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    CONTACTLESS CARD THEFT: USERS WARNED TO WATCH OUT FOR 'DIGITAL PICKPOCKETS'

    CONTACTLESS CARD THEFT: USERS WARNED TO WATCH OUT FOR 'DIGITAL PICKPOCKETS'

    A Facebook post which claims to show a man using a contactless card reader to steal money from members of the public has got some people worried about the security of their bank accounts.

    The image, which first appeared in Russian media, shows a man standing on public transport holding a mobile card reader in his hand. 

    It is claimed that by keying an amount into the terminal and holding it against the pockets of unsuspecting targets, he could steal money out of their accounts via their contactless cards.

    There's not much context to the picture, and there's nothing to suggest the man is a new kind of 'digital pickpocket'. But it's theoretically possible to steal money in this way, and it's got some people worried.

    Some card machines in shops, cafes, and restaurants need to be connected to a landline terminal to work. More advanced devices, which are common across the country, use GPRS to make a connection - allowing merchants to take card payments almost anywhere.

    If a thief had one of these GPRS-enabled machines, they would be able to 'skim' victims' contactless cards almost anywhere, without them knowing.

    However, most banks require their customers to have a business bank account if they want to take card payments - starting one of these accounts naturally involves handing over personal information to the bank, making the criminal traceable if a victim noticed the transaction on their statement.

    Customers could get a refund from the bank if they spotted the fraudulent activity, and if the bank traced the theft to the criminal's account, they could get shut down. But by that point, it might be too late.

    Using this method to steal from people is harder than it seems, and out of the millions of people in the UK who own contactless cards, there have only been a few reported cases of these kinds of thefts taking place.

    Those worried about being targeted could invest in RFID-blocking card sleeves, which prevent cards from being read by scanners. However, the effectiveness of certain brands has been debated. Tests have shown that wrapping cards in tin foil can achieve the same effect.

    Although the prevalence of this type of crime may be overblown, contactless card skimming isn't completely implausible, and taking these security measures could give you peace of mind.

    Despite the potential risks, contactless payments are on the rise - there are over 70 million of the cards in circulation across the UK, and one in three card payments made in London in 2014 was contactless.

    A security flaw could allow thieves to steal information from contactless payments cards of millions of people, allowing them to buy items costing thousands of pounds.

    Card-reading technology, which was acquired "easily and cheaply" online by consumer group Which?, allowed researchers to remotely "steal" enough data from the cards to make purchases – including that of a £3,000 television.

    The group has said six debit cards and four credit cards were tested in the study, and all of them revealed some data.

    But is everybody who uses contactless payments at risk – and what should they do if their data is stolen?

    Who could be affected by this?

    A total of 58 million contactless cards are currently in circulation across the UK, according to Which? although the group does say statistics are not available for the number of thefts committed by contactless card readers.

    The researchers did say though that all of the cards they tested revealed some information.

    The UK Cards Association, the card payments industry's trade body, has pointed out however that last year, the total loss from contactless fraud was £153,000, compared to £2.32bn total spending – the equivalent of 0.7p in every £100 spent.

    How is the data stolen?

    Your account information is contained on a chip held within your contactless card, which is transferred to a card-reading terminal when the two come into close contact.

    The team at Which? said they were able to obtain card-reading technology from  "a mainstream website" to allow them to steal information.

    A spokesman said: "Contactless cards are coded to 'mask' personal data, but using an easily obtainable reader and free software to decode data, we were able to read the card number and expiry date from all 10 cards."

    Would thieves not need more information in order to buy items?

    Making purchases online and over the phone usually requires not only the card number and expiry date, but also the name of the cardholder and the card's security, or CVV, code.

    While the team did not expect to be able to make purchases without these details, they were proved wrong.

    The spokesman said: "We were also able to read limited details of the last 10 transactions, although no cards revealed the CVV security code (the number on the back).

    "We doubted we'd be able to make purchases without the cardholder's name or CVV code - but we were wrong.

    "We ordered two items - one a £3,000 TV - from a mainstream online shop using 'stolen' card details, combined with a false name and address."

    Aren't contactless card payments limited to £20?

    Yes, although the limit will in fact be increased to £30 in September. Regardless, this limit is for contactless payments only. Having obtained the card details, the team were able to shop online, and so the transaction limit was bypassed.

    The Which? spokesman said: "By touching volunteers' cards to our card reader, we got enough details to allow us to go on an internet shopping spree. With these card details, the contactless transaction limit is irrelevant, because online transactions aren't contactless."

    What can I do to protect myself?

    The UK Cards Association has said this is not a new issue, and indeed there has been advice circulated for a number of years on how cardholders may be able to stop their details from being stolen.

    Metal cases are available to buy which claim to protect cards from such readers, while Which? said in their tests they found wrapping a card in foil prevented details from being taken by their reader.

    In December last year meanwhile, The Independent reported how new jeans had been endorsed by computer security firm Norton after they were launched to keep "digital pickpockets" at bay.

    The jeans, along with a blazer, contain pockets with fabric that blocks the waves criminals use to steal the data.

    What should I do if my details are stolen?

    The UK Cards Association has said consumers are "fully protected against any fraud losses on contactless cards and will never be left out of pocket".

    A spokesman said: "If you think your data has been stolen then contact your bank or card company straight away and report it.

    "Essentially, if there is fraud on your account you will get your money back."

     

    Feel free and have a look to this RFID wallet to save your money and a lot of headaches.

     

    (source: independent.co.uk) 

    What to Pack in Your Travel First-Aid Kit

    What to Pack in Your Travel First-Aid Kit

    What to bring, whether you’re hightailing it to Hong Kong for a month or packing for a long-weekend glamping trip.

    The Essentials

    A list of your prescriptions (in case you lose them)—bring a translation if traveling abroad.

    • Hydrocortisone cream, for rashes and bug bites
    • Pain and fever reducer, such as Tylenol or Advil
    • Bandages
    • A copy of a recent EKG, if you have heart problems
    • Antihistamines for allergic reactions
    • Tweezers
    • Small scissors
    • Adhesive tape
    • Alcohol wipes

    For Traveling Abroad

    Emergency Contraception: “It’s not easy to find internationally,” says Anne Terry, director of the travel-medicine clinic at the University of Washington in Seattle.

    Travel Insurance: Compare different types of plans at insuremytrip.com, and check out our full travel insurance guide.

    Antibiotics: Ask your doctor for a prescription that will address diarrhea from bacterial infections.

    Rehydration Powder: If you spend half of your trip in the bathroom, you’ll need to rehydrate. Stock up on packets of Adventure Medical Kits’ oral rehydration salts.

    How to use Instagram to plan your next trip: 5 tips

    How to use Instagram to plan your next trip: 5 tips

    We’re all familiar with Instagram. It’s a great way to share photos of how Starbucks misspelled your name, videos of you zip lining through the Costa Rican jungle to make your viewers jealous, or even stories of a South African sunset on the beach.

    But what you might not be familiar with is that Instagram can also help you plan your next trip – here’s how:

    1. Ye Olde Hashtag

    Let’s not forget about our good old friend – the hashtag. Hashtags are a way to categorize topics, cities, countries and other cool spots. Let’s say you’re interested in checking out Asia, but you’re not sure which country to visit. So you look up #Asia and as you’re scrolling, you find a picture of monkeys bathing in hot springs and think, “That’s where I want to be!” Then, upon further digging – say with geotags for instance (more on that in a bit)- you find out that you can find these monkeys, the Japanese Macaque, in, yup, you guessed it – Japan. Then you continue to explore further by checking #Japan #Tokyo #thingstodoinjapan and so forth.

    2. Location, Location, Location

    The geotag on Instagram allows you to add the location of where you took the picture – and that’s where inspiration can come from. Let’s say someone posts this really cool photo of them by a graffiti wall and the location shows up as “Wynwood Wall,” you can click on this location tag and find out that it’s located in Miami. Then you can start writing a list of must-sees for Miami and before you know it, you have a rough draft itinerary prepared based on your own personal tastes and preferences.

    3. Travelers, Bloggers, Locals

    Instagram is packed with fellow travelers and travel bloggers. If you look up a hashtag such as #travel or #travelblogger, you will find millions upon millions of accounts – and I’m not even exaggerating here. Instagram also has a nice feature that showcases the nine top posts of the day so you can see the most liked posts. Once you click on these and explore a bit more, you can find a new destination or even a new blogger to follow or get inspired by. Locals, of course, are another obvious choice which you can also check with geotags, account biography information or even by being creative with your search such as #home.

    4. Tourism Boards

    Tourism boards are important for the tourism industry of many countries and are also plentiful on Instagram – cities and countries have accounts such as @visitchina or @sydney, accounts that are dedicated to offering you tips and advice on places to see, eat at, sleep in and discover.

    5. Get Social!

    Lastly, let’s not forget what social media is actually meant for – socializing! Write under the comments section when you find an interesting place and ask questions or try to get some tips. If you don’t know the account owner but are feeling brave – send a private message to ask for further details – your questions might just also help inspire a new blog post if the person is a writer. And use your own network as well. Feel free to post a picture of a dream location or someplace you have planned and ask for tips, you’ll never know who could offer some great advice or hook you up with a local contact to get a real authentic experience during your time there.

    Happy (Insta) travels!

    (source: ef.com)

    21 things not to forget when packing for your vacation

    21 things not to forget when packing for your vacation

    Heading to the Sahara without a hat? Up the creek without a paddle? Avoid a vacation disaster with our travel checklist and packing tips.

    21 things not to forget when packing for your vacation

     

    With your flights and hotel booked, the luggage is the last thing stopping you from that great holiday. We know it feels like a chore, but if you follow our expert packing tips you’ll never have to worry.

    1. Make a list

    Ok, so it sounds a little boring, but idiot-proof lists are the gateway to a stress-free holiday. Separate your essentials from your desirables, and be realistic with your luggage limitations. If you need list inspiration – the following might be a good place to start…

    2. Don’t forget the first aid kit

    We’re not asking you to prepare for ER, just a small bag of the most necessary pills and medicine you might need. After all, nobody wants to suffer a punishing headache, high-climate fever, upset stomach or all three during a holiday. It might be easy enough to pick up a domestic remedy for your ailments at home, but medicines in the country you are visiting may be limited to prescription only. The same goes for allergy meds and asthma remedies – bring them on board!

    3. Limit your liquids

    We all know about it by now, and yet there’s still a mass confusion and hold-up when some chancer tries to sneak a bottle of water past airport security. Much to everybody’s chagrin, pan-European baggage restrictions state that all liquids carried in hand luggage must be no more than 100 ml per item, and must fit into one small and resealable transparent bag (usually available at the airport for a nominal fee). If you’re carrying anything larger, stow it with your checked-in suitcase.

    4. Name tags are there to help

    Unless you’re an international man of mystery, you shouldn’t have to worry about traveling incognito. Most suitcases come with name tags fitted as standard, so be sure to fill them in just in case you – or the airline – lose your luggage!

    5. Observe restrictions on baggage

    Observe restrictions on baggage

    If your airline says: “23kg”, then they mean 23kg! Weigh your bags before you get to the airport and make sure you are within the restrictions, otherwise, you’ll be forced to cough up extra cash at the airport or, even worse, have to say goodbye to that lovely hand-knitted cardigan your grandmother spent so long slaving over. We’ve all tried to squeeze that extra pair of pants in the already overstuffed suitcase, but the restrictions are there for a reason, and that reason is your safety. Which reminds us…

    6. Save bag space for all your holiday purchases

    Whether it’s duty-free goods or holiday mementos, it’s inevitable that you’ll be bringing more back home with you than when you left – so make sure you have room for it!

    7. Skip the shoes

    The biggest and most frustrating item of luggage. How many pairs of shoes you should take is very much dependent on how long your vacation might be, but we’d suggest that three pairs is a reasonable average for a 1-2 week getaway. More important than volume is versatility, so make sure you’re not stuck hiking in stilettos by bringing a pair of shoes for every realistic occasion of your trip. Wear your most cumbersome pair on the plane – plus, stuff your socks in the rest – and you’ll save even more space.

    8. Cosmetics – at a minimum!

    Unless you plan on traveling to a desert island, it’s likely that you’ll be able to pick up popular shampoo or sun lotion brands in almost any corner of the world. Fewer cosmetics also mean that you’ll be less likely to find an explosion of nondescript gooey liquids spoiling everything in your suitcase when you arrive at your destination. If you really can’t live without that special face cream, try to take only as much as you’ll need for your trip and nothing more. That way you can discard the empties and save extra luggage room for your trip back home.

    9. Keep on rolling…

    This tip is certainly up for debate, but we think that rolling your clothes really is the only way to go. Not only will it reduce those pesky wrinkles and creases in your gear, it’ll save you some much-needed suitcase space.

    10. All valuables go in hand luggage

     Observe restrictions on baggage

    It’s rare that airlines lose luggage these days, but why take the risk? Stay safe and stow all your expensive luxuries – from your camera to your diamond engagement ring – in hand luggage.

    11. Don’t forget the adapters

    If you do need them, save on the crazy airport prices by buying them ahead of your trip.

    12. Pack all-rounder fashions, not eccentric statement pieces

    You might want to pack that banana costume for your trip, but is it really necessary? Fancy dress or no, this is a question you should really ask yourself when pressed for suitcase space. Pack great all-rounder attire and a classy evening outfit, but leave those outlandish statement pieces for a night out at home.

    13. Be delicate with your delicates

    If you have to pack any china plates or glass goods, wrapping them in bubble wrap or in-between clothes and putting them right in the middle of your case is the safest way to make sure they arrive with you in one piece.

    14. Categorise your clothes

    Pack clothes in groups: that means shirts with shirts, pants with pants -it’s easier to find what you need and unpack on the other side.

    15. Pack a mini closet in your hand luggage

    Not literally, of course, but it’s always a nice idea to add a clean set of underwear and a garment in your carry-on bag, in case of your luggage being lost in an airplane mix-up.

    16. Don’t predict the weather – check it

    Don’t predict the weather – check it

    Depending on where you’re going, weather forecasts are either your holiday’s best friend or biggest foe. Come rain or shine, meteorologists will always give you the best idea of what weather to expect on your holiday. Check the day before you fly and pack accordingly, and save room for that trusty pac-a-mac or umbrella you hope you’ll never have to use.

    17. No onboard manicure

    Tip for the well-groomed flyer: if you’re thinking about carrying a nail file, scissors, or any other sharp primping tool in your luggage – give up the idea! They are prohibited and airport workers will ask you to get rid of them.

    18. The most necessary things go on top

    If you believe that a particular thing can be useful to you very soon (perhaps at the airport), for example, a jacket – put it on top. Very obvious advice, but perhaps it’s so obvious that you’d be bound to forget otherwise!

    19.  Towels?

    Towels! Yet another pesky space-filler you need to think long and hard about whether you actually need. Check ahead of time to see if your holiday accommodation will be providing them (they probably will) and pack accordingly.

    20. Strip at airport security

    It’s unlikely you’ll be asked to strip down to your undergarments, but it’s possible that you’ll be asked to undress a bit as you go through to the terminal. This usually means taking shoes, belts, and jackets off, and removing any jewelry or metal goods. Travelling with a laptop or tablet device? Be prepared to present your gadgets to the friendly security staff too.

    21. Don’t leave home without the essentials

    This penultimate tip is a big one as, without these necessities, you won’t be heading anywhere but home: check and check again that you have your monies, a valid passport and – for the sake of your holiday companions – a toothbrush. Keep these all on hand and then you’ll be able to remember the most important thing…

     

    (source: momondo.com)

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