Holiday shopping for the technologically-savvy people on your list can be a daunting task. Don’t worry, we can help. I asked my team of techies what was on their list. Here are some ideas straight from the source:
Smart Phone – Perfect for: everyone.
The smart phone topped the list for my team as the most basic, “must have.” They were divided between the iPhone 4S and the EVO 4G Android. Keep in mind that although the phone is the gift, either you or the recipient will have to pay the monthly bill, including a data plan. If possible, it might be handy to have the phone activated so that it’s ready to dial Christmas morning.
Tablet or eReader – Perfect for: everyone.
The tablet made everyone’s list. The iPad 2 was the top pick with the Nook and the Kindle Fire tied for second.
You can get the Kindle Fire for $199, the Nook for $249, and the iPad for a hefty $499 or $829, depending on storage needs and if you want the wifi-only version or the 3G service. The monthly service for 3G will run an extra $15-20 a month.
The Kindle Fire and the Nook can’t really compete with the speed, storage, screen size or number of available apps on the iPad, but for less than half the price, it doesn’t need to. Plus, you won’t pay a monthly data fee. Choosing between the Kindle and the Nook is a decision about whose content is king, the Kindle downloads content from Amazon and the Nook downloads from Barnes and Noble.
Web TV – Perfect for: the homebody.
Internet-enabled television is a hot item. The most noted were Apple TV, Roku and Google TV (the Logitech Revue box). It’s a small component, about the size of a sandwich, that connects to your TV with one simple cord. You can stream movies, TV shows, music, photos and videos. Google TV even lets you browse the web and features other functionality, like a split screen for concurrent web browsing and TV watching.
These technologies are the impressive future of TV, but the downside is that they may be soon obsolete. There are already TVs that are internet-ready and you can typically get a lot of these services through your Blu-Ray player or gaming system. The upside is their affordability – typically between $50-100.
3D-TV – Perfect for: the movie buff.
If you want the cinema experience in your living room, you’re going to pay for it. You’ll need the 3D TV, the 3D Blu-Ray player, the 3D movies and, of course, the goofy 3D glasses. For everything, you’ll pay more than $1,500.
Tough Camera – Perfect for: the shutter bug.
It seems that all the camera makers have a “tough” camera on the market. They’re sturdier and more resilient than ever. Drop it from 10 feet, submerge it in up to 30 feet of water or freeze it to 14 degrees – this camera is for the outdoorsy type and could even stand up to the abuse of a family. Shatter proof, waterproof, and freeze proof options are available for around $300.
AirPlay speakers – Perfect for: the music lover.
AirPlay speakers let you play music from your computer, phone, iPod and more without the cords. They use wifi or Bluetooth technology – or as it seems, magic. Prices range between $200 and $1,200. Bose has launched a portable version just in time for the holidays priced at $300.
Giant Universal Remote – Perfect for: the person with multiple remotes.
This giant remote boasts a 3.5” lighted touch screen display and controls TV, DVD player, music player, VCR, radio, game console and more – in fact, it’s pre-programmed for 225,000 devices. For $350, your techie can turn on all the right gadgets, in the right order – with one touch.
Wireless charging tray – Perfect for: the multi-tasker.
If your techie has a slew of devices that need charging, consider a wireless charging tray. The charging tray is a flat surface that plugs into an outlet. You simply rest your item(s) to be charged on top of it. They’ll never be short an outlet or waste time searching for that lost cord again. They’re affordable too – as little as $40.
It’s easy to research prices and features online, but it’s always fun to head down to the store to play with the gift before you buy. Good luck with your holiday shopping and have fun!
by Nannette, Vice President, Technology Solutions Group
by Michelle, Assistant Vice President, Operations
Several recent news stories have portrayed online services as a risky proposition for consumers. Contrary to what you may think, using eServices can actually keep your identity safe. Electronic delivery channels are usually free, easy to use and can be a crucial component in data protection and fraud prevention.
Here’s how you can use eServices to stay aware of risks and help prevent being exposed to fraud:
We know your time is valuable, that’s why we offer anytime access to your accounts with BranchLine. Using online banking, you can securely access your accounts and view your up-to-the-minute balances. That means you are always in a position to know about activity on your account.
Receiving your statements electronically is a great way to “go green” by eliminating the paper waste, but it’s also a great way to protect your account information. Since there’s no paper, you can avoid mail tampering and the exposure of your paper records in your home or garbage – you don’t even have to shred!
Plus, you’ll receive your statements sooner. Your email notification is sent as soon as statements are available.
Paying bills electronically protects your personal information in several ways. First, you don’t have to give other vendors your bank account numbers to debit your account.
Additionally, most bills are paid electronically, meaning a paper bill and check are never issued and sent through the mail – minimizing the risk of theft or loss. Bill pay also gives you more control. You decide when your account is debited and you can even set up bills for automatic payment.
Plus, you’ll love the convenience! I’ll never go back to hassling with stamps or envelopes. And the best part is, at Pacific Service CU, bill pay is free.
Account alerts tell you about activity on your account. You can elect to receive email notifications for most account activity, for example, when a check clears, when your check card is used, or when your direct deposit is credited. It’s easy to set up alerts. Using BranchLine online banking, click on “Manage Profile,” then “Manage Alerts.”
Simply stated, you’ll always know what’s happening on your account – when it’s happening.
Finally, ask your employer about direct deposit or payroll deduction. It’s a safe and secure way to make sure your paycheck is immediately available, giving you access to your money on payday. There’s no wait for a paper check and no risk of loss or theft. You can even set up multiple deposits to a savings account, your child’s account, or your loan.
I encourage you to try eServices to save time and money and be safe while you bank.
It’s easy to get started. Login to BranchLine or call one of our friendly member service representatives – we’re happy to help.
by Nannette, Vice President, Technology Solutions Group
Epsilon is a company that sends more than 40 billion emails each year on behalf of its 2,500 business clients, many of them household name retailers. Earlier this month, approximately 2% of Epsilon’s clients, estimated at more than 50 companies were affected by an email breach. SecurityWeek has confirmed that affected companies include US Bank, Brookstone, Best Buy, The College Board, CitiBank, Walgreens, Disney Destinations, McKinsey & Company, Home Shopping Network, JPMorgan Chase, TiVo, Kroger, Capital One, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and more.
Pacific Service CU was not affected, however, many of our members may have been exposed through other relationships. It is possible there are scammers out there with the names, email accounts and, potentially even, information about the companies with whom you shop or do business. The risk is these fraudsters may exploit your active company relationships and attempt to steal your identity and personal information. It’s a good time to remember to be cautious and aware about potential online scams.
Here’s how a potential scam might work:
Phishing and Vishing are types of deception to obtain sensitive personal information. An email is sent mimicking the appearance and identity of a company where you shop. The email may request that you update your account information, a credit card number or a password. Or, the scam might try to get you to visit fraudulent websites. A “spoofed” site could have malware or viruses that affect your computer, or they could encourage you to conduct transactions or update or verify your account information.
With the Epsilon breach, fraudulent emails could avoid spam filters because they are targeted to known customers, which could result in a greater likelihood that their attempts will be successful in convincing consumers to respond.
Here’s what you can do:
First, protect yourself by staying alert and acting cautiously to any requests for your personal information.
Don’t respond to unknown solicitations and don’t give your personal information to unknown people or companies. If you’re suspicious about an email you’ve received, you should visit the company’s website directly by inputing the URL or using a bookmark. Do not click on the response link in an email. Better yet, call them if you’re concerned. Be sure to use a phone number not contained in the email.
Avoid downloading files, emails or attachments from unknown sources because they could contain malware, viruses or links to counterfeit or “spoofed” websites.
Second, protect yourself and your computer while using the Internet, by keeping your computer’s firewall turned on and keep your operating system, anti-spyware and anti-virus software up to date.
And finally, report suspicious activity and suspected phishing attempts to the company being impersonated.
by Nannette, Vice President, Technology Solutions Group
Have you seen those small black and white squares that look like a Rorschach ink blot test?
It’s called a QR code! A lot of people don’t know what it is, but it’s becoming more common. If you’re a techie like me or someone who likes to keep up on the latest trends in technology, you love this stuff!
“QR” is short for Quick Response. The creator of the QR code intended for the code to be a quick and easy way to decode content at high speed. Companies like them because it’s a great way for customers to receive more information whenever and wherever they want it.
It’s kind of like a barcode on a product. And to translate the code and learn more about the offer, you’ll need a QR reader.
A QR reader is a free app that you can download to your smart phone. It’s like a decoder ring; it will unlock the information behind the QR code. For example, you see a magazine ad for a new movie coming out. The ad has a QR code. By snapping the code with your phone, the trailer will immediately stream to your phone. Neat, right?
Since technology moves so quickly, the question is, can it last? Well, Google has already stopped supporting QR codes in Google Places. Many industry experts think that Google will use its clout to come out with its own version of the QR code that could require more hardware. However, since QR codes are fast, inexpensive and only require a reader (like your cell phone), it looks like both technologies will co-exist for awhile.
Now, you’ll start to notice QR codes everywhere. Simply scan them to learn more!
Social media sites are a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, share pictures and stories, or network for work. If you love your iPhone, Blackberry or laptop – here are a few tips to keep in mind while you use social media.
Sharing. When you post, tweet, share, comment, check in, geocode or use your location, you’re sending a shout out to all your “friends” letting them know where you are and where you’re not – home. Be aware of what you say and leave out details like your address, phone and any information someone could use to rob or impersonate you.
Friending. Yes, I know your friend’s cousin’s neighbor wants to be your friend. I think that was him, right? Often fraudsters impersonate real people and try to be your “friend.” The concern here is giving fraudsters private information about you and your location or them giving you viruses through clickable links or attachments.
It’s only my friends. Well, actually, it’s not. Social media sites vary in the amount of information they share with others. It’s important to customize your settings and configurations to make sure your information is safe, secure and most importantly, private.
Share your location? Many applications ask your permission to share your location. They pinpoint your location using GPS, so your precise location is known. Be aware that when you post pictures with Show Location enabled, your location may be published with them.
Social media is a great tool and a fun toy. Simply remember that the internet is a public place, so stay aware of your surroundings and never post anything you wouldn’t want the world to see.
by Nannette, Vice President, Technology Solutions