Leave your identity at home
Tourists are prime targets for identity thieves, says Lyn Chitow Oakes of TrustedID
,of Redwood City, Calif., which provides theft-protection services.
"People can identify you as being out of town," Oakes said last week. Some advice:
» Use a credit card to pay for most purchases, and carry small amounts of cash. Travelers' checks can be forged or lost, while personal checks carry your bank number. Debit cards are tied to your bank account. Leave checkbooks and debit cards at home. Use one credit card while on vacation to limit exposure to thieves.
» Empty your wallet. Leave unnecessary personal information at home, including Social Security cards, insurance cards, bills and prescription information. If you need to carry such documents, bring photocopies. Keep photocopies and passports locked in your hotel room safe.
» Make sure nobody's standing next to you when you're using a computer or ATM. Put your hand over the screen, drape something over a monitor or ask a family member or trusted friend to shield you.
» If your passport is stolen, call the U.S. embassy in that country. If it is your drivers license, contact your state's Department of Motor Vehicles. Place fraud alerts with credit-scoring agencies if someone's gotten your Social Security number. Close lost or stolen financial accounts.
Small businesses grin and bear it
Working for yourself is riskier than working for a large company, and you're constantly chasing new customers. The job is even harder when the economy is turning sour.
Discover Financial Services' monthly Small Business Watch reported that small business owners' economic confidence dropped to 71.8 in June, from 81.8 last month. It is the lowest number since the survey started nearly two years ago.
Of the 1,000 small business owners surveyed, 80 percent thought economic conditions in the U.S. were getting worse, 10 percent planned to lay off employees in the next few months and 75 percent planned to decrease spending or hold it steady But only 53 percent thought their own business would be adversely affected by the economy in the next six months.
"The separation in outlook speaks to the mindset of small business owners. They're very confident, self-reliant," said Ryan Scully, director of Discover business credit cards. "They're not necessarily relying on Wall Street or the macroeconomic picture to dictate their fate."
The Small Business Watch surveys 1,000 random owners of businesses with fewer than five employees.
High gas prices a bonus for some
Pricey fuel is eating into the pockets of commuters, automakers and retailers.
But outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. sees a potential gold mine for some.
More Americans will be telecommuting, so office supply stores could get a boost, said John Challenger, the firm's CEO. Suppliers of bicycles and motorized scooters may see an uptick in sales as well.
Other potential winners include online retailers, alternative energy companies, makers of home entertainment systems and neighborhood attractions such as zoos.
And Challenger forecast big gains for local markets.
"Neighborhood markets could also thrive from residents walking to shop -- a trend which could help battle the nation's weight problem," Challenger said.
Expensive gas: the newest diet.