Wednesday, October 31, 2007

After 'UFO', a comet on city horizon

After much hoopla over an unidentified object in the Kolkata sky, another celestial phenomenon has caught the imagination of stargazers in Kolkata. The people of the city now have the opportunity to sight the exceptionally bright comet, Holmes.

Named after its discoverer Edwin Holmes, the comet was first spotted in 1892. It has been observed several times since with the comet revolving once every six years and nine months.

On October 24, it suddenly became about a million times brighter than its usual appearance. Since then, it has got brighter and is currently the third-brightest object in the Perseus constellation.

Scientists believe that the sudden increase in brightness may have been caused by an eruption or break-up of the comet nucleus measuring 3.4 km, thereby producing a huge amount of dust. The dust surrounding the nucleus that reflects sun light, has created a yellow halo. The size of its coma or inner-core consisting of mostly ionized hydrogen, has increased considerably over the last few days and it is now emitting blue light.

At present, Holmes has a circular image minus the tail. Kolkata residents can watch the Perseus constellation from little after sunset. The constellation rises on the north-eastern horizon around 5.45 pm and steadily moves westwards.

"The coma is around 12 arc minutes wide, which means that the coma is now bigger than a million kilometre, expanding at the rate of 575 kilometre per second from the nucleus. Weather permitting, this will be a true celestial treat," said M P Birla Planetarium director (research and academics) Debiprosad Duari.

Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Tickets

Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Tickets

© BOCOG
14 May 2007
Tickets for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games are now available to Olympic fans worldwide through various channels depending on their country of residence.
Chinese residents wishing to obtain Beijing 2008 Olympic tickets should visit the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) website.
Olympic fans from other countries looking for information regarding Beijing 2008 Olympic tickets should contact the National Olympic Committee (NOC) in their territory of residence. Some NOCs may have designated an Official Ticket Agent in order to assist the general public to obtain tickets and services related to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
To find out where you can purchase tickets for the Games please visit the official BOCOG ticketing website.
Fans are reminded that only tickets purchased from or obtained through official/authorised sources will enable entry to venues. Detailed information on official/authorised ticket sources, in particular a list of authorised ticket resellers (in China and internationally) is available on the official Beijing 2008 ticketing website. Fans having purchased or obtained tickets from unofficial or unauthorised sources run the risk of having those tickets cancelled, being refused entry and/or being asked to leave the venue, without receiving a refund or qualifying for an exchange of ticket. Neither the International Olympic Committee nor BOCOG nor any NOC may be held liable for any consequence (such as, without limitation, any loss or damage) related to a ticket purchased from or obtained through an unauthorised or unofficial source.

Find out more about Beijing 2008


Friday, October 26, 2007

What is a Debt Fund?

n the world of investments, the higher the risk you take, the higher the returns you can get.

Since there's a known cash flow associated with debt, the risk is less. But the returns are also less.

When compared with equity funds, the risk for the latter may be more. This is because there's a steady cash flow associated with debt paper. In fact, the interest which the debt paper promises to pay (known as 'coupon' in financial parlance) is one of the fundamental attributes of a debt paper.

However, debt paper shares a very fundamental relationship with interest rates. To understand this relationship and how that can be used in present day context to make money, you must understand the basics of debt.

What is a Debt Fund?

It invests predominantly in debt paper, which is issued by the person who takes the debt (borrower) to the person who lends the money (lender).

The paper quotes how much money has been taken, for how many years the money has been taken and what will be the interest paid on this money every year.

So, the person who has lent the money knows how much interest he will get every year. Furthermore, at the end of the tenure of the loan, he will also be repaid the principal. So, in case of a debt fund, it invests in different debt papers. Each paper will have a unique maturity and a promised interest rate.

How Debt Funds Relate to Interest Rates
 
Debt paper prices share an inverse relationship with interest rates. As rates rise, prices of debt paper fall and vice versa. As rates moved south from 2001-02 to 2003-04, the investor will remember that the price of debt papers moved north in the same period.

Then, as rates started climbing thereon till 2005-06, bond prices fell. Investors, also make a note that reaction in prices of bonds with higher maturities is more pronounced.

Present Scenario

Interest rates are nearing the peak but the same logic will be applicable, and this time, bonds with higher tenures will stand to benefit the most. The question is not whether this will happen, but when will it happen?

Markets don't wait for things to happen, they discount the future. Sometime, sooner rather than later, smart money will start flowing into debt funds, particularly those whose portfolios have high maturities.

Keep a tab on inflation every week. Tracking debt fund AUMs will also help. Inflation cooling will be the first signal; indicating interest rates could be headed south. When the process will begin, how much will rates come down, is under speculation. It’s a risk, but then it involves returns as well.

Quick Tips

Even if you were to look at the maturity and coupons of debt funds, and were to profit from it, lack of proper financial planning can result in not building on the gains made. Investing in an ad-hoc manner does not have the potential to multiply your gains.

Hence it is always suggested, to first have a detailed financial plan, and then make asset allocation (strategic/ tactical), based upon your risk profile, available opportunities, etc.

Draw a proper financial plan, based upon your future goals/ requirements and then build a portfolio across assets to have proper diversification and potential to make returns.

Ways to Improve Your Returns

Investing money for short-term, say up to 1-11/2 years has generally been an issue. As it is the interest rates / returns are quite low. On top of this, there could be taxation issues, which will further reduce the effective returns.

Equity/equity funds may not be a prudent option for short-term. Therefore, we need to consider mainly the interest-based investment options.

What do we usually do?

Since it is quite convenient, very often the money keeps lying in the Savings A/c itself (also, maybe it is psychologically satisfying to see a big balance in one’s account). But don’t forget - this earns you just 3.5% p.a. interest and that too taxable. Hence, it is not good to keep too much money in the Savings A/c.

The next common thing to do is to make a FD. This may earn you 6-9% interest depending on the tenure. But this too is taxable (if you are in the highest tax bracket, even a 9% FD will fetch you just 6.3% post-tax returns). So, given the fact that there are better alternatives, this too may not be a very intelligent choice.

What are the Alternatives?

Certain debt MFs offer an attractive alternative to Bank FDs. In case you are sure about your investment horizon, you can opt to invest in Fixed Maturity Plans. Else, if you want quick liquidity, liquid plus/floating rate funds could be considered.

The pre-tax returns from these funds will be more or less in line with the returns from the Bank FDs. However, it is the difference in tax treatment on interest from bank FDs and returns from MFs, which enables MFs to give much better post-tax returns.

Interest from Bank FDs is fully taxable as per one’s slab rate. As against this, returns from Debt MFs will be taxed as either Dividend (@14.1625%) or Capital Gains (LT – @11.33% and ST – as per one’s slab rate).

Let’s assume that both FD and MFs give 8% returns. Then if you are in the 30% tax bracket, your post-tax return from Bank FD will be 5.60%. But, if you invest in MFs, you will earn either 7.01% (dividend if period is less than 1 year) or 7.09% (LTCG if period is more than 1 year).

Besides this, there is lot of convenience with MFs. MFs will deduct this Dividend Distribution Tax and pay you the net amount. You don't have to do anything. But in case of interest earning you will have to show it in your returns and pay tax, including advance tax. Also banks will deduct TDS on interest income. So at the year-end you will also have to get the TDS certificate from them.

How Arbitrage Funds Fit In?

Before we see how arbitrage funds can be useful, let’s first understand the concept of such funds.

Though, arbitrage funds invest in equity and derivatives such as futures & options, they are essentially debt funds. This is because when they invest in equity, they also take an exactly opposite position in futures. The objective is to capitalize on the difference in the prices in the cash market and the futures market (and hence the term arbitrage) rather than making money on equity or derivatives.

Art of Saving

"Take away the terms asset allocation, long term and compounding from a financial advisor’s vocabulary, and he is pretty much tongue-tied," remarks a friend.

Let me show you exactly how much saving can help. Say you spend Rs 40 every day on cigarettes. Let us see what could happen if you stopped smoking.

Let's also make some assumptions and also suppose that these are valid for the next 30-years.

Take a looks at the Smoker's Chart:

Money Spent Per Day Rs. 40 Rs. 80Rs. 120
Money Spent Per YearRs. 14, 600Rs. 29, 200Rs. 43, 800





Money earned if invested over the next 30 years.

SensexRs 11,547,841Rs 23,095,681Rs 34,643,522 
EquityRs 21,099,200Rs 42,198,399Rs 63,297,599
PPFRs 16,53,935Rs 33,07,870Rs 49,61,805





Nice chunk of change, eh?! What would this money be worth? Let's see: You could afford an Ivy League education for your children. Or could buy out your neighbour’s flat, have a roomier home. You don't need to care how many times your banker looked at your Form 16.

Of course, if you spend Rs 120 per day on cigarettes, you probably won’t live for 30 years!

So you don't smoke? Maybe you're a frequent restaurant-hopper? That would easily mean Rs 2,000 per week.

Keep at it for 30 years, and you would have said goodbye to Rs 15 crore. Think of the penthouses you could have afforded with that kind of moolah!

Here is the Gastronome's chart:

Money spent per week Rs. 750 Rs. 1500Rs. 2000 
Money spent per yearRs. 39,000Rs. 78, 000Rs. 104, 000




Money earned if invested over the next 30 years.

SensexRs 30,846,972Rs 61,693,943Rs 82,258,591
EquityRs 56,360,876Rs 112,721,752Rs 150,295,669
PPFRs 44,18,045Rs 88,36,090Rs 11,781,454




Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Unit linked insurance plans (ULIPs) in India

In a ULIP, part of the monthly premium is used to provide insurance cover for the person and the remaining amount is invested in the stock market. If a person is wealthy or has no dependents, insurance cover may not be required. At a young age (less than 30), insurance premiums are low, so purchasing a term policy may be a better option.

The overheads for the ULIP are higher compared to a mutual fund, so the returns may be lower. If the ULIP units are purchased when stock market indices are low, the returns may be better than other forms of investment. However, the buyer of ULIPs should also be prepared for negative returns when share prices fall.

Most of the insurance companies offer attractive commissions to their agents for Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIP), so many people buy ULIPs without reading the fine print as these are marketed aggressively by companies providing investor services. However, depending on the health , age and financial status of an individual, other investment options may be more suitable.


Fortune Plus and Profit Plus from LIC

Unit Linked Endowment Plans from Life Insurance Corporation of India

Fortune Plus (T. no. 187)

Profit Plus (T. no. 188)

Features

Bond Fund, Secured Fund, Balanced Fund, Growth Fund

Unlimited switches ( 4 free switches per year)

Accident benefit rider

Critical illness rider (Profit Plus)

For Profit Plus, premium can be paid in one installment or a number of installments over a period of up to 5 years . Minimum premium is Rs 20,000 for single premium and Rs 10,000 per annum for term policies. It is available for persons up to 65 years

The premium payment is limited to 5 years for Fortune Plus and is available for the age group 12-60 . Minimum premium payable in the first year is Rs 20,000

Premium paid in Unit Linked Life Insurance Policies are subject to investment risks associated with capital Markets and the NAV of the units may go up or down based on the performance of the fund and factors influencing capital markets and the insured is responsible for his/her decisions. The Life Insurance Corporation of India is only the name of the insurance company and Fortune Plus and Profit Plus are only the name of the Unit Linked Life Insurance contracts and does not in any way indicate the quality of the contracts, its future prospects or returns .


InvestAssure Gold : Whole life unit linked insurance policy

Features

Five year premium period

Entry even at 70

Loyalty units every five years

Cover till the age of 100

Premium paid in ULIPs are subject to investment risks associated with capital Markets and the NAV of the units may go up or down based on the performance of the fund and factors influencing capital markets and the insured is responsible for his decision. Tata AIG Life Insurance Company Limited is the name of the insurance company and Invest Assure Gold is the name of the ULIP contract and does not in any way indicate the quality of the contracts, its future prospects or returns. This product is underwritten by Tata AIG Life Insurance Company Limited . Past performance is not indicative of future results.


LifeStageRP


Unit linked insurance policy, which adjusts equity % automatically with age

From ICICI Prudential Life Insurance
Features

Unit linked insurance plan which adjusts the investment according to age

Based on the age of the person, the debt equity component is periodically adjusted

Available in select cities

Age at entry : 18-75 years

Minimum premium: Rs 15,000 p.a

Options : Life cycle based and fixed portfolio , mid term option change allowed up to 4 times free of cost

Funds available : Flexi Growth IV, Maximiser IV, Flexi Balanced IV, Balancer IV, Protector IV, Preserver IV

100% fund value paid on surrender from 5th policy year

New fund opens at Rs 10 on August 25, 2007

Details of risk factors, terms and conditions are available in sales brochure

Investments in ULIPs are subject to market risk.

Horizon II Pension

Unit linked insurance policy (ULIP), equity % is higher initially and reduces close to the retirement age

From SBI Life

Features

Unit linked insurance plan which adjusts the investment according to age

Based on the age of the person, the debt equity component is periodically adjusted

Age at entry : 18-60 years

Minimum premium: Rs 12,000 p.a

Options : Dynamic plan and Growth plan.

For Dynamic plan, 80-100 % of the funds will be invested in equity markets initially and the remaining amount in bonds or the money market. As the person ages, the equity investment decreases gradually to 0-15% at the end of the 20 year term and the investment in bonds increases.

Growth plan is similar to dynamic plan, but the initial equity component is even lower <>

Once a dynamic or growth plan is selected, it cannot be changed

Funds available : Equity pension, bond pension and money market pension funds

100% fund value paid on surrender from 4th policy year onward.


UG Plus Gold


Unit linked insurance policy (ULIP)

From Bajaj Allianz Life InsurancE

Features

High allocation up to 85%

UL waiver of premium and UL family income benefit

Flexibility with premiums, top-ups and switches

Tax savings under section 80C and 80D of prevailing income tax regulations

Insurance cover of Rs 4.2 lakh for a policy taken at age 25 with a premium of Rs 2000 per month

Risk factors / warning statements : UnitGain Plus Gold is a Unit Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP). Investment in ULIPs is subject to risks associated with capital markets. The policy holder is solely responsible for his/her decisions while investing in ULIPs. Bajaj Alliance Life Insurance and UnitGain Plus Gold are only the name of the insurance company and the product respectively and does not in any way indicate the quality of the products, its future prospects or returns .


AspireLife


Unit linked insurance policy (ULIP)

From Bharti Axa Life Insurance

Features (claimed by the company)

Guarantees return of up to 175% of first year's premium

Invests up to 100% of all subsequent premiums

Partial withdrawals allowed

Premium holiday options

Flexibility to switch between investment funds

Risk factors / warning statements : UnitGain Plus Gold is a Unit Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP) and is different from traditional insurance products. "AspireLife" is only the name of the product respectively and does not in any way indicate the quality of the products, its future prospects or returns. Premium paid on ULIPs are subject to risks associated with capital markets and the NAVs of the units may go up or down based on the performance of the fund and factors influencing the capital market. The policy holder is solely responsible for his/her decisions while investing in ULIPs .

Wondering who you are? New site wants to tell you

A new web site called GeneTree.com wants to help answer the question "Who am I?" by combining DNA data with information-sharing technology popularised by News Corp's MySpace.com and Google Inc's YouTube.

The site, which launches on Tuesday at www.genetree.com, promises to give users the tools to build a family tree that reaches back before written records and into Africa and other far-away lands.

"GeneTree provides a fun and compelling way to interact with friends and extended family while leaving the priceless legacy of a richly documented family history," said GeneTree Chief Executive James Lee Sorenson.

GeneTree has roots in a collection of companies founded by Utah billionaire James LeVoy Sorenson -- who parlayed a gain from the sale of his company to Abbott Labs into a massive fortune -- and his son James Lee Sorenson.

It taps the assets of those other family holdings in its bid to take ancestor-tracking beyond the limits of established genealogical records sites.

GeneTree has exclusive rights to a database owned by the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, which by year-end should represent about 100,000 people and about 6 million ancestral links from around the world, according to the company.

It also incorporates digital video compression and encoding software from Sorenson Media.

Users who choose to have genetic analysis done may choose from several types of mitochondrial DNA tests that range in price from $99 to $149. Sorenson Genomics will perform the DNA analysis.

Scott Woodward, director of the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, said mitochondrial DNA offers a deep look into our ancestry.

"We can trace mitochondrial DNA to a single woman," said Woodward, referring to a woman called Mitochondrial Eve, who lived in Africa between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago.

The DNA used to reconstruct genealogy is not very useful for tracking diseases, but it is extremely helpful for making ancestral connections, he said.

All the same, GeneTree's operators say they protect privacy by giving users the option to share such things as names, family photos and audio and video clips with new-found "relatives."

While GeneTree is not alone in adding DNA services in a bid to fill in the blanks left by history, the company says its ultimate goal is different.

Ancestry.com recently started offering Sorenson DNA testing through its new DNA Ancestry service.

"GeneTree does not see DNA Ancestry as a direct competitor," said spokesman David Parkinson.

Parkinson said the business model for The Generations Network of sites, which includes Ancestry.com, MyFamily.com, Genealogy.com and others, is to provide subscribers with genealogical records.

"Our core business focus has always been in genetic genealogy," he said.

Friday, October 12, 2007

How to get new PAN card in case of loss of previous one?

All you need to do is to fill in the Changes / Corrections in PAN Card form, attach your photograph, fill in your new contact address and send it along with the necessary proof and if possible with a copy of your lost PAN Card and submit it to any NSDL TIN Facilitation centre and you would get the new PAN Card in about 15 days.

Lost your Pan Card ? PAN details recovery

1. If you have pan acknowledge number or pan number then u can see in the website call http://www.tin-nsdl.com/customerform.asp
2. if u have correct date of birth and correct. then u can seen the details in the site mentioned above.
3. Call your nearest numbers http://www.tin-nsdl.com/contact.asp

How to apply for Pan card Online : Step by Step instructions

Applying for a PAN Card Online

Steps involved in applying PAN Card online.

Login to http://tin-nsdl.com

Click on PAN.


Click on New PAN


Scroll Down and you will find a drop down at the end as ‘Apply for a new PAN Card


Select Individual (or any other category as applicable) and click on Submit

You will get the below attached Screen

Fill in all the Mandatory fields. (For Ward/Circle, Range code, AO Type click on the link which is on the right hand side – For Non-International Taxation AO details for finding out your ward detail.)

You will find the below attached screen


Scroll down and select the alphabet which starts your City Name – For Example if you are a Bangalore resident click on B

Then you will find the below mentioned screen


Click on your respective location– you will find the below attached screen

Just do control F and type the area where you are residing – Example Control F

Then it searches the same as attached in the below screen


Please look at the right hand side which provides your Area Code – KAR , AO Type – W, Range Code – 222 and AO Number – 3.

For Ward, Range & Commissioner details you can see the details on the left hand side which is ITO Ward 9 (3 ) – Ward is ITO , Range is Ward 9 and the Commissioner is (3).

For Payment details there are 3 options which you can opt that is Demand Draft / Cheque / Credit card.

After providing all the details click on Submit – If something is missing it prompts you to fill which will be highlighted in Red.

After completion please take the printout of the Ackowledgement Copy which contains the Acknowledgement Number in it. Please read the instruction sheet and dispatch the Hardcopy of the same along with your Recent Photograph, your signature in Black ink and copy of Proof of Identity to the below mentioned Address.

On top of the Envelope please mention as

APPLICATION FOR PAN – Acknowledgement Number followed.

To

Income Tax PAN Services Unit,

National Securities Depository Limited,

1st Floor, Times Tower,

Kamala Mills Compound,

Senapati Bapat Marg,

Lower Parel (W),

Mumbai – 400 013

Tel – 022-2499 4650

Fax – 022-2495 0664.


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Rules for Effective 'Net-working'

For busy workers, networking online is a great way to quickly meet dozens -- or even hundreds -- of like-minded professionals. It also can be an option for those less inclined to reach out and socialize with new business contacts in a traditional setting. Web sites like LinkedIn.com and MeetUp.com, as well as industry conference discussion forums and trade association chat rooms, are making it easier for people to expand their professional networks. But, if you do not use these portals wisely, you can make mistakes that will shrink rather than supersize your base of contacts.

While the Internet can seem like a casual environment, the rules of etiquette still apply. In fact, you should be particularly vigilant while conversing in cyberspace as it's easy to let down your guard and express opinions or use language you normally wouldn't because you're not face to face with your audience. Worse, when you make a faux pas online, it may be posted for everyone to see and "etched in stone" if your comments are archived on the site.

Following are six rules for ensuring your online networking efforts impress rather than offend:

1. Choose your venues wisely. The best forums for professional networking tend to be those well moderated and frequented by participants you can learn from; many industry associations host their own business forums that you can participate in even if you are not a paying member. Also, remember your networking activities do not have to be limited to business- or industry-specific sites. If you're a marketer, for example, someone you meet through a Web site dedicated to those with a passion for painting could become a valuable member of your network.

2. Learn the rules. Before participating in any online discussion group, be sure to read the guidelines. Also spend some time reviewing the archives or FAQs to get additional insight into the group. Some forums, for example, may not allow participants to promote their services, while others may have chat rooms designated just for doing business.

3. Come up with a sig line. A signature file or "sig line" is a short block of text that can be automatically attached to the end of electronic messages. It helps identify you and provides some insight into who you are. A sig line can contain your name, company or professional affiliation and contact information.

4. Proofread your posts. You should avoid discussing personal issues or outrageous weekend escapades online. Read your message several times to make sure you're not revealing confidential information -- about yourself or your company -- or coming across as rude or overbearing. Typos or other grammatical errors can also make you appear unprofessional, so be sure your posts are clean and well composed.

5. Play nice. Avoid sarcasm as much as possible. What you view as dry humor may come across as searing criticism in a posting. Also, always be respectful and tolerant of others' ideas and opinions. You may be offended by one member's comments or get discouraged when someone disagrees with you, but resist the temptation to write a harsh message in response. Negative or defensive remarks will only fuel the fire.

6. Don't steal the stage. Be selective in your commentary; there's no need to weigh in on every topic. You'll earn more credibility if you provide insight on the subjects you know best. Also, consider sending messages to participants directly, rather than copying the entire group, if the topic you want to discuss pertains to only a select few.

7. Be a resource. Don't consult your professional network only when you need something; regularly e-mail business contacts to offer your assistance, share a news article or update them on your career progress or a recent business win.

When networking online, it's crucial to demonstrate courtesy and tact in order to foster healthy professional relationships. By following the suggestions outlined in this article, you can develop a strong online presence that leads to new job leads, clients or potential mentors who can help you advance your career.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Tips for Safeguarding Your Money

Treat your credit and debit cards like your house keys: Don’t let them out of your sight.
Never write your PIN on your card.
Never dispose off card receipts in a public place.
Pick a PIN that isn’t obvious to others, and never write it on—or attach it to—your card.
Cancel any inactive credit accounts.
Never give out card numbers to unsolicited callers.
Check for security icons on a business's Web site before keying in your account number to ensure your transaction is secure.
Know that banks and other legitimate businesses never ask for passwords, account numbers or updated information via email. Never click on a link in a suspicious e-mail.
Keep information about all your cards—including account numbers, expiration dates, and card issuers’ telephone numbers—in a safe place at home so you can act quickly if a card is ever lost or stolen.
Destroy any documents that might have account numbers or other personal information.
Do's & Don'ts
Do’s...

pay your credit card bills regularly. Some people think carrying a balance month-to-month is fine. It’s not. Your monthly due date is a deadline. Pay your entire bill, or everything you can afford, each month just like you would your rent.
pay your bill near the end of your grace period. i.e. the time between your purchase date and the date that interest begins to build. This is the equivalent of a free short-term loan. Check the terms of your credit card, but as a rule of thumb, paying on or just before your due date will likely allow you to enjoy the free loan without incurring interest charges.
contact your card issuer if you have problems. For example, if your bill is delivered late or you know you will be unable to pay your bill on time, contact them to make payment arrangements. Look on your bill for details on how to contact your issuer for questions or problems.
consider a credit card with a low interest rate if you plan on carrying a balance each month. Learn how to select a card. And be sure to learn the impact of compounding interest — the amount you’re charged in interest on top of purchase and interest charges unpaid in previous months.

Don’t...

use your credit card like a second paycheque. And, do not purchase goods beyond your means.
put off paying your bill if you’re near or past your due date. Payments are processed for the day they are received, not the day they are mailed. If you pay by DD, mail your payment as many as five business days to arrive. And, never send cash.
be ashamed to make payment arrangements if you have financial difficulties. The longer you ignore your bills the worse they get.
underestimate the negative impact of late payments. Most issuers calculate interest daily, so the longer you wait the more you pay. Late payments can also lead to late fees, higher interest, and a black mark on your credit history.
Safe Shopping Online

Check the seller's reputation.
Learn as much as you can about companies or individuals before you do business with them.
Check with the Better Business Bureau and consumer agencies to find out about complaints.
See if the seller's Web site has a feedback forum where other people who have done business with the seller can put information about their experience with that seller.
Ask your friends about their favorite online merchants.
Stay vigilant. Just because a seller has no complaints or a good reputation doesn't guarantee that things will go smoothly for you.
Use a secure browser Your browser should be able to use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which scrambles or encrypts the purchase information you send over the Internet, helping to secure your transaction. Browsers which support SSL include Internet Explorer, Netscape, AOL, Opera and Mozilla.
How to use your card safely and securely.

To help prevent fraudulent use of your card, here are steps you should take.

Sign new cards as soon as you receive them.
Keep your card account numbers and personal identification number (PIN#) in a confidential place.
Check your cards periodically to make sure none are missing.
Destroy and dispose of copies of receipts, airline tickets, travel itineraries, anything that displays your card numbers.
Memorize your PIN.
Check out unfamiliar companies by calling your local consumer protection agency.
Don't provide information that you're uncomfortable giving.
NEVER give anyone the password that you use to log on to your online account or Internet Service Provider.
Don't provide financial account information unless you are paying for a purchase using that account.
Recognizing fraud

Fraud is any transaction that is not made by you. There are several forms of fraud.

Lost or stolen card.

Your card is lost or stolen and the card is subsequently used without your permission.
Non-receipt

You did not receive a new or replacement card that was sent to you by your Issuing bank. You may have no idea that the card was missing until you receive a statement listing transactions not made by you.
Fraudulent application

Your personal information is used to apply for a credit card. This type of fraud is often difficult to detect until the issuer receives a complaint from the consumer or the account goes into collections shortly after having been issued. If you're not a customer of the bank that issued the card, you may not know a card has been issued in your name until you apply for credit elsewhere and are denied because of a poor credit rating.
Counterfeit

Even though the card is issued to you by your bank, transactions appear on your account statement not made by you. This could be an indication that a counterfeit card bearing your account number is in circulation and being used at the same time you're making legitimate purchases.
Account takeover

While you're in possession of your card, somebody else posing as the cardholder "takes over" the account by requesting a replacement card on the same account, usually to be mailed to a different address. You would not know this has been done until you receive an account statement showing transactions not made by you or you fail to receive your monthly account statement.
No card present

While you're in possession of your card, somebody makes transactions using the card number only, as in the case of mail orders, phone orders, or Internet transactions. You may not know this has been done until you receive an account statement showing mail/phone order or online transactions not made by you.
Other scenarios

There are other scenarios that are classified as fraud, but don't fall into the described categories. An example would be the theft and subsequent use of balance transfer checks, which you may or may not have ordered from your bank.
What to do if you suspect a breach

Call the bank or financial institution that issued your card immediately. Your issuer may want to cancel your current card and issue you a new one. Check with your issuer to verify that your mailing address has not been changed.

If you still have your card but fraudulent purchases have been made, call your issuer to report the fraud and request a new card.

Also, contact the credit bureaus to let them know that fraud has occurred. A "Fraud Alert" message will be placed on your file. You should also request a copy of your credit report and review it carefully.