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Phuket Live Wire: Protect yourself from ATM skimming

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Live Wire: Protect yourself from ATM skimming | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Recently the Gazette ran a story about ATM skimming, describing how two long-term Phuket residents lost hundreds of thousands of baht at the hands of clever thieves. The banks involved came up with good advice: use ATMs either inside or at the front of bank branches; use ATMs from major banks as they have better anti-tamper systems and beware of people milling about or offering to help with your transactions. But there is much more than you can do, and it isn’t all that difficult.

Phuket’s a magnet for ATM scammers because the island draws lots of well-heeled tourists. People on vacation are less likely to keep close tabs on their bank accounts and if they get ripped off they aren’t likely to stick around to see the judicial process through. The bad guys know it. That means we who live here have to work all that much harder to protect ourselves.

ATM skimming is a world-wide phenomenon, and recently it’s gone very high tech. There’s a series of articles on the advanced toys now in use by computer security guru Brian Krebs at krebsonsecurity.com/tag/atm-skimmer. While most ATM cons rely on the old-fashioned guy looking over your shoulder routine, some are straight out of Buck Rogers.

There’s a card insert in one of Brian’s articles that fits inside a regular ATM card scanning slot: put your card in the bogus slot and as a magnetic stripe reader looks at your card number, a pin-size camera watches as you punch in your Personal Identification Number or PIN, and a Bluetooth connection transmits all of your card information to anyone nearby with the proper mods to a mobile phone. Unless you knew to look for it, you’d never see it. That’s how sophisticated the technology is getting.

Bottom line: No matter how careful you are, there are ways to get your account number and PIN. Of course, you shouldn’t tell anybody your PIN, you should make sure nobody’s watching as you punch in your PIN, you should use ATMs in high profile locations… and so on. You should certainly choose a bank that notifies you by SMS every time your account has a transaction. But in the end, you have to accept the fact that no ATM technology is perfect.

So what can you do? Aside from getting rid of ATM cards entirely (which may be a good option for some people), is there a better way?

A friend of mine has a simple technique that he’s used for years. Here’s how it works.

He keeps two bank accounts, both at the same bank. Both accounts have online access, so he can log on and transfer money between the accounts any time. Both have SMS notification, so he gets an SMS every time more than 5,000 baht moves in or out of the accounts. But only one of the accounts has ATM capabilities.

He keeps a small amount of money – maybe 10,000 or 20,000 baht – in the ATM account. If he needs more cash, he logs on to the non-ATM account and transfers enough to the smaller ATM account, to cover whatever he’ll need.

He keeps most of his money in the account that doesn’t have ATM access. It’s his main account. When people are going to transfer money to him, he has them transfer the money into the non-ATM account. When he sets up automatic payment for credit cards or electricity or telephone, those all go into his main account. The ATM account is just for cash, and it’s only as full as it needs to be.

He’s also very careful about logging on. He uses AI Roboform (roboform.com) or LastPass (lastpass.com) to manage his passwords, and changes his banking passwords frequently. He never logs on from public computers. And he logs on several times a week to both accounts, just to make sure nothing funny is happening with either of the accounts.

Paranoid? I don’t think so. If you have an ATM card issued in a country that has strict banking laws that cover fraudulent use of the card, you’re in luck. But if you need to work with the Thai banking system – where no such laws exist – taking precautions like that are not only reasonable, they’re necessary.

Fortunately, the two people mentioned in the Gazette column last week managed to convince their banks to refund the stolen money. In one case, it took almost a year of complaints and threats of lawsuits by a very tenacious friend to get the money back. The banks involved deserve credit for making things right. But with no specific laws on the books in Thailand, there’s no guarantee that the same thing will happen, should you end up tumbling down this particular rabbit hole.

How does your school use technology?

There’s been a flurry of education-related computer announcements in the past few weeks.

Apple announced “the reinvention of the textbook”: iBooks 2, a plan for getting electronic books into middle and high schools throughout the US and Europe; iBooks Author, a free program for writing and assembling books; and iTunes U App for distribution. The intent, ultimately, is to make textbooks electronic, with an enormous amount of potential upside for everyone except the entrenched textbook publishers.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas two weeks ago, the OLPC project finally revealed the $100 One Laptop Per Child device.In separate news, an Indian firm claims to have a similar device.

Wealthy school districts all over the world are rolling out tablets (primarily iPads but also Androids) in the classroom. Many of them are working on a bring-your-own model. This kind of grass-roots approach is a big challenge to teachers who aren’t comfortable with the technology. It’s also a direct assault on long-established educational programs which rely on proprietary software for classroom activities – electronic whiteboards, interactive curricula.

In 2010, though, the University of Bristol published a report stating that 10- to 11-year olds with more than two hours of screen time a day show “higher psychological difficulty scores.”So the adoption of tablets – technology in general – in the classroom isn’t universally recognized as a good thing.

I’m curious. How is your school using computers? Is it working now, or in the planning stage? Write to me. I’ll devote a Live Wire column to the topic in the near future.

With Woody hunkered down writing a book, the weekly Computer Clinics are taking a new turn. Until Woody emerges with an 860-page copy of “Windows 8 All-In-One For Dummies” under his arm, around May or June, Seth Bareiss will hold computer sessions every-other Wednesday afternoon, from 1 to 3pm. If you have a Windows problem that needs to be solved, drop by one of Seth’s free afternoon sessions at the Sandwich Shoppes. Details in the Phuket Gazette Events Calendar.

Sponsored by the Phuket Gazette and Khun Woody’s Sandwich Shoppes.

Live Wire is Gazette columnist Woody Leonhard’s weekly snapshot of all things internet in Phuket.

Follow him on Twitter: @PhuketLiveWire; “like” pages at facebook.com/SandwichShoppe; and facebook.com/phuketgazette.net.

— Woody Leonhard

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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Events

The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners

The Thaiger

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The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners | The Thaiger

4,000 runners from Thailand and overseas took part in the 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle Fun Run and Half Marathon 2019 yesterday, starting from the Phuket Gateway.

The event is expected to raise 700,000 baht for the charity, now in its 15th year. The money raised goes towards to The Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, which is committed to protecting the marine and coastal environment, and ecosystems, for the wellbeing of sea turtles that nest in the Mai Khao beach and the surrounding areas.

The annual race also provides funds for thePhuket Marine Biological Centre’s Injured Turtle Rehabilitation Program and The Third NavalArea Command’s Turtle Hatchery Program.

The race was in its 15th year and runners of all ages and abilities took part in the race. The morning’s racing was divided into five categories – the 21.1km half marathon, 10.5km mini- marathon, 5km fun run and 3k family run and VIP participants for all the races. The route of 21.1 kilometre race took runners northwest along the Haad Sai Kaew beach towards Thao Thepkasattri bridge, past the rural road No. 3006, run along the road – Pi Lai viewpoint area returned back along the T. Baan Tha Nun to the iconic Sarasin bridge before finished the half marathon in the Phuket Gateway.

For Mini Marathon 10.5 km – Over all category, Mr. Chinnawat Changlek clocked 39 minutes and 40 seconds to clinch victory in the male half marathon, winning prize money and a trophy with the signature of Phuket’s Governor. The winner in the female mini marathon was Surakarn Wanna with a time of 47 minutes and 47 seconds.

Winners also received a prize gift voucher as well as a medal. Congratulations to all participants.

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