They can come, seemingly, from out of the blue. One minute you’re driving your car and everything seems fine, and the next moment you hear a strange noise coming from your car as you accelerate.
Before you turn up the radio a little louder in hopes that sound goes away, take a closer listen and find out where that sound is coming from. Learning a little bit about some of the common noises your car might make, can help you identify what the problem may be and help determine when you should visit your mechanic. That might be the difference between some preventative maintenance and a costly repair bill.
Here are a few common car sounds and — and helpful tips on what to do about them.
Noises under the hood
Sound: A screeching sound that has a continuous pattern and seems to come from under your hood.
Probable cause: A loose or worn serpentine belt.
What to do about it: Your serpentine belt drives several vital pieces of equipment in your car, including the alternator, water pump, power steering pump, air conditioning compressor and radiator fan. If you think the screeching sound is a loose or worn belt, make an appointment to have it looked at. Your mechanic can tell you how serious it is and how soon you need to replace it. The most important thing is to avoid having it give out unexpectedly; your car won’t run without it.
Sounds from underneath your car
Sound: Chugging or rattling noises.
Probable cause: Exhaust system.
What to do about it: A damaged exhaust system can produce a veritable symphony of sounds and each unique sound may mean something different. A chugging sound could mean there’s a blockage in the exhaust system. A rattling sound might mean it’s out of alignment. A hissing sound could mean there’s a crack in the exhaust system. Take your car in for an exhaust system check.
Sound: A low-pitched humming from under your car.
Probable cause: This could be a few different issues. Note when the noise happens so you can better help your mechanic diagnose the problem. If your car makes a humming noise, it could mean the differential needs lubricant, the transmission is failing or the universal joints or wheel bearings are wearing out.
What to do about it: Pay close attention to what happens before and when your car starts making the sound. Try to give your mechanic as much information as possible to work with; without a thorough, professional inspection, it can be difficult to tell what the problem is. Don’t let the noises continue without having an expert take a look at your vehicle.
Sounds from your brakes
Sound: A squealing or loud grinding sound when you apply your brakes.
Probable cause: Worn out brake pads.
What to do about it: The sound you’re hearing is likely the calipers grinding against the rotors. Get your car to a dealership or brake repair shop ASAP. If you’re not tapping the brakes but you still hear the sounds, don’t think that everything is OK. This issue will only worsen, and your brakes are extremely important for your safety while driving.
Noisy tire sounds
Sound: A thudding noise from your tires.
Probable cause: Low air pressure in your tires or improper tire alignment.
What to do about it: Check the air pressure in your tires and make sure they’re inflated to meet the tire manufacturer’s recommended levels. If that doesn’t take care of the problem, see about getting them aligned. Improper alignment wears out your tires faster and can result in poor gas mileage or a bumpy ride.
Sounds from your windshield wipers
Sound: Scraping noises
Probable cause: Your wiper is wearing down.
What to do about it: Fix this issue as soon as possible. If the worn-out wiper scratches your windshield, it can be expensive to replace. A bad wiper will also reduce visibility when raining, making it much more dangerous to drive.
Additional noises to watch out for
Clunking noises: If this happens while you’re driving, it might be a bad shock absorber, which has an impact on handling, steering and even braking. Get it checked out.
Loud clicking noise: If this happens while you’re turning, the CV joint, which lubes the front axles, is the likely culprit. When it wears out, it loses the grease that keeps the axles lubricated. It’s best to replace the CV joint rather than waiting until you need costly axle replacements.
Ticking noise: Typically, you’ll hear this while you’re stopped—if you’re low on oil. Get an oil change as soon as you can.
It’s important to pay attention to the noises your car makes and take care of things promptly to avoid facing more expensive repairs. Find a mechanic you trust so you’ll know your car is being properly maintained.
Taking good care of your car also means making sure you’re properly insured. Create a policy that fits your specific needs and helps keep you and your car protected.
 “Noises From Belts and Pulleys,” My Car Makes Noise
 “How can I tell if my exhaust needs attention?,” KwikFit
 “8 Car Noises: What They Mean and If You Should Worry,” Firestone Complete Auto Care
 “6 Car Noises to Keep an Ear Out For,” Paul Campanella’s Auto & Tire Center
You’ve given your car the royal treatment – cleaning, removing dents, getting rid of scratches – and it’s never looked better. For the final installment of our Creative Car Hacks series, we’re switching gears and listing hacks specifically for you – the driver. You’ve probably found yourself in some of these common scenarios below. Next time, you’ll know how to deal with them.
Don’t know which side your gas tank is on?
Check the dashboard. You’ll likely find an arrow on the gas gauge pointing left or right.
Having difficulty separating your key rings?
No need to break a nail trying to separate your key rings. A staple remover will do the trick – no injury involved.
Nervous about parking on a slope?
If you’re parking uphill at a curb, turn your steering wheel away from the curb so your front wheels are facing the road. In the event your car rolls backwards, the curb will catch your tires and act as a block. Do the opposite for downhill parking. When facing uphill without a curb, turn the wheels to the right so that if your car rolls, it will go off the road rather than into traffic.
Are you filling up your gas tank way too often?
Keep gas station trips to a minimum by adapting certain hypermiling techniques to boost your car’s fuel economy. Two simple ways: Reduce idling and check your tire pressure monthly.
Picked up dinner & want it to stay warm on the ride home?
If your car has a seat warmer, you’re in luck. Place hot food on the passenger seat and turn on the warmer to keep it toasty.
Seem to always forget where you parked?
Download apps, such as iFind My Car or iCarPark, to assist. The apps record the location of your parking space and direct you there with ease.
Want to protect your car & perfect your garage parking?
Not only do they keep you afloat in the water, but pool noodles can keep your car door protected, too. If you’re prone to opening the car door into the garage wall, maybe you need a cushion. Simply cut the tube in half and nail it to your garage wall.
You can also use a tennis ball to ensure you park in the right spot in your garage every time. You’ll need a tennis ball, a string and two screw hooks. Then:
1. Park your car in the proper spot
2. Measure from garage ceiling to the middle of your car’s windshield (add about 12 inches) and cut string
3. Screw one hook into the tennis ball and the other into the ceiling above your car
4. Tie the string to both hooks
Key stuck in the ignition?
Don’t panic. It may mean your steering wheel is locked in the wrong position. Turn your car back on to unlock the wheel, point the steering wheel straight ahead and turn off the ignition. Your key should come right out.
1. Forgetting about building permits
A little unlicensed construction might not seem like a big deal, but permit problems can lead to lawsuits if potential buyers (or their potential lenders) discover defects late in the process of a sale. If you’re working on your home’s structure, plumbing, gas or electrical systems, you’re probably going to need the city’s stamp of approval.
2. Skipping a conversation with a local real estate expert
The Internet is a marvelous source of market information, but it shouldn’t be your only source. A local pro can help you with everything from finding your flip in the first place to puzzling out its ARV (After-Repair Value).
3. Going overboard with fancy finishes
High-end flips come with high stakes: If buyers don’t love your big-ticket design decisions as much as you do, they may balk at your big ticket altogether.
4. Neglecting easy fixes
Sure, a gut renovation that gives an old home an open floor plan delivers more “wow” than swapping out beat-up old doorknobs and light switches—but a discerning buyer notices these things, too (and they’re easy on your budget).
5. Jumping into a do-or-die flip
If the real estate market in your region takes a sudden turn and you find the need to change your strategy—say, by offering your project as a rental property until prices recover—you’ll need to be prepared to hold tight until its eventual sale. Flips might feel like sprints, but they can be marathons.
6. Staging without a pro (at first)
Hiring a home stager to prep your first flip for open houses is a spend that will serve you well in the long run: Pay close attention to how they show your property to its best advantage (and ask a lot of questions!), then keep those tricks in mind for future projects.
7. Racing the clock
What’s even worse than making mortgage payment after mortgage payment on a home that isn’t supposed to be yours for long? Falling short of the profit you should have made because you prioritized speed over a job well done. Psst: Buyers (and the inspectors they’ll call in) can tell the difference.
8. Starting a dozen projects at once
It’s undeniably satisfying to step away from a frustrating bit of renovation and turn to another task—a flipper’s work is rarely done, after all—but it’s also a surefire way to end up in the middle of a half-finished mess. The only way to make sure you’ve dotted your I’s and crossed your T’s is to follow projects through to completion, no matter how mind-numbingly tedious they might be.
9. Ignoring the “70 Percent Rule”
It’s a tried and true formula in the real-estate investment biz: Take your ARV, multiply it by 0.7 and subtract your repair cost estimate. That’s the maximum amount you should be paying for a property—period. The rule is sacred because it keeps you safe. After financing, carrying costs and out-of-the-blue expenses, you’ll most likely still profit from your flip.
10. Venturing into “eraser math”
Speaking of figures, the temptation to overestimate your potential property’s ARV in order to justify a higher maximum allowable offer (MAO) can be strong, particularly for first-time flippers who find themselves asked to pay slightly more than they expected—but it’s just not worth it. Factors beyond your control could lower your ARV by up to 20 percent by the time you’re ready to sell, according to some experts—and if you’ve already overshot your original estimates, the math will be even uglier.
11. Neglecting the landscaping
Overhauling an entire lot’s worth of greenery isn’t cheap, particularly if it’s been neglected for a long time, but TLC that increases a property’s curb appeal is a worthwhile line item—it can add up to 10 percent to your ARV! No, you don’t need to plant a forest and build a water feature, but cleanup, repairs and a bit of diligent gardening can go a long way.
12. OD’ing on DIY
As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wrote in the Tao Te Ching, “The wise man is one who knows what he does not know.” As a real estate pro would put it, the wise first-time flipper is one who knows that he or she must not try to remodel an entire kitchen by herself.
13. Waiving a professional inspection
A thorough inspection of a prospective property will cost hundreds of dollars, but it can save thousands more—and help you develop your own checklist for flips to come.
14. Ignoring the neighbors
Buying the underpriced, ugliest house on the block is many a flipper’s favorite trick—but it’s easy to forget that though your place will be rehabbed and lovely by the time you list, other eyesores in the same neighborhood can impact its desirability (there’s a second-ugliest house out there, too). You want a diamond in the rough, but it shouldn’t be too rough.
15. Cutting corners in the bathroom
If your floor plan and budget can accommodate a full, modern bath, it’s worth your time. Many real estate experts argue that bathroom renovations provide returns on investment (ROI) that are comparable to kitchen renovations. A woefully outdated water closet, by contrast, can sink a sale.
16. Demolishing cabinets that can be refaced
Before you obliterate a kitchen that’s seen better days, consider stripping and refinishing lackluster surfaces and upgrading fixtures. A cleverly executed face-lift could be enough to distinguish your property from comparable listings in the neighborhood.
17. Not protecting your investment
Before you start any flip or remodel make sure that your hard earned money is protected. Accidents, vandalism, and the unexpected can leave you in a tremendous financial struggle. Make sure the improvements and your property is protected by a builders risk policy so that you know that you know. Speak with Sterling Peaks Insurance to make sure you have the coverage you need.
Homeowners and flippers often believe their existing home insurance policy covers all exposures. Yet, remodeling builders risk insurance can offer coverage that is more comprehensive and protect you from gaps you may not known existed. Here are just five benefits to insuring that your home remodeling project is with a builders risk insurance policy when undergoing renovations:
Builders risk insurance coverage not only offers a variety of benefits to you, it also provides you with peace of mind. If you are reading this there’s a good chance you are planning to renovate. In fact, according to CNBC, nearly two-thirds of consumers are planning to remodel their homes. Through builders risk, you have the opportunity to protect what matters most to you your home.
Whether you are currently planning to remodel now, or in the future, the question is will my homeowners insurance protect me during construction renovation should a claim arise? Learn the answer to this question as well as what coverages you may not even realize you need when you download Is Homeowners Insurance Enough? A Builders Risk Coverage Comparison.
This is intended as a general description of certain types of insurance and services available. Your policy is the contract that specifically and fully describes your coverage. The description of the policy provisions gives a broad overview of coverages and does not revise or amend the policy.
The concept of small living isn’t something only empty-nesters enjoy anymore. A growing number of people want to own a home, but it may not be feasible in their bigger financial picture. One solution? Small-space living.
Research shows that 68% of homeowners who live in tiny homes don’t have a mortgage, compared to 29% of all homeowners in the nation who don’t have mortgages.
That doesn’t mean you need to move into a tiny or portable home, however. Aside from eliminating or lowering your mortgage, simply moving into a smaller home can have additional benefits. These scaled-down spaces require much less upkeep. Utilities typically cost less in smaller homes, and there are fewer daily chores.
Is living in a downsized home for you? If so, here are some tips to get you started in living this lifestyle:
Live with purpose and pleasure
Whittling down your belongings to fit them in a smaller home can bring more meaning to your day-to-day life. When you downsize, you’re surrounded by things you love in your new home — in part because you have to be. Before you move, look at your current furniture and determine what you absolutely can’t live without. Be sure to measure the pieces you choose to keep, and ask your real estate agent for the dimensions of each room in your new, smaller home.
Envision or draw out how much space your current furniture will take up in your new home. This helps you learn what to expect in terms of which current possessions you can fit easily into the smaller place. By doing so, you’ll know if the sofa is too large for the living room or if you need to pare down your bedroom set and take only the bed and dresser. The goal is to move comfortably through your home.
Downsizing mantra: Only keep what serves you
Go through your current home room by room and discard items you haven’t used in the last year. If it hasn’t been used by now, it’s likely remain unused in the future. Small houses are appealing because you have to be more selective about what fits in them — as a result, every item has a purpose. There are no exercise bikes you plan to ride eventually or books you’ll get to someday. Truthfully, it can be a relief not to be reminded of all the “stuff” you’ve yet to do. Small living works because it can keep you in the present and committed to the essentials.
Streamlining small home living
Once you’ve moved into your new home, you’ll start adjusting to your new “big lifestyle”. Staying organized and maximizing your space will become important parts of living harmoniously in a smaller space.
It’s important to organize your small home from the start. Because your space is limited, your organizing decisions matter. If you plan to organize things later, you may be tempted to keep putting it off. Living in small space can be challenging if it’s not organized. Make organization a priority when you move in.
Designate specific storage spaces for everything you own and use accessories like drawer organizers, shoe caddies and vacuum bags to keep your home tidy. When you use something, put it back immediately when you’re done. This cuts down on visual clutter and ensures you have a system that keeps you organized for the long haul.
Living in a smaller home has some unexpected lifestyle bonuses, and it encourages creativity, especially when it comes to space-saving solutions. For example, your house’s layout may not feature distinct areas with designated purposes, such as a pantry or linen closet, but you can make them with curtains and moveable walls. If you have a loft, transform the area under the stairs into a closet or food-storage area. A small house is the ideal place for you to bring your innovative ideas to life.
The benefits of a downsized lifestyle are plentiful. If you’re considering moving to a small space, learn more about how to protect it with insurance from Sterling Peaks Insurance
 “Tiny Houses and People Who Live in Them,” The Tiny Life.
Car shopping can be a stressful event even for the savviest negotiator. For most people a car is the second most expensive purchase they’ll make next to buying a home — all the more reason to be prepared and have a plan for picking a car out and financing the purchase. A snap decision at the dealership can easily lead to buyer’s remorse you’ll have to live with for years.
“All big purchases can be stressful,” says Wade Newton, spokesperson for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, “and considering how durable cars are today, they can be a long-term commitment.”
Your car purchase needs to start long before you set foot in a car dealership – with background work that will pay dividends not only financially but for your peace of mind.
Determine your budget
Like any major buy, determine your budget and define your needs within that constraint. Your car expense shouldn’t exceed 25 percent of your monthly household income, and that includes all of your vehicles. Besides monthly auto loan payments, you should factor in operating costs such as gas, maintenance and insurance.
Once you know how much you’re able to spend, you can start to narrow down the list of cars you want. It’s one of the fun parts of buying a car, but comes with challenges of its own. “Consumers have seemingly endless choices when it comes to buying a car, which is a good thing,” says Newton. “But it also means you have to look around at all of the options. Automakers provide hundreds of different models designed to meet a variety of needs, and consumers’ options are growing.”
Conduct the necessary research
Start by visiting the websites of automakers and other car sites to get an idea of model inventories and features available in your area. With your list of preferred choices, you can then look at whether you want to lease or buy new or pre-owned. Used cars offer the best upfront value but have shorter warranties and higher loan interest rates. “If it’s not a new auto, always be sure the vehicle isn’t under an active recall,” says Newton. “It’s easy to check at safercar.gov, and you can search by VIN.”
Leasing a vehicle allows you to get a more expensive car, but there are restrictions to “ownership” and you’ll have to turn the car in after the lease term is up. If you choose to buy new, you may not have the budget for as many features, but you’ll get a full warranty and lower interest rates.
Determine total ownership costs
After you determine the exact model you want, you can determine the monthly insurance and fuel expenses to figure your total ownership costs. You’re then able to shop for the loan. Keep in mind, dealers sometimes offer loan incentives for the model you’re after if you qualify. Either way, securing your financing secured before you walk into the dealership can make for a simpler, less-stressful process.
Know the price of the model you’re leaning towards
Next, research your model’s invoice or wholesale price. This gives you a general idea of what the dealer paid for the vehicle and puts you in a better negotiating position. Shoot for a sales price close to that amount before any discounts, keeping in mind that dealers need to make at least some profit to stay in business.
Speaking of discounts, check the automaker’s website for promotions or rebates. You may also find discounts aimed at specific groups, such as students or military personnel. Whatever rebates, discounts and other incentives you uncover can usually be combined.
Go for a test drive
With all your research in hand, you’re finally ready to visit the dealership. Make an appointment for a test drive, and take your time behind the wheel until you’re sure it’s the right fit for you. Play with the controls and make sure the car’s features fit your needs. For example, is the trunk large enough for all the items you plan to carry? If you have regular passengers, will they be comfortable?
Negotiate a fair price
When you’ve made your decision to buy, you can start the negotiating process. If you have a trade-in, keep the two separate and focus on the new car, factoring in the discounts you’ve researched. The dealer will have a list of fees associated with the sale; check that each is accurate and not an unnecessary add-on.
Finally, if something doesn’t feel right with the car or the deal, don’t be afraid to walk away.
Few cold-weather maladies are more irritating than frozen pipes.
Turning on the bathroom or kitchen faucet and seeing only a few drops or a trickle of water could indicate that water inside the pipes has frozen – preventing a free flow. But don’t panic. You may be more equipped to deal with the situation than you think. Here’s a quick lesson on how to thaw a frozen pipe.
Step 1. Turn on the faucet
Keep it running. Allowing the faucet to drip even slightly can help prevent a pipe from bursting. It’s simple – when freezing takes place, extreme pressure builds between the faucet and the ice blockage. An open faucet relieves this pressure buildup, in turn preventing a burst from occurring.
Step 2. Apply heat to the frozen area
Slowly apply heat using a hair dryer. Begin directing air close to the faucet end of the pipe and gradually move toward the coldest section. Be careful not to overheat the hair dryer or blow a fuse. Remember, the faucet should be left on while heat is being applied.
Step 3. Continue to apply heat
Don’t stop heating until full water pressure is restored. Even then, it’s a good idea to leave the faucet open for a few minutes after the pipe is thawed. This will give the ice time to completely clear from the line.
Step 4. Check all faucets
Check each faucet in your home for any other frozen pipes. One frozen pipe may mean that others have been affected as well.
If the problem persists, contact a plumber. You can prevent pipes from freezing again by taking simple steps before you travel like keeping the temperature in your home above freezing and turning off all the water to your house before you leave.
And remember, a frozen pipe isn’t the only issue that comes with cold weather. Find out other ways to protect your home during the winter.
If you’re moving out of a home you own, you might be wondering whether to rent your house out or sell it. Both of these options have benefits. It’s important to look at your individual situation and weigh the pros and cons before you decide.
Many elements factor into choosing whether to rent or sell your house. Some of the first questions to ask yourself are what the market is doing in your area and what the long-term outlook for your particular neighborhood is. Are property values increasing, or are they on the decline? If they’re increasing, you might benefit from renting out your house and then selling it for more money in another year or two.
However, if property values in your neighborhood are declining and you have concerns about how the market may fare over the next few years, it might be advantageous to sell your home now to potentially avoid taking a loss.
What to consider before you rent out your house
Even if you determine that it could be financially advantageous to rent out your house, it’s not time to put the “For Rent” sign in the yard just yet. Here are some personal factors to think about before assuming landlord duties:
The pros of selling vs. renting
Weighing the pros and cons of each scenario is a good way to determine whether selling or renting is best for you. Here are some pros to consider:
Getting stuck in the middle of a big pile of snow or on a stretch of ice can be an all-too-common occurrence during the cold winter months. Luckily, we have a few tips and tricks that can get your car free in no time, even if you don’t have one of the best vehicles for winter driving. Here are some things you can do if your car is stuck in snow:
1. Clear a path around your tires
Try to dig snow and ice away from the drive tires. You want to free up a few feet in front of and behind the tires so you can move the car back and forth. Be sure to also dig out any snow under the front or middle of your car that is higher than its ground clearance.
Of course a shovel makes this much easier, so try and store one in your trunk along with some other winter emergency items if you plan on driving in snowy conditions.
2. Rock your car free of the snow
Carefully switching from drive to reverse can help dislodge some of the snow around your wheels. “You go into drive, then reverse, then repeat,” says Mark Osborne, who oversees Michigan Technological University’s Winter Driving School. “But you have to be careful not to wreck your transmission. I put my foot on the brake at the peak of each ‘rock,’ so the car is motionless when I change gears. It’s also helpful to shift to neutral for a second before making the transition.”
3. Don’t floor the gas
You’ll always be tempted to floor it if you’re stuck in snow or ice, but don’t. Go easy on the pedal to give the vehicle just a little gas for a moment, then let off. Repeat to enhance the needed “rocking” motion. It’s momentum that sets you free, not power.
4. Improve traction
If you still can’t get your car free, you can next try and improve traction under your wheels. Things such as sandbags, salt, dirt or even kitty litter can be used when your car is stuck in snow. Throw several handfuls under your tires for improved traction, then try the gas again.
It is also important to remember to turn off traction control if you are stuck in snow. This feature can help you keep control of your vehicle if you hit ice on the road, but leaving it on while stuck in snow is a different story. Traction control prevents wheelspin, which is the rotation of a vehicle’s wheels without traction, and can sometimes help you get your car out of snow.
5. Get others to help push your car
If you have other people in your car, or friendly onlookers who can help, simply pushing your car out of the snow can be an easy solution. Gently press the gas while the car is being pushed to add additional momentum. Safety always comes first, so make sure you’re in forward gear and the ground isn’t too slippery for helpers to push. Using snow chains can also help create traction under your tires, making it easier to move through snow and ice.
Always keep a cool head
Whether you’re stuck in snow or hit a stretch of ice, try and remain calm. Don’t do anything abrupt, like slamming the brakes. “If you do that, you’ll transfer your vehicle’s weight to your front wheels,” Osborne says. “That lightens up the rear, making it likely that your rear end will spin.” Instead, Osborne says, gradually let off the gas and hold the steering steady until you’ve cleared the ice.
If all else fails, an emergency roadside assistance service can give your car a tow. Learn more about the benefits of our Roadside Assistance program here.
Your car getting stuck isn’t the only concern when winter comes along. Snowy and icy pavement can lead to accidents. To help you navigate inclement weather this winter, check out our safety tips for driving in a snowstorm.
When the holiday season hits full swing, retailers do whatever they can to attract online shoppers—free shipping, easy returns, coupons and bargains on things for your favorite foodie or your animal lover. Online shopping “holidays” like Cyber Monday have been rivaling and beating brick-and-mortar sales in many industries. Unfortunately, increased online activity entices scam artists, putting your personal information at risk. Learning how to prevent identity theft is key for safe shopping over the holidays and all year.
Here are six online shopping safety tips you can use to protect your identity while finding the perfect holiday gifts.
Know your vendors
Thwart cyber attacks by shopping on sites you know and trust. Make sure you get to them through a reputable search engine, like Google, or by typing in the URL directly. Online con artists are skilled at making web destinations look and feel like a familiar or legitimate retail sites. This is something to be particularly aware of when clicking on links in emails. As a rule of thumb, make sure the URL looks legitimate and isn’t made up of multiple long strings of numbers and letters. If you’re planning on using your phone for holiday shopping, consider downloading apps from each vendor so you know you’re going straight to the source.
Confirm the site’s security
There are two ways to verify a website’s security. First, examine the URL in the address bar of your browser. If it starts with https://, the site is designed with added security in mind. Nowadays, all sites should be moving to be https, especially if they’re selling products online.
Another security indicator is an icon that looks like a lock that appears either next to the URL or in the bottom corner of your web browser. This universal symbol informs shoppers the site is safe. If you can’t find either marker, your web browser may be doing the verification work for you. Online browsers such as Chrome and Firefox will now warn you before making a purchase from – or even visiting – a non-secure site.
Avoid unknown networks
Restrict online-shopping to your home computer, rather than using a public network. You can run regular virus checks and updates on your hardware, but you can’t be sure a community computer or network is secure. Plus, a network used by the masses is generally not a safe place to share your credit card information.
If you must buy on the go, consider using a personal VPN to encrypt your transmission data, or at the very least, stick with known wireless networks. And always shield any personal information from prying eyes.
Opt for credit over debitWhile not everyone can be trusted to use credit cards wisely, credit cards do offer a level of fraud protection that you may not get using debit cards. In addition, credit card providers will likely notice identity theft activity even before you do.
If you’re worried about getting into debt, shop instead with a cash-loaded disposable gift card. There’s no fraud protection, but there is also no connection to your personal information. Plus, it can also help you stick to your budget.
Don’t store payment information
Decline vendor offers to keep your credit card information stored in their system. It may save time, but it’s risky in the long run. As evidence by recent years, data breaches are common, even among the largest retailers. Stored information could compromise your identity in such a breach.
This can also be a good move for your budget, as it’s very easy to make impulse buys when payment data is already stored. Entering payment information by hand helps make you more aware of exactly what you’re spending.
Use a reputable third party to handle transactions
Using a third party program like PayPal, ApplePay or GooglePay can be a useful way to add an extra level of security to online purchases. It prevents vendors from actually having your credit card number.
That being said, other third party payment apps, like Venmo or SquareCash, should only be used to pay people you know and trust—especially since they connect directly to your checking account.
Make it a safe season
In addition to assuring your online shopping security, remember to take precautionary measures offline too, when shopping at the local mall or retail store. Always be aware of your wallet or purse, be cautious entering your PIN at the ATM and cash register, and leave your Social Security card at home.
Give yourself a gift of peace of mind. Identity theft coverage can help protect your vital information, and keep you from having to spend countless hours trying to restore your credit.
SPI Reflections Blog
Our blog is about educating our customers and the public about important insurance information that we feel is meaningful.