Mindsets Science and nature Travel and places

The Great Israeli Umbrella Fraud

Each Winter, Israelis are taken in by the Great Israeli Umbrella Fraud, and someone has to speak out. Today, that someone is me.

As you may (or may not) know, Winter is our rainy season (it’s literally the only time of the year when we have rain). It’s cold, wet, and I like it (mostly). Each year, Israelis are tempted by a wide variety of rain resistance devices, commonly known as “umbrellas”.

They seem like a good idea, when it’s not raining.

And each year, Israelis buy these devices in the hope that they will protect them from volumes of water falling from the sky (ie, “rain”). Unfortunately, this belief is sorely misplaced.

You see, after what feels like 9 months of summer, we Israelis forget that, when it rains, we also often have wind, the strength and determination of which rivals saftas at a gefilta fish sale, the day before Pesach. In other words, the wind can be really strong and it hits you from the side, as if out of nowhere!

Not such a good idea, in the clear light of a cloudless day … after the fact.

At that point, all your well-intentioned plans to not get wet are dashed, like leaves and small creatures swept away by the torrents of rain water down the road beside you. Inevitably, your Rain Saviour is exposed for the sham it really is, and you are forced to abandon it.

Here’s the painful truth: umbrellas are a con that we fall for every year. The only good defence against the dark, rain-bearing clouds is a decent water-resistant jacket of some description.

Photo by Rhendi Rukmana on Unsplash

Yes, you feel more exposed being out there with nothing to hold above your head. But let’s face it, that thin membrane supported by a fragile metal frame is a false sense of cover, at best.

At worst, it’s another fraud perpetrated by seasonal umbrella sales people, taking advantage of those of us with very short memories, and a little anxiety about this strange change in the weather from unbelievably hot and dry to cold, very wet, and jetstream windy!

There is hope. It’s not too late.

Even though Winter already seems to be thinking about heading south, we may still have some wet weather ahead.

Discard your deceptive rain protection device and embrace the rain jacket. Stand tall, stoop only to keep your face pointing away from the deluge, and duck to avoid low hanging, dripping branches.

Ride out the rain for as long as we have it. It will soon be the other season and we can forget these challenges, at least until next year when all the umbrellas go on sale again.

Featured image by Todd Diemer on Unsplash

Sanity check: “Surely you jest?”, you may ask? Yes, I do. Mostly.

Business and work Mindsets

Your credit card security

Gina and I were invited to a presentation by FNB and Visa representatives at SLOW in the City last week. The presentation formed part of FNB and Visa’s Card Security Week awareness initiative:

Visa study shows South African consumers have high awareness of fraud, but still a need for education

Johannesburg, March 2012. In an effort to increase awareness around debit and credit card safety, Visa and First National Bank (FNB) have teamed up to highlight the importance of card security to better educate consumers and protect them against fraud.

Through an annual campaign running this year from the 13 – 16 March 2012, the Visa FNB Card Security Week aims at driving awareness among consumers about card and transaction safety while enjoying the benefits and convenience of electronic payments.

The evening involved 3 presentations highlighting risks cardholders face (with emphasis that banks are not seeing marked fraud increases, necessarily, just that there are risks) and how these risks change as technologies change. Cards are apparently becoming more secure so fraud techniques are shifting to careless fraud techniques like sleight of hand at ATMs (we saw ATM videos showing how fraudsters trick older people or even distract them and grab cash right out of the machines) and pretty smart techniques involving fraudsters installing camouflaged card readers and cameras onto ATMs to scan magnetic strips, capture PIN code entries and send the data to the fraudsters to exploit further. We also saw a key-logger which looks exactly like an adaptor for old keyboards. Frightening to think how easy it is to be caught out.

Of course consumers still have to contend with card skimmers which are tiny and easily concealed. The fact that this remains an option indicates, to me at least, one of the challenges facing banks and consumers. Because Visa, MasterCard and other card companies operate worldwide and have to support a wide range of technologies, we still have cards with magnetic strips that are vulnerable to attack using older technologies like skimmers. Ideally we should all be using purely chip based cards or whatever the next generation of secure credit card is but that involves what must be a pretty substantial upgrade of all card access facilities. So, for now, this means we, as consumers should remain vigilant and informed of the risks we face from increasingly tech savvy fraudsters and other criminals. At the same time, don’t forget about the low tech crooks too who distract you at ATMs and pick your pockets.

FNB’s and Visa’s security tips are pretty straightforward and you may know them already. Just the same, its worth a little refresher to take a few minutes to watch the video above.

The venue was amazing and is restrictive to a select group of FNB, RMB and Investec customers. No pedestrian Platinum Cards will suffice so I made sure to take a couple photos on the way out.