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Is it Safe to Set Up a PayPal Account?

Looking to purchase tickets to a concert? Buy a great coat online? Download an album from an independent artist? In each of these instances, you’ve probably had the option to pay using PayPal.


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PayPal is used to exchange $288 billion in 26 currencies, making it one of the largest payment services in the world. With this much money flowing and little heard about security issues, PayPal appears to be a safe and valuable service. Beyond appearances, what is the safety level to you as a consumer to set up a PayPal account?

PayPal’s Security

Part of PayPal’s security system is based on verification. The seller should be verified. To be verified is fairly straightforward. The seller connects their personal bank account to their PayPal account. This verification provides an additional level of identification confirmation. Verification isn’t required, but of course, it’s a big waving red flag if you’re looking to purchase something from an unverified vendor.

In addition, PayPal has round the clock monitoring of every transaction to detect fraudulent activity. If a transaction occurs that seems connected to phishing or other suspicious activity, their security team may contact you, impose spending limits or restrict activity on your account while the activity in question is being resolved.

Personal Best Practices

As safe as PayPal can be, the danger of someone hacking into your account often comes from human error or, in some cases, human laziness. For starters, your password should be characterized as very strong. I know it can be a pain to keep highly complex passwords unique to each website you use straight, but you should take extra care with your PayPal password. You can also take advantage of PayPal’s security key option. The key is free for mobile and $5 for shipping and handling for a hardware version. The key produces a digital code that is provided on demand via text from PayPal for mobile or every 30 seconds for the hardware. The security key is a great option to up your PayPal security game.

Hackers often access PayPal accounts through phishing emails. One type of email has an infected attachment that downloads keylogger software. The keylogger records your keystrokes, including the passwords you type in and sends the information back to the hacker. The hacker can then login to your PayPal account and reset your password. The second type of phishing email is one where you’re redirected to a fake PayPal website, and once you login with your email and password, that information is recorded and sent to the hacker.

For phishing attachments, never download any attachment from an email that you don’t trust. Before clicking on any PayPal email link, hover over the link with your cursor. Your browser will show the link on the bottom of the browser, so you can verify your destination. Anything besides a secure link variation should never be clicked on. You can even forward the email to a specific PayPal address and they will confirm whether or not it’s legitimate. To be safer still, never click links through your email. Type in the secure PayPal link in your browser directly.

For the bank account that you connect to your PayPal account, your main account is fine to use, though an extra security precaution is to set up a secondary chequing account that you use only for PayPal. This arrangement will provide a clear record of all your PayPal activity that can be matched to your PayPal account, and also keep your main banking disconnected from your online activities. The same goes with your credit card. A secondary credit card used for PayPal purchases can limit the risk and will be easy to monitor. Your PayPal account is just like a bank account, so it should be watched in the same way.

By keeping your password very strong, being aware of potential phishing scams, and using separate banking information, you can greatly minimize the human error risk of a PayPal account.

What If There’s an Issue?

If your account is suspected by PayPal to have fraudulent activity, they may limit spending or limit the activity allowed on your account. If you discover charges that you did not allow, report it immediately to PayPal. If you report it within 60 days of the transaction, you are eligible for $0 liability for unauthorized transactions. Yep, the reported fraud, if eligible, will be fully refunded to you. There are some limitations, as the Protection does not cover things like real estate or custom-made items, but the vast majority of purchases will be covered.

Then there’s the kind of issues that could arise not from your account, but from the actual purchases you made. If you purchase something through PayPal and it’s not as expected, you are protected under the Purchase Protection. The unexpected purchase could be a knock-off version when you purchased a brand name product, two books instead of the three you ordered, a new gadget that arrives damaged or with missing pieces, or something never arrived at all. The first step is to open a dispute with the seller. Most times, issues can be easily resolved. However, if not, you can escalate the claim after 20 days and PayPal will make a decision, either for you or the seller based on the claim. You can easily file a report through the PayPal website, snail mail or via phone. It’s best to make a claim it immediately, but be sure to do so within 180 days so that if the decision is made in your favor, you will be eligible for the protection.


PayPal is and will continue to be a big player in the way that we pay online. As more of our money is transferred via sites like PayPal, as good consumers, we have to know what is their security policy and protection for its users. It is equally important to have solid personal practices. Unfortunately, as PayPal is a major monetary player, it will be the subject of phishing emails and other fraud efforts. While they can only do so much, your own security practices will ensure you continually minimize your risk, making PayPal safe to use.



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The Most Common Credit Report Errors and How to Correct Them

You might be surprised to realize how common it is to have errors on your credit report! This is one of the most important reasons that you should be monitoring your credit, at least once per year, to ensure that all the information contained within is accurate and true.

Mistakes are easily made, so do yourself a huge favor and make sure that the information in your credit report reflects your own credit history and that there are no mistakes. Here are some of the most common credit report errors, with information that can help you get them corrected quickly.

1. Fraudulent Activity

The biggest problems when it comes to credit report errors are those related to identify theft and fraud. Checking your credit report regularly means that you can ensure all of the reported debts, loans, credit cards, etc., all actually are legitimate and belong to you. Should you discover any fraudulent activity, such as cards that you did not apply for, you will immediately need to contact the credit bureau to report the discrepancies.

They will require that you file a written dispute, providing any information that you may have. Some of the credit agencies allow you to file these disputes online, others may require that you actually file a paper report. When you initially report the fraudulent activity, you will receive clear instructions regarding how to proceed.

2. Identity Errors

Unfortunately, identity errors are all too common in credit reports. They may be even more prevalent for people with very common names, like John Smith, and even more likely when a person shares a name with a family member (e.g., Jr., III., etc.) when the family members have ever shared an address. This type of mistake is easy to make for the credit bureaus, as multiple pieces of information will match up.

Again, contacting the credit bureau and filing a dispute can usually clear this type of error up.

3. Unpaid Loans

Make sure that any loans that you have satisfied are marked accordingly on your credit report. This is a very good reason to keep any documents pertaining to loan payoffs for a long time. Don’t simply toss that letter in the trash once you pay off a loan—keep it until you are absolutely certain that it is marked as paid in full on your credit report.

If you discover this type of error, you will want to contact not only the credit bureau (and provide them with the documentation to support that you paid the loan), but also contact the lender to make sure that their records also reflect that you have paid the loan. Unpaid loans, or loans that you have defaulted on, can seriously affect your credit history and you need to make sure these are all accurate.

4. Non-Divorced Credit

After a divorce, it takes some time to get your ex-spouse’s credit history separated from yours. But, if you are still seeing credit accounts that are open in both of your names, you want to contact the credit bureaus to clarify.

Any time you go through a divorce, you want to be very careful about making sure that all joint credit accounts are properly closed so that an ex-spouse’s credit (whether good or bad!) cannot continue to follow you.

5. Incorrect Notations for Closed Accounts

As you review your credit report, you should make notes about any open accounts that are no longer being used. Contact the lenders or banks and officially close the accounts, so that they are reflected as closed on your credit report. Once you do this, ensure that the notations on your credit report indicate that the accounts were closed by the customer, and not the lender.

Accounts closed by a lender can suggest that you were delinquent—and, if you were not, then you need this to be correct on your credit report. Contact lenders to correct information if you find that there are incorrect notations.

Keep Your Credit History Clean!

A clean credit history is a priority. You want to make sure that your credit report is an accurate document that shows your personal credit history—and only yours. Don’t ignore discrepancies and inaccuracies and assume that they really don’t matter, even when you have a great credit score. Keeping a great credit score requires you to be diligent about not only making your agreed-upon payments on time, but knowing what the credit bureaus know about you, too!

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How to Dispute a Credit Card Transaction

Your house needs a good paint and some new carpet, so you hire someone who’s been recommended by a friend. They seem professional and friendly enough, and their business cards look legitimate. They give you a quote and, in good faith, you give them a down-payment equivalent to 20%. They promise they’ll come back in the next day or so and get started on your property, only they never show up. Weeks later, they still haven’t shown up.

If you paid with a debit card or cash, you’re simply out of luck if you can’t get in contact with a merchant that hasn’t treated you correctly. However, if you paid that 20% with a credit card, the card issuer can suddenly become a very valuable ally when you decide you’d like to get your money back. While you may not always come out ahead, you should still know how to dispute a credit card bill.

What Your Credit Card Company Has to Cover

Legally, your credit card company has to give you certain rights as a consumer because of the Fair Credit Billing Act passed in 1975. Section 170 covers disputes that concern the functionality and quality of services and goods. While this act doesn’t automatically mean that a merchant has to care about what you have to say, it does mean the credit card company does, as you can take action against them instead.

Here’s what the act makes sure you get as a consumer:

  • If you feel that someone has wronged you, you can (at the very least) sue a credit card company
  • All consumers, however, MUST make a “good faith attempt to obtain satisfactory resolution of a disagreement or problem relative to the transaction”. In other words, you can’t approach your credit card company until you’ve approached the merchant that’s wronged you.
  • Your dispute must be above $50.
  • Your purchase must have been made in the same state that you’re filing the dispute.

So, while you do have to make a good effort to get your own money back, your credit card company is obligated to help you if you can’t manage to do it on your own. However, many credit card companies now embrace this policy, and will go above and beyond to get your money back if there is a problem. For example, many have waived the $50 limit as well as any geographic limits (due to purchases made over the Internet).

What am I Entitled to from My Credit Card Company?

The most likely course of action will be that your credit card company will issue your card a “charge-back,” or a reversal on a credit card transaction. However, once the money has been returned to you, that doesn’t mean your credit card issuer simply foots the bill. The merchant’s bank is the first contacted, and the money comes out of its pocket. Then, it’s up to the bank on whether or not they’re going to pursue the merchant for the transaction. A charge-back goes through at least two, if not three, middlemen – but that doesn’t usually affect you, as the credit card company usually bites the bullet until the merchant’s bank refunds them. Often, you’ll see your charge-back before your claim is finished, but it depends on the card issuer.

So How Do I File a Dispute?

Filing a dispute is incredibly easy in most cases. Since the law was introduced in 1975, many credit card issuers have embraced being a consumer’s ally. Not only does it make them look good, it helps you when you feel like you’re stuck with a charge you don’t deserve, so it’s a win-win for both parties. Most credit card issuers make the process exceedingly easy.

  1. Call or email: The first step is to simply call or email your credit card issuer and see if your claim qualifies. Many banks these days, such as Chase, have trained “dispute advocates” waiting on hand to help people who need it.
  2. Collect your evidence: If you have a dispute with a company, this is a good time to collect your evidence. Any call log you can produce showing that you attempted to contact the merchant several times is an excellent place to start, as is any email evidence that was not responded to.  Any pictures of merchandise or services rendered that were unsatisfactory are also good things to have.
  3. Wait for the decision: Believe it or not, it really is that easy. Once your issuer has all of the information they need, they will usually refund your charge immediately if they find the claim to be valid and pursue the merchant’s bank on their own. Sometimes it takes a little longer because of complications, but disputing a credit card bill has never been easier.

So if you’re not happy with a purchase you’ve made, or a merchant has done a poor job at serving your needs, head to your credit card company and see what they can do to make it all worthwhile.


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Top Purchases You Should Put on Your Credit Card

If you’re conservative with your credit card use, then you’re probably wondering when it actually is appropriate to charge a credit card with a purchase. The answer isn’t always black and white, but there are a number of purchases you can make that take advantage of your card’s features.

Some credit cards come with built-in fraud protection, and others come with travel insurance as well as credit card purchase protection. While there are some items you shouldn’t be charging to a credit card, there are some top purchases you should put on your credit card whenever you get a chance.


Large, One-Shot Purchases

From TVs to new fridges, we all have to occasionally purchase something new to replace something old. A lot of the time, these new purchases cost quite the pretty penny, and they’re almost always worth putting on a credit card. Typically, a good quality credit card will not only extend your warranty, but some will even reimburse you the difference between the price you paid and the sales price you saw less than 60 days later.

This is especially nice when you don’t have time to shop around for a new fridge because your old one kicked the bucket that morning. You may not get the lowest price when you buy it, but you can watch out for sales on your purchase and get your money back.



Did you have a nice landscaper come out and do your yard only to have your new rose plant die two weeks later? If you paid in cash, you don’t really have any way to get that money back unless you can track down the landscaper and they are an outstanding company or individual. Since you can’t always depend on every service provider to be an outstanding one, pay with a credit card.

Any merchant, whether that’s Wal-Mart or your landscaper, agrees to the credit card terms of service when they agree to accept that particular credit card. If you’re dissatisfied with a job done by someone, you can put pressure on your credit card to dispute the charge. In turn, they’ll pressure the company that charged you, and sometimes they can even go as far as court to resolve a serious dispute on your behalf.


Items that Would Pain You if They Broke

Did you just knock over your new LCD screen, or did it fall off the wall after you installed it on its new bracket? Did you lose one of your brand new earrings, only to find you stepped on it a week later? Sometimes when these sorts of purchases are made on credit cards, your credit card will actually cover these kinds of losses. Some higher-end credit cards have credit card purchase protection, meaning that if you’ve damaged or lost something, you can get your money back and buy a new one. This isn’t true of all credit cards or all purchases, so read your fine print or contact your credit card company to see if they can help you.


Vacation or Travel Expenses

Obviously, you don’t want to charge a bunch of vacation expenses you simply can’t afford, but if you’ve already got the cash on hand, use your credit card to your heart’s desire. This is because a lot of credit cards offer extra travel expense perks, such as car rental or travel accident insurance. Some even offer lost luggage insurance, even on pieces of luggage that are simply delayed and not permanently lost.


Purchases Done Through PayPal

If you use a PayPal account, not only does PayPal have its own version of fraud protection, but your credit card company usually does as well. You don’t have to pay sellers directly through the account hooked up to your bank account and can, in fact, use a credit card for a small extra fee. If you’re hit with fraud, or your purchase needs to be disputed, your credit card company can help you out – even though you used PayPal because it was the only form of payment a particular seller would accept.


Purchases You Set to Reoccur

Monthly expenses, such as your electric bill, cable bill, or even your phone, can usually be set up to automatically charge a credit card of your choice. Sometimes things you subscribe to, such as a monthly magazine delivery, you realize you don’t really need. Usually it’s easy to simply call and be removed from a company’s subscriber list, but sometimes it can take a bit of a battle.

Not all companies make getting off automatic payment difficult, but those that do can be incredibly frustrating when you don’t know what else to do. This is where your credit card comes in, as they can and will stop any automatic charges that are being sent to the card, regardless if the company itself will.



Credit cards, when used wisely, have a plethora of interesting features that can help in a number of different purchasing situations. While you shouldn’t rack up a balance just for kicks, and you should always make sure you pay the balance you know you should every month, in some situations using a credit card can be a lifesaver.

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What You Need To Know About “Smart Cards”

If you love traveling and want to do so with as little hassle as possible, you’ll want to get a “chip and signature” or even better, “chip and pin” card. Both of these fall under what’s called EMV technology, often advertised as “smart cards.” Carrying of one these puppies will help facilitate your payments in Europe and Asia, and protect you from fraud.

What it is

For a while, we have had regular old magnetic stripe cards. The swipe machine reads the information, connects to the issuer to confirm, asks the merchant to confirm that the signature matches, and then processes the payment. Unfortunately, this method comes with a few security flaws. Some can learn to forge your signature or simply steal the actual card. The black market has even produced swipe machines that copy and store the card information, allowing a clone to be made.

EMV technology does away with these problems by putting a computer chip in the card. The new payment machines read the computer chip, which is difficult to replicate, and then also ask for a second piece of information, either a PIN number or signature match. Thus where we get the terms “chip and pin” card and “chip and signature card.” A “chip and pin” card is more secure because the merchant never sees the PIN. The chip simply confirms or denies the payment based on whether the PIN provided by the customer is correct.

EMV is so called because it was originally a joint effort between Europay, MasterCard, and Visa. Europay ended up being merged into MasterCard. Soon after, American Express joined the effort, along with Japan Credit Bureau and China UnionPay. Today, most of Europe and much of Asia has largely transitioned to this new technology.

Why you want it

So, there is clearly more protection with a chip card. France has cut fraud by 80% since introducing this technology two decades ago, and the UK has decreased counterfeit fraud by 75% between 2008 and 2012, according to Financial Fraud Action UK as cited by Aite. A computer chip is simply much more difficult, if not impossible to replicate. Of course, this technology doesn’t help combat card-not-present fraud (telephone, internet, or mail order scams), which continues to grow every year.

Even if you are not concerned about security, you want to have one of these for travel. In Europe, the major card issuers shifted liability for fraud on to the shoulders of merchants who don’t have the improved technology. Consequently, many businesses use chip payment systems in Europe. The issuers require vendors to still accept magnetic stripe cards, but some staff refuse anyway under belief that they will be liable for fraud. (Which is simply a common misconception.) Still, over all people get along pretty well with most merchants.

Where your old-fashioned magnetic stripe card is guaranteed to not work is at unattended machines. This could include vending machines, transport stations, ATMs, tollbooths, and even some buses. Some won’t even accept chip and signature.

Currently, chip and signature is the more common form in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and Austria. For most other European countries as well as Canada, chip and pin is king.