Tag Archives: captcha

Tips for Safe Online Shopping

Whether you’re supporting small businesses, creating custom gifts or buying ebooks, music or anything else, it’s important to keep yourself and your personal information safe. Fortunately, it’s not all that hard to do.

Easy Steps

  • Almost all online purchases require using a credit card. For added safety, use one credit card just for online purchases. Set a very low purchase limit (say, $200) to minimize risk. You could also buy a cash card from Visa or American Express to use for very small purchases.
     
  • Do not use your debit card/bank card unless you absolutely have to. This protects your bank account.
     
  • Work with well-known companies. Real-world stores also have online ordering – you know they’re legitimate businesses. Other safe bets are Amazon, Zappos (shoes, bags, clothing & more) and Audible for downloadable audiobooks.
     
  • S is for Security: When you’re buying from a website and you click on Check Out, look for the letters “https://” in the website’s address. That “s” means that it’s more secure for your personal information. You can also look for a little padlock on the page or near the website address.
    httpsPadlock
     
     
  • Don’t click on links in email. Visit the store’s website directly and then enter in any catalog or discount codes at checkout.
     
  • Know the full cost of what you’re buying, including shipping and handling charges, fees and tax (if applicable). What looks like a deal might not be after you add it all up.
     
  • Read the details for cost, shipping, delivery dates, and any other steps along the way. Take your time and understand what you’re doing.
     
  • Read the return policy. Some stores like Zappos and Lands End have excellent return policies.
     
  • Never give out bank information, Social Security numbers or your birthdate. No legitimate business will ever ask for these – they don’t when you stand at the cash register, do they?
     
  • Don’t use a public computer for making purchases. Someone might be looking at your screen as you type in your credit card number, or might have done something to the computer to record what you type.
     
  • Keep records of your online transactions & check your statements. Save the emailed receipts from the sellers and check your credit card statement online more often than once a month. This will help in case something does go wrong.

Next Steps

  • Protect your computer from malicious software from fake vendors. Install anti-virus software and keep it updated – new viruses come up all the time.
     
  • When you buy from smaller companies, look for a physical address, customer service phone number and lots of information on the “About” page. Lots of details improves the chances that it’s a real business and not a scam.
     
  • Use a third-party payment service for your online buying. PayPal is the most well-known and trusted of these. Create an account with PayPal, store your credit card information there, then use your PayPal account to make purchases at other sites. This way, you don’t have to give your credit card number to all those smaller sites – just to PayPal.
     

Help & Resources

Blogs and Commenting

Learning for Life Online tool #1:
The Learning for Life Online blog (and website)

What Is It?

So, what is a blog, anyway? Blog is a contraction of web and log, and a web log is a series of posts (articles) displayed on a website in reverse chronological order, with the most recent at the top. That’s it — nothing too fancy. This post that you’re reading right now is part of the Learning for Life Online blog.

How Is It Useful?

Originally developed as online diaries, blogs have become a way to share information about almost anything in a format that’s easy to read and follow. Blogs are more useful and interesting than websites because readers can add comments that create a conversation between the original poster and anyone reading along. Blog posts are easily shared by copying and pasting the web address, by sharing directly through social media like Facebook and Twitter, and by subscribing to a blog’s feed (a stream of new blog posts is sent directly to your email or to a service like Google Reader).

In fact, a blog is such a good format for sharing information online that many websites now use many of their features on all of their pages. Newspapers are a great example, where every article encourages comments and sharing. In fact, some websites started off as just a blog and have added other pages as they’ve grown.

Try It Out

There is a blog out there for every topic you can think of: recipes, diy fashion, gadgets, book reviews, opinions and more. Use a search tool like Google, Bing or Yahoo to find blogs on topics you’re interested in. Make sure to look for posts with dates on them to know you’ve found a true blog.

Reading a blog is as easy as finding one and scrolling down the entries. However, some definitions may make things easier:

  • The Home link will get you back to the main page of the blog, where the most recent entries are. You can also click on the title of the blog to get you there.
  • The About page usually describes the who the author is or what the blog is about.
  • Categories or tags are ways to organize a blog’s content by topic. Think of categories as chapters in a book and the tags as posty notes on individual pages — quick ways to find something you were looking for. Click on a category or tag link on the side of the blog to read more entries about those topics.
  • Subscribe will sign you up to have the latest posts on a blog sent directly to you by email or RSS.

Commenting on a blog post or article is as easy as typing in the comment box below the post, but you may also need to prove that you’re a real person by typing in a reply to a captcha. Be patient with these; captchas protect blogs from automated spam comments that may be obscene, selling something, or linking readers to a malicious site.

Starting a blog is as easy as signing up with a blog platform like WordPress or TypePad and writing your first post. Before you do, consider who you want to write for, what you want to write about, and how much time you have for keeping your blog fresh and interesting. Try reading and commenting for a while before you commit to maintaining a blog. In a future Learning for Life Online lesson, we’ll highlight some Best Practices for Blogging.

Easy, right?

Help & Resources

Wikipedia article about blogs
Common Craft video explaining blogs
Technorati, an excellent place to find blogs to read