Tag Archives: retailers

Online Holiday Shopping 2015 – The Death of Black Friday

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Courtesy Stuart Miles

Everyone has a story about Black Friday. Sometimes its about a great deal on a flat screen TV or a horror story about the ugly crowds and inhuman behavior. Thankfully Black Friday is dead.

More and more online retailers are offering Black Friday deals throughout the holiday season. Amazon, one of the worlds’ largest online retailers, announced it’s Black Friday Deals Store . The store is open for all Amazon customers but Amazon Prime members will get a 30 minute head start on 30,000 of Amazon’sLightning Deals.”

On of the biggest selling items during the holiday season is consumer electronics. Everyone is wishing for a giant flat screen television, laptop or tablets and other electronic goodies. Online retailer Newegg is one of many retailers killing Black Friday.

Newegg is calling this month Black November as it prepares for the holiday season war for tech dollars. Although the company has not announced specific sale details it has outlined plans to kick off deals on more than 900 products that include sales all through the month and more deals on Cyber Monday.  Retailers are jumping on the band wagon describing their holiday sales plans minus details but with promises for more specific sale information later.

America’s store, Walmart, is also offering Black Friday prices online including Apple products like the iPad Mini. The trend for many retailers is to get Black Friday deals into the stores as early as possible for as long as possible. Smart shoppers will be walking the aisles early in November and getting the same or better deals than people waiting in line at 4:00AM Friday morning. The best deals with the best selection and availability are being offered now!

Black Friday is not what many shoppers believe it to be. First of all most deals on this ugly shopping day are extremely limited in price and quantity. For example last year a major retailer advertised a Black Friday sale on a particular microwave oven for $99 when the regular price was well over $300. Thousands of people lined up all over the nation for the bargain. The harsh reality is that each store was allotted only 15 of the appliances. Consumers who read the fine details of those sales flyers will see the disclaimer “limited quantities” written in small print.

Another Black Friday deception consumers need to be aware of is the inflating of prices. Many retailers will offer products at inflated prices only to slash the price on Black Friday creating the illusion of a great deal.

Retailers are well aware that many shoppers running through their stores looking for a great deal will find something they did not come there for. Impulse buying is a big money maker and the more eyes in the store the more items will be sold.

Most of the best Black Friday sales will be found online. TheBlackFriday.com website has an extensive listing of stores and products that are selling at Black Friday prices today! Shoppers can sign up for Black Friday price alerts sent to their email.

Another website pushing early Black Friday deals is BlackFriday.com (different from the one above). This site also offers pre-Black Friday prices for products and advertisement for online sales and email alerts as well.

DealNews.com offers list of the Top 5 Best Black Friday Deals Online that is heavy with the electronics retailers but of course Walmart is among the five.

Holiday Shopping; Now you know.

African-Americans and Data Breaches

national cyberWhy should black people worry about data breaches? Because the loss of data to cyber criminals is an exploding problem and awareness is the only way to protect yourself.

Data is everywhere. Wherever you have used your credit or debit card is a source of data. This is where information about you, your bank, credit records, buying habits and what cards you hold is stored and all with your name on it. If this information gets out “in the wild” people are now in your business and you know how black people feel about that and our money.

Lets look closer at where your information can be found. Here is a list of businesses that may hold information about you and your money. Add to this list any place you have used your credit or debit card.

  • Hotels and resorts
  • Restaurants
  • Ticket sellers
  • Entertainment companies
  • Sports teams
  • Fitness clubs
  • Salons and spas
  • Insurance companies
  • Mortgage companies
  • Utilities
  • Mobile phone providers
  • Internet providers
  • Money managers
  • Banks and credit unions
  • Credit card issuers
  • Hospitals
  • Pharmacies
  • Doctors and Dentist Offices
  • Auto repair shops
  • Hair and beauty salons
  • Daycare providers
  • Retail stores
  • Grocery stores
  • Gas stations

How serious are data breaches? According to USA Today 43% of businesses have suffered data breaches in the past year. Lets be real about that statistic; many of the large businesses will report a data breach especially when the breach involves millions of credit or debit cards. But smaller business may not report a data breach if they even realize they have had one. That’s why you should be concerned.

Not only are data breaches more frequent but they are increasing in size. The latest big data breaches at the big retailers have lost more than 300 million records. You are probably one of millions of black people who have shopped at Target, Kmart and Home Depot. Your data has been stolen.

If you want to see how serious this data problem has become here are a few frightening numbers from KrebsOnSecurity.com.

You would think with the ever increasing size and frequency of breaches businesses would be ready to act. But less than 30% of companies have a data breach response plan or team in place. That number is down from 39% of businesses that didn’t have them in the previous year. So the simple fact is that black people need to be concerned. We have to be knowledgeable and ready to act in the event of a data breach to protect our information.

But data breaches do not just strike retail businesses. Hospitals are big targets for hackers. According to Health IT & CIO Review since March there have been at least ten hospital data breaches. Los Angeles County Medical Facilities  alone lost nearly 170,000 patient medical records.

Director of Threat Intelligence at Phish Labs Don Jackson monitored underground hacking exchanges and found that cyber criminals can make 10 times as much money hacking hospital records than stealing your credit card data.  Hackers steal names, birth dates, and insurance policy numbers then use the data to create fake IDs to buy things like home medical equipment which can later be re-sold. The data is also used to file phony insurance claims. 

Now the question is what happens to all that stolen data. The new gold mine of the criminal world is data. AACR Rule #5, The currency and commodity of the digital age is called information. According to the RAND Corporation National Security Research Division  the stolen data black market has become more profitable than the drug trade. You read that correctly.

What black people should understand is that stolen data is far more than credit card numbers and personal information. Hackers can make money with pictures from your Facebook page and other social media outlets. Hackers see sites like LinkedIn and eHarmony as a treasure trove of passwords that can be used to update their “rainbow tables.” Rainbow Tables are huge databases hackers use to hack harder-to-crack encrypted passwords. Would you believe that hacked Twitter accounts are considered more profitable than stolen credit cards?

The bottom line is that black people are just as vulnerable as other Americans to hacks and data breaches. The difference is that collectively we may not be as savvy to what and how this information is used to steal from us or how to protect ourselves. Its strange because black people use mobile and online banking more than other groups. We need to step up our game.

 

Protect Yourself from Data Breaches

Data breaches are becoming far too common. And there is no single law that requires a company to tell their customers when, or if, such a data breach has occurred. As a result companies often pick and choose what laws to obey and which to ignore. Stores, banks and other services where you use your credit card often practice protecting themselves first before they consider your interests. In addition many of these companies are also deciding to pay off a claim of fraud rather than fix security issues in their systems. Its simply cheaper to pay you than invest money in more secure systems. Its the sad state of e-commerce security.

As a result black people and all consumers need to protect themselves when shopping online or in the brick and mortar stores.

Here are a few steps I’d advise the African-American consumers to take to protect your financial information and assets.

1) Monitor your bank accounts, daily!  There is no easier way to spot fraudulent charges than to pay careful attention to you bank account and your credit and debit card statement. My recommendation is that you check you accounts each evening. Its funny but a lot of people are watching television with their tablets or laptops. Use a few minutes to check those accounts. And change passwords, correction, pass phrases, frequently, like every six months. See something fishy?  Call your bank or card provider immediately.

2) Use a credit card, not a debit card.Why? Because government regulations protect you from fraudulent charges over $50 and most liability.  Use your credit card or a debit card with a signature, not a pin number. The regulations are not so clear when using a debit card with a pin and as a result you may end up on the hook for fraudulent charges.

“The best tip to avoid problems on your existing accounts is not to use debit cards, because not only is the credit card law better, but your own money is not at risk with a credit card,” says Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

3. Make use of free credit monitoring.  Whenever a data breach happens, and the word gets out, then a lot of financial institutions will offer credit monitoring to those customers affected. Its really not much but its something.  And you don’t have to pay anyone for your credit report. The government offers three free credit checks a year. Black people should take full advantage of this service. Your credit report will reveal if any loans or new credit cards have  your name on them. If you see something act immediately. It likely means your identity has been compromised. Get you free credit report herehttps://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action

4) Make use of your banks security services. Many banks offer email alerts when a charge shows up on your account, especially major purchases. These can help protect you from identity theft. Some credit monitoring service will alert you when someone applies for credit in your name as well.  Be careful about online money transfers and online bill paying. Use a check and drop it in the mail.  Paper is indeed much more secure. And don’t use the same password for your bank that you use on Facebook or other websites.  Social media and other non-financial websites are easier to hack.

5) Don’t depend on the banks or credit companies to protect you. You are an after thought after they protect themselves.  Vendini is an online ticket seller that reported a data breach. Just this past Friday the company settled a rare class-action lawsuit about compromised data. Rare because the courts usually throw out cases where no actual damages are proven. Vendini will pay affected customers up to $3,000 for identity theft losses. But as I said, unless the customer can prove actual damages from the data loss the money may be out of reach. The lesson here is don’t expect companies to tell you if your data has been stolen. There is no law that says they have to tell, at least not right away. Its up to you to cover your own ass. 

Now you know.

Online Coupons Save Black Families Money

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Courtesy of Stuart Miles

Back in the 80’s there was a rap song with some interesting lyrics.  It went like this, “Its All About Money Ain’t a Damn This Funny!” African-Americans know that’s real. And its not about how much money you make but how much you keep in your pocket. So I’m here to talk  about coupons that you can find on the Internet.

Black people need to understand how much money using coupons can save them. The simple fact is that black families can save as much as 50% a month on their grocery bill by using coupons. Do you need a better reason to start couponing?

Did you know the more coupons you use the more come your way. You know I complain constantly about corporate spying but here is an example where all that data benefits the African-American consumer. When you use coupons retailers become aware of this and begin to target you for more coupons. They may show up in your mail box, or in your email. Have you ever taken a good look at your store receipt? Check the back of it. A lot of great money saving coupons are printed on the back of your receipt. I saved $7 at a CVS pharmacy. My purchase went form $10.00 to $3.00 just by looking at the back of a receipt. I’m being real with you. The retailer’s objective is to get you back in the store to buy more. Your objective is to get what you want for less money. You can when this game by carefully selecting the coupons you need. Make sure you shop on the off days for the grocery store. Yes, some days are better than others when grocery shopping.  The best day for grocery shopping is Wednesday. Remember that.

Here is the best news, you don’t have to clip and cut coupons from a newspaper, but I suggest you do. You can use your smartphone to download coupons on the run. There a plenty of coupon and shopping apps that will save you money on everything from apples to gasoline to shoes. But you gotta be in the game! Saving money is very possible if you work at it. You can find the best coupon websites here. Now some of these sites will request an email address so they can email you printable coupons. Here is where a little of the work comes in. Set up special email account just for your grocery and shopping coupons. Then make a practice of checking it a couple of times a week before you do your “WEDNESDAY” grocery shopping.

Another good practice is to pull that smartphone out when you are in the store. I don’t care what store you’re in. Do a quick search on your smartphone for available coupons. You might be surprised what you find. For example, I was in an art store buying assorted supplies. I whipped out my iPhone and did quick search for the store coupons. I came upon a coupon for 50% off any one item. So I decided to use the coupon on the most expensive item resulting in a savings of $23.00. That’s $23.00 that stayed in my pocket when I walked out the store. I shared this information with two other black women who had found a coupon online for only 40% off. I save my sistahs another 10%.

Look, if you have a family they need to eat, they need clothes, school supplies, you need gas for the car and you need what you need. Start using the Internet for your benefit by searching for coupons wherever you happen to be shopping at the moment. Do it  before you get in line or while standing in line. But do it. Have them email you the coupons directly. Do it! Hold on to your money! Cause money ain’t funny!

Now you know.