Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tis the Season to Get Scammed Online! 10 Ways to Protect Yourself

Tis the Season to Get Scammed Online! 10 Ways to Protect Yourself

The holiday season brings moments of joy, happiness, and scams! During the holiday, the scam artists are on the prowl considering the high number of online consumers.
It is critical to take the necessary steps in order to protect your identity and your credit.

Here are some tips for beating the online scammers:

1. Do not use debit, just credit! Use credit cards (not debit) for online purchases. It is much easier to remove unauthorized charges on credit cards as opposed to debit cards.

2. Do not save your credit card information to an online account. Hackers can find ways of breaking into a reputable site in which they can access credit card information. If you have the option, choose not to save the information or delete it soon after the transaction is complete.

3. Sign up for an online credit report account. Make sure it is a reputable one such as Equifax or Experian. This way, any changes to your credit reports will be sent to you immediately or on a monthly basis.

4. Have alerts set up on your credit cards. Some credit cards have features where if your balance exceeds a certain amount, an email or text will be sent to you immediately. Also, credit card companies will try to convince you into signing up for their credit protection plan for a monthly fee. Do not sign up for it. The credit card company already has to remove an unauthorized charge. Their service is a waste of money.

5. There is no such thing as a free ride! Some scamming email promotions include asking individuals to forward this email to 10 people and you will receive a free laptop. If it sounds too good to be true, it is!

6. Beware of embedded links within emails! If you receive an e-newsletter with a link to a website, beware before you click. Make sure the link is to a reputable site. For example, although the email may say “Specials at”, the embedded links may take you to another site. It may be safe to type in the website address as opposed to clinking on the links.

7. Do not open any attachments within emails that you do not recognize. It does not matter who the sender is! Some of these "scam" emails have attachments with extensions such as testrun.exe. Anything with an exe extension is an executable which means it can run on your computer. A hacker can easily create those files to destroy important information on your computer.

8. Beware of the TINY URLs! Tiny URLs are shortened website addresses. The tiny url cannot be identified until you click on it. On twitter, for example, some people may have tiny urls which will take you to a site which is a scam.

9. Change your password frequently! The more shopping you do online, the more often you should change your passwords. The recommended number of times to change the password is every 2-3 months. During the holidays, change it every month.

10. Do not give out critical, personal information to websites. If they ask for a maiden name, social security number, or passwords to other accounts – then you may become a potential victim of identity theft.

Wishing you a safe and scam-free holiday.

Jeanine Swatton

Monday, November 16, 2009

To Tweet or Not to Tweet. Don't be a Twit. Just Tweet!

Many people have asked me what is so important about “tweeting” and would it be helpful for their business. I will provide you with some examples in terms of when it would be helpful.

Here are some benefits of using twitter to generate business:

1. Bring traffic to your site. If you follow someone and they follow you back, they will most likely check out the link to your website which you have set on your profile.
2. Offer a special promotion. Commerce Casino occasionally sends out a tweet where if you respond within a certain period of time, you will be eligible for a discount on massages.
3. Free publicity. Whether you are looking to find listeners to tune into your radio show or you are looking to promote a book, tweet away!
4. Special cause. If you are involved in nonprofits or promoting a special cause, tweet about it!

With the use of a Twitter tool, Tweet Adder, this gives you the opportunity to add 1000 followers per day. Once you reach 2000 followers, you are not allowed to add 1000 followers per day. A little strategy is involved in order to build your Twitter Presence.

The Tweet Adder tool will provide you with the capability of scheduling tweets. Spend some time generating approximately 25-30 tweets in a text file then upload them to the tool. At that point, you can schedule them to tweet. You can “set it and forget it”!

Everything on Tweet Adder is automated. You can automate it to add certain people as well as unfollow them after 72 hours. Seriously, if they do not want to follow you after 3 days, you need to remove them and move on. Trust me. They will recover from this form of rejection.

Also, you are able to search for Twitter users based on keyword interests and location. However, the goal is to get these people to follow you in order to develop a Twitter presence. In order to do this, I recommend the following:

1. Provide useful tips to users which will help them in the area of interest. For example, if you specialize in developing websites, provide your followers with helpful hints. Do not start promoting your product right away. In order to get a following you need to offer them something at no charge.
2. Establish trust on Twitter. Provide inspiring and useful tips to help your followers. Remember, if you pay it forward and offer them free information, you develop trust amongst your followers.
3. Tweet at least 3 times a day. The standard recommendation is to tweet 12-14 times a day. At least 3 minimum will keep your current followers and potential followers interested.
4. Follow the Twitter “trends”. Find out what keywords people are searching for under Twitter and include that in your tweet.
5. Make sure to use the “#” symbol otherwise known as the hashtag. You can use this to tag an event or keyword. People use or to search for posts.
6. Ask for testimonials. If your current customers have Twitter accounts and are happy with your service, ask them to write a testimonial and include your username. For example, “Thank you @jswatton for the outstanding service!”
7. Provide updates on current events. If you are attending a seminar, post updates frequently throughout the seminar with tips that will keep them interested.
8. Send out automated messages to your followers for special events or promotions.

Overall, Twitter is an amazing tool which has many wonderful capabilities. I, personally, do not have the time to read every tweet, however, there are quite a few people suffering from Technology Attention Deficit Disorder who have a Twitter addiction. Based on the number of hours they spend on the internet, they will read them! Therefore, don’t be a twit. Just tweet! Gotta go. Have to tweet about this article.

Jeanine Swatton

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Do you have a TADD bit of a problem? (Technology Attention Deficit Disorder)

The latest studies have shown that there are an increased number of individuals diagnosed with ADD. However, I believe there is a different form of ADD for Techie Addicts. Not all Techie Addicts suffer from this disorder.

I am an engineer, a “Techie Addict” since back in the days when Atari came out. I am on the computer approximately 16-18 hours a day. I live just a few minutes away from my office. At the end of the day, I go home and have 2 of my laptops on my bed. I basically work on my business and do online non-profit work until I drift asleep.

People ask me, “Do you have ADD”? Absolutely not. There are certain tasks while doing engineering work which requires my undivided attention. However, there are other tasks which can be done simultaneously with others. I am disciplined enough to determine which tasks require my undivided attention. Also, I do not have TADD. My time spent on the computer or iphone is productive time. I no longer play video games. My only vice is online poker which I only play approximately once a month.

Due to the latest advances in technology, my mind can be utilitized every minute of the day. Thanks to my iphone, while I am at the dentist, or working out on the stepmill, I can check my emails which include reading up on information regarding the stock market, software development and the latest technologies.

It also gives me the opportunity to reach out and help others whether they reside in the local area or are as far away as the UK or Indonesia.

With the use of the internet, some people have become more open to networking with others. Think of it – donations to non-profits have increased by well over 1000 % (yes, that is one thousand percent) ever since donations were made available on the internet. On facebook, there are more than 300 million registered users, while online dating has become the norm in meeting new potential mates.

However, there is a vast amount of time wasted on the internet. The many benefits include the fact that in most situations, it is free, more cost effective than a night out.

In order to determine whether you have a TADD bit of a problem, ask yourself these questions. (If you answer “yes” to at least one, start thinking about a solution):

1. Ignore your family/children due to an increased amount of time on facebook or the internet.

2. Play video games online for countless hours when you should be doing something else more important.

3. Perform a search on the internet – then go off on a tangent and start reading up on basket weaving which had nothing to do with your original search!

4. Spend more time on the internet than interacting with others.

To recover from Technology Attention Deficit Disorder, I highly recommend you try out the following:

1. Cut back on the number of hours you are on the internet. (If you want, I can forward you an application I developed which will shut down your computer and say it will self-destruct after an hour if you do not shut it off)

2. Include a “To Do“ List of productive things to do on the internet, for example, paying bills and shopping. This will help you avoid falling into the blackhole of the internet.

3. Try to help one person online every day. This will also give you a great sense of accomplishment because you are paying it forward. I sometimes go through my friends status on facebook to see if they need any help with anything or I offer them free advice.

In summary, life is too short. Do not waste time telling me on facebook you are heading to Costco or you have reached a particular level on a facebook game. Spend time telling me on facebook who you helped today and how much you enjoyed spending time with your friends and family. Remember, your computer will not be at your funeral. My computer will be in my casket.

Add me as a friend on facebook and tell me who you helped today.

Jeanine Swatton