Home Tips

Hello, Everyone,

Life is getting less complicated with the year winding down and the transition to Compass less hectic, so I’m back to my monthly home tips.  We’ll be settled in our new and beautiful office on the east end of Harvard Square, at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Trowbridge, this week.  I hope you find the tips helpful; I have the names of local contractors if you need them.  Please visit me at our new office–and Happy Halloween!

Debate continues on the deleterious effects of cell phone use.  Users are advised against storing your phone in the pockets of your clothing.

This link is worth reading, especially if you travel a lot for business.

Unless you live in an area with little change in the seasons, now is a good time to prepare your house for the winter:

Have your heating system inspected;

Check your windows for loose caulking and have ill-fitting windows repaired or replaced;

Drain exterior spigots and irrigation systems;

Have your gutters cleaned and downspouts cleared (I personally know of several instances in which homeowners have been badly hurt by attempting to clean gutters themselves.  Do hire a professional to do it.);

Have  your chimney cleaned and checked for creosote buildup.

Best,
Bonny

March Home Tips

Hello, Everyone,

The batteries in Hoverboards can be dangerous.  Some of the companies making the batteries are incompetent, and the batteries are catching on fire or exploding.  A house in Nashville burned to the ground; fortunately the father arrived home in time to catch his 2 children as they jumped from the upper windows.  Hoverboards are not permitted on US flights or on the T.

The following information on identity theft is compliments of Janney, Montgomery, Scott:

 

 

Two types of identity theft

·       Account takeover is what happens when a thief gets your existing credit or debit cards (or even just the account numbers and expiration dates) and goes on a shopping spree at your expense

·       Application fraud is what happens when a thief gets your Social Security number and uses it (along with other personal information about you) to obtain new credit in your name

 

Protect Yourself against Identity Theft

Whether they’re snatching your purse, diving into your dumpster, stealing your mail, or hacking into your computer, they’re out to get you. Who are they? Identity thieves.

Identity thieves can empty your bank account, max out your credit cards, open new accounts in your name, and purchase furniture, cars, and even homes on the basis of your credit history. If they give your personal information to the police during an arrest and then don’t show up for a court date, you may be subsequently arrested and jailed.

And what will you get for their efforts? You’ll get the headache and expense of cleaning up the mess they leave behind.

You may never be able to completely prevent your identity from being stolen, but here are some steps you can take to help protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Check yourself out

It’s important to review your credit report periodically. Check to make sure that all the information contained in it is correct, and be on the lookout for any fraudulent activity.

You may get your credit report for free once a year. To do so, contact the Annual Credit Report Request Service online at www.annualcreditreport.com or call (877) 322-8228.

If you need to correct any information or dispute any entries, contact the three national credit reporting agencies:

1.     Equifax: www.equifax.com
(800) 685-1111

2.     Experian: www.experian.com
(888) 397-3742

3.     TransUnion: www.transunion.com
(800) 916-8800

Secure your number

Your most important personal identifier is your Social Security number (SSN). Guard it carefully. Never carry your Social Security card with you unless you’ll need it. The same goes for other forms of identification (for example, health insurance cards) that display your SSN. If your state uses your SSN as your driver’s license number, request an alternate number.

Don’t have your SSN preprinted on your checks, and don’t let merchants write it on your checks. Don’t give it out over the phone unless you initiate the call to an organization you trust. Ask the three major credit reporting agencies to truncate it on your credit reports. Try to avoid listing it on employment applications; offer instead to provide it during a job interview.

Don’t leave home with it

Most of us carry our checkbooks and all of our credit cards, debit cards, and telephone cards with us all the time. That’s a bad idea; if your wallet or purse is stolen, the thief will have a treasure chest of new toys to play with.

Carry only the cards and/or checks you’ll need for any one trip. And keep a written record of all your account numbers, credit card expiration dates, and the telephone numbers of the customer service and fraud departments in a secure place–at home.

Keep your receipts

When you make a purchase with a credit or debit card, you’re given a receipt. Don’t throw it away or leave it behind; it may contain your credit or debit card number. And don’t leave it in the shopping bag inside your car while you continue shopping; if your car is broken into and the item you bought is stolen, your identity may be as well.

Save your receipts until you can check them against your monthly credit card and bank statements, and watch your statements for purchases you didn’t make.

When you toss it, shred it

Before you throw out any financial records such as credit or debit card receipts and statements, cancelled checks, or even offers for credit you receive in the mail, shred the documents, preferably with a cross-cut shredder. If you don’t, you may find the panhandler going through your dumpster was looking for more than discarded leftovers.

Keep a low profile

The more your personal information is available to others, the more likely you are to be victimized by identity theft. While you don’t need to become a hermit in a cave, there are steps you can take to help minimize your exposure:

·       To stop telephone calls from national telemarketers, list your telephone number with the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry by calling (888) 382-1222 or registering online at www.donotcall.gov

·       To remove your name from most national mailing and e-mailing lists, as well as most telemarketing lists register online with the Direct Marketing Association at www.dmachoice.org

·       To remove your name from marketing lists prepared by the three national consumer reporting agencies, call (888) 567-8688 or register online at www.optoutprescreen.com

·       When given the opportunity to do so by your bank, investment firm, insurance company, and credit card companies, opt out of allowing them to share your financial information with other organizations

·       You may even want to consider having your name and address removed from the telephone book and reverse directories

Take a byte out of crime

Whatever else you may want your computer to do, you don’t want it to inadvertently reveal your personal information to others. Take steps to help assure that this won’t happen.

Install a firewall to prevent hackers from obtaining information from your hard drive or hijacking your computer to use it for committing other crimes. This is especially important if you use a high-speed connection that leaves you continuously connected to the Internet. Moreover, install virus protection software and update it on a regular basis.

Try to avoid storing personal and financial information on a laptop; if it’s stolen, the thief may obtain more than your computer. If you must store such information on your laptop, make things as difficult as possible for a thief by protecting these files with a strong password–one that’s six to eight characters long, and that contains letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols.

“If a stranger calls, don’t answer.” Opening e-mails from people you don’t know, especially if you download attached files or click on hyperlinks within the message, can expose you to viruses, infect your computer with “spyware” that captures information by recording your keystrokes, or lead you to “spoofs” (websites that replicate legitimate business sites) designed to trick you into revealing personal information that can be used to steal your identity.

If you wish to visit a business’s legitimate website, use your stored bookmark or type the URL address directly into the browser. If you provide personal or financial information about yourself over the Internet, do so only at secure websites; to determine if a site is secure, look for a URL that begins with “https” (instead of “http”) or a lock icon on the browser’s status bar.

And when it comes time to upgrade to a new computer, remove all your personal information from the old one before you dispose of it. Using the “delete” function isn’t sufficient to do the job; overwrite the hard drive by using a “wipe” utility program. The minimal cost of investing in this software may save you from being wiped out later by an identity thief.

Be diligent

As the grizzled duty sergeant used to say on a televised police drama, “Be careful out there.” The identity you save may be your own.

Enjoy the balmy winter!  If you hear of anyone thinking of buying or selling—particularly selling—please think of me!

Best,
Bonny

February Home Tips

Hello, Everyone,

Now that winter is here and we should expect more snow, I’d like to remind you of the app called Plowz&Mowz.  Depending on your community, the high schools sometimes have organized snow-shoveling brigades and some cities and towns provide snow removal for homeowners beyond a certain age.

The fund-raising organization, Wounded Warriors, has received bad press recently.  It’s easy to google charities to check on the percentage a charity really donates to its cause.  Homes for Our Troops is based in Taunton, MA, and the last time I checked, only 10% was used for admin compared to 40% by Wounded Warriors.  Homes for Our Troops renovates and provides homes for maimed veterans.

Wondering what to do with your stack of paperback books?    Please consider donating them to operationpaperback.org, which sends “gently-used” books to our troops.

Enjoy the weekend and please remember me when your friends, family or colleagues are thinking of buying or selling.  I am grateful for your referrals.

Best,
Bonny

November Home Tips

Hello, Everyone! The link to the site doesn’t work, but if you have a “keyless” car, do google the NYT article, “Yes, I Meant to Freeze the Keys.” Keyless cars can be broken into/stolen by thieves using amplifiers. Presumably, David Beckham had his $100K BMW stolen this way. Readers’ comments with the article provide some interesting safety measures. A small bowl of white vinegar set on a kitchen counter is often sufficient to absorb cooking odors and is minus the noxious ingredients of alternative sprays. A little scrubbing with a small amount of baking powder and water cleans the ceramic top of a stove beautifully. Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving! Please think of me when you hear of family, friends, colleagues who are planning to buy or sell. Best, Bonny