Identity Theft Takes a New Turn

by Terry Savage

If you think your finances are safer now that you use a chip card, think again. The latest Javelin Identity Fraud Study reports the number of identity fraud victims increased by 16 percent in 2016 to more than 15 million consumers. And the amount the thieves took grew by $1 billion to more than $16 billion in the past year.

A large part of the increase came from “card not present” fraud in the first year since chip cards became widely used. Fraudsters are resorting to more invasive ways of getting your identity details than simply counterfeiting mag stripe cards.

So-called “phishing” schemes have become far more sophisticated. Gone are the days of the misspellings and clumsy grammar that made fraud emails obvious. Fraudsters have gotten better at tricking you into clicking on a link in one of these emails. Once you do that on your computer or smartphone, these links deploy malware called “bots” to collect all your data, including PIN and CV authentication numbers as you shop online.

There’s also a growing trend of identity fraud crimes enabled by victims’ social media posts. Harmless items on your pages, including celebrations of your birthday, or a college graduation or reunion, give thieves information they use open new accounts in your name. Fraudulent new credit accounts for more than half the increase in identity theft crime last year.

So what should you be doing to guard your identity? Here are some suggestions, which mostly involve common sense and a commitment to regularly review your finances.

—Check online accounts regularly. Visit your bank or credit card website at least once a week to make sure that no withdrawals or unauthorized charges have been made. Yes, you’re protected from fraud, but there’s no way to avoid the hassle of getting a new account number when you’ve been attacked. At least you can minimize the trauma by catching fraudulent purchases immediately.

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Is America’s Military Losing Its Edge?

By Vikram Mansharamani

The United States spends more money on its military than any other country in the world. The American defense budget of almost $600 billion is more than four times that of China’s. In fact, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) notes the US spends almost as much as the next fourteen countries – combined.

But rather than simply leave the interpretation of this data to readers, IISS warns this large budget does not necessarily buy sustainable US military superiority.  In February of this year, John Chipman, director general of IISS, noted that the proliferation of military-relevant technologies has large strategic consequences that appear to be undermining Western might.

This point was driven home during a recent talk at the Harvard Kennedy School by former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy. She explicitly stated “our military technological edge…is no longer a given, because many of the technologies we rely on are becoming ubiquitous.”

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Microsoft Can Now Talk Better Than Humans And Other Small Business Tech News This Week

by Gene Marks

Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

1 – Microsoft says its speech recognition is now as good as humans.

Based on a study it did, the software giant put its speech recognition technology up against professional transcriptionists. The result? Humans made more mistakes than the software. (Source: VentureBeat)

Why this is important for your business:

According to the VentureBeat article, Microsoft has called this a milestone in human parity and believes that it will have “broad implications for consumer and business products that can be significantly augmented by speech recognition.” I don’t doubt that.

2 – Facebook announces new features to help small businesses sell more products and services.

The social media leader has released updates so that restaurants can receive orders and service providers can accept appointments directly on their Facebook pages and have them land on Microsoft’s new Bookings app that will soon be included with Office 365. It’s also enhanced its ability to make buying recommendations when users ask a question. (Source: Recode and Microsoft Office Blogs).
Why this is important for your business:

All these enhancements are free and are designed to not only make it easier for your Facebook customers to do business with you, but to receive new business through recommendations, too.

3 – You will soon be able to receive customer texts directly from a Google ad.

Google says that advertisers will soon be able to allow recipients of their ads to send texts with questions directly to the advertiser. (Source: VentureBeat)

Why this is important for your business:

When customers see your ad now and they have a question, they have to go searching for ways to contact you – with many losing interest in the process. Allowing them to quickly text their questions right from the ad will solve that problem and hopefully keep customers buying. Continue reading

Do one thing today – get out of your innovation rut!

by Jim Carroll

Innovation is a mindset. Do you have what it takes?

BabyEinstein“Don’t expect them to subscribe to the same old beliefs as to structure and rules, working hours, and corporate culture, or business models. You won’t survive in their future if you don’t take the time to understand what they are doing, talking about, and thinking.”

Here’s a few simple thoughts on how to get out of your innovation rut!

Reward failure, and tone down the “I told-you-so’s”

Too many people think when times are volatile, that it’s not a good time to focus on big ideas. Not true! Consider history: many people stuck their neck out in the 1990’s and tried out new ways of doing business, new technologies, and innovative methods of dealing with markets and customers. Yet many of those efforts collapsed in spectacular fashion due to the dot.com/technology meltdown, and a dangerous sense of complacency set in. Back then, innovators had to hang their head in shame, and the nervous nellies who dared not innovate reigned supreme! Yet those who took risk excelled — they invented Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram…. When times are volatile and fear reigns, that’s the best time to make big bold moves.

Listen up!

We live in a time of unprecedented feedback and communication – and yet few organizations are prepared to listen! Customers are telling you, loudly, what they want. Young people are defining a future that is different from anything we’ve dealt with before. Competitive intelligence capabilities abound. And yet most or- ganizations ignore these signals, or don’t know how to listen – or even where to look. Organizations should reconsider the many effective ways of building effective digital feedback systems, in order that they can stay on top of fast-changing events, rediscover markets, and define opportunity – which will help them understand how and where they need to innovate.

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Help With Health Insurance Choices

by Terry Savage

Making decisions about health insurance is complicated and potentially very costly. It’s no surprise that Americans don’t do a great job of it. It takes work to figure out the best health insurance options. And few people take the time to do it right.

Alegeus Healthcare, a provider of platforms for corporate insurance plans, compiles an annual Healthcare Consumerism Index that measures the “degree of engagement … exhibited during healthcare spending and saving decisions.” It reports that the index this year jumped to 54.4 from 48.3. So, we’re doing better.

But, to put that in perspective, consumers score 78.9 on the index when considering the purchase of a television and 76.2 when evaluating the purchase of a cell phone!

Everyone faces choices. Medicare recipients know that basic coverage is simple, though the monthly premium depends on their income. But they must also choose a supplement plan and a Part D prescription drug plan.

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The Best Advice From 2016 Commencement Speeches

By Vikram Mansharamani

Graduates

Graduation season is a wonderful time for celebration. Teachers applaud students, and parents praise their children. All eyes focus on the graduates, and rightfully so. After all, for many college graduates, commencement is well, just that: a beginning. And like most beginnings, graduation ceremonies are filled with a contagious optimism and energy.

I love graduations and am a commencement speech junkie. As a parent and educator, I am keenly interested in how best to advise young people. I also find the ceremonies inspiring, energizing, and renewing. So each spring I get my fix by reading or listening to dozens of commencement speeches.

We can all learn from the nuggets of wisdom shared during the proceedings. Here are five of the most valuable tidbits I’ve taken from some of the best addresses delivered to the class of 2016:

1. Get in the Way
Speaking at Washington University in St. Louis, legendary Georgia congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis urged seniors to be proactive—even if it means ruffling feathers. Noting inspiration from Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Lewis said, “I got in the way…I got in trouble…Good trouble, necessary trouble.” This lesson is as important today as it was in the 1950s and 1960s. As Lewis continued, “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you must have the courage to stand up, to speak up, and find a way to get in the way.” The advice Lewis offers is as valid for working professionals as it is for ambitious and idealistic graduates. Convention and inertia are often impediments to progress. Get in the way to force change. The world may be better off because of it.


“When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you must have the courage to stand up, to speak up, and find a way to get in the way.”


2. Cherish “Uh-Oh” Moments

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor recounted to University of Rhode Island students an embarrassing story in which she choked during one of her first job interviews. These “‘uh-oh’ moments are worth cherishing just as much as ‘ah-ha’ moments,” she said. “Mistakes, failures, embarrassments and disappointments are a necessary component of growing wise.” The logic of learning from failure is not new, but Sotomayor’s reminder to embrace the “uh-oh” moments is refreshing in an era in which every corner of life has grown competitive and perfection is a ubiquitous expectation. When navigating the crosscurrents of global economic uncertainties, failure is almost certain at some point. Reframing setbacks as wisdom acquisition will empower and energize— precisely at the point when a boost is most needed.


Reframing setbacks as wisdom acquisition will empower and energize— precisely at the point when a boost is most needed.


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This Is Why Lots of Talented People Choose to Never Work for a Big Company

by Gene Marks

If you work for some big companies, you actually get paid to sleep. I’m serious.

Just this week Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini said in an interview that his company pays his employees to sleep. “If they can prove they get 20 nights of sleep for seven hours or more in a row, we will give them $25 a night, up to $500 a year,” he said, explaining Aetna uses various ways to help workers keep track, including the use of Fitbit fitness trackers.

The Huffington Post isn’t paying people to sleep — they’re just encouraging their employees to sleep on the job. They’ve got nap rooms in their offices. They’re not alone. According to this report “other companies like Google, Zappos and Ben & Jerry’s are getting on board with the napping trend. All now have built nap rooms in their offices.”

Paid for sleeping? Napping at work? Nice! Sign me up!

In these times of low unemployment and a lack of skilled workers, big companies are coming up with all sorts of crazy perks to entice millennials through their doors. LinkedIn offers unlimited vacation. Etsy’s paid time off policy covers new parents of either gender. Spotify covers the cost of egg freezing and fertility assistance. Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) helps its employees pay down their student debt. Twilio gives employees a free Kindle and a monthly allowance to purchase books. Twitter offers onsite acupuncture and “improvisation” classes. Asana’s employees get free life coaching. Zillow pays the overnight shipping costs for moms who are breast feeding. Perks, perks, perks!

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