Log in

Before heading overseas, travelers plan what to see and do, but they often forget about the financial planning involved with a trip until it’s too late.

Besides basic preparations, like making copies of your bank account and credit card information, there are a number of financial measures that can potentially save you from myriad problems while abroad.

If you don’t want to pay for your mistakes financially, or with precious time when you’d rather be sightseeing, make sure to go through this financial travel checklist before boarding the plane.

1. Notify your financial institutions.

The money in your bank account has no significance if your account is frozen. Even the slightest deviation from your normal spending pattern can raise a red flag for a fraud department, which may result in your account becoming frozen or your credit card denied.

Prevent this from happening by informing your bank and credit card companies about the location of your travels and the duration of your stay in the foreign country.

2. Set up online accounts.

An online bank account will give you added convenience and security over your funds while traveling overseas. With an online account, you can easily check your balances, transfer and deposit funds, and stay on top of recent transactions.

Setting up automatic payments can also help you pay bills on time and meet your financial duties while thousands of miles from home.

3. Have multiple forms of payment.

Although the ideal form of payment depends on your travel destination and spending habits, it’s a good idea to carry a variety of payment methods such as cash, debit cards and credit cards.

It’s also wise to have multiple bank accounts and credit cards – especially ones that are accepted internationally, such as Visa and MasterCard for credit cards, and Chase and HSBC for banks.

Even if you’re set on using one spending method for the majority of the trip, you should still carry the extra card with you. Also, it is crucial that you have the card you used to book the trip with you at all times, even if you don’t intend on using it for foreign transactions.

4. Check the exchange rates.

When traveling abroad, you should familiarize yourself with foreign currency and exchange rates to understand the value of a dollar. You can use an app, like Currency, to find out the latest exchange rates. Note that in addition to exchange rate conversion fees, you may encounter foreign exchange fees when converting money abroad.

5. Sign up for a travel rewards credit card with no foreign transaction fees.

To find the right travel rewards card for you, first analyze your spending habits and travel pattern. Signing up for the right travel rewards credit card will get you a wide range of benefits and perks while traveling – including no foreign transaction fees, which can be beneficial for travelers who use credit cards as their main form of payment overseas. You can also rack up rewards points and miles for travel rewards or cash back.

6. Get an ATM card from an online bank.

Signing up for a no-fee ATM card will give you the freedom to withdraw money without having to worry about racking up fees. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to change banks to avoid ATM fees overseas, as many banks will waive them for certain checking account holders.

7. Cash is king.

For Americans, U.S. dollars can be the most cost-effective form of payment, as you automatically save on any fees you would have to pay at a financial institution. Most vendors will also give you a fair exchange rate on the conversion from dollars to their local currency.

Exchanging money at the airport may be convenient, but you’ll pay for it with fees and expensive exchange rates. A better idea would be to withdraw the foreign currency through your bank or at an ATM machine upon arrival.

And remember: No one turns down cash. Traveling with a couple hundred dollars worth of emergency cash is a smart decision in the event you can't access money. Just make sure to carry cash in small denominations, as it can be dangerous to flash large amounts of money in public.
Before I left for New Orleans I was telling friends and neighbors of my plans.

"Are you going to Eat at Mother's?"

"I bet you can't wait to taste some Jambalaya."

"There's a place on Bourbon where you can get a Hurricane and next door some Sweet Potato Fries just covered in powdered sugar, please have it for me."

No, No, a thousand times no.

New Orleans is guilty of feeding some garbage food to tourists and the tourists are guilty of loving it and going all over the internet screaming the authenticity of the overpriced Jambalaya they had on Bourbon Street. I once wrote about the bad food done in New Orleans name outside of New Orleans. The bad food has also infiltrated the Quarter.

Here are a few common sense tips to eating in New Orleans.

If the sign says 'voted the best" or "authentic" run away.

Most of the places guilty of food fraud are in the quarter, there is even a place in the French Market offering 'authentic Cajun Tacos.'

There are exceptions like Galatoires, Johnny's and Central Grocery however you should do most of your dining outside of the quarter.

My first night I was out on Loyola and decided to walk towards the quarter. I had no destination in mind. I stopped into the Old Roosevelt and got a glass of wine and a plate of broiled yosters with tarragon and garlic butter. It was served with the soft French Bread New Orleans is Famous for.

This hotel has several dining options, not all recommended, but the Fountain Lounge has wonderful food.

The next morning I had a light breakfast at 8 Block in the Hyatt on Loyala. The light fare has more than enough food and excellent smoked fish and fruit along with strong coffee gave me a great start.

I did not want to eat too much, as a friend was picking me up in a few hours to go to Elizabeth's out on Gallier. Chef Byron Peck presides now that Heidi Trull has moved on to Grits and Groceries in South Carolina. I am happy to say the food is still great.

I had Shrimp and Grits with a Tasso and Leek Gravy and my friend had Grillades and Grits, of course we traded tastes and both were excellent. I regret to say this place is now on the tourist map and there is always a wait. I am pleased to say the wait is worth it.

I do not recall what I ate later that day so I've no place to recommend nor to warn you against. The truly bad is always memorable. I suspect I had oysters as I had them each day of my trip. Oysters are always good, but the preparation is not always memorable.

Sunday morning I was up VERY early and took a walk through the quarter while they cleaned up. All of the streets are swept and washed daily, despite the plentiful garbage cans people can be pigs, and often are.

Nothing was open save the Clover Grill, despite the claims of 'best' I went in. How bad could breakfast be?

The waitress cheery, the coffee good and I sat waiting for my biscuits and gravy. What arrived was a sad, hard biscuit topped with a gravy flavored less with sausage, as is custom and tasting mostly of salt. I ate a bit of it, and it was memorable. Memorably bad. I suspect they rely on the customers being drunk at their location and 24 hour status attest to that. Do not eat at Clover when sober.

When we travel, we are creating precious memories. And what better way to hold on to these memories than with pictures?

But taking pictures of yourself isn't always the easiest thing to do. Have you ever been on the road and asked somebody to take a picture of you? But then... where are you?

Why aren't you in focus?

Why is your head cut off?!

This needs to end! And this is why the selfie exists. Take matters into your own hands with my tips on how to ensure that your selfies are always picture perfect.

Masione Smartphone Extendable Rod

This puppy:

... is your solution to all smartphone selfies. It is made to fit all smartphone sizes, from the iPhone to something smaller or larger. The key is that in order for the rod to work, the device needs to have a super flat surface.

Do you need more distance? Simply extend the rod.

Do you need more of an angle? Just rotate it however you like.


Pro Tip: Download a self-timer camera app so you can take the pictures without having to click the screen. Just type in "self-timer camera" and you will get a bunch of free or paid options.

XShot Pocket Camera Extender

This camera extender:

... is designed especially for digital cameras. All you have to do is screw the camera onto the rod:

...and you're all set. It works exactly the same way as the smartphone camera extender, except this rod has a lot more length and it already comes with a self timer function!

1. “A lot of people making fraudulent claims on their travel insurance are first time fraudsters, and don’t realise how serious it is to make a false claim,” says Simon Cook, Head of Special Investigations at claims management and assistance company, CEGA.

2. “Making a false travel insurance claim can result in a criminal record, which would make it very difficult, for instance, to take out any sort of insurance policy in the future - and that includes car and household insurance,” says Simon Cook. “In a worst case scenario, it could lead to a prison sentence.”

3. Top of the list of fraudulent travel insurance claims? “It’s common for someone who has suffered a genuine loss to add a few noughts to the value of that loss - a Sekonda watch might become a Rolex for instance,” says Malcolm Tarling of the Association of British Insurers. “Exaggerated losses, false claims for lost baggage and fictitious medical treatment are among the most common fraudulent claims,” adds Simon Cook.

4. “If a false travel insurance claim is submitted but withdrawn after having second thoughts, it can still lead to a prosecution for fraud,” says Simon Cook.

5. “Insurers will check every detail of a dubious claim; from the authenticity of a doctor’s bill handed out on the other side of the world, to the validity of a witness statement in a foreign language,” says Simon Cook. “Cognitive interviewing techniques, investigation by overseas agents and medical assessments may all be used to assess the honesty of a suspicious claim.”

6. “Fraudulent travel insurance claims put up the cost of everyone’s insurance premiums,” says Simon Cook. “In other words, innocent travellers foot the bill for fraudulent claims.”

7. “An item lost on holiday may be covered by both a household and travel insurance policy - but the full value of the loss cannot be claimed for twice, otherwise it is considered to be committing fraud,” says Simon Cook. “However, it is possible to claim some of the cost of the loss from one policy and some from the other, if full cover is not given by one policy. It is always best for individuals to be honest with their insurers about other relevant policies and to ask for advice if it is needed.”

8. “Some people may be tempted to make a false claim for a laptop or priceless family heirloom “lost” in luggage that has been checked in at the airport, but they shouldn’t bother,” says Simon Cook. “Valuables on planes are not covered by travel insurance unless they are carried as hand luggage.”

9. "The vast majority of customers are honest,” says Aidan Kerr, the Association of British Insurers’ Assistant Director, Head of Fraud. “The more that is done to crackdown on the dishonest, the quicker and more effectively insurers can deal with the claims from the honest majority.”

10. “To help a genuine claim go smoothly, it is vital to tell the insurance company about an emergency situation as soon as it happens and follow their advice on what to do next,” concludes Simon Cook.

With over 40 years’ experience, Sussex-based CEGA Group is one of the leading independent claims and global assistance providers for the insurance market. Travel risk management, claims handling, medical assistance, special investigations, cost containment and air ambulance services are all managed from one location, which means that CEGA is able to provide a fully integrated, cost effective, end-to-end service. The group is the UK’s only travel assistance provider to operate its own air ambulance fleet.
When a former client’s secretary was arrested for embezzlement years before his own crimes were uncovered, Bernie Madoff commented to his own secretary, “Well, you know what happens is, it starts out with you taking a little bit, maybe a few hundred, a few thousand. You get comfortable with that, and before you know it, it snowballs into something big.”

We now know that Madoff’s Ponzi scheme started when he engaged in misreporting to cover relatively small financial losses. Over a 15-year period, the scam grew steadily, eventually ballooning to $65 billion, even as regulators and investors failed to notice the warning signs.

Many of the biggest business scandals of recent years — including the News of the World phone hacking scandal, billions in rogue trading losses at UBS, and the collapse of Enron — have followed a similar pattern: The ethical behavior of those involved eroded over time.

Few of us will ever descend as deeply into crime as Bernard Madoff, yet we all are vulnerable to the same slippery slope. We are likely to begin with small indiscretions such as taking home office supplies, exaggerating mileage statements, or miscategorizing a personal meal in a restaurant as business-related. Nearly three-quarter of the employees who responded to one survey reported that they had observed unethical or illegal behavior by coworkers in the past year.

“The safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,” wrote C. S. Lewis. Our research backs up both Lewis’s intuition and the anecdotal evidence: People often start their misconduct with small transgressions and then slide down a slippery slope.

Two of us (Dave, Lisa, and our team) found that people who are faced with growing opportunities to behave unethically are much more likely to rationalize this conduct than those who are presented with an abrupt change. We predicted that if we could get people to cheat a little in one round, they might be willing to cheat a bit more in another round, and finally cheat “big” in a third round.

This is precisely what we found: When given a series of problem-solving tasks, 50% of our subjects cheated to earn $.25 per problem in the first round, and 60% cheated to earn $2.50 per problem in the final round. However, the people in the abrupt change group who could not cheat during the first two rounds were much less willing to cheat big for $2.50 per problem during the final round (only about 30% did).

This suggests that employees might look at their slightly exaggerated mileage statements as “rounding up.” But rationalizing minor indiscretions inevitably influences how they view progressively worse behaviors and may lead them to commit bigger offenses (e.g., billing their employers for personal travel expenses) that they initially would not have considered.

To make matters worse, people are more likely to overlook the unethical behavior of others when it deteriorates gradually over time. For example, one of us (Francesca) found, with colleague Max Bazerman, that people who played the role of auditors in a simulated auditing task were much less likely to report those who gradually inflated their numbers over time than those who made more abrupt changes all at once, even though the level of inflation was eventually the same.

Unfortunately, the assumption that unethical workplace behavior is the product of a few bad apples has blinded many organizations to the fact that we all can be negatively influenced by situational forces, even when we care a great deal about honesty. Yet approaches to warding off the slippery-slope problem need not to be drastic. In their book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein illustrate how a small and unobtrusive nudge in the right direction can lead people to eat better, save more for retirement, and conserve energy.

Our research similarly indicates that ethical nudges can help people avoid the types of indiscretions that might start them down the slippery slope. For example, in a study conducted with a major U.S. insurance company, Francesca and colleagues found that customers who signed the statement “I promise that the information I am providing is true” prior to reporting their annual mileage — that is, at the top of the page — were significantly more honest in their reporting compared to those who reported first and signed at the bottom of the page.

Traveling abroad with credit card? You better bring cash

American travelers prepping for their late summer (or increasingly common September) trip to Europe might consider the above items as standard for their pre-departure list. But there's something that they may not have packed, and that item has become quickly the norm as the worldwide trend towards cashless consumer purchases continues to rise.

When it comes to the debatable necessity of smart cards, some travelers heading overseas are receiving mixed messages from their banks. To ensure that his magnetic swipe credit card would work abroad, Daniel Hayes, an English teacher from Fort Myers, Florida, called Chase Bank before his summer trip to Europe.

"They said I could use the credit card anywhere, or at least in 99 percent of places—there was no mention of chip and PIN," Hayes said as he strolled along a shaded canal in Amsterdam's tourist-packed Red Light District. Yet Hayes and his friend, David Thorpe of Cape Canaveral, reported that their ability to use their credit cards while traveling cross the European continent had been inconsistent at best.

Anyone heading abroad will likely notice that smart chip cards are quickly becoming the worldwide standard. According to the Smart Card Alliance, 99.9 percent of European terminals are chip-enabled. The United States significantly lags behind other continents on EMV technology, too: more than 86 percent of terminals in Africa and the Middle East are chip-enabled. In Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, that number is nearly 85 percent.

The phrase "chip and PIN" may draw a blank for American consumers long accustomed to the traditional "swipe and sign" credit cards, in which account information is contained on a magnetic strip on the back of the card. Chip and PIN cards take advantage of EMV "smart chip" technology: data is embedded within a chip, and transactions are verified through a PIN, or Personal Identification Number. Because encrypted chips are hard to counterfeit, smart cards enabled with chip and PIN offer superior security to magnetic strip cards.

Contrary to appearances, American financial institutions have long been aware of the merits of EMV technology. After all, JPMorgan Chase originally developed it. One reason U.S. banks have been slow to launch smart chip cards is their expense: EMV technology remains a pricier option than the status quo of magnetic strip cards.

That's despite an upswing in well-publicized credit card fraud crises that have recently swept the news, including Target's notorious December 2013 security breach. In Target's case, the payment information of more than 40,000 cardholders was compromised when it was "skimmed" from the magnetic stripes on the back of the cards, leaving some experts to question whether EMV technology might have prevented such a debilitating assault on a secure customer data.

No chip? No burger and chips

One country that has fully embraced the Chip and PIN system is the Netherlands. While local businesses tend to take cash, they are less likely to welcome traditional magnetic stripe credit cards. For the Dutch, PIN-enabled cards are such a part of life that a relatively new verb has firmly entered the lexicon: "pinnen" means to pay by PIN-enabled card.

On a Thursday evening in Amsterdam this summer, customers ordered exotic-sounding pumpkin and beef burgers at the Jordaan neighborhood's popular burger joint De Burgermeester. Most paid with chip and PIN cards; a few paid with cash. Sorry, the cashier apologized in perfect English, no "American cards" taken. In the same neighborhood, De Pizzabakkers, a popular local pizza chain, declined to take cash at all: waiters circulated with hand-held portable electronic card readers. At the end of their meals, diners paid table-side by inserting—not swiping—their cards and entering a PIN. Tourists desiring to leave a tip at either Amsterdam establishment must still bring cash—the card readers aren't set up to add tips.

Where should travelers headed across the Atlantic expect to find chip-and-PIN cards required, yet without an alternative to pay with cash?

Automated points of sale remain the most likely culprits: think ticket machines at parking lots, rental kiosks, and public transportation hubs such as subway, train and bus stations. In Amsterdam's bustling Centraal Station, for example, this forlorn sight is familiar: the tourist struggling to buy train tickets from an automated ticket machine. While fluent English-speaking agents offer assistance at the ticket counter, many frustrated travelers end up heading to the ATM to withdraw cash before returning to wait in line: the ticket counters accept cash, but not magnetic stripe cards. Continue reading...

You choose a hotel because it advertises free Wi-Fi. But when you log on, you find the connection is agonizingly slow.

"Aha," says the hotel. "You want high-speed, we'll give you high-speed—for just $15 a day more."

That's the newest hotel-fee scam. I've heard more and more reports of hotels offering free, yet painfully slow Wi-Fi, then charging guests to upgrade to a more practical Wi-Fi speed. So far, I haven't seen any published statistics on the number of hotels that are doing it, which hotels do it, and how much they charge.

For now, all we can recommend is that you ask a hotel, in advance, if the "free" Wi-Fi is high-speed or if you have to pay a premium for a high-bandwidth connection. Slow, complimentary Wi-Fi may be fast enough for email and other low-bandwidth applications, but it's likely to be a total bust for video streaming and gaming. When you encounter two-tier Wi-Fi, be sure you note that fact when you submit a review to TripAdvisor (our parent company) or your booking engine.

Here's another approach that might help: Check out Hotel WiFi Test. The site analyzes and displays Wi-Fi speeds at hotels in destinations around the world. This week, Hotel WiFi Test announced that its speed-test results for individual hotels will be displayed directly on major booking sites; this sounds like a good idea, but, as of today, I couldn't find those speed scores on any booking sites. Either I'm losing my online touch or the postings haven't started yet.
When you're a tourist, unfamiliar with your surroundings and vulnerable to needing help or information, you tend to be more trusting of locals and less likely to question what you're being told.

When you cannot speak the language you're even more at risk.

Most scammers are smart and can spot a tourist a mile away - knowing you are more than likely carrying large amounts of cash and credit on you.

This list of common tourist scams put together by justtheflight.co.uk will help you avoid common scam situations, and help you become more alert and aware before you fall victim.

You'll notice some scams are more obvious and you'll instinctively know you have been targeted. But other are a little more devious, leaving you to believe you're at fault for either losing or miscalculating.

Continue Reading…

Headed overseas this season? It’s easy to get hit with extra fees and expensive exchange rates when switching currencies when you travel.

Some currency exchange tables in airports and tourist areas offer bad rates, taking more of your money. And some credit cards and banks can add fees when you buy something with your card.

Your best bet is to bring a credit card that doesn’t charge currency exchange fees and some cash for backup. Most purchases should be done on the credit card, said James Gambaccini, a certified financial planner at Acorn Financial Services. That’s because credit cards offer fraud protection. If you lose cash, or it gets stolen, you won’t get it back. Lost credit cards, or fraudulent charges, are easily replaced or fixed, said Gambaccini.

“Walking around with a money belt and a large amount of cash is not relevant anymore,” he said.

Here are five tips to maximize your dollars:

1. Get an App — Before boarding the plane, download a currency-converting app on a smartphone you plan to use on vacation. You can open up the app to see if you’re getting a good deal when exchanging money. With the app, you type in the amount you want to exchange and it will calculate a figure in the new currency. There are several free ones to choose from, including XE Currency and GlobeConvert.

2. Ask before you exchange — Be wary of currency exchange places that say they don’t charge fees or advertise really good exchange rates. “Don’t trust it,” said Stan McGahey, an international tourism professor at Saint Leo University in Florida. Often, they will offer you a worse exchange rate to make up for the low fees or have caveats that they don’t advertise. Instead of just handing them your money, ask how much you would get for the amount you want to exchange first, McGahey said. That way you will know exactly what you’re getting.

And always do currency exchanges in the country you’re visiting. You’re likely to get a better rate than if you do the exchange at home, McGahey said.

3. Find the right card — Get a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign exchange fee. Some will charge a 2 percent to 3 percent fee for every purchase made with a foreign currency, said Matt Schulz, a senior analyst at credit card comparison site CreditCards.com. There are many that don’t. You can find a list of them on websites such as CreditCardInsider.com, CreditCards.com or Bankrate.com.

Not sure if your card charges a fee? Call and ask.

If you don’t have a fee-free card, it may be worth applying for one, said John Ganotis, founder of credit card comparison site CreditCardInsider.com. As long as you’re not charging more than you can afford to pay, it could be a better deal than exchanging cash. Most credit cards designed for travelers let you earn benefits, such as miles or points to use for a future trip, Ganotis said.

Another benefit: credit cards often will offer exchange rates that are an average over the past month. That could be helpful if you are traveling to place where the currency is volatile, including some South American countries, Gambaccini said.

(Incidentally, you should call your credit card company before traveling to let it know where you are going. If the credit card company doesn’t know you’re traveling, it could think it is being used fraudulently and temporarily block your card from making charges.)

4. Say no to hotel exchanges — If a hotel or another business asks if you want them to convert the bill into American dollars for you, decline. The exchange rate can be bad, Gambaccini said. Instead, let the hotel bill you in the country’s currency and let your credit card do the exchange.

5. Check out checking accounts — As with credit cards, make sure your bank doesn’t charge foreign exchange fees if you plan to use a debit card. Some may charge a flat fee for using a foreign ATM on top of a percentage for currency exchanges. Checking accounts at online banks, such as Capital One 360 and Charles Schwab Bank, don’t charge foreign transaction fees. Call your bank and ask if you’re not sure if they charge fees. Personal finance website NerdWallet.com publishes a list of banks that don’t charge fees. — AP
You arrive at that dream villa to find the owner's never heard of you - and you sent your cash to a chillingly plausible conman

For Chris and Annia Pegg, a two-week break in the South of France every summer is the perfect way to unwind. The couple and their two little girls take a scenic drive down through the French countryside before arriving at their rented gite.

‘We choose locations with their own pool where the children can play and we can just get away from it all,’ says Chris, 42, an IT manager from Tamworth, Staffs.

This January, the couple and their daughters, Jessica, nine, and Emily, seven, were more in need of a quiet break than ever.

‘My father-in-law had been diagnosed with cancer, so it had been a rather stressful few months,’ Chris explains.

Just after Christmas, Annia, 39, a teaching assistant, went onto the Owners Direct website to search for a property.

The family — like more than 500,000 Britons who booked their holiday through it last year — love the site for the sheer variety that it offers.

Owners Direct, which was launched in 1997, works like an online travel brochure. Thousands of properties are advertised on the site, from cheap, cheerful apartments to luxury houses costing several thousands a week.

Owners pay the site £219 a year to advertise their properties — and reach a much larger audience than if they had advertised privately in magazines and on the internet.

Holidaymakers browse through the properties to find one they like, then contact the owners ‘direct’ by clicking the ‘Enquire Now’ button.

During this process, the renters fill out an online form that asks for their email address. The villa owner then receives an email from Owners Direct to say someone wants to rent his property. He can access their details by clicking on the link and logging in to his Owners Direct account.

From then on, owner and renter deal directly to arrange contracts and payments.

Of course, there is always an element of caveat emptor — buyer beware — when buying anything online and this is no different. And now the website is at the centre of a scandal that’s affected at least 12,000 property renters worldwide.

It is thought hackers may have stolen more than £25 million from holidaymakers — hundreds or even thousands believed to be British — in the past five years. And victims believe the police are doing little about it.

‘We’ve used Owners Direct for years with no problem, so when Annia spotted a place in a pretty little town called Fiac, she emailed the property owner via the website,’ says Chris.

‘A man called Hamish responded and, after we’d corresponded over email, we agreed to rent out the property in the first week of August.

Hamish, emailing from a Hotmail account, asked if we could send the money to his online Barclays bank account.

‘I thought it a little odd to ask for all the money at once but because we didn’t want to lose it, we paid £1,650 into Hamish’s bank account and that was that.’

But the Peggs’ money had not been deposited into the property owner’s account at all. Yes, the property owner was called Hamish. But retired solicitor Hamish Porter had no idea the family were keen to rent his holiday home, let alone that he had allegedly been ‘paid’ for the privilege.

Hackers had intercepted the Peggs’ messages. It is believed they do this by sending owners like Hamish a fake enquiry from a potential renter — which looks just like a genuine Owners Direct enquiry.

When the owner clicks on the link, it takes him not to the genuine Owners Direct page, but to a fraudulent duplicate webpage created by the hacker.


The Avanti Group Inc

Latest Month

September 2014


RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow