Verizon Wireless lowering data prices

There is finally some good news for Verizon Wireless customers. They have lowered their prices for many of the data plans by around $10/mo. I am on the 4GB plan and normally it’s $70/mo but now it has dropped to $60/mo. However, you don’t receive this price decrease automatically. You have to go into your account and change your plan to the newer price option. If you choose, you can continue paying $70/mo and receive 6GB of data.

To change your plan, log in to your Verizon Wireless account and go to:

My Verizon –> My Account –> Change Minutes, Text or Data


SOURCE: Verizon Wireless

4 tips to reduce debit card fraud

Banks really seem to be cracking down on debit card fraud this year. In August I received an email from my bank saying my MasterCard debit card had been compromised and I would be getting a new one in the mail. Yesterday (September 5th), I was attempting to pay for some car repairs and my newly activated debit card was declined. I called the bank and they told me that the new card I’d had for a few weeks had already been compromised.

According to the bank, it was the Dairy Queen data breach that triggered the alert. (darn Blizzard addiction!) When this happened, my bank lowered the daily limit to $300. Luckily they were able to temporarily boost my limit so I could pay the fine folks at the repair shop.

Changing debit cards is a bigger pain because you have to remember all the places online that you use it. When I got my replacement card in August, I forgot to update my account info with Netflix and was shut off. (give me my Orange dang it!) 🙂 I pay most of my bills online via the debit card and having to frequently change the info is making the convenience of a debit card not so convenient anymore.

What should you as the consumer do to reduce your chance of getting your card compromised?

Pay with cash
This is a good strategy especially if you’re budgeting with the envelope system, but doesn’t help for online purchases. However, I don’t like carrying wads of cash in my wallet for safety reasons.

Pay online through your bank
I already have several bills like power and water setup to go through my bank instead of my debit card to avoid processing fees. It takes a few days for them to process, but it might be worth it to ensure they get paid.

Use a separate debit card/bank account for online bills
While this won’t completely eliminate your card getting compromised, it might reduce the threat. It might also help you manage your money better from a budgeting perspective. Of course if the online company gets breached, then you’re still vulnerable.

Check your bank account on a daily basis
This may sound like overkill for some folks, but you should check your bank account at least once a day. Some people check their Facebook or email when they first get up but I check my bank account. That way you’ll know instantly if there is a weird charge and you can take action to reduce your money from being taken.

Note: Neither time that my card was compromised did I see any invalid transactions. The bank is just being proactive by issuing new cards to reduce risk to both their customers and the bank itself.

Have you had a debit card compromised by one of these recent retailer hacks? Which store was compromised for you? Do you have any other tips to reduce your risk of being compromised? Share your story in the comments below.

Heartbleed bug and solutions

While the title sounds more like a metal band or a dangerous heart condition, this one has to do with a web vulnerability. This bug allows malicious users to see various information that is normally secured like usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, etc. In other words, it’s a very serious problem.

Most website providers should have patched their systems by the time you are reading this if they were impacted by this issue. However, here are a few resources you can check to make sure the sites you visit are patched.

Heartbleed Test (Filippo Valsorda)
Heartbleed Bug Websites Affected (Mashable)
Top 10,000 sites that were affected
Google Chrome Heartbleed plug-in

How can you protect yourself? Normally in these situations, changing your password is the first choice. While that is a good idea, make sure the site is patched or not affected before changing it. Use a long password with uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols if they allow. I recommend using a password manager like 1Password which can help you generate and remember strong passwords.

Websites are not the only things that are affected by this bug. Many internet modems and routers offer secure remote management which could be at risk. If you have this feature turned on (normally it’s disabled by default), you may want to disable it and check with the manufacturer to see if there is an update that fixes it.

Here are a few of the bulletins from these manufacturers regarding their equipment and the Heartbleed bug.

Note: I was not able to find any official information on Netgear routers regarding Heartbleed.


For the technical details of this bug, check out the Heartbleed website.

Have you found sites that are still not patched? What about your online banking and shopping sites? Post your feedback in the comments section below.

Apple iOS 7.1 thoughts and tips

iOS 7.1

Apple released iOS 7.1 this week (3/10/2014) for the iPhone 4 or later, iPad 2 or later, iPad mini or later and iPod touch (5th generation). This free update can be downloaded by going to Settings –> General –> Software Update. This is a big update which required 1.9GB of free space on my iPhone and iPad before it would download and install.

Here are the major changes:

-iOS experience designed for the car
-Simply connect your iPhone to a CarPlay enabled vehicle
-Supports Phone, Music, Maps, Messages, and 3rd-party audio apps
-Control with Siri and the car’s touchscreen, knobs, and buttons
-Manually control when Siri listens by holding down the home button while you speak and releasing it when you’re done as an alternative to letting Siri automatically notice when you stop talking
-New, more natural sounding male and female voices for Mandarin Chinese, UK English, Australian English, and Japanese
iTunes Radio
-Search field above Featured Stations to easily create stations based on your favorite artist or song
-Buy albums with the tap of a button from Now Playing
-Subscribe to iTunes Match on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to enjoy iTunes Radio ad-free
-Option to display events in month view
-Country specific holidays automatically added for many countries
-Bold font option now includes the keyboard, calculator, and many icon glyphs
-Reduce Motion option now includes Weather, Messages, and multitasking UI animations
-New options to display button shapes, darken app colors, and reduce white point
-New Camera setting to automatically enable HDR for iPhone 5s
-iCloud Keychain support in additional countries
-FaceTime call notifications are automatically cleared when you answer a call on another device
-Fixes a bug that could occasionally cause a home screen crash
-Improves Touch ID fingerprint recognition
-Improved performance for iPhone 4
-Fixes display of Mail unread badge for numbers greater than 10,000
-Continued user interface refinements

-When you have the messages app open and get a text, it gives you a quick buzz to let you know you have a new message.
-The wallpaper dims slightly to make the apps and text on the home screen easier to read.
-If you have images stored for your contacts, they no longer appear full screen when someone calls you. They are now located in a small circle at the top of the screen.
-Speaking of small circles… The Call, Accept and Decline rectangular phone buttons have turned into circles.
-For those who share their phone with little ones, there is a new warning screen when buying in-app purchases that lets you know that you have 15 minutes where you won’t need to enter a password to buy an in-app item.
-The keyboard displays in all caps whether or not you have the shift key enable.

-I am not a big fan of the animations on iOS 7 / 7.1 as I prefer things to be faster. Luckily there is an option to reduce some of these annoyances. (Settings –> General –> Accessibility –> Reduce Motion)
-There is an option to bold the text in various screens which I find makes a big difference. (Settings –> General –> Accessibility –> Bold Text) Note: This will automatically reboot your phone to make the changes.

Have you downloaded iOS 7.1 on your devices? If so, what do you like or dislike about the update? Post your responses in the comment section below.

What is a Blue Screen of Death?

Blue Screen of Death
Blue Screen of Death

If you’ve ever been around computers, you’ve likely seen at least one ‘blue screen of death’ or BSOD. It is a screen filled with cryptic code making you feel like the end is near for your PC. Take a deep breath and don’t panic.

The first thing you want to do is write everything down on the screen or take a focused picture of the screen with your camera or cell phone so you have documentation of the error. Pay close attention to any STOP errors or filenames as they can be keys to troubleshooting the problem.

After you have documented the error message, try restarting the computer. You may need to use the power button the computer as the keyboard may not be responsive. Did it boot back up normally or did you get another blue screen of death?

If you get the error message again, try booting up into safe mode. (Push the F8 key before Windows starts up to find the safe mode option). If it boots into Windows, this will help narrow down if it’s a driver/software issue.

No luck? Keep digging! Ask yourself what has changed on your PC. Have you installed or updated any software or drivers recently? What about any new hardware like a printer or camera? If so, try uninstalling the software and removing the device to see if that eliminates the error.

Still not working? It is possible that it is something inside the computer that is failing. I have had memory (RAM) go bad which causes various blue screens of death. Try testing the RAM with a program like MemTest86+ and see if it fails. While you are testing things, it’s probably a good idea to scan the hard drive for any errors. Use a tool like Seatools to scan for any hardware errors. I would also suggest running CHKDSK /F to see if that helps.

Have you ever seen a blue screen of death? If so, how did you resolve it?