NEARLY 3 MILLION people in the United States common reason for trip cancellation is illness, which
were victims of ATM and debit-card fraud last year. is usually covered by airlines at no extra charge, if it
According to a report by technology experts from is documented by a doctor’s letter.
Gartner Inc., the fraud might be due to a major flaw Travel experts say if you are so concerned about
in ATM technology, particularly the failure of some the possibility of having to cancel for other reasons,
financial institutions to scan security codes on the you might consider buying an unrestricted ticket at
magnetic strips of ATM and debit cards. the higher price just for the peace of mind.
Experts say fixing the problem could help stop
many common consumer scams, including “phish- Holding on to analog
ing,” the most widespread ATM scam. It begins when IN RURAL or suburban areas where cellular towers
an e-mail recipient responds to a message that ap- are far apart, older-model analog cell phones often
pears to have been sent by a legitimate bank or work when and where digital models can’t. For
credit-card company and clicks to a phony Web site these customers, the old, clunky analog cell phone is
designed to mimic the company’s real site. The vic- still the best bet for service, because new digital
tim is duped into confirming his or her account infor- models fail in the wide-open spaces.
mation, including personal identification numbers But analog cell cu stomers may be out of
(PINs). With that information, the experts say, it’s an luck before they know it. The Federal
easy matter for thieves to create duplicate cards for Communications Commission (FCC)
ATMs and then empty the victim’s account. is planning to discontinue analog ser-
The report explains that fraud could be easily be vice and replace it with digital service
prevented. Here’s how: The magnetic strips on ATM across the country.
cards contain multiple tracks of data. One track con- Wireless companies are ready
tains information such as the user’s name and ac- to phase out analog service by
count number. A second track has special security the end of this year instead of
codes that are not revealed to card users. waiting until 2008 as previ-
Technologists estimate about half of U.S. finan- ously scheduled. That means
cial institutions have not programmed their ATM sys- older analog phones will
tems to check the security codes. Furthermore, many become simply useless in
banks might be unaware of such problems in their several months, which will
systems. Other banks may have previously scanned cause a serious hindrance
the codes but stopped because whenever customers in emergency notification
want to change their PINs they must go to a bank in in many areas.
person and have an ATM card reissued. This is costly Cell-phone users in rural
and inconvenient, so many banks dropped the prac- areas and industry advocates
tice, unaware that ATM fraud could result. are urging the FCC to push
Now, authorities report, con artists specifically back the deadline until more
seek customers of banks that do not validate the sec- digital towers can be built
ond track on the strip. They are increasingly engag- to improve service. Keep
ing in “spear phishing,” a targeted attack at a specific in touch with your service
organization that thieves know is vulnerable, accord- provider for updates. C
ing to IBM security analyst Jeremy Kelley.
Solutions don’t come easy, but start by not biting when people try to phish you. David Horowitz is a
leading consumer advocate.
Is trip insurance smart? His “Fight Back!” commen-
MANY PEOPLE are booking tickets online to save taries are heard daily on
money, even though cheaper tickets carry risks and the Jones Radio Network.
are nonrefundable. However, ticket bargain hunters For stations and times,
can lose big bucks if they are forced to cancel or check the radio page at
change their plans.
MY FATHER, 83, lives
with me and is in declining health. We have two
joint bank accounts,
which I don’t use, but
my name is on them in
case of emergency. Dad
has several credit cards
under his name. I know
he does a lot of Internet
shopping and carries a
high balance on them.
After his death, can the
credit-card companies go
after the bank accounts
Adrianna, Edmonds, WA
AMY CAN TRELL
ADRIANNA, our family
legal adviser told me your
father’s estate can be
responsible for his debts.
If you are the beneficiary,
you are responsible for
his outstanding bills and
debts after his death,
from doctors to
Therefore, if you
do not pay off the
credit cards, liens
ably be attached
to any of his
the bank accounts.
The best way
to handle this might
be to try to curb
Dad’s enthusiasm for
Internet spending and
ask him to pay off the
balances on the credit
cards gradually as a
goodwill gesture to you
and the family. Perhaps
if he understood that he
might be putting you at
financial risk due to his
spending he might volun-
tarily ease up on Web
shopping and pay for
what he wants in cash.
© 2005 FIGHT BACK! INC. ALL RIGH TS RESERVED.
For a small surcharge, about 4 percent of the
ticket price, you can buy trip cancellation insurance
from airlines when you buy a nonrefundable ticket
from their Web site or an online ticket seller. Do you have a question for David?
But is trip protection coverage a good deal? Or Just log on to
www.fightback.com and “Ask David.” He will personally
is it just a way for the airlines to cash in on another respond to your problem if you follow the instructions printed on his Web site.
unregulated surcharge? (Costco members receive a rebate off the normal fee.) Questions and answers
Many experts say the insurance coverage is not of the greatest interest to Costco members will be used in this column with
comprehensive and has many limitations. The most the permission of the contributor and will be posted on