Personal Finance 

Buying a Safe: Understanding UL Safe Ratings

Safe & Lock Co.We live in a nice enough area that we don’t have to be worried about burglaries but every time I walk through the office section of Costco, I consider buying a safe for a little added protection for our valuables. It’s like a halfway point between having a hiding spot in our house and a safe deposit box at the bank, a secure container that offers both protection from theft and, a seemingly more likely accident like a fire or a flood.

As I started reading about safes, I found that there’s a lot more to them than being a heavy box with a lock on it. Safes have fire ratings, burglary ratings, and all sorts of other accessories and special gizmos to help secure and protect your valuables. When it comes to ratings, the gold standard is the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and UL ratings exist for burglary and fire. When they try to break into a safe, they really get into it (nitroglycerin!).

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New $100 Bill Printing Problems

$100 BillThe fancy new $100 bill, with all its security bells and whistles, is so complicated that even the official manufacturers of those bills can’t get it right. CNBC reported earlier this week that $110 billion worth of $100 bills are currently wrapped in storage at Fort Worth because of a defect. During production, the paper may fold over and leave an uninked portion of the bill face… which is bad news. The bills are in “cash packs” of 16,000 bills per pack.

They’re currently looking at ways to mechanically scan the bills for defects because looking by hand would take twenty to thirty years. Until they can sort it out and fix the manufacturing problem, they’ll be producing more of the old $100 bills.

As for the new bills themselves, it costs about twelve cents to produce which puts the total bill of the bills, so far anyway, at $120 million. That really drives home the phrase “it takes money to make money.” 🙂

 Personal Finance 

Best Free Anti Virus & Anti Spyware Software

Padlock SecurityAs more and more of our financial transactions move online, it’s critically important for you to secure your computer against intrusion. All it takes is a keylogger and all of your sensitive banking and credit information can be in the hands of some unscrupulous individuals (one of the reasons I never do anything sensitive on an unsecured computer, like at a hotel business center or the library).

The first line of defense is common sense. Don’t install anything that you don’t trust and don’t trust anything you’ve never heard of. Modern internet browsers are much savvier these days, always checking with you before installing anything, so be sure to think about it before mindlessly clicking “Yes” or “OK.” After your common sense, the next line of defense is an effective anti-virus and anti-spyware software package.

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New $100 Bill

New $100 FrontIf you’ve wondered why Benjamin Franklin’s expression on the $100 bill never changes, it’s because he’s been getting regular botox injections. He would love to show emotion, but unfortunately he can’t. This year, he’ll be getting a little more work done, his first since 1996.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has created site with interactive tools that showcases the security features of the new $100 bill or you can check out their PDF explaining everything in great detail.

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Mobile Banking Safety & Security Tips

Palm TreoI’ve had a Palm Treo for almost two years and one of the nice things about having a smartphone is that it gives me the ability to go online whenever I have cell service. It’s saved my butt on more than one occasion.

With the internet at my fingertips, one thing I’ve done more often is check my banking information through the phone’s web browser. It’s a quick way to see if checks have cleared without calling the bank and navigating the painful IVR systems. However, I’ve always done this without much concern for security.

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F-Secure Internet Security 2009 Review

F-Secure Internet Security 2009When it comes to financial activity, I try to do as much as I can online because it’s much more convenient than driving to a branch. With that convenience comes a risk, with more financial transactions being conducted online, more thieves are looking to the internet for their next scheme. My biggest concern isn’t that I’ll click on a spam phishing email, but that I visit some compromised site that installs spyware onto my computer. If they manage to install spyware on my site, they can collect all my financial information and rob me blind. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened yet, but one can never be so sure.

When Ben from F-Secure contacted me about taking a look at their internet security product, I was a little hesitant. I recognize the company name but they don’t have the brand name that a company like Symantec has (they own the Norton brand). However, I told him I’d check out the software because internet security is very important and, well, it’s an opportunity to find out more about them. So they sent me a copy of their F-Secure Internet Security 2009 package to check out. (and several to give away to you all!)

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 Personal Finance 

How To Create A Strong Password You Can Remember

Secure Password Example: Snakesonaplane!Everyone wants to be able to create ultra-powerful passwords, especially for their most sensitive accounts. It’s common knowledge that a strong password can go a long way to preventing identity theft.

However, no one wants to struggle to remember their most used passwords. If you have to resort to writing it down and keeping it in your wallet, doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

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 Personal Finance 

8 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Sell

One of the best things about the internet is that you can buy and sell practically anything on the web. You can find a buyer for anything whether it’s the vision of Virgin Mary on your toast or it’s a piece of America’s excess. A lot of sites will show you a list of things that have sold and point out how ridiculous it is. This list isn’t that.

This is a list of things that you might have sitting in your house that you can sell for money.

1. Company Schwag

When Lehman Brothers tanked a couple weeks back, employees were royally screwed. It wasn’t hyperbole to say that the stock wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on because all manner of Lehman schwag was up for sale on eBay. Lehman’s not alone, you can find awesome reminders of this year’s financial collapse on eBay:

Funny thing is that we went through this once before in the dot-com bust, where the most valuable asset a company had was the box of t-shirts stuck in the corner of its closet. There’s always a buyer for company schwag.

2. ADT Lawn Signs & Window Stickers

ADT SignSome people love security systems, some people hate them. The ones who love them say it keeps them save, the ones who hate them say the false alarms consume valuable police resources that otherwise would be out fighting crime. Either way, one thing is for certain, crooks will break into a home without an ADT lawn sign before they will break into one with the sign. (It’s like The Club for cars, it’s as much a visual deterrent as it is an actual anti-theft device!)

As you might imagine, the signs themselves have value and you can buy them on ebay! (and obviously you can sell them too)

3. Copper

Copper PipeA few weeks back, we replaced our dishwasher and managed to crimp the copper pipe that connected the water source to the new dishwasher. Once you crimp a copper pipe, it’s pretty much game over for the pipe. I replaced it with a flexible hose from Home Depot but now I have a copper pipe sitting around with absolutely no use for it. Solution? Sell it.

In fact, if you remember the news a few months back, there was a whole rash of copper thefts all over as commodities prices were soaring. People were breaking into homes to steal copper to sell. Just go into Google and look for metal scrap recyclers in your area. You might not get a lot but, in my case, it sure beats taking up space in my basement.

4. Geo Metro

With soaring fuel prices, Geo Metros are coming back in style with their great gas mileage. Don’t believe me? CNN did a story and The Consumerist broke it down nice and easy for us. The stats on a 1992 Geo Metro XFi is comaprable to a 2008 Toyota Prius, except the Geo Metro costs only $7000 versus the $21k+ Prius. Have one of these sitting around?

5. Nintendo Systems (and Games)

Have a Nintendo or Super Nintendo? How about the Sega Genesis? There’s a whole generation of video gamers looking back at their childhood and remembering the years of Tecmo Bowl, Megaman and Altered Beast. That generation is now working and willing to pay a premium just to get the game systems (Nintendo NES? Super Nintendo? Genesis?) so they can play the games as they once did, so many years ago. Selling it won’t make you rich but it’s probably worth more than you expected!

6. Ugly 80’s Vintage Dresses

My wife told me about this one at dinner the other day but apparently ugly 80’s vintage dresses are all the rage nowadays. People are having old prom-theme parties, trying to out do one another in terms of the ridiculousness of their dress. I tried to find some verification of this but it was difficult. Apparently between the old ugly prom dresses and the downright criminal bridesmaid dresses, there is a little niche market for those. Fashion goes in cycles right?

7. Really Old Expired Credit Cards

Old AMEX CardYep, you can actually sell really old credit cards as they’ve become collectibles! Don’t believe me? Check out these eBay auctions for some gems. I’m not entirely sure why they’re popular or if there’s a true market for it (other than people wanting to get some old schwag) but if you have some old cards, you could scrape up a few dollars for it.

And of course…

8. Worn Underwear

Yep… you can buy worn underwear. Gross.

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