Ten Tips for Hassle-Free Tech Merchandise Returns

Retailers often play by different rules in accepting electronics returns. Here are some tips to help you navigate the tricky world of returns, exchanges, and warranties.

Erin Biba, PC World

Tuesday, December 23, 2008 08:00 PM PST



Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam …..

Spam, Yuck. Well, okay, that Spam too. However, the spam that affects us daily is worse. Some stats from this past year from Symantec:
Top Trends in 2008
Spam: In 2008 the annual average spam rate was 81.2 percent, meaning a little over 81% of all email sent/received in 2008 was spam. An increasing proportion of spam originated from reputable web-based email and application service providers.
Viruses: The average virus level for 2008 was 1 in 143.8 emails, down from 2007 where levels averaged at 1 in 117.7 emails. The decline can be attributed to the transition to spreading malware using malicious content hosted on websites and drive-by installs rather than favoring email as the primary means of distribution.
Phishing: The number of phishing attacks was 1 in 244.9 (.41 percent) emails across 2008, compared to 1 in 156 emails in 2007.

With all of the spam and phishing emails coming into your inbox, wouldn’t it be nice to have a program that filters it out before you see it?
If you use Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Outlook Express for your email program, I’d recommend a program called iHateSpam from Sunbelt Software. It’s an inexpensive program that filters a large majority of your incoming spam to a spam folder, where you can delete it without even touching it.

Major Web Browsers Fail Password Protection Tests – ZDNet


That nifty password management feature in your favorite Web browser could be helping identity thieves pilfer your personal data.

That’s the biggest takeaway from the results of this test which shows that all the major Web browsers — including IE, Firefox, Opera, Safari and Chrome — are vulnerable to a total of 20 vulnerabilities that could expose password-related information.  Among the problems are three in particular that, when combined, allow password thieves to take passwords without the user’s knowledge.  They are:

  1. The destination where passwords are sent is not checked.
  2. The location where passwords are requested is not checked.
  3. Invisible form elements can trigger password management.

Google’s shiny new Chrome browser was among the worst offenders.   According to the study,  Chrome’s password manager contains multiple unpatched issues that “form a toxic soup of potential vulnerabilities that can coalesce into broad insecurity.”

Read the entire article here

See my blog article on Password Programs here

Personal electronics websites too good to be true


Calgary, Alberta – The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers of a number of websites purportedly selling personal electronics, but failing to deliver product after receiving payment by wire transfer.

The outfit, most recently operating as Qbelam.com and Circuitown.com, advertises a variety of personal electronics including PS3s and laptop computers at discounted rates, and the website gives a number of options available for payment.  However, when interested parties try to check out, they are sent a message stating that the only available method of payment is wire transfer.

“Anytime you’re being asked to pay for something by a wire transfer service, that should be a huge red flag,” said BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenays spokesperson Daniel MacDonald.  “Once money has been sent, there’s no way to get it back – using a credit card to pay for items online provides a great deal more security.”

According to verbal complaints to BBB, which have all been lodged from the United States, the products ordered may never be delivered.  Further, the organization seems to change its name and URL frequently: in recent weeks it has appeared as Bargain Town, Qbelam, Circuitown, and now Cesa Room with a Calgary address.

A BBB staff member posed as a customer and contacted the organization under the guise of buying a laptop – she indicated she wished to pay using a credit card, and received a message back indicating that “due to high rate of fraudulent activity” they would only accept a wire transfer from consumers outside of Canada.  As the BBB operative had indicated she was a Canadian resident, it appears that the return message was automatically generated, intending to dupe citizens of other countries.

BBB recommends consumers research companies they intend to solicit online, and to never send money to an unknown recipient.  And, of course, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. (http://calgary.bbb.org/WWWRoot/SitePage.aspx?site=154&id=83aca452-4703-433a-a1d4-db2dfc0e5bef&art=8073)

Gadget trade-in services that pay off – CNET News

Posted by Elsa Wenzel December 3, 2008 8:45 AM PST

Web sites that promise to pay for your old gadgets look bright around the holidays, when every extra dollar can count toward new gifts or even utility bills. But are the services worthwhile? How much can you earn?

We examined nine services that pay for your unwanted digital wares. These are among the newest options to help keep electronics waste out of landfills, while uncluttering your closets.

We looked up what each service said it would pay for working iPods, PDAs, laptops, gaming consoles, and more, with cables but lacking their original boxes. For dead devices, some offer a pittance, or will connect you with willing recyclers and charity recipients. Our chart (at right) shows what each site claims it pays for specific equipment. Keep reading for highlights of the trade-in services.

To read the entire article, click here (http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10110288-2.html?tag=nl.e433)

XP Service Pack 3 blocks .NET security patches

One more reason not to install XP Service Pack 3, or if you’ve already installed it to remove it…

XP Service Pack 3 blocks .NET security patches
By Susan Bradley

Installing SP3 on Windows XP eliminates the operating system’s ability to install important security patches for Microsoft’s .NET technology and possibly other software.

This problem forces XP SP3 users to apply patches manually to complete vital updates.

The new error is the latest in a long series of glitches relating to XP’s SP3, which Scott Dunn described in his Sept. 11 Top Story. The issues include spontaneous rebooting of systems based on AMD chipsets, as documented by Jesper Johansson in a blog post from last May.

To determine whether your XP SP3 system has a version — or multiple versions — of the .NET Framework installed, open Control Panel’s Add or Remove Programs applet and look for it among the list of currently installed programs. If you don’t see any .NET entries, you don’t have the framework installed on your system and needn’t be concerned about the update problem.

If you do see a listing for Microsoft .NET Framework, you need to use a third-party update service such as Secunia’s Software Inspector (described below) to patch the program.

To read the entire article, click here – http://windowssecrets.com/2008/12/04/03-XP-Service-Pack-3-blocks-.NET-security-patches/?n=story1

Keep Your Laptop From Being Stolen

With laptops being such an important part of our lives, and many times businesses, it’s important to know how to protect them from being stolen, or if they are stolen how to get them back quickly. The following are a few ways to do so.

Laptop Alarm for PC’s. Laptop Alarm will emit a loud alarm whenever someone tries to steal your laptop. It sounds when your power cable or external peripherals are disconnected or when the mouse is moved.

Security Cables. Most laptops have built-in slots that accommodate a security cable. These cables come as key based locks or as combination based locks and allow you to physically lock your laptop to a table or desk, so if you need to leave it for a few minutes it’s actually locked in place.

Lojack For Laptops. Computrace® LoJack® for Laptops is a software-based computer theft recovery service that tracks and recovers lost or stolen computers. If your computer is stolen, their recovery team uses the software to track the stolen computer and provides local police with information they need to get it back and apprehend thieves. There is a small subscription cost for this program but it starts at just $39.95 per year.

Laptops are easy to steal. It’s important that you keep your important data backed up on an external drive so if your computer is stolen, you have a good copy of it’s data. Additionally, these options will help in either keeping it from being stolen, or if it is taken, in getting it back.