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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) 

    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)

    25 Travel things to ad to your bucket list.

    25 Travel things to ad to your bucket list.

    It's often said that traveling leaves you speechless, before turning you into a storyteller. I predict that if you manage to tick off all 25 things on this list you're going to have some pretty cool stories to talk about when you're older. In no particular order, here are Smaller Earth's 25 amazing things to do before you die. #BucketListGoals

    1. DIVE THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

    Dive the great barrier reef

    In North Eastern Australia you will find The Great Barrier Reef, visible from Outer Space this ocean masterpiece is the largest living thing on the planet. The Reef is a whopping 2,300km-long ecosystem. It comprises of thousands of reefs and islands, made up of hundreds of different coral types. This colorful ecosystem is home to thousands of different types of fish, sharks, shells, starfish, turtles, and dolphins. Grab a snorkel and a Go Pro and you'll capture some of the best footage this planet has to offer.

     

    2. ROADTRIP DOWN ROUTE 1 IN CALIFORNIA

    Roadtrip down route 1 in California

    Starting from one end to another this beautiful coast-hugging road will take you from San Francisco Bay down to San Diego. You will never see a blue as vivid as the Pacific Coast. As you wind down from San Francisco you will pass through Big Sur, Santa Barbara, Malibu, Los Angeles and Orange County before ending up in San Diego. You can camp at sites along the way, chill at the golden beaches, ride the ocean swell, and eat at the vibrant towns along the way. Hire a convertible, throw on some Beach Boys and make sure to take a camera. 

     

    3. CAPTURE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS

    CAPTURE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS Capture the northern lights

    The Northern Lights can be seen from many locations, but the further north you go the better the lights will be. More formally known as the aurora borealis these mysterious rays of light create an almost lava lamp like spectacle in the sky. It is the result of fast moving highly charged electrical particles created by the sun. It's fair to say the Northern Lights will dazzle you.

    Check out our latest Smaller Earth programme: Summer Camp Canada

     

    4. INTER-RAIL AROUND EUROPE

    INTER-RAIL AROUND EUROPE Inter-rail around Europe

    An inter-rail pass can ultimately tick off a handful of European countries in one trip. It gives you the opportunity to delve deep into different European cultures, visit historic cities and towns, discover some of the world's best landscapes, gateways, and trails. Whether it's two weeks, one month or longer, it's the ultimate summer trip for the first time gap year backpacker. 

     

    5. DISCOVER PETRA, JORDAN

    Discover Petra in Jordan

    Petra or "The Rose City" is an archaeological site found in the desert of Jordan. The entrance to Al Khazneh carved into the red mountain rock is 45m high and dates back to around 300BC, it's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven new wonders of the world. Petra was once a thriving trading city until it was abandoned and left in ruins for centuries. You might recognize it from the Indiana Jones film 'The Last Crusade'. 

     

    6. VISIT THE TAJ MAHAL

    Visit the Taj Mahal

    The Taj Mahal was commissioned in the 17th century by Shah Jahan, a Mughal emperor. It's located in Agra, India. The mausoleum took over 20 years to build, a world heritage site that is one of the most famed pieces of architecture in the world. A symbol of India built around Indian, Persian and Islamic influences. Around 3 million people visit this spectacular landmark every day. 

     

    7. EXPLORE ANGKOR THOM

    Explore the Angkor Thom

    Angkor Thom, located in Cambodia Asia, was the last city of the 12th century Khmer Empire. A city that represents one of humankind's most astonishing and enduring feats of architectural achievement. Most of the city has disappeared but these beautiful remains are one for the bucket list.

     

    8. VISIT LAKE LOUISE, BANFF

    Visit the Lake Louise, Banff

    Lake Louise is located in Banff National Park in Canada. The Park itself holds some of the best ski resorts, hiking trails and lakes in the world, but none of them are quite as famous as Lake Louise. Often described as 'The Diamond in the Wilderness'. It's surrounded by glaciers and waterfalls. If this is on your bucket list then bring an extra battery for your camera. 

     

    9. CATCH A SUNSET AT THE GRAND CANYON

    Catch a sunset at the Grand Canyon

    No travel list is complete without having The Grand Canyon on it. This rugged, beautiful natural formation of red rock stretches as far as the eye can see in almost every direction. The Grand Canyon National Park is more than just a pretty sunset though, you can go hiking, camping, spot rare wildlife and even go white water rafting at the Colorado River. 

     

    10. STAND BEFORE THE GREAT PYRAMID OF GIZA

    Stand before the Great Pyramid of Giza

    Ancient Egypt is one of the most fascinating and studied cultures of all time. A civilization that left us a legacy with The Great Pyramid of Giza. It is the oldest and most intact of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World and a symbol of the great Egyptian architecture. The pyramid took over 20 years to build and to stand in its presence is awe-inspiring.

     

    11. HIKE THE GREAT INCE TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU 

    Hike the great Ince trail to Machu Picchu

    For many travelers to Peru, a visit to the lost Incan city of Machu Picchu is the whole purpose of their trip. With its awe-inspiring location, it is the best-known and most spectacular archaeological site on the continent. Apart from a few indigenous Quechuas, nobody knew of Machu Picchu's existence until American Historian Hiram Bingham stumbled upon it in 1911.

     

    12. FALL IN LOVE WITH PARIS

    Fall in love with Paris

    "We'll always have Paris" France's capital is one of the most historic and beautiful European cities. The language, the food, the art, the culture, everything about Paris will leave you wanting more. From its quirky cafe's to its scenic landmarks Paris will find a place in your heart. 

     

    13. VISIT THE ISLE OF SKYE

    A trip to the Isle of Skye will give you landscapes and views to rival anywhere in the world. From its pure sandy shores to the picture-perfect waterfalls it's an island full of hidden treasures. 

     

    14. GET LOST IN VENICE

    Get lost in Venice

    Stunning architecture. Mysterious passageways. And of course, the canals. Venice is one of the most alluring cities in the world- the type of place where, as a visitor, you'll welcoming getting lost.

     

    15. GO ON AN AFRICAN SAFARI

    An African safari is surely high on the dream list of any wildlife enthusiast, intrepid traveler or adventure seeker. Safaris in Africa are unforgettable – and no two will ever be the same.

     

    16. WALK THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA

    Walk the Great Wall of China

    The Great Wall of China is one of the true wonders of the world. It winds up and down across deserts, grasslands, mountains, and rivers for around 13,170 miles. (so maybe don't walk all of it!) It's over 2000 years old and a famed tourist spot for its architectural grandeur and historical significance.

     

    17. VISIT THE THE NATIONAL KHAO SOK PARK, THAILAND 

    Many believe this lowland jungle (Thailand's rainiest spot) is over 160 million years old, one of the world's oldest rainforests. Dramatic limestone formations and waterfalls cascade through juicy thickets drenched with rain and morning dew.  Whether it's riding in the back of an open Tuk-Tuk, or racing across the waves in a longtail boat, a journey through Thailands islands always feels like a real adventure. Thailands beauty has no ends.

    You can visit this on our Best of Thailand Tour

     

    18. WALKTHROUGH ASHIKAGA FLOWER PARK, JAPAN

    WALKTHROUGH ASHIKAGA FLOWER PARK, JAPAN Walkthrough Ashikaga flower park, Japan

    Space travel to James Cameron's Pandora in "Avatar" would be pretty much ideal, but until that becomes possible, the Ashikaga Flower Park is the next best thing on the list.

     

    19. VISIT ROME

    They say all roads lead to Rome and it's easy to see why a city steeped in history and culture that paved its way through our history books. From the famous ancient Colosseum to the nearby Vatican City you are surrounded by beauty in Rome. 

     

    20. VISIT SANTORINI

    Visit Santorini

    Santorini may well have conquered a corner of your imagination before you’ve even set eyes on it. The main island of Thira will take your breath away with its snowdrift of white Cycladic houses lining the cliff tops. When the sun sets, the reflection on the buildings and the glow of the orange and red in the cliffs can be truly spectacular.

     

    21. SAIL AROUND HALONG BAY, VIETNAM

    Being recognized as Natural Wonder of the World by UNESCO, Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful destinations in Vietnam for travelers who love discovering nature. One of the best way to explore this wonder of the world is a cruise trip through rock islands, caves and spectacular beaches.

     

    22. HIKE TO THE WULINGYUAN SCENIC AREA

    With its towering sandstone pillars, dizzying stone bridges and mysterious caves, the Wulingyuan Scene Area is one of China's most aesthetic natural sites. 

     

    23. EXPLORE BAGAN: MYANMAR

    EXPLORE BAGAN: MYANMAR Explore Bagan, Myanmar

    Bagan (or Pagan) is an ancient city that was the capital of the first Burmese Empire. Bagan serves as home to temples and buildings built from the 11th century to the 13th century. There are more than 2000 pagodas and temples to be found that were built by ancient kings.

     

    24. STAND ON PREACHERS ROCK, NORWAY

    Stand on Preacher's Rock, Norway

    "The Pulpit Rock" is a square formation of rock resembling a pulpit, standing 604 meters above the Lysefjord. The hike takes about two hours and when you face the view on the top, you will immediately see why this remarkable rocky plateau receives well over 200.000 visitors every year.

     

    25. IGUAZU FALLS, ARGENTINA

    The exquisite Iguaza Falls is also known as the Iguassu Falls or Iguacu Falls. The magnificent spectacle of these 275 individual drops has awed tourist, locals and indigenous inhabitants for centuries.

     

    (source: smallerearth.com)

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