Tag Archives: Walmart

E-Commerce Delivers

E-commerce war is raging! E-commerce players are going all out to get your money doing whatever it takes to get you shopping on their website. The war has changed they we shop, probably forever.

Electronic or e-commerce, the act of shopping online and having the goods delivered directly to your home, is exploding. More and more online stores and regular brick and mortar stores are offering to deliver your purchases to you anywhere.

Amazon Prime customers can get their purchases delivered on the same day with Amazon Prime NowCustomers need only check the item description to see if it is available for same day delivery in their zip code. Amazon claims it has over 1 million items available for same day delivery in 8,000 cites.

Now Amazon has stepped up its game by announcing a new service that gives its couriers access to your vehicle for the purpose of placing your purchases inside.  Amazon is planning to use the Internet connected capabilities in many modern vehicles.  In cooperation with GM and Volvo Amazon will be launching the new service in 37 cities in the U.S.

In order to use the service the car owner must add their car to the Amazon Key app with a description of the vehicle allowing Amazon’s couriers to locate it. The vehicle must be parked within a certain radius of an address used for Amazon deliveries, mostly likely home or work. Driveways, parking lots, parking garages, and street parking are all eligible locations.

Amazon has also asked its customers for permission to enter their home when they are not home to drop off packages. The program, known as Amazon Key, relies on Amazon’s new Cloud Cam and compatible smart lock connected to the Internet using your home Wi-Fi. The camera talks to the lock over Zigbee, a wireless protocol used by many smart home devices.

When a delivery person arrives with a package for in-home delivery, they scan the package barcode that sends a request to Amazon’s cloud. If everything checks out, the cloud then triggers the camera to start recording the entry and delivery. The courier then swipes the screen unlocking the door. They enter, drop off the package and re-lock the door with another swipe. The customer is then notified of the delivery accompanied by a short video showing the drop-off to confirm everything was done properly. Amazon also owns Whole Foods which also offers grocery deliveries in an hour.

Amazon is deadly serious about perfecting the art of delivery. The company is planning to create its own delivery service that will go into direct competition with FedEx and UPS. Its also planning to use drones for delivery a program it has already launched in the U.K.

But brick and mortar retailers are not standing still while Amazon perfects the art of delivery. Walmart, America’s largest retail chain store, is teaming up with with DoorDash for its online grocery delivery service. The program is set to kick off in Atlanta and eventually expand across the United States.

The service builds upon a previous Walmart delivery program. If the customer is within one of the new delivery areas they will be able to request delivery and set up a time for the delivery.  A Walmart employee will pull all your items together and handoff the groceries to DoorDash for delivery. In a challenge to Amazon Walmart is also offering two day delivery for selected online purchases but, unlike Amazon, no membership is required.

Target stores are also getting into the delivery game as well. Target is planning delivery  to nearly 60 locations across five major cities, Boston, Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. As part of the checkout process the retailer will offer customers the choice of having their purchases delivered to their homes. The key factor to the city selection for the delivery program is that these cities have a high concentration of car-less consumers who routinely use public transportation.  The delivery service will cost the $7.

Groceries delivery is slowly becoming the most in demand service for e-commerce shoppers. More and and more retail grocers, in addition to Whole Foods, are fighting for your dollars with on demand grocery deliveries. Walmart expects to be delivering groceries in over 100 markets by the end of the year. This includes a new meal kit service from Walmart’s Culinary and Innovation Center. If you are Sam’s Club customer you can also take advantage of its delivery service.

But keep in mind that its not just groceries that can be purchased online and delivered to your home. Used car buyers can use Carvana to shop, select, finance and have the car of their choice delivered right to heir driveway.

Breaking It Down

Customer convenience is the new standard. E-commerce, like retail, must compete. And we live in a service based economy. So delivery is the new frontier of customer service. Fast and when and where the customer demands it. This is the evolution of service and customer satisfaction. I am not surprised. The Internet is changing everything.

But is all this online shopping and on demand delivery hurting retail businesses?  Not exactly. Many consumers, and experts, believe that retail stores are dying but that is not true. What has actually happened is that brick and mortar retailers have modified their operations to actually become part of the e-commerce experience. Many retailers, like Walmart, are offering customer the option to buy the product online and pick it up in the store. In addition, retailers will encourage shoppers to go online if they can’t find the item they are looking for in the store and will sweeten the deal with free delivery. Some stores will even go online for you to locate your product and you can complete the purchase in the store. The brick and mortar retailer seems to be safe for now. Of course e-commerce explodes during the holiday season and that can be attributed to the crowds and ugliness of Black Friday sales.

According to Forbes there are five signs that retail is still king of the shopping hill.

  1. All but one of the top ten U.S. retailers are brick and mortar chains.
  2. Brick and mortar stores are more profitable that e-commerce.
  3. Amazon purchased Whole Foods.
  4. Millennials And generation Z prefer real-life stores.
  5. Online retailers are being eaten by legacy retailers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Safely Buy a Used Smartphone

African-Americans rely heavily in their smartphones. We use these devices for everything from email to banking to reinforcing our faith.  So buying used technology like a smartphone, laptop or tablet could be a disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing. Saving money is the objective for African-Americans but saving yourself some headaches ranks right up there as well.

How should black people buy used technology? What should we be looking for? How do we avoid scams and just outright junk?

First of all stay away from Craigslist.  I am not saying you can’t get some good deals but Craigslist is crawling with scam artists. Why take the chance? Look into refurbished products. The refurbished technology market is a great place to shop and many of the tech devices are factory refurbished. This means that they are repaired and re-conditioned by the maker to their standards. And many come with the proper guarantees and warranties to ease your fears. Some products you find on the refurbished market are simply returns that have never been used. Others had minor damage from shipping or were flawed and repaired for re-sale.

You probably know that a new smartphone could run you as much as $750 for the new top of the line models.  As a matter of fact Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 8 smartphone will break the bank at over $900. You can sometimes get a discount on a new phone by signing a contract but you still pay in the long run.

As I said, the best kind of used smartphone is a refurbished phone. They are fully tested, factory reset, and certified. Buying a refurbished phone, usually last year’s model, is close to the experience of buying a new phone. Let’s be real, there are often minor upgrades to this years model over last year’s. But the price difference can be hundreds of dollars. And do you need all the fancy tricks, bells and whistles anyway?

Buying a refurbished iPhone from Apple is a great move. Apple takes great care and pride in it’s used products.  For example, your used iPhone will have a new battery, the outer case will look and feel brand new and probably is. It will come in a brand new box with all the needed accessories. All that and a one year warranty. Try that on Craigslist!

If possible always buy directly from the manufacturer or certified re-seller. These companies are highly motivated to sell problem free used products.

So where do you buy factory refurbished smartphones? Try Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, Samsung, or Walmart.   Also check eBay and Blinq.com.

If you buy a used phone from another source make sure you follow these tips.

  • Check the device throughly for damage and functionality. Make sure it works as it should. Sort of take it for a test drive.
  • Check for tell tale signs of it being stolen like being unable to unlock it or not having accessories like the charging cord.
  • Check for contacts, messages and photos on board. This may indicate the phone was lost or stolen.
  • Apple iPhone comes with several apps that can only be deleted through jail breaking. These apps are camera, photos, music, clock, settings, messages, phone, mail, Safari, App Store, weather, reminders, calculator, calendar, iTunes, Newsstand, videos, Compass, Game Center, contacts, stocks, voice memos, Notes, Passbook and Maps. If any of these are missing don’t buy!
  • Search the iPhone for “Cydia.” This application is present on almost all jailbroken iPhones as it gives access to Cydia apps.
  • Connect your iPhone to your computer and use the iTunes “Restore” function. Once the restore process is complete, you can be certain your phone is not jailbroken.
  • Never buy a phone that is not fully charged.
  • Finally the U.S .wireless industry trade group, CTIA, has launched a tool called the Stolen Phone Checker, which lets you look up whether a phone has been reported lost or stolen. You simply go to the website and enter the IMEI, MEID or ESN number. Keep in mind that these companies keep a database of stolen phones and will not allow the phone to connect to any service if it is reported stolen.
If you want to buy an unlocked phone capable of being used on any service then you may want to check into Amazon. The ‘sell you anything’ company is expanding its unlocked phone marketplace.  Unlocked phones are a growing market because people want to save money and have the flexibility to go with any service they desire. And let’s not forget that many carriers are no longer offering the subsidies and free phones with a contract like they used to.
 
 Now you know.
 
 

 

 

Pre-Paid Cell Providers Offering More Data

More and cheaper data is coming your way. Pre-paid cell phone providers are boosting the amount of data you can get but not boosting the price. Right now the cellular phone service market is a brutal, cut throat game. New customers are hard to come by and new technologies, small providers and competition makes it hard to increase prices. Its just a tough business to be in right now.

U.S. Cellular is a regional provider of pre-paid cell phone service but even so, it is the fifth largest cell provider in the country. The company’s Simple Connect Prepaid $45 monthly plan boosts the available data from 1GB to to 3GB.  Their $60 monthly plan also gets a boost from 5GB to 6GB. The companyis also offering a new plan that is $75  a month that includes 12GB of high-speed data.

U.S. Cellular also offers the Ready Connect Prepaid plan. Only Walmart and Dollar General store sell these plans. Customers can pay $45 for 4GB, $55 for 8GB and a $75 plan than offers 12GB of high-speed data.  If you enroll for auto-pay you take off another $5 off the $45 and $55 monthly plans, or $10 off the $75 plan.

Cricket Wireless is also at the data boosting party. On January 27th Cricket boosted high-speed data allowances for several of its plans. The new plans offer customers with the basic $40 a month plan and the $60 a month plan data boosts to 3GB and 12GB. Thats only a half a gig for the $40 plan but 2 GB for the $60 plan.

Cricket is also going to retain an existing promotion that upped the data limit from 5GB to 8GB for its $50 a month. From now on 8GB will be Crickets’s standard at that price level. Like U.S. Cellular if you enroll in auto pay you save $5 a month.

For the record its not a concidence that two pre-paid phone companies are offering data increases at the same time. Its actually about timing. According to U.S. Cellular Vice President of Brand Management, “February and March are popular months for prepaid wireless purchases, so our updated plans provide an even better experience to our current customers as well as any consumers looking for a better prepaid deal.”

Cell phone service does not have to be expensive. But you have to shop around, know your needs and your budget. A smart consumer can get the phone and the service plan for the price they are looking for if they just do a little homework.

The website Android Police did a little leg work for you. They found that MetroPCS is the cheapest cell  carrier offering a $30 a month plan that comes with 1GB of data. The cheapest prepaid providers are T-Mobile and Boost. The carriers tied for the cheapest with $30/month plans. But here is the catch, T-Mobile doesn’t advertise the plan it some of the compnaies reps don’t even know it exists. Android Police also warns against buying any kind of family plan. Apparently you can save money by just getting the  individual planes with more data. Check out “The Cheapest Cell Phone Plans in America”

We know in this country there are the truly needy. And no one should be isolated from the world because they can’t pay a phone bill. SafeLink Wireless offers free cell phone service for those less fortunate.  User can get a phone and 500 minutes absolutely free and free text messaging.

Now you know.

Online Holiday Shopping 2016 – Security Basics

canstockphoto31830688Twice a year scammers crawl from underneath rocks and other nasty places to celebrate special holidays. First, tax season, then the holiday season. African-Americans using the Internet for holiday shopping need to be on guard against cyber crime.  Being aware of the scams and hazards can make a big difference in your holiday celebrations. 

The African-American Cyber Report is offering black people another season of valuable safety information to protect your holiday season so lets get started.

 

Card Skimming

Card skimmer courtesy of BBB.org

Card skimmer courtesy of BBB.org

Card skimming is actually pretty simple. Your credit or debit card information is copied when you swipe your card at a retailer or ATM. Cyber thieves install almost invisible devices or special software on retail card readers. This allows them to duplicate your card and steal your PIN. Its as simple as that. So how do you protect yourself?

First of all if something does not look or feel right stay way. For example is the face of the card reader loose or does it look kind of sloppy? Exposed glue or loose fitting parts? Do the buttons require more effort than normal to press? Does your card have to be swiped several times to work properly. Here’s a trick; pull or tug at the face of the reader. It may come off in your hand. Do the same at ATM’s. Check those buttons. Try to move them or lift the key pad. Check the card insert. Pull on that. Check to see if there is something in the slot or protruding from it. You have got to be alert! If you find any of these things notify the retailer and your bank if you have used it.

If possible use your credit card and not your debit card. It is extremely hard to get your money back from a bank debit card. But a credit card transaction can be cancelled and you will normally not be charged. Skimmers can be found anywhere even at Walmart.

RFID Card Protection

paypassThis is less likely but does happen. Your credit and debit card are sometimes equipped with a feature allowing you to charge things with a quick tap of the card on the pay terminal. You may have one of the cards with brands like PayPassExpressPay, or PayWave.

These cards have RFID (radio frequency identification) chips. With the right equipment criminals can scan your card and steal your card’s data. Protect your card by using a RFID blocking sleeve, or an RFID wallet available online at retailers like Amazon.

But as we said before this is not likely. An RFID reader has poor range so the scammer would have to be standing awfully close to read your card. Keep that in mind when you are fighting that crowd on Black Friday. 

 

EMV or Chip Cards Safety

chipcardYou should by now have the credit card with the EMV chip embedded in it. If not contact your bank or card provider and ask for it. That chip is used to encrypt the transaction data when you charge something. 

The objective of card chip was to reduce card fraud. This technology is not perfect. Some retailers have failed to switch to EMV even though the deadline passed in 2015.  Why? Retailers and customers complain that the process is too slow. Chip cards have reduced point-of-sale fraud. But the crooks have worked around it. The latest hazard is fraudulent “card-not-present” transactions online. Criminals can obtain the credit card number, security code, expiration date from criminal websites that sell this information. Personal information like your dog’s name or your mother’s birthday can be found on Facebook. They use this information to hijack your online accounts. That’s what happens when you put too much of your business online.

 

Tech Support Scams


tech-support-scam-popupNew tablets, laptops, smartphones and big screen televisions are big sellers on Black Friday. Tech support scams are common all year round but the efforts by scammers increases during the holidays. 

These scammers are intent on getting you to pay for support or software you don’t need or simply doesn’t exist. This includes extended warranties. They email you with a sales pitch or issue warnings from what appears to be a Microsoft representative. Be aware! Anti-virus companies do not call you to let you know you have a computer virus. Don’t ever agree to let anyone access your computer from a remote location. Don’t download any software online that you are not sure of. If you don’t have the expertise to know then consult a professional.

Computers often come with a ton of useless software or games. This is known as bloatware or crapware. Be careful! These programs can cost you money. They often entice children and adults to buy things without them even realizing it.

 

Phony Bank Calls

During the holiday season you are using your bank and debit cards more often. Beware if someone claiming to be your bank or credit card company calls you. Remember when it comes to your money you should be asking the questions.

Scammers will call victims claiming to be investigating card fraud or suspicious activity. They will ask questions that reveal your personal information like your credit card number or PIN. Don’t answer these questions. Hang up and call your bank from a number you know. Or stop by in person. These scammers are professionals at alarming you and getting you to reveal information used to rip you off.  When it comes to your money only deal with people you know and trust. Never, ever reveal any personal information to a voice over the phone.

 

Email and Phishing Scams

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos.net

Be careful where you click! Be extremely cautious about clicking on or downloading coupons in your email. It may be ransomware. This is a malicious software program that locks up your computer until you pay to get it released. It happens a lot and is one of the hottest computer scams going on right now.

Clicking on the wrong email may release malware on to your computer that steals information, monitors your activity and changes your settings. It may even secretly take control of your computer and email itself to all your contacts. Understand that scammers can duplicate an email from Macy’s, Walmart and any other major retailer. Check the return email address to make sure you know who its from. Check the retailers website for information regarding sales, coupons and possible scams. 

Be careful about holiday contests. When you fill out a contest form you maybe giving out personal information. Same for holiday coupons that ask for your name, email address and other personal information.

This holiday season; Be Alert! Be Aware!

 

 

 

Cash Back Websites That Are For Real!

Lets get back to my favorite cliche; Black people don’t play when it comes to money! So one of the things you need to know is what websites are for real when it comes to getting cash back.

The bottom line is, who is being real about giving you money back? Rather-Be-Shopping writer Kyle James researched and ranked cash back sites that are for real when it comes to getting you money. James checked out the dirty details of some of the most popular cash back sites to show us the ones with the best rewards program or the biggest payout. So lets begin.

TopCashBack

topcashback_logoTopCashback.com touts itself as “USA’s Most Generous Cashback site.”  According to TopCashBack they have over six million members around the world and guarantee the highest cash back. Quite a claim.

TopCashBack is fairly easy to work with. First of all  you can join for free then you start shopping at their website, or via their mobile app, and leave the rest to them. Once you make a purchase your account will get a percentage of cash back in seven days and a confirmation email.

TopCashback offers cash back rates higher than even Ebates.  And you can withdraw your money anytime you want since TopCashBack has no minimum required on withdrawals.

Another thing you probably want to know is who are their merchants and how much money can I get back? Here is a list of their top merchants. Amazon up to 10% back, Groupon up to 10% back, Walmart up to 6% back, Lowe’s 6% back, Gap brands 8% back, Macys.com 8% back, American Eagle 6% back, Overstock.com 5% back.

Get the TopCashBack app for Apple here. For Android click here.

ibotta

ibotta

With ibotta you can forget points or credit. You get your money via PayPal or you can buy a gift card with the cash back. And it works with any product. You start by downloading the app. Then activate rebate offers and redeem them on the things you buy daily. You know simple stuff like bread and milk, vegetables, snacks, beer, wine, and even ice cream. How easy is it to make money with this app? As easy as a selfie!  After you buy your stuff just take a picture of your receipt with the app and wait for the cash to rain into your account. Pays more than a selfie don’t it? Truly, the number of cash back offers makes the app special. And here is a little something extra; click here to give ibotta a try and score a $10 bonus once you redeem your first rebate.

ibotta has hundreds of partners that include, Walmart, Target, Rite-AidWalgreens, CVS, Sam’s Club, Safeway, Dollar General, Whole Foods Market and many, many others. To see the whole list click here.

Download iBotta for Apple here. And for Android click here.

SwagBucks

swagbucks

This site boasts 3,000+ partners, How’s that for a start? SwagBucks is a website that allows you to earn “SwagBucks” that you can use to get free gift cards and the much beloved cash back. Here’s what you need to know.

You earn SwagBucks by shopping online using the SwagBucks search engine. You watch sponsored videos, complete surveys, play online games like Deal or No Deal and Bejeweled 2. These activities allow the shopper to earn SwagBucks for gift cards from merchants like Amazon and Starbucks. And if you earn 5,000 points you can score a $50 ExxonMobil gift card. You can rack up SwagBucks fairly quickly. For example one SwagBuck equals one cent so 100 SwagBucks adds up $1.00. Lets do the math; if you can shoot for 100 SwagBucks a day that equals a $10 Amazon gift card per week. Nice! You can also get a PayPal cash card for your SwagBucks.

This link will show you how you can earn a $50 Amazon gift card every month from SwagBucks.

SwagBucks app for Apple here. For Android click here.

BeFrugal

befrugal_logo

This site guarantees the highest cash back rates. That should interest you especially if you are a Walmart customer. And who isn’t? Walmart customers can get as much as 4% cash back. But lets not stop there! BeFrugal will not only match any competitors cash back rate, but they’ll “match 125% of the higher cash back rate.”  BeFrugal also guarantees that every coupon they post will work. If you find one that doesn’t they fork over $5 to you. And if you redeem your cash back with a Amazon gift card you get an additional 3% cash back. The icing on the cake is BeFrugal has over 5,000 merchant partners.

You’ll find that BeFrugal just doesn’t have the name recognition and notoriety of Ebates or SwagBucks. But don’t shy away from any company that works this hard to get cash back in your pocket. BeFrugal also offers a generous $10 bonus for new members. And lets be real, how can you beat a company who’s tagline is, “We are a bunch of cheap, thrifty, penny pinchers who believe that a dollar saved is two dollars earned.”

Ebates.com

ebates

Ok, Ebates has been around since the late 90’s. Thats pretty much the birth of the Internet if my calendar serves me correctly. So that makes them the oldest cash back website.

Ebates has over 2,000 merchant partners and if you like shopping at JCPenney then you can get as much as 12% percent cash back. Other partners include Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Target and Macys.com.

This site works by having you shop online through their site and click through to the store you want to shop at. Ebates keeps their site up to date with money saving coupon codes.  Their site is newly designed to make it easier to use and intuitive. Basically you won’t need a tech degree to use it. Ebates also offers a strong sign-up bonus of $10 which will get credited to your account when you spend $25 at any of its merchant partners.

Ebates app for Apple is here. Click here for Android.

Mr. Rebates

mr-rebates-logo

Mr. Rebates has 2,000 retail partners and has been in business since 2002.  One of their unique selling points is the “Store of the Week” which offers a really nice wad of cash back for a limited-time. Once Nike was the “Store of the Week” and offered 15% cash back up from the normal 4%. Don’t miss the “Store of the Week” sale because their cash back percentage is sick! I mean its outrageous and you’ll be sorry you missed it.  How do you not miss it?  Just sign-up and get their newsletter via email and you’ll know what  stores they’re currently featuring. Then sit back and wait for your favorite store to be featured. Don’t sleep on this one.

Finally, Mr. Rebates does not have a mobile app or a sign up bonus, But you can get your money via check or PayPal. But there is a $10 minimum.

Main Street SHARES

mainstreetshares

Maybe you remember BigCrumbs.com? I don’t but thats not important. Well they have changed their name and their game. This company takes cash back to the next level by letting you buy into the company itself! Wait…what? Yes, you can buy your way into the company!

MainStreet Shares has 2,000+ partners including Dell computer, Sears and Walmart. The company uses pretty much the same cash back model as the others and pays its users monthly via PayPal. They have no mobile app or sign up bonus.

But they do have a new way to get you some money. As I said you can buy into the company. Here’s how; After you register for free, you’ll earn a commission when shopping and receive “virtual shares” or msSHARES.  As the owner of these msSHARES you get paid back when MainStreetSHARES is acquired (bought out) by a larger company. According to their website, “MainStreetSHARES is the only program that shares everything with its members.” The company is contractually bound to set aside at least 50% of the net cash proceeds for members to share. The company  believes they will be ready for purchase within the next two years. This is where the expression “getting in on the ground floor,” comes from.

Now you’re gonna ask, how much money can I make on this deal? The website explains it best. According to Main StreetSHARES a $1 billion selling price shakes out like this.  “If the net cash proceeds to MainStreetSHARES from a sale is $1 billion, then MainStreetSHARES will set aside $500 million (50% of $1 billion) for members to share. If Sally has earned .01% (one hundredth of one percent) of the total msSHARES earned by all members, then Sally will receive .01% of $500 million, or $50,000.” You like the sound of that don’t cha!

Other cash back sites you may want to have a look at;

ShopatHome.com

shopathome

MyPoints.com

mypoints2

MyPoints offers different ways to earn points, many don’t even require you to shop at all. You can also redeem points for airline miles and hotel bookings or redeem your points for cash via PayPal.

CouponCabin

couponcabin_large

CouponCabin has a lot of “Exclusive Offers” that have a higher, limited-time, cash back rate. It looks like some of these offers are only good for 24 hours and some are only good for a certain number of redemptions.

CouponCactus

coupon-cactus-logo

Now you know.

App of the Week – Blink Health

BlinkThe greatest travesty of living in America is the cost of health care.  Far too many people simply suffer because that can’t afford to see a doctor or pay for medication.

Even with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) many black people are still uninsured. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts  over half of  all African-Americans, 55 percent,  live in the 23 states that have not expanded Medicaid eligibility under the ACA. The numbers are not much better for other groups. The Urban Institute reports that by comparison, 42 percent of whites, 38 percent of Latinos and 23 percent of Asians live in states that have not expanded to the ACA standards.

Even worse in non-expansion states a disproportionate number of African-Americans fail to qualify even for the narrower Medicaid program in place now. The result is that far too many black people have little or no medical or prescription coverage.

 That is why Blink Health is the App of the Week.

According to Blink Health as much as 30 percent of all medications are left on the pharmacy counter for one simple reason; the patient can’t afford them.

Blink Health co-founder and chief operating officer Matt Chaiken says people wrongly assume that if they have insurance they also have prescription coverage.  “There’s a common misconception in this country. Patients believe that, because they’re covered by insurance, they’re paying the lowest price at the pharmacy counter. This is not the case.”

Blink says it can offer lower prices on more than 15,000 mostly generic medications for less than $10. These price reductions are made possible because of the purchasing power of the combined membership of Blink Health and partner company MedImpact. The list of pharmacy chains that accept Blink Health includes Walmart, CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Target, and many others

The BlinkHealth app allows the user to enter the name of their medication, dosage and quantity and the app will return a price quote. The user can pay for the prescription online. After the prescription has been paid for the app issues a proof of purchase known as a  “Blink Card” directly to the users phone. The user can then go to the pharmacy with their prescription and show their Blink Card. As long as they have a valid prescription from a physician the prescription will be filled. Nothing is paid at the pharmacy.

BlinkHealth is free and available for both and Apple and Android devices.

App of the Week – Earny

earny_LEverybody shops online. Black people especially enjoy the power and convenience of e-commerce. But shopping online has one big drawback and that is buying something only to discover it at a cheaper price later or at another website. That is why Earny is the App of the Week.

Earny allows online shoppers to get a better price by finding the item you purchased at a cheaper price and then getting you a refund for the difference. Yeah, you read that right! Earny will get some money back for you. Not only that but you pretty much don’t have to do a thing.

The app tracks your online purchases and finds your e-receipts by connecting with your email and Amazon accounts to see if you got the best deal. If Earny finds a lower price it will request a refund for you and take a 25 percent cut of the action. The balance will be credited back to your payment card. Yeah, you read that right! Earny automatically tracks your purchases and files for refunds or credits when it beats the price you paid.

Earny is programmed to understand the price match policy of online stores and knows how to file claims without any help from you. Think of it as a robot refund machine.

Earny can track purchases from over 50 stores including such giant retailers as Amazon, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Nordstrom, and many others. Is this the bomb or what?

Earny is about to get a lot better according to co-founder Oded Vakrat.  Vakrat plans to provide consumers with the same protections across a variety of services.

“For example, flight tickets, hotels, car insurance, health insurance, phone plans – all those things we will focus on in the future,” he says. “We want Earny to watch your back for every payment you make,” adds Vakrat.

Earny is free and available at Apple and the company is developing an Android version.

Tax Season 2016 – Who’s Doing Your Taxes?

tax-form-1040-fbIf you are not doing your own taxes you better make damn sure the person you pay to do them knows what they are doing!  The tax payer is ultimately responsible for any false claims, evasion or mistakes and you could be looking at criminal charges. This is serious business.

Finding a good tax professional does not have to be hard. You just have to know who you are looking for and that they are fully qualified. There are plenty of well known and reputable companies.  But according to the Government Accounting Office (GAO) most tax mistakes are the result of hiring a tax professional. According to the GAO, taxes prepared by hired professionals had a higher estimated percent of errors, 60 percent, than those prepared by the the tax payer, 50 percent.

The really dangerous thing is that anybody can claim to be a tax preparer. To declare yourself a tax preparer all you need is $50 to buy a tax identification number from the IRS. You don’t need a CPA license or formal education. No questions asked.

So if you’re going to hire a pro you want to choose wisely and the IRS Preparer Directory is where you want to start. The IRS database of tax pros launched about a year ago and includes a listing of tax preparers who have voluntarily submitted their credentials. The database of enrolled agents complete at least 72 hours of tax education every three years. You can search the database here.

Understanding who is doing your taxes is key. You have several choices besides the enrolled agents.

  • Certified public accountants or CPAs are accountants who have qualified through state exams and met specific education and experience requirements for that title. The IRS also offers a list of certified electronic tax preparers. But keep  in mind that not all CPAs area tax professionals. You need to ask and check their credentials.
  • Tax lawyers and tax preparation companies like H&R Block.  Tax attorneys are best for handling complex tax disputes, corporate matters, and handling the tax returns of enormously wealthy people. Unless you have a few million you should be ok with a tax prep company.

But be warned that tax prep companies like H&R Block or Jackson Hewitt and Walmart are designed to complete as many tax returns as quickly as possible. These companies use people who have limited training or are seasonal employees and quality control is suspect. A few years ago when the GAO went undercover to get returns done at these companies, nearly all of the returns were incorrect to some degree. If your tax return is wrong you are still responsible. Some will go with you if you are audited and some will even pay the penalty if there is one. But you are still responsible for any additional taxes or false claims.

One of the safest steps you can take when looking for a tax pro is to interview them. Check their reputation and background with the Better Business Bureau, make sure they have a tax preparer identification number (PTIN) for what it’s worth. Ask;

  • What professional organizations does the preparer belong to?
  • How long have they been doing tax returns?
  • Ask about their educational background.
  • Ask for references and call to find out if the preparer is reliable and professional.
  • Get contact information, address, phone number and email. Get business hours and an after hours contact number if possible. When and how can they be reached is vital. You don’t want someone disappearing with all your tax documents.?
  • Can  they be contacted after April 15th if necessary?
  • What are their rates and how are their fees calculated? For example do they charge by the hour or is there a flat rate per return? Are there additional charges for more complex returns?  You want to make sure you know how much you’ll be paying, including for any phone calls.
  • Do they offer other services such as estate or financial planning?
  • What records and receipts do you need from me? How are they transmitted and secured. Remember your life is in those papers!
  • What happens if my return is audited?
  • Do you offer electronic filing?

Word of mouth is the best advertising so check with friends, relatives, co-workers. Your employer may have a recommended tax preparer. You can find tax professional on places like Yelp, Angie’s List, The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and National Association of Enrolled Agents website.

Other Tax Season 2016 articles from the African-American Cyber Report

IRS “Get Transcript” Got Hammered!

Tax Prep Apps of the Week

Claim Your Refund ASAP!

Hackers Attack IRS

Beware of Tax Scams

Technology’s Dirty Secrets Series – E-Waste and Technology Pollution

WEEE-Dump-in-GhanaTechnology makes our lives easier. But the world we live in has hidden corners where others suffer for our easy life.  E-waste and  technology pollution is wrecking the environment especially in third world countries. Some countries on the African continent are poisoned and polluted by the technology industry we hold so dear in the United States and the western world. This is the dirt and blood that coats the billions of dollars made manufacturing, selling and disposing of technology. In this series the African-American Cyber Report will expose the dirty secrets of the technology industry. In this third and final article of this series we examine the practice and victims of electronic and technology waste disposal.

The explosive growth of the electronics and technology industries has also sparked a tragic onslaught of electrical and electronic waste (e-waste). In 2012, the United Nations reported that in five years, the world’s electronic waste would grow by 33% from 49.7 million tons to 65.4 million tons.

The third world industry of recycling the valuable elements contained in our e-waste such as copper and gold is both a source of income and illness and death in developing or emerging industrialized countries.

Impoverished people are using crude, even primitive techniques to harvest valuable metals from discarded electronics. One technique used is burning cables to get at the cooper wiring. This method exposes children, adults and even entire families to a range of hazardous substances.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) these children and families suffer from e-waste-connected health risks as a result of direct contact with harmful materials such as lead, cadmium, chromium, brominated flame retardants or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) because they are inhaling toxic fumes.

Not only is the air they breath severely polluted but so is the very ground they stand on. Because of our electronic waste dangerous chemicals pollute the soil, water and food. Recycling industries where workers dismantle electrical equipment with little or no safety precautions also pose the threat of injury.

One of the most polluted places on earth is Agbloboshie in Ghana’s capital of Accra. According to the Green Cross Switzerland and the Blacksmith Institute  Agbloboshie is one of the 10 most polluted places in the world, thanks to toxic fumes, which are a result of consistent dumping of electronic goods.  Agbloboshie has been Western Europe’s dumping ground fordiscarded electronic goods for more than twenty years.  About 215,000 tons of second hand consumer items land in Agbloboshie every year, generating 129,000 tons of electronic waste.

“We estimate that the health of more than 200 million people is at risk from pollution in the developing world,” said Richard Fuller, who heads US-based environment watchdog the Blacksmith Institute.

African nations are not alone as they bathe in the west’s e-waste. Indonesia’s Citarum River Basin in West Java is home to about nine million people and 2,000 factories. The river, source of drinking water and rice farming irrigation,  is contaminated by a wide range of toxins, including aluminium and manganese and tests have shown lead at levels more than 1,000 times above U.S. standards.

American’s fail to understanding of what some parts of the world is going through as we enjoy the age of technology.

A report from the the U.S. Government Accountability Office is a clear indictment of the way Americans dispose of electronic waste. American electronics recyclers appear to be shipping used equipment containing CRTs (cathode ray tubes) overseas in violation of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.  But even worse is the fact that the agency’s regulations cover only the export of used and discarded CRT monitors, not other electronic equipment. So whatever e-waste we can dump on the third world is fair game.

Only 25 percent of  U.S. generated e-waste is recycled. The other 75 percent goes straight to American landfills or third world nations.

The U.S. is shipping used electronic devices containing toxic substances overseas and there are few if any laws to protect these people and the environment in those countries, according to a government auditor’s report.

“Concerns have grown … that some U.S. companies are exporting these items to developing countries, where unsafe recycling practices can cause health and environmental problems,” the GAO report said. “Imported used electronics that cannot be repaired are often recycled in developing countries by crude and inefficient means and with virtually no human health or environmental protection.”

According to the GAO 20 percent of discarded electronics from the U.S. would add up to 66 million pounds of e-waste being shipped overseas each year. This wastes ends up in places like Agbloboshie.

So how do you dispose of electronic products?   Check the EPA’s website or the Electronics Take Back Coalition for  information about e-Stewards, which are responsible recyclers of electronic waste. If you can’t find and e-Steward near you check the manufacturer’s website or store recycling programs. For instance, Staples and Best Buy both have recycling programs.

There is also a thriving industry in the U.S. that buys old electronics or take trade ins. These include websites like Gazalle.com and BuyBackWorld.com. And for the record you can find electronic buy back programs at Walmart and Target stores.