Tips for smart shopping from the Internet

Tips for smart shopping from the Internet

People are surfing the Internet in growing numbers. Internet offers a wide range of exciting opportunities. But you should remember to take the same type of precautions as you do when you shop and communicate in the offline world. Before you decide to enter personal information on a website, or make a purchase online, here are a few tips to remember:

Deal with companies you know by reputation or experience. If you aren’t familiar with the company, do your research. Find out where they are based, and what their policies are on issues such as privacy and security. Do not do business with a company that doesn’t list a physical address or telephone number on its website. When dealing with international vendors the risk is higher. Different laws and standards apply and it may be difficult to get local authorities to act on your complaint if you feel a vendor has dealt you with unfairly.

Know exactly what you are buying. When shopping in a retail store you have the added benefit of handling the product and seeing the person who is providing the service – benefits that are not available when shopping online. Look for a vendor that provides enough information for you to properly evaluate what you are buying, including details such as the size, colour, weight and texture of the product.

Tips for smart shopping from the Internet

Know what you are paying. The final price for online items is often considerably different from the listed price. Any reputable vendor’s website will calculate the shipping and handling costs for you before you make a final decision to purchase an item. Before agreeing to a purchase, do the math and figure out what the price will be in Canadian dollars. Most people fail to accurately convert the value of currencies and they end up paying more than they hoped as a result.

Additionally, Canada Customs will calculate and add GST to the cost of most purchases made outside Canada. The agency will also charge you an inspection fee for doing so that may be more than the actual GST on small purchases, such as books and compact discs.

Look for a privacy policy. Be sure that you are comfortable with how the company collects, protects and uses your personal information before submitting any details. Responsible marketers have an “opt-out” policy, which allows you to choose whether your information is shared with third parties. Also look for the opportunity to decline to receive any communication by email.

Make sure transactions are secure. Do not enter any financial information if you see a broken-key or open padlock symbol on your Internet browser. This means that the transaction is not secure and could be intercepted by a third party. When the key is complete or the padlock is locked, your browser is indicating a secure transaction. Remember, unlike secure order forms on a website, email messages are not private. Do not send confidential information by email.

Check for endorsement by an association or a quality assurance program. There are several “seals of approval” for websites that confirm the credibility of the company and the website. For example, the Canadian Marketing Association member logo signifies a company that abides by a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, which includes a comprehensive privacy policy and a section on responsible Internet marketing.

Read the fine print before you buy. Make sure you understand all contractual information presented online before agreeing to purchase, including the policy on fulfillment, returns, warranties, etc.

Avoid spam (unsolicited commercial email) by being careful about disclosing your email address both on and offline. Check a company’s privacy policy to find out whether your email address could be shared with other companies. CMA members will not send you marketing email without your permission and will give you the option to decline to receive further emails at any time.

Talk to your children about online activities. Instruct them to keep their personal information private unless you say it’s ok.

The cheapest days to shop online

The cheapest days to shop online

A survey of over 100 Web retailers found the best sales for every day of the week.

We already know some of the best shopping deals are found online – but did you know some days are better than others to find the steepest discounts? ShopItToMe website which scours sales at more than 100 online retailers, ran a survey for me showing what days of the week certain categories of items carry the biggest discounts. From sunglasses to bathing suits to handbags and menswear, they got me the inside scoop.

My advice is to read this through, click print and keep the list stored by your computer as a helpful reminder next time you want to shop on the Web. Dozens of sites like RetailMeNot and Bargainist collect promotional codes for discounts on Web purchases. To find them on your own, try Googling the name of the shopping site with the words “coupon code” or “promotion code.”

Many retailers offer free shipping promotions from time to time or have thresholds at which they’ll ship for free. But, some of my favorite online shops such as Endless, RevolveClothing, Shopbop, and Piperlime, always offer free shipping.

Related Links: Art Burger Online Store

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8 phone calls that will save you cash

8 phone calls that will save you cash

Get the best negotiator in your house to pick up the phone and lower some of your bills.

Shopping online is undoubtedly convenient, but there are times when picking up the phone can save you some cash or, at the very least, score you a nice upgrade.

“Having that human element really helps,” says Laura Oliver, a deal expert who has scored plenty of deals just by making a phone call. “If you call and it’s not working, hang up and call right back,” she advises. “The phone lines are on a queue. You’ve got 15 to 20 other people you can try.”

She also points out it doesn’t have to be you who does the haggling for a better price. “You probably have someone in your house that’s your best negotiator,” Oliver says, advising consumers to let that person make the call.

Negotiate a Lower Credit Card APR

For people with average-to-good credit, the annual percentage rates associated with a credit card aren’t necessarily set in stone.

“Call your credit card company and say “Card X just sent me an offer for a card with 0% APR for a year and then a fixed rate of only 12%, which is much lower than the rate I’m currently paying you,” says Derrick Kinney, a financial adviser who specializes in helping families.

He says you should ask your current issuer if they can match the competing rate and, if not, it makes financial switch to transfer your current balance to take advantage of their competitor’s better offer.

“The fear of losing your business will usually make them match the offer,” Kinney says.

Read more “8 phone calls that will save you cash”

Protect yourself from new skimming scams

Protect yourself from new skimming scams

Experts say you should always wiggle your card when you insert it into the ATM.

A one-time victim of identity theft, I’m all too familiar with the residual headaches of losing control of your critical personal information. So I pay particular attention anytime a new scam surfaces — like the recent debit-card skimming scheme at Michael’s Stores, a national chain of specialty shops.

OK. Skimming isn’t actually new. It’s been around for a few years. But until now it’s mostly been practiced at gas stations and remote ATMs. Today, it’s everywhere and growing.

Skimming has become the identity theft of choice for many crooks. You have a one-in-five chance of being a victim; losses will total about $1 billion this year. Other forms of identity theft include dumpster diving, phishing and pretexting. But skimming generates far quicker and richer rewards for perps, who essentially gain immediate access to cardholder bank accounts.

At Michael’s Stores, thieves managed to hack the debit-processing equipment at 80 locations in 20 states. They were able to instantly duplicate customers’ cards and begin making cash withdrawals from the associated bank accounts, $500 at a time.

How did they do it? The crooks tampered with debit-card processing equipment at the point of sale, inserting a tiny device into the store equipment that enabled them to read the magical magnetic strip on the debit card as it was swiped. Evidently, a pinhole camera then recorded customers as they entered their PIN.

This is a frightfully difficult crime to defend against. Technology has advanced to where miniscule cameras and card reading devices are virtually undetectable. Some devices allow criminals to download the information stored on skimming devices remotely without even having to retrieve the device. You might consider just using a credit card, which has greater protections.

Young or old, if you are going to use a debit card you need to take precautions. Here’s how:

1. Cover your PIN. Your bankcard won’t work without the PIN. Thieves usually obtain the PIN with a small camera stationed near the card processor. So keep an eye out for anything that seems out of place. It might be a camera. In any event, shield the keypad with your body or free hand when entering your PIN.

2. Be selective with your ATM. Again, look for anything out of place. Any wires exposed? Tape evident? Hardware loose? If so, find another ATM. Use an ATM inside a bank whenever possible. Stay away from ATMs in remote locations or that appear seldom used. These are easy to tamper with and might even be dummy cash machines.

3. Leave some wiggle room. When you insert your card, wiggle it while it’s in the slot. If something seems loose, there might be theft device attached to the swipe hardware. Wiggling the card might jar the theft device from its hiding place.

4. Monitor your accounts. One of the best protections against continued use of your stolen information is to check bank statements regularly. With a debit card, you may be responsible for the first $50 and you must report theft within two business days of discovery and no later than 60 days after the theft for protection. Credit cards have more protections and might be a better choice if you have any reservations about an ATM or processing machine.

5. Look for security cameras. ATMs and gas pumps that are under video surveillance and have cameras aimed directly at the card readers are less likely to be fitted with card-skimming equipment.

6. Keep an eye on your card. When you give your card to a waiter or clerk, be skeptical of any request to swipe it through multiple devices or if they must leave your sight.

7. Be careful at the gas station. Gas stations are among the most prone to skimming. Use a credit card or choose the credit option on your bankcard.

The Secret of Online Holiday Spending

The Secret of Online Holiday Spending

Now that the holidays have decided to move into the express lane of time and travel towards us at the speed of light, we had better ready ourselves for the 5 S’s of Christmas: 1) selecting; 2) shopping; 3) savings; 4) spending; and 5) Santa. For the next 5 weeks we will be looking at one of these S’s. This week we will begin with Spending.

There are many different methods of spending for those “must have” gifts that your loved ones have been drooling over for so long. Many years ago there were only two methods of having the money to buy the desired present. First, the method of choice for most “over 70” crowd, is called “savings”. Second, a method that is used many times with “savings” is the “buying only what you can afford”. These two methods are somewhat of a lost art and I personally have only heard about them in books and the reading of ancient artifacts.

One of these historical writings mentions a ritual known as Christmas Club. This amazing tool was used by banks to aid members to set aside a certain amount, on a weekly or bi-monthly basis, to help them have money for Christmas. It was like a reversed credit card, with the payments being made before the purchases and instead of the patron spending 29% interest each month to make up for the credit card monthly fees, they would receive the interest (yes, the interest would come to them). This in turn would give them more money than they put into their account. As late as 1966, this was determined to be the American way of Christmas spending. That was before credit cards spending for Christmas became as customary as the artificial Christmas trees.

Today, the method of choice by most Americans is just the complete opposite as the first two methods mentioned: put every Christmas item on credit card and “never refuse a child of whatever they want”. (“New $500 game machine? – sure, let me apply for this new credit card!”) If I sound slight fuchsias, it’s because I am still paying off my Christmas shopping debt from 1972.

To get the most out of using this plastic god for holiday cheer there are certain rules and secrets that you need to learn to have a safer, cheaper, happy holiday.

Rule #1- Make sure that you shop only on secure, trusted Internet sites. Ask yourself these questions:

1) Are they a known reliable online company? Are you shopping at Amazon.com or Grannysdiscountbooksandadultsite.com?

2) Do they have a physical address?

3) Is there a method of contacting the business?

4) Is their shopping cart secure? Do not enter your credit card on a site that is not secure. A secure site online is just as secure as using your card at your local Wal-Mart or grocery store.

Secret #1- When Shopping online use your credit card and not your debit card. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Federal law says that you are only liable for $50 if your card is misused.

Rule #2- Pay you bill off each month. Any credit counselor will tell you that this is the best way to manage your money and keep yourself out of financial ruin. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.

Secret #2- When using a credit card make your purchases the same day you receive your credit card statement in the mail. This will give you a few extra weeks of non-interest time to save up to pay off your debt.

Rule #3- Don’t save your credit card information on the web site or for that matter on your computer. Even though the web site may be secure there were a few reports last year of hackers getting into different system of online stores. It really doesn’t take that long to re-enter the information.

Secret #3- Pay your credit card online and make your payment at least 2 business days before it is due. This may seem like a contradiction to not saving the credit card information on line but it is not. The credit card information for the lender maintains your credit card information in their secure data base. Once again, it is a similar retrieving system as if you made a purchase at a department store.

Rule #4- Protect your password. Don’t save your password on your computer and don’t use the same password over and over. Keep a written log in a safe convenient place. There have been hackers who have been able to access information from personal computers. Protect yourself.

Secret#4- Use a formula for your password: have a prescribed combination of letters and numbers you use for a common word that you are sure to remember, then a number you use for the site you are at. For example ReginAmaz might be a formula for a password password at Amazon if I used the first 5 letters of my name along with the first 4 letters of the sites name. ReginBarn might be a password for Barnes and Noble.

Secret#5- More secrets on passwords: use numbers in place of letters at times. Use 1 for an i or l, 0 for o and maybe even 9 for g. For example, with the above password for Amazon might be Re91nAmaz.

Secret#6- If the systems are down, don’t ever call your order in. Wait until the systems come back up. If the Internet site is down, it is possible that their computers are down as well. Therefore when calling an order in, depending on the call center, your credit card information may be written down on paper instead of being entered into a secure location.

Secret#7- If you’re in need of extra money and decide to sign up for a new credit card, read the fine print. One of my credit cards recently sent me a letter saying that I qualify for their platinum card. The fine print says that there is a $72 annual fee! Watch out for low interest rates, the companies have to make their money somewhere. These introductory rates may lead to an astronomical rate or exorbitant annual fees.

With these rules and secrets now firmly placed before you, your holiday spending should be safer and wiser. Next week we will look at “Saving”.

Tips for navigating Holiday Shopping

Tips for navigating Holiday Shopping

Its official name is Cyber Monday. But the first day on the job ­after Thanksgiving — when shoppers hit the Web for steals on holiday gifts — may as well be called the most unproductive workday of the year. Last year, Americans spent $733 million in one day, making hundreds of online purchases when their bosses turned their backs.

1. Be loyal.

Create an online shopping-only e-mail address and sign up in advance for newsletters and e-mails from your favorite retailers. Then you’ll snag surprising deals — Eddie Bauer, for example, lowers the free shipping barrier for loyalty program members from $100 to $50, though you have to enter a code. Gifts.com’s Gillian Joseph agrees it’s essential to sign up for the spam. “You can usually shop starting at midnight and don’t have to worry about waiting on line,” she confides. “And they often have a little promotion code at the bottom of the e-mail to see how far into the e-mail you’re going to read.” In other words, don’t just scan the subject line.

2. Make a list and check it twice.

The hype and deals of Cyber Monday can be overwhelming — and wallet-threatening. Avoid impulse buying by building a detailed list of must-haves. Sticking to a smaller number of stores is not only more manageable, but you will save on shipping (and single shipments aren’t just cheaper, they’re more eco-friendly, burning less jet fuel for delivery).

3. Get your browsing done.

Window-shop online or at your local mall — preparation is key to maximize time on Cyber Monday. “Do your looking online over the weekend, put your items in your cart and save them, then wait for an off hour to place your order,” suggests Christine Frietchen from consumersearch.com.

4.Use aggregators.

Instead of ploughing through Google’s vast, unsifted results, let someone else do the editing for you. For inspiration, check Luckymag.com’s 200 choicest boutiques or the recommendations on storeadore.com and shopstyle.com.

5. Think Cyber Saturday and Cyber Sunday.

Charlie Graham says smart shoppers (and those loyalty program members) can sometimes get online deals all weekend. “All the retailers are clamoring for the same dollars this year, so look a little early to get the scoop.”

Pre-Halloween sales at Black Friday prices

Pre-Halloween sales at Black Friday prices

Thanksgiving is weeks away, but some retailers are dropping prices to entice shoppers.

We’re five weeks away from Black Friday and already major retailers are dropping prices to entice early shoppers into the stores and onto their websites. Amazon has been discounting prices for months and, as a result, its third-quarter sales surged 39 percent. We combed the websites and sale circulars of some major appliance and equipment retailers and found prices cut on some top performers. Some stores are throwing in free delivery and haulaway deals to sweeten the deal.

If you’re a subscriber to ConsumerReports.org, remember that you can access our Ratings and other shopping advice free through your mobile phone. Consumer Reports also just introduced its Mobile Shopper. With this application, available on iTunes for $9.99, shoppers can scan a barcode and access product and pricing information as well as Ratings for CR’s most popular products.

Related Link: Poster shopping at Art Canyon

Tarkan’s brand new album: “Adimi Kalbine Yaz”

Tarkan's brand new album: "Adimi Kalbine Yaz"

Turkish pop megastar Tarkan has said his brand new studio album of new material “Adimi Kalbine Yaz” (Write Down My Name into Your Heart) released on July 29th, 2010

Speaking to reporters at the Istanbul Atatürk Airport before leaving for Moscow for a special concert over the weekend, Tarkan said: “My upcoming album [will be] very enjoyable, very sweet, very warm. It will be released on July 29th for my fans.”

Tracklist of the album: Sevdanın Son Vuruşu, Acımayacak, İşim Olmaz, Kayıp, Öp, Adımı Kalbine Yaz, Sen Çoktan Gitmişsin, Usta-Çırak, Acımayacak Gurcell Club Mix, Adımı Kalbine Yaz Ozinga Club Mix, Sevdanın Son Vuruş Suat Ateşdağlı Mix, Öp Gurcell Club Mix, Sevdanın Son Vuruşu Kivanch K Mix.

Related Link: Tarkan Store