 discussed finances on their wall
  • 2.6 million discussed their recreational use of alcohol on their wall (can be used by employers and schools)
  • 4.6 million discussed their love life on their wall

This information is willingly provided by Facebook users through status updates, uploaded pictures, comments, and profile details. Most of it doesn’t require special access for others to see it – considering that 28 percent of all Facebook users share all, or almost all, of their wall posts with people other than just their friends.

And others DO use the information you post.

Employers, insurance companies and college admissions departments regularly check Facebook to obtain information on potential employees, insureds, or students. What they find can be used to make a determination about you.

Government agencies, such as the IRS, use Facebook as a research tool in resolving taxpayer cases. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy and consumer rights group, obtained a 2009 training manual that offered this example of how an agent could use Facebook:  “An IRS officer learns that a taxpayer he’s investigating is a comedian who posts a video on a social network to promote previous and upcoming performances. It suggests the agent contact past performance locations to find out how much the comedian was paid or serve the performer a summons at a future venue.”

As mentioned before, criminals and enemies can also use information you post against you.

However, did you know that …

  • Facebook receives a report every time you visit a site with a Facebook “Like” button – even if you never click the button or are not even logged in to Facebook?
  • Your personal information could be given to a third-party without your knowledge if you have a friend using a Facebook app that extracts that data – even if you have locked down your privacy settings?
  • Facebook uses facial recognition software that detects your face in photos, allowing friends to easily tag you – and this is automatically allowed by default?

Sites like Facebook have a reason for collecting this vast amount of information on you. It’s valuable.

Companies appreciate having this detailed market research readily available to them at a very low cost. They use this information to target consumers who are most likely to buy their products or services.

While Facebook doesn’t give these companies your information without your consent, when you click on an ad, “like” a page, or make a purchase, you may be giving them access to more information than you think.

It’s a scary world out there. Because the Internet is an integral part of our daily lives, avoiding it really isn’t an option – especially if you’ve already joined the over 900 million Facebook users.

In the next column, I’ll provide practical steps you can take to protect your privacy and personal information.