October 2006 Monthly Archive
Posted by Cap in How To's and Guides
on October 16, 2006 | 7 Comments
Every since I got tricked by the former Sultan of Nigeriascam, I have begun to treat all emails with an extra dose of suspicion.
“Hi Cap, I have some question on personal finance…” an email would read.
To which I’ll write back, “Nice try Mr. Ex-Sultan, I hope you rot in hell.”
Phishing: A social engineering technique that attempts to fraudulently acquire your sensitive information. These days, they are mostly found in the form of fake email and websites.
Spotting phishing email doesn’t require every day paranoia, but a red flag should always go up when you notice these things in an email:
Note: A matching link & URL in status bar doesn’t necessary mean it’s a legitimate email. URL in a status bar can easily be spoofed. Sender’s address can also be spoofed.
The above email is a rather obvious phishing email, but was shown to point out some common trend in phishing email:
- A sense of urgency: You better take action fast or your sh*t out of luck!
- Threat: Do it or your account will be closed (or some other penalty)!
- A Link: Directs you to a spoofed website that looks legitimate.
- Requires you to either enter or confirm your personal information.
- Poor grammar. They spell and write like Cap of Stop Buying Crap.
Here are some things you should consider when you receive a suspicious email:
- Do you do business with the bank or retailer?
- Is the email to you or is there a generic greeting? (e.g., Dear XXX Customer)
- Do they offer an alternate form of contact such as a phone number?
- Does it contain information the company should know? (e.g., last 4 digit of your account #, your user name, etc.)
The trick is that even if all those questions above pan out, it doesn’t necessary mean you’re receiving a legitimate email.
This brings us to Targeted Phishing:
A targeted phishing email may contain your real name, and may be from a bank or retailer that you actually do business with. These phishing email will usually reference to a very specific transaction.
- A confirmation email thanking you for your purchase.
- An email notifying you of a specific transaction on your account.
- An email from “eBay” giving you a second chance to your recent failed bid.
Distinguishing a legitimate email from targeted email can be difficult, so when you’re in doubt, you should always contact the company directly yourself via a different method than those mentioned in the email.
If the email was regarding your credit card account, call the number on the back of your card. If the email is regarding your bank, find your bank number on your statement and give them a call.
Targeted phishing works especially well because they are often from a familiar source aimed at a specific group of people. These type of emails may not necessary be seeking for your entire personal information, but merely asking for a certain information (such as user name or password) in order to obtain the rest on their own.
When you belong to a social networking site, you should also be wary of emails from the supposed organization asking for any of your information. What may look to be a harmless survey may be an identity thief seeking further information.
Targeted phishing becomes Spear Phishing when they are highly targeted. These are generally aimed at a employees of a specific organization or company. The email may appear to be from a colleague or executive, asking you to either download an attachment or furnish them with certain information.
Just as a regular targeted phishing attack, spear phishing attacks are difficult to spot on a first glance basis, especially when they are highly customized. When in doubt, always contact the the supposed sender via a different channel.
Some General Guideline in Avoiding Phishing:
- Do not reply to any emails asking for your personal or financial information. Remember, legitimate companies don’t ask for sensitive information in an email.
- Do not download attachment from suspicious or unfamiliar emails.
- When in doubt, contact the company yourself directly through familiar channels.
- Do not click on links from suspicious email. If you need to login to your account, open a new browser window and type in the URL.
- Check the security certificate of the website before you enter any personal information. (Look for the yellow lock icon on the bottom right of your browser and double click on it).
Related Links and Resources
Posted by Cap in Miscellaneous
on October 14, 2006 | 5 Comments
What happens when you click on the personal finance section at CNN Money?
First article: 5 best luxury SUVs.
Posted by Cap in Stop Buying Crap!
on October 13, 2006 | 11 Comments
Stop Buying Crap #9 | #10 | #11 | #12 | #13 | #14 | #15 | #16 | #17 | #18 | #19
Clothes That Are Worn Only Once Per Year
If I couldn’t have had a fun childhood — no one else can either.
Me, bitter because I couldn’t be Darth Vader for Halloween back in ’94?
Surely you jest!
Posted by Cap in Personal Finance
on October 10, 2006 | 5 Comments
If you go into “identity theft mode” and dig through my trash can, you will find out that I have two checking accounts: one at Bank of America, and another at Orange County Teachers Federal Credit Union — a superb credit union in the region.
The former is for convenience, the latter is for service.
If you’re consistently getting poor service at your national bank and you’ve tried various branches in the region, you should definitely consider the option of credit unions.
Credit unions are not-for-profit co-operative financial institutions. There are a few differences between credit union and traditional banks that you should note:
- Members who have accounts in the credit union are the credit union’s owners
- The policies set fort by the credit union are generally those that benefit the members. Because of this, credit union often tout superior banking service and the commitment in improving its member’s financial health.
- Often times, credit union interest rates for deposits are higher, while interest rates for loans are lower, when compared to that of traditional banks.
Besides the usual better service, you will also find much more favorable rates at credit union. When compared to Bank of America, my credit union has better financial products in almost all aspect. From savings, checkings, CDs, auto loans, and credit cards — all of them either have higher savings rate, significantly lower fees, or lower interest rates on loans.
Wowzer! Better service AND better products? Where do you sign up?
Unfortunately there are a few negative aspects to credit union:
- Member restrictive. Credit union restrict their membership to a specific segment. For example, OCTFCU is restricted to employees of educational institutions (and some students) in the Southern California region.
- Branches are limited to the service area, and the same applies for ATM access.
- Compare to national banks, credit union’s online banking may be a few steps behind in terms of capabilities and features.
- Most will not have a 24-hour customer service call center, so if an emergency arise, you may be fresh out of luck.
Still, a credit union is a great alternative or supplement to traditional banks for financial products, and some of their products such as credit cards are non-member restrictive, especially useful for those with little or no credit.
Students should also consider a credit union for their banking needs, especially since many universities and colleges across the nation have their own credit union that the student can utilize.
Finally, if you have difficulty finding a credit union that you qualify for in the region, ask around — many credit union extend their membership offerings to the immediate family members, siblings, spouse, parents, grandparents, children, etc. Don’t have any reason to call up your brother whom you haven’t talked to in five years? Now you have one! Woot!
Posted by Cap in Personal Finance
on October 7, 2006 | 2 Comments
Don’t fret. You’re not alone.
For the past two months, my net worth has been an unchanging snore fest due to strings of high cost, unexpected expenses. It’s as if life’s dealing me a series of seven-two off suit.
Sometimes you can be right on track, do all the right things, but still fall short of your goals.
It’s okay, it happens.
Which brings us to a few things to consider if you’re not where you want to be:
- Examine the goal. Is it realistic and doable for you?
- Emergency fund. Is the amount you’ve set aside enough to take care of emergencies in your particular situation?
- Unexpected expenses. Although difficult to plan for, you can examine irregular expenses from the past years to get an idea of how much to budget for.
You should note that the emergency fund is different than the unexpected expense fund. Granted, emergencies are usually irregular and hard to predict too, but unexpected expenses are generally things such as minor car & home repair, break down of appliances, etc. — all vastly different from life emergencies such as serious illness and lost of job.
Remember, keep on trucking, don’t let car engines blowing up keep you away from your eventual goals!
Posted by Cap in Totally Crap
on October 6, 2006 | 25 Comments
- Novelty for you or gag gift for a friend.
- The DVD Rewinder will spin discs backwards and plays a “rewind” sound.
- You can also record your own “rewind” sound which provides unending possibilities.
Argh. Give me a break. What a waste of money.
Posted by Cap in Personal Finance
on October 4, 2006 | 15 Comments
While in class a couple of days ago, I overheard a few college classmates complaining about their credit card bills.
“Freaking evil credit card companies,” says one person, “I’m riddled in debt because of them.”
“Yeah I totally know what you mean, I keep paying my bill but it’s just not going down.” says the other.
Two things I’ve learned from this conversation:
- Constantly eavesdropping on people is bad for your blood pressure level.
- Apparently, credit cards company can magically force you to spend money.
It’s no secret that credit cards generally come with a hefty interest rate. It’s also true that a credit card debt can be significantly harder to pay off than other types of loan. But blaming a credit card company for the debt you incurred and calling them evil is just plain stupid.
Now, don’t get me wrong, credit card companies are hardly saints; there are plenty of them out there with unscrupulous practices. But even with all the negative aspect of a credit card, when was the last time you saw a credit card pull out a gun and force it’s owner to use it?
If you have a credit card debt, you most likely have a problem. One of the first step in fixing a problem is to examine the cause of the problem.
When I was in debt, the reason for the debt was fairly obvious.
No body forced me to buy the mountains of Japanese comic books, computer hardware, and automotive parts. Sure, the credit card made it easier for me to spend money I didn’t have — but the reason why I spent frivolously was because I was a complete moron.
That’s all there was to it. There was no mystical force from New Jersey, telepathically forcing me to spend.
Accepting personal responsibility for the financial choices you make can go a long way. We’ve all screwed up now and then, the important thing is to realize how the screw-up happened and what can be done about it.
If at the end, you realize that a credit card is just not the right financial product for you (because it makes it too easy for you to spend) — great! Don’t use it!
It’s as simple as that.
Related Link and Post:
Posted by Cap in Even More Ramblings
on October 4, 2006 | 11 Comments
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