What It Takes To Protect Your Identity in the 21st Century

One of the worst phone calls you can get from your bank is the one that tells you someone has your credit card. How can that be? It’s right there in your wallet. Welcome to the 21st Century and the criminals who live in it. Today’s thief is as tech savvy as any software engineer and he can – and will – employ any innovative means necessary to get your financial information. Here’s what it takes to protect your identity these days.
Pay attention to the cashier! Often, identity theft criminals are working at your local department store. Once you give your credit card to the cashier, never take your eyes off of it. Do not allow that individual to leave the register with your card.
Identity theft happens via online transactions. Update all of your passwords regularly. Make sure they include letters and numbers, and go for the longest password the system allows.
Shred all personal information. If you still receive bills and statements in the mail, make sure you shred them before you discard them. Thieves will happily go through your trash to get your personal information.
Go paperless with your bills. One less piece of personal information in your trashcan is good for your financial security.
Check your credit report often. You know your credit profile. Make sure it isn’t a surprise due to identity theft.
Purchase additional insurance that offers assistance with identity theft restoration. Whether your credit card gets stolen on vacation or at the local market, a little extra insurance can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
Avoid using your primary checking account when shopping online. Consider setting up a PayPal account or a separate revenue resource dedicated to online transactions. You can keep the minimum balance necessary to cover obligations in these accounts, and you can always transfer money to and from the alternate account if necessary.
Never give out credit card or personal information over the phone. There’s no way to know whether a phone salesman is legitimate. If you want to do business with a phone solicitor, ask them to send you information through the mail. Ask for website information or other references that you can trace for legitimacy.
Ignore warning emails from your bank. If you get an email from a bank stating that your password was changed or your credit card has been suspended, close the email and go directly to that bank’s website. If the email is legitimate, the same warning will be directly connected to your account. Never open links in emails with addresses you don’t recognize. 
Whatever you do to protect your identity and secure your finances, be aware that 21st Century thieves are always looking for new ways to fool you. Always approach electronic transactions with hyper awareness.

If any little red flag goes up for you, then it is perfectly OK to question the transaction or even contact your bank. How will you protect yourself in the 21st Century?

Six Considerations When Designing a Business Site

Owning a business and coming up with marketing strategies has reached a new plateau with the rising popularity of social media and social networking. Although the end game remains the same, social media marketing offers many opportunities for businesses to advertise their goods and services.
Depending on the type of business you own, there are different ways to target your business to Internet users that require special considerations. To determine how to attract Internet users to your site, decide what you want prospective consumers to do once they arrive on your landing page. A few possibilities include:
• Price Comparisons
• Provide Information about Your Products, Services, or Operation
• Buy Directly from the Site
• Leave Contact Information for Further Contact from Your Sales Team
After making this decision, business owners will need to learn how to get the word out about their business and their web site. Whether they want to know how to reach a target audience, or how to engage a big audience online, they can obtain this valuable knowledge by taking social media marketing classes.
Selling products or services is the primary goal for online businesses, and the benefits of learning about social media marketing are numerous. Proprietors will learn how to:
1. Design the Business Website
The website business owners use to sell their product must exude professionalism and confidence to attract and keep customers.
2. Give the People what they Want
Online customers are just like those who shop in brick-and-mortar stores or consumers looking for service providers: They want to know immediately if you have what they want or need. Providing information upfront and as succinctly as possible is essential to keep prospective customers interested in finding out more about your business.  
3. Sell Products
In addition to learning how to describe the products you sell with a hook or an angle, business websites must have processing capabilities to handle shipping, credit cards, and inventory. Understanding E-commerce is a big piece of this.
4. Sell Services
From simple to complicated services, your site needs to include ways for customers to schedule and pay for them.
5. Provide Customer Service
Proprietors need to provide ways for customers to connect with them and receive information. This can include email addresses, live chats, forums, FAQ sections, and a glossary of terms or a library of information.
6. Include bells and Whistles Without Overdoing It
Help visitors use your business website by providing user-friendly navigation and simple help text. Use headlines or banners at the top of the site to indicate each section:
• About Us – information about your company and goods or services
• List of Products and Services – including pricing information
• Ordering Information and Forms – how to purchase your products or services
Gaining knowledge about social networking and interacting in a personal way is essential for online businesses to be successful. What changes will you make to your marketing strategy based on the new social network marketing trends?

Leveraging Social Media to Share Your Important News

Social media sites have created a forum for people to keep in touch with a variety of social circles. Loved ones, distant family members, social groups from work, online forums and more use these sites to share news with each other. This fact can create a bit of a dilemma when wanting to let everyone know about your important news. After all, sending emails to tell everyone you’re pregnant is a bit impersonal, especially if the list is a big one. CC’ing everyone doesn’t allow for any kind of personalization, and you now have to deal with replying to questions from those looking for more information.
Getting the Word out to Those who Want to Know
It goes without saying that there is going to be a circle of people who are going to know the news before everyone else. However, many of those outside your inner social circle are going to want to hear the news and will want to know what is happening, as well. Social media becomes a very handy tool to use for times like these. Setting up feeds and passing out the URL will be a time saver. No longer will you need to write out a new email and send it to everyone whenever there is news. Instead, you can post something like when you find out your due date in one location. Those who have subscribed to your feeds will be able to check it out and leave their comments.
Using Social Media to get the News out
In one sense, social media has allowed people to become their own news broadcasters. Celebrities use this tool to keep in touch with their fans, giving information directly to them instead of through press releases. One of the most popular uses for this technology is for celebrities to let their fans know that they are pregnant. So why shouldn’t you do the same? Use social media to:
• Announce your tracked due date
Let everyone know that a baby shower is being hosted and all are welcome to come.
• Post the latest ultrasounds.
• Spread the news about important milestones including your due date.
• Announce the name you’ve decided on.
Utilize all Aspects of Social Media
Everyone who can use a computer and the Internet can use the social media sites the same way as the celebrities do. Use it for your own purpose, send out the news you want people to hear, and respond to comments as you can. Post pictures to go along with the information, talk to people, answer questions and more. Basically, you are hosting your own forum while telling everyone about important news. Encourage everyone in your circle to inform others who may not be connected. Sharing information has reached a point where it will never return to its previous level. There is truly no better way to get information to those who matter to you.
Social media has certainly changed how we communicate our major life changes. How will you spread the news during your pregnancy?

4 APIs and Their Uses  

We all understand the basics behind API’s (Application Program Interface) and how they make our jobs as programmers easier. In the simplest of terms, an API provides all programmers with the same building blocks. These blocks can than be used to create innovative programs to provide users with functionality or simply fun. While there are literally thousands of these interfaces floating around, there are four that really stand out.
1. The Google Maps APIs – Google doesn’t do anything half way and its robust family of APIs for its popular mapping program is no exception. Adding functionality to a website in the form of customizable maps just makes sense and this group of APIs makes it easy. Google currently offers six different APIs for its mapping program including JavaScript API, Flash API, Google Maps API, Static Maps, and Web Services. This group of APIs tops the list because almost everyone is familiar with Google Maps and including them on a website or page provides visitors with a certain level of comfort.
2. Facebook API – Let’s face it, Facebook is the leading contender in the world of social networking. Its API makes it simple to integrate all of its functionality and social networking techniques onto a website. It has offered Open Source as well as several apps aimed at helping programmers include mobile functionality as well. It makes the list because with over 500 million active users, it is THE social network to integrate with.
3. Yahoo API – Yahoo may not have the huge visibility of Google, but it is still a huge influence on Internet users. The company has developed a nice suite of API’s aimed at helping developers integrate some functionality into websites. The best of the bunch is definitely the Yahoo Messenger API. It’s ideal for managing groups and content as well as data transfer and real time communications.
4. EchoSign Document API – We are all familiar with EchoSign functionality and its uses. The EchoSign Document API is a great addition to any website that houses documents which require signatures. This nifty little API allows programmers to streamline the whole process, making it a breeze to present documents, sign them, and store them.
At the end of the day, all API’s are used in much the same way: they provide the end user with additional functionality in a familiar way. That’s exactly why the programs above are the best of the best – they accomplish both goals for the programmer. Building a site from these building blocks makes sense.
Programmers should consider utilizing one or more of the API’s discussed above to create more functional websites and to provide their end users with a more seamless experience. Take a look at your site and ask yourself one question: have I provided my end users with the best functionality possible? Which tool should I use to improve my site??

3 Ways Companies are Exploring Social Media

You couldn’t escape the social media world if you tried. It seems that nowadays everything happens on Facebook, Twitter, or a blog. This is where breaking news takes place, special coupons are offered, and even new announcements are made. It’s no wonder then that companies around the world are utilizing social media to help build their brands. If you are a business owner, you are missing out on a large portion of your audience if you aren’t involved in the social media world. Let’s take a look at three ways companies are using social media to promote their products and brand.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of Facebook. In fact, you may even have your own personal Facebook account. But did you know that having a fan page for your business on Facebook can actually increase brand loyalty and get you more customers? Companies who have Facebook pages can interact directly with their consumers, which creates trust and loyalty. A good example of a company who has broken out of the typical mold in their vertical is the Reach Card on Facebook. This allows customers to learn about company information, give testimonials, and have up-to-date information about the product.
Companies are also finding success on Facebook by taking advantage of the unique tools Facebook offers. One of these tools is iFrame. Basically, iFrame lets a company make a Facebook page, with videos, coupons, and special offers, without needing special code. The iFrame tools drives customers to the corporate website, allows people to “like” the Facebook page, and also lets company executives track conversation rates and social metrics. Edmunds has utilized iFrame well and found great success with the tool.
Another social media tool that companies are using to build brand loyalty is Twitter. A user “tweets” updates three or four times a day on Twitter. These updates are usually about the company, a sale, or information the user will find necessary. “Tweets” are done in 140 characters or less, so it’s usually quick and up-to-date information. Living Social uses Twitter well to drive people to its website. The company will send out an update about a short-term or “hot” offer that its consumers are interested in.
While blogging certainly isn’t a new concept, many companies still haven’t caught on to the power of a blog. Writing regularly on a company blog is a great way to help customers understand your story. You can talk about the company, why you are passionate about your product, and announce special sales or offers on a blog. People connect to blogs – especially those that are updated with interesting information on a regular basis. Fat Wallet, a coupon and deals site, uses its corporate blog well to gain customer loyalty and to connect to consumers.
Social media is a wonderful tool, when used correctly, that can actually increase your business. Try these three social media outlets today to see for yourself how they work. How does your business use social media?

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