Protect Yourself Against, and Mitigate Damages From, Identity Theft

We’ve all heard of it. But we all think that we’re invincible to it. Identity Theft!

What is it? It refers to the preparatory stage of acquiring and collecting someone else’s personal information for criminal purposes.

Identity theft techniques can range from unsophisticated, such as dumpster diving and mail theft, to more elaborate schemes.

If your identity is stolen, do you have a plan in place to mitigate the damages? If not, you should at least bookmark this, just in case you need it in the future.

Identity thieves are looking for the following information:
• full name
• date of birth
• Social Insurance Numbers
• full address
• mother’s maiden name
• username and password for online services
• driver’s license number
• personal identification numbers (PIN)
• credit card information (numbers, expiry dates and the last three digits printed on the signature panel)
• bank account numbers
• signature
• passport number

There are things that you can do to protect yourself from identity theft, and there are steps that you can take to minimize the damage and help bring the thief to justice.

Here are 5 things that you can do right now to protect yourself:
1. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put ‘PHOTO ID REQUIRED.’
2. When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the ‘For’ line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your cheque as it passes through all the cheque processing channels won’t have access to it.
3. Put your work phone # on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a PO Box, use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a PO Box, use your work address. Never have your SIN printed on your checks. (DUH!) You can add it if it is necessary. But if you have It printed, anyone can get it.
4. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place.
5. When you travel abroad, carry a photocopy of your passport. We’ve all heard horror stories about fraud that’s committed on us in stealing a Name, address, Social Insurance number, credit cards, etc…

If your identity does get stolen, what kind of things can you expect to have happen?

Here are just some of what they can do:
1. Access your bank accounts
2. Open new bank accounts
3. Transfer bank balances
4. Apply for loans, credit cards
5. Make purchases
6. Buy cell phone packages
7. Credit line approved by retail stores
8. Access your driving record, and change your information online

If you are a victim, here’s some critical information to act on immediately:
1. Cancel your credit cards immediately. But the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them. This is why we photocopy them (see above). Call your local bank/financial institution as well.
2. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).
But here’s what is perhaps most important of all:
3. Call the nationwide credit reporting companies immediately. Ask them to put a fraud alert on your name and credit report. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

Here are the numbers for two national credit bureaus:
1.) Equifax: 1-800-465-7166
2.) TransUnion Canada: 1-877-525-3823
3. Order free copies of your credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies.

Have you even been a victim of identify theft? Tell us your story and maybe others can learn from what you did, or didn’t do.

Boost Your Business Website Traffic SEO Hacks

We all want websites that are search-engine friendly. But sometimes when you are busy it’s easy to publish a new blog post and be off to the next thing on your to do list.

Over time, this can really hurt your SEO efforts. That’s why I’ve put together this short hit list of things you can do to boost your WordPress SEO.

Schedule these tasks in your calendar to make your blog traffic soar!

1) Post New Stuff Regularly

Google has a bias towards fresh content. Part of Google’s algorithm looks at how new the content is and gives preference to more recent results. So publishing original content on a regular basis is important.

Also size matters when it comes to content. Generally longer content ranks higher than shorter content. So strive to make your post at least 500 words.

2) Create a Keywords List

If SEO is a priority, then you’ll want to develop a keyword list. This is basically a list of keywords and phrases that describes your products and services. These keywords should include words from search terms that are more likely to be used to find your offerings online.

Google has some incredible tools to make keyword research easy including Google Search, Google Suggest, Google Instant and Google Wonder Wheel.

Hint: if you want a really targeted keyword list, hire an SEO expert!

3) Install an SEO Plugin

This will allow you to set keyword-rich custom titles and Meta descriptions for your posts for search engines.

A couple of popular SEO plug-ins to consider are All in One SEO Pack and WordPress SEO by Yoast.

Again, this is something your web designer or an SEO professional can easily install for you.

4) Hand Submit to Search Engines

What good is a site if no one can find it? That’s why getting listed in Google and the other popular search engines and directories is one of the most effective ways of getting free targeted traffic to your website.

You have probably seen lots of automated submission services where you pay a small fee for them to submit your site to hundreds of search engines. These services not only won’t help – they can actually hurt you.

Almost all of these free directories never send an actual visitor to your website and getting links from them can hurt your ability to rank in the real search engines like Google and Bing.

The best practice is to manually submit your site to search engines yourself. WordPress makes this easy once you set up an account in Google, Bing and Yandex Webmaster Tools.

If unsure, just ask your webmaster or SEO Specialist to set up these accounts.

5) Add Tags to your Posts

WordPress, straight out of the box, comes ready to embrace search engines. The tags features is one of those SEO friendly features you should take advantage of.

Be sure to add relevant keyword-rich tags to every post you publish.

6) Leave Comments on Other Blogs

Start linking more to other people’s posts on their blogs and encourage them to link back to you.

One search engine factor that Google considers is backlinking. A website that has more backlinks is considered more of an authority site and gets higher rankings.

7) Block Spam Comments

When people leave comments on your blog, it counts as content to Google. So if you have a website about DIY crafts and someone leaves 5 comments about “cheap enhancement pills’ that ruins your keyword relevancy and hurts your rankings.

So blocking spam comments from posting to your blog will improve your SEO – as well as make your real blog readers happy.

8) Internal Linking

One easy way to get more traffic is to add internal links to your blog posts.

For example if you have an article on Overcoming Your Resistance to Blog Writing, then at the bottom of that article you can post links to “Other Related Articles You May Enjoy”: 4 Content Marketing Trends for Business Owners in 2017 and other related articles. WordPress SEO by Yoast does this automatically for you as you can see at the bottom of this post.

9) Use Image Alt Tags

For each image you use in your post, ensure you add the Alt tag to help them rank better in image searches. This is another excellent place to put relevant keywords.

Google has an image search function that works in pretty much the exact same way as the webpage search with keywords and relevance. So adding Alt tags helps Google find and include your images when someone does an image search.

10) Tweak Blog Post Titles

If you quickly wrote titles to your blog posts before, take time to review them first before publishing.

Your blog post titles are vitally important to your SEO rankings so compare the keywords used to your keyword list and make your blog titles more keyword rich.

11) Add Social Media Sharing Buttons

When Google sees a blog article is getting a lot of posts and shares on social media, it boosts the ranking of that blog post.

So making it easy for readers to share your posts helps others Tweet and share your great content!

12) Update Your Theme

Not all WordPress themes are SEO Friendly and the free WordPress themes may be hurting your search engine rankings because of this.

Having a premium WordPress theme ensures your content will be indexed by the search engines, since the developers have taken special time to optimize every aspect in terms of both security and SEO.

It’s smart to make sure your theme programming isn’t bloated with inefficient code that slows down page load times. We find this a lot with purchased themes and that’s why we only provide custom designed and built WordPress themes for our clients.

Three Reasons To Buy Used From a Ford Dealership

From clear financial incentives to increased reliability and better buying tools, there has never been a better time to consider buying a used car or truck. Not sold? Here are three reasons to buy used for your next vehicle.

Save Yourself Money

It’s no secret that buying a vehicle used instead of new will save you money, but just how much money can you save? Statistics from Kelly Blue Book show that in 2015 Americans spent an average of $33,500 on new vehicles versus just over $20,000 on used. That’s an approximate $13,500 in savings.

With buying new, there is also the depreciation factor. As soon as you drive a new car off the lot, its price drops by several thousand dollars. According to statistics from Consumer Reports, a new car purchased in today’s market will depreciate to just 54 percent of its original price tag after just three years on the road. With used vehicles, such depreciation is a rarity, making trade-ins and sales back to the dealership more economically viable.

Get A Reliable (And Better) Vehicle

Going the used route can free up resources and allow you to buy a better and more reliable vehicle. The rationale is simple: when you save by buying your car used, you can put that extra money towards a better make or model. If you do your homework, the cost should be about even – and in the long run, the investment will likely fall in your favor. By choosing a better-made model, your used vehicle will likely outlive the new, less reliable alternative. Plus, with the lifespan of today’s cars at an all-time high, even vehicles with several years on the road can be a sound investment. According to a 2015 survey by IHS Automotive, the average age of cars on US roads has reached 11.5 years, with estimates projecting a continued increase in lifespan. For used car buyers, this is good news. The used vehicle is no longer a temporary fix, but a reliable alternative to buying new.

Vehicle History Reports and CPO Programs: The Future of Used Car Buying

Today’s certified pre-owned (CPO) programs further guarantee that when you buy used, you get a reliable car in great condition. Since a growing number of new car drivers today choose to lease their cars rather than buy them, dealerships nationwide have substantial inventories of CPO trade-ins to buy. New car leases typically involve 3-year contracts with restrictions based on condition and mileage, which mean when they trade in their vehicles they are still in excellent condition.

Whether you are buying a CPO model or a car from the regular used car dealership, the prevalence of vehicle history reports through online services makes it easier than ever to find a reliable used vehicle. Enter the automobile’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and gather valuable information about its history and registration. A dealership will be happy to assist you with this process. With today’s tools, you will be able to find a high-quality used vehicle faster than ever.

Buying Foreclosure Properties

Buying Foreclosure Properties

Definition:

“A foreclosure property is a piece of real estate that a mortgage lender sells to pay off a defaulted mortgage loan. Every foreclosure culminates in a public auction where the lender sells the property and anybody can purchase the property. Or you can purchase a foreclosure property from a bank after the bank purchases the property at the auction.”

The real estate market is showing increasing signs of recovering and there are great investment opportunities to be found. Home prices are still relatively stable and interest rates are still very attractive.

However, whether buying for a primary residence or for investment purposes, there are still some basic guidelines to follow when considering buying foreclosure properties.

Below are my 4 Buying Foreclosure Properties Tips

1. Work with a broker.

It does not matter if you are buying a foreclosure for investment or as a primary residence, it is really helpful to have a broker help with the process.

Neighbourhood is one of the most important factors when it comes to buying a home and a broker is worth their weight in gold when it comes to knowing the local real estate market.

2. Do the financial due diligence.

All we need to do is remember the real estate market crash to see why it is important to do a thorough financial due diligence when purchasing a home.

Be realistic about your budget and how much home you can really afford. If the home is an investment purchase, can you make the mortgage payment if you have to carry the mortgage for a few months?

That can happen with investment property so be sure you factor in at least six months of mortgage payments just in case.

Also factor in the cost of any repairs. This is especially true with foreclosure purchases which are often sold ‘as is’ which means they often need repairs.

Verify the condition of the property. Restore and repair costs add up on a total value of a home.

It is always best to purchase foreclosure properties that require minimal repairs, otherwise your profit margin shrinks.

3. Understand that every neighbourhood is local to that neighbourhood.

What this means is that what is selling in one area may not be selling just down the road, so you need to do your homework and check comparable homes in the area to know whether or not what you are buying is a good investment.

Get a proper assessment on the home you are considering purchasing.

Buying foreclosure properties will generally be thirty to forty percent discounted, so if a foreclosure home does not need major repairs and you can get it for a price that is well below the market value of similar homes in the same area, then you are probably making a good investment.

4. Try and find foreclosures that are bank and creditor owned.

These properties are where you can most likely get the best deal because banks are not in the business of owning property so want to sell these types of properties and will often do so at a much discounted price.

Investing in foreclosure properties can be a very smart move, especially in the current real estate market.

With housing prices still relatively stable and interest rates still very attractive, there are many good opportunities for investment available.

When considering buying foreclosure properties, it pays to research the property and to do the financial due diligence in order to verify the quality of the property and financing.