Tag Archives: shopping apps

National Cyber Security Awareness Month – Mobile Security and Accounts

Mobile security of your smartphone or tablet, is not rocket science. You can take simple steps to secure your devices and online accounts that protects you from being an easy target. Let’s start with your passwords.

Passwords

You need to change them and do so on a regular basis. Please don’t be lazy about this simple task. Anyone who knows anything about you can probably guess your password. Especially if you d0 something stupid like use you dog’s name, the street you live on, your favorite shoe designer or sports team. People do these things and, to make it worse, they keep the same password for years. Or, dumber still, they use this same password on all their online accounts. So anyone who guesses it can then take over your life. How do hackers know you well enough to guess your passwords? Facebook! Never, ever, use the same password for multiple online accounts!

Change you passwords at least every six months. Use a lot of numbers and special characters and mix them up good. Your password should look something like this “L*gg46&#wEvF?.” Ugly huh?  And hard to remember too. Well try a password manager. They are easy to use and free. CheckThe Best Free Password Managers of 2017from PC Magazine.com.

Device safety

Do you know what your device is doing? It does all kind of things when you are using it, and when you’re not. Practicing good cyber security means understanding what your device is doing and how to spot trouble and stop it. Take the time to learn all about your mobile device.

Make sure you update your phone’s operating system and apps regularly. Companies are always finding flaws and security issues and they issue updates and patches when they do.

Online accounts

Consider this, any account you have online can be monitored to see what recent activity has occurred.  Ok, so who does not have a Facebook or social media account of some kind?To see what’s happening with your Facebook account click here.  Facebook offers all its users a page that will tell them if someone has been accessing their accounts. If you have a Twitter account click here, for Google click here.  These links will take you to the pages you need to monitor your account activity. Do yourself a favor and bookmark them for future use. It doesn’t take long to check these sites for unusual activity. And check them regularly.

You will also find ways to block any unauthorized activity on your accounts. Some apps and services allow you to set up alerts that come to you via a text message or email when something funny is happening to your accounts. They will also alert you when you log in from a new device or from a different location.

Check your apps

Another thing you need to do is check the app permissions on your phone or tablet. Apps communicate with their maker regularly. Most of the time its things like performance reports if the app crashes or updates. But trust me, it is communicating. You need to understand what your phone is doing and what permissions it has to access your data. Apps can do things like monitor your position using GPS, copy your text messages, access your contacts and spy on you using the on-board camera. Most people don’t realize how much data their phone and the associated apps give away.  Don’t just click on the “accept” link when an app asks for permission to access your phone’s features.  Investigate and ask yourself, why?

 Apps from third party vendors are a good source of trouble. Games, shopping apps, email apps, any app can be malicious. Hackers count on you not looking at the app too closely, especially the part about permissions to access things like your email, camera or GPS. Think it can’t happen to you? Think again!

You should also be aware of a new threat that is hitting mobile devices, it is known as ad and click fraud. It is a direct result of clicking on a link in an email or text message. Clicking on mysterious links is a s good way to introduce malware into your device.

Free Wi-Fi

Set up your phone to ask permission to join open wi-fi networks like you find at Starbucks. These open networks, or free wi-fi, are havens for hackers. When you are traveling make sure you know what the hotel or airport wi-fi name is. A new tactic for hackers is to set up their own wi-fi networks close to or inside the hotel. They give their wi-fi a name similar to that of the hotel’s. If you are not paying attention you might get on a hacker’s wi-fi. Hackers can see everything you do if you are on their phony network and that could be big trouble. Learn to you use a VPN or tether your device to your smartphone for secure Internet access. Better yet, get your own wi-fi hotspot. Many of the major cellphone service providers offer them.

Now you know.

 

App of the Week: Cash Dash

FindSave-app-for-iPhone-and-Android-phonesIts the holiday shopping season and as I have said before merchants are waging all out war for your shopping dollars.  Wal-Mart is matching Amazon.com’s and pretty much everybody else’s online prices. Price matching is a common weapon retailers aim at each other.

The app of the week is Cash Dash and it is the latest weapon in the retail arms race. Wanderful Media, creator of the couponing app Find&Save that located coupons for stores near you has announced they have a new twist on the concept. The Cash Dash app basically lets retailers push promotions at you the minute you walk into a competitor’s store or even get close to one.

It really pretty simple; lets say you’re at Wal-Mart, Target would use the app to offer you a $25 incentive to visit one of its stores within 24 hours. This is retail war and the goal is to steal shoppers away from the competition. “When you’re walking into a Home Depot on Saturday morning, your intent is clear,” says Ben Smith CEO of the company. “You’re in home repair mode. That would be a very valuable audience for Lowe’s.”

The app uses your smartphones GPS location to track you. But instead of offering coupons at the store you are shopping at the app tries to send you to the competition. If you accept the offer and make a purchase you submit a photo of your receipt using the Find&Save app. The cash reward goes into your PayPal account. According to Smith the next version of the app will connect to users’ credit cards, and subtract the dollar amount automatically from the purchase.

CashDash has only been available for three weeks and already some 50 retailers have jumped on board. Retailers such as Walgreens and Macy’s, are spending the money to send these notifications and poach the competition. Over 100,000 alerts have been issued since the app launched. Smith claims that about 30 percent of shoppers who receive an alert actually click through and accept it.

Cash Dash has even changed how users feel about having their location tracked. Before the app was introduced only 20 percent of users opted into geolocation. That number has now reached 80 percent. 

The only drawback to the use of the app is the competition’s store may be too far for the shopper to visit. Experts believe that the app would work much better in densely populated areas where the competitor’s store is easier to reach. But the cash incentive could make the drive more palatable.

Retailers are at war and you win anyway you look at it. Cash Dash is available for Apple and Android.

Online Holiday Shopping Series #2

canstockphoto15907634If you plan to shop online this holiday season you need to get a battle plan together. Saving money is not always made easy for you but if you develop a strategy and method to stay up on the latest sales it could pay off big…really big.

Step 1) Set up an email box strictly for your shopping information. Don’t use your own personal email unless you love getting a lot of spam. Stores love to get email addresses and they also love to email coupons. Also make an effort to follow your favorite stores on their Facebook or other social media site. Another really cool thing stores will do is announce sales and discounts only through email and text messages. If your name is on the list you can can get some nice additional discounts on sale items. This is a favorite tactic of Stein Mart stores who regularly issue incredible savings coupons on the Internet. You have to know where to look for them so click on the link to see what I’m talking about. You can sign up for coupons at stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond, Macy’s, JCPenny and many more. 

Coupons are just the beginning of the benefits of signing up for email alerts and coupons. Last year a major electronics retailer offered flat screen televisions, any size, for half price on a certain day of the week. If you were not on their email list you never knew about it. This beats the hell out of waiting in line at 5:00AM on Black Friday. Of course the number of sets were limited in each store but the deal was a great one if you knew about it.

How about being invited to an exclusive sale?  Last holiday season a popular retailer of women’s’ plus size clothing held an after hours sale exclusively for people who responded to an email. The sale offered items for as much as 70% off. You missed it didn’t you?

You don’t have to do this alone. Ask a friend or two to join you using that special email box. Each of you should sign up for stores you all enjoying shopping at. Keep each other informed about sales and monitor social media for sales as well. You never know when Macy’s may Tweet a sale.  Work as team and you could end with a pretty good repository of sales and coupons. And its good all year long since stores hold sales all year round.

Step 2) Focus on price matching. If you find an item at one store for less than another then you can ask the store to sell it to you for that price. Even if they don’t do price matching they very often say yes. Here is a list of stores that have excellent price matching policies. What is great about this is that some store will even match the online price. Check out this list of stores that match online prices.

Step 3) Learn the best shopping apps and load them on your smartphone or tablet. VentureBeats.com offers this list of the 8 best shopping apps. One of the great things about some shopping apps is they they can do a lot of the work for you. Although we will focus on shopping apps later in this series you need to read up on them now before the shopping season gets intense. A good shopping app can do things like watch the price of a item for you and alert you when it drops to a certain level. Some apps go out on the  Internet and find the item at a cheaper price. Other apps will monitor sales at certain stores for you. Apps are amazing and can help keep a few extra dollars where they belong and thats in your pocket.

Step 4) Pick your days carefully. Believe it or not the best day to shop is not black Friday or Cyber Monday. How about Thanksgiving evening? Research indicates that instead of watching football you may want to get online to shop for those Christmas gifts.

As long as we are on the subject of Black Friday sales I’ll let you in on a little secret. First of all the best sales are not on Black Friday. As matter of fact if you wait those same prices will re-appear either online or at the store. Second, there is an extremely limited quantity of those incredible sale items. For example if you see a 50 inch flat screen television advertised for dirt cheap you can bet there are a very few in the store. Check the ad and you will see the word “Limited Quantities.” So get some sleep and preserve your dignity. Black Friday sales are not all that great. You can see a list of 16 Black Friday myths right here.  

Finally, there is a rule of thumb that I would like black people to keep in mind this Christmas shopping season; Its not what you make but what you keep. These tips are intended to help you keep your money. Regardless of what or who you are shopping for there is no reason to pay too much. I have the privilege of knowing a woman who I call the Discount Diva. You could say she is a professional at finding the sale for exactly what she wants even after she has already purchased it. Its amazing but I have seen her go into a store and come out with money. How? She is a practitioner of finding the item she has already purchased on sale for less than what she paid for it. She then goes back to the store with her receipt and asks for the difference. And most times the store will refund the difference. Its amazing but it is an excellent example of how a good shopper works. I urge you, this season, be that shopper.

Now you know