Saturday, October 20, 2012

'Tis the Season for Holiday Thieves

Many of us let our guard down during the holiday season. It's just so cheery and bright and sparkly, that our attention turns elsewhere. Unfortunately, because of the hustle and bustle, we overlook the red flags that are usually so obvious.

Here are the Top 9 Holiday Scams to watch out for (Ladies Dancing not included)

1. Screensavers, ringtones and Ecards

Oh, ho ho how we love our holiday kitsch! We get the screensavers, the ringtones, and deck out our virtual world in Holiday garb. Scammers, unfortunately, know this, and set up sites that look legitimate, but instead download malware and malicious code onto your devices. Ringtones that are downloaded from the internet can also download software onto your phone that will spam and scam your friends. Beware! The Grinch will definitely get you if you're not paying attention.

2. Package deliveries

This is the time of year when most retail stores (and delivery services) make their money. It's very realistic for the average person to get 2-10 packages before the end of the year. Phishers will take advantage of the holiday season by sending out spoof emails stating that you have a package delivery from UPS (or FexEx or USPS or whoever) and you have to fill out an attached form to get it delivered. DON'T OPEN THE ATTACHMENT! It could have malware, or it could just ask for a lot of personal information, financial verification, your physical address, and a lot of other creepy stuff. If you're waiting for packages, go directly to the courier's website and enter in your tracking code. Don't just blindly trust an email from a courier service. It could be a fake.

3. Giftcards

Nearly every major retailer (even supermarkets) offer gift cards at checkout stands and even on "virtual mall" racks. Most of these cards have scratch off codes to prevent information theft. However, if cards are not protected, those codes can be written down for later use. Then, all a scammer has to do is call the 800 number until the card is activated, see how much it's for, and then put in claim for a lost card to get a renewal. It seems like a lot of work, but the reward can be great.

Also, be cautious when buying a used gift card online. Sometimes people will sell them, claiming that there is money still left when there isn't.

4. "It" gifts:

Did you hear about the lady who bought an iPad at a gas station? It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it actually happened to Jalonta Freeman of Arlington, Texas. She was at a gas station and a man offered her an $800 iPad for just $200. And, *gasp* the iPad was fake! (Turned out to be a mirror instead.) I know! Who would have thought?

5. Fake Charities

Holidays are ripe with scammers trying to tug on our heartstrings. Be very aware of people standing outside of stores, in parking lots, and yes, even at your front door.

Wearing costumes, using props, donning fireman or police uniforms they may even carry bogus authorization or badges. Sometimes they'll even use kids to sway your common sense!

If they're at your front door, it's easy to offer to look up their charity online. Beware that they may also be casing your home to see if it's worth coming back to rob! If you're out in public, you can ask for their website and look them up on your mobile phone. Or simply, offer to take their card and make a donation online later.

If they're calling you, just remember to never give out your personal information, credit card number, etc, until you fully verify that they are who they say they are.

6. Parking Lot Thieves

Have you ever noticed how busy stores get during the holidays, even at normal 9-5 business hours? Thieves know this, and they case mall parking lots with the assumption that you'll be away from home for a few hours. (Movie theaters are especially vulnerable.) The thieves break into your car, take your registration, but leave everything else undisturbed. Then, knowing you're not at home, they head to your house and rob you.

Best thing to do: carry your registration and any personally identifying information with you. Yes, we're used to keeping it in the glove compartment, but that's the first place they look!

7. Facebook Promotions

Cyber scammers come out in full force during the holidays. After all, who doesn't want to win prizes or get a deal during the holidays. (Sometimes the story of the deal is more exciting than the actual product itself!)

Unfortunately, scammers know that prizes and giveaways are amazingly popular and they hit Facebook with phony promotions and contents with the goal of getting your personal information. Don't believe it! Check out, it's an amazing resource that will keep you up to date on all kinds of Facebook scams.

8. I'm Not Home: Please Rob Me!

You should know by now that posting information about an upcoming vacation or time away from home is pretty much an open invite to thieves. Even if you think your privacy settings are locked down tight, Facebook changes these settings constantly, with little warning, and usually makes the default "public." If you use your real name on Facebook, thieves could find your home with a quick online search. Additionally, if you post photos from your phone online, there is metadata embedded, giving the location of where the photo was taken. Follow this simple rule: if you wouldn't put the information on a busy highway billboard, don't put it online.

9. Holiday Work Scams

Many people look to make some extra income during the holidays. (Hey, it's the Elves' busiest season!)

Knowing this, scammers send out emails offering non-existent jobs. A very common example is holiday house-sitting, for an owner that is already out of town. They'll give you a local address of a house (which may be vacant or for-sale or otherwise in a gated area so you can't just walk up to the front door) and tell you to drive by to make sure it's suitable for you.

Then, they'll ask you to go through a "background and credit check." It makes sense for the owners to take precautions, but of course, they're just taking your money, and personal information. There is no actual job.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Holiday Gifts - Stylus Pens

The digital age has brought out some really modern gifts for giving. Pens and pencil sets were at one time a welcomed gift. Penmanship was always something aspired to when writing letters, notes and other forms of daily communication.

Now with electronic devices becoming the norm, it is best to be thoughtful and give Stylus pens instead. How do they work? In one sense, One end of the ballpoint pen is used like a writing instrument on paper. The other end has a rubber tip that is used much like a finger when touching a screen. If, the pen is to be used for both writing and tapping a screen. Otherwise, one can be purchased for a touch screen only.

The pens are inexpensive and they come in a variety of bright colors or just in silver and black.. They are the perfect gift to give today. Also, they are compatible for every device made.. Some of them fit more than one screen using the same pen. Storing the pens, they fit inside a purse, inside a shirt pocket, a drawer or any other places that hold regular sized pens. It is wise to keep the ballpoint side of the combination pen capped to prevent marks.

The stylus side of the pen is also able to roll the screen vertical or horizontal, tap the letters on an onscreen keyboard, as well as, the numbers on a numerical keypad. It is best to look at the size of the pen's tip. They are sold as either with a fine point or a wider tip. The pens are either metal or plastic..In order to prevent a digital device's screen from becoming scratched, it is important to purchase the correct pen tip. Some of the pens have retractable tips.

Prices for the pens vary, they cost anywhere from a few dollars for the touchscreen only up to almost fifty dollars for the pen that both writes and taps on a screen. However, the pens will be appreciated by those that use a number of electronic devices. They will find the pens to be ergonomically better for their wrists. Than, if they constantly used their fingers to tap out messages on a small onscreen keyboard.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

German Christmas History and Traditions

It's undeniable that Christmas in Germany is a big deal. For the entire month of Advent-which begins each year on the fourth Sunday before Christmas--virtually every city, town and village in Germany will mark the season with at least one Christmas market. These are festive events and the largest and best-known ones such as those in Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Munich and Dresden attract two million or more visitors a year.

The German word for Christmas is Weihnachten, which means holy night. Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, is a jolly figure known as the Weihnachtsmann and a Christmas market is a Weihnachtsmarkt, at least in Northern Germany. Dresden's Striezelmarkt dates back to 1434 and is generally considered to be the country's oldest.

In Southern Germany, however, a Christmas market is frequently called a Christkindlmarkt or a Christkindlesmarkt. Since Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, Martin Luther introduced the idea of the Christkindl as a bearer of presents-and also to draw focus away from the catholic St. Nikolaus. In many towns a young woman dressed as an angel with golden hair takes on the role of Christkindl. She officially opens the Christmas market and makes frequent visits thereafter. (As a side note, the term Christkindl at some point became Kris Kringle in English.)

St. Nikolaus, meanwhile, is still around and has his own holiday. On the evening of December 5, many German children place a boot outside the door in the hopes that by morning it will be filled with presents and treats. (Naughty children will find a birch rod instead.) St. Nikolaus is rather a dignified figure, who always wears his bishop's mitre.

Luther is also credited with originating the custom of placing lighted candles on the boughs of Christmas trees. And Christmas trees themselves were known in Germany as early as 700 AD. Their somewhat triangular shape suggested the Trinity and evergreens have always been perceived as a symbol of immortality.

It's well known that Queen Victoria's German consort, Prince Albert, was responsible for introducing the Christmas tree into England. As far as America is concerned, although one might assume that the many German immigrants who came here in the nineteenth century imported the custom with them, there's a good case to be made that the Hessian soldiers who fought for the British during the American Revolution--a number of whom stayed--were the first.

In Germany, Christmas trees are decorated only on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Many families open their presents then as well rather than waiting until Christmas morning.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Some Flowers for Valentine's Day

There are so many fresh flowers you can send on a special occasion, and there are also plenty of special occasions for which you can send flowers to a loved one. Flowers are a universal gift that will be appreciated by everyone, especially when you give flowers and roses to someone special on Valentine's Day. This occasion is not celebrated to the full if there isn't a bouquet of flowers involved. Most people think that sending flowers on Valentine's Day is a common tradition which has lost its deeper significance, but roses and other flowers communicate deep sentiments, and are always appropriate for expressing your love on Valentine's Day.

If you don't want to give red roses to a loved one, there are other flowers which are seen to be romantic and can be given on this occasion. Although red roses are the ultimate symbol of passion and romance, you can give other flowers if it is your wish to do so.

In general, carnations mean fascination and wonder. You can show that special someone how fascinating you find her to be. Compliment her with red carnations in particular, not only because red is the colour associated with this day, but because a red carnation signifies admiration and deep love.

These gorgeous flowers have long been associated with love and romance, and they come second only to the rose as one of the most important romantic flowers. Not only are some tulips fragrant, but they come in deep beautiful colours. In general, tulips symbolize dreaminess and wonder, and they are ideal to give to the perfect lover for a symbol of true love.

With so many varieties of lilies, you can choose a stargazer lily, an oriental lily or a casablanca lily to denote elegance. An orange lily is suitable for Valentine's Day since it expresses passion. However, the lily's beautiful shape and colours makes all varieties and colours appropriate for gift-giving on Valentine's Day.

The orchid is a beautiful flower, not as common as one might think, but it is found in many flower shops during this time of year. The orchid is a fragrant flower and it is a romantic flower. Like all the other flowers mentioned, it comes in various shades of colours.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Hand Milled Soaps For Gifts

Hand milled soaps, or French milled soaps are made from already cold processed soap. The soap is shredded, mixed with a liquid, cooked over low heat and then pressed into molds. Until, they harden into beautiful, fragrant bars of soaps.

The soaps are great for gift giving as part of a Christmas gift giving list for friends, co-workers and even some for yourself. They are sold in individual bars or as part of a gift boxed set. The scent of them can fill different styles of soap dishes such as: lemon verbena, lavender, botanicals, for instance: ivy and other plant extracts. Essential rose oils are added to some soaps for a vintage scent as well.

Since harsh additives and heavy perfumes are omitted, these soaps are enjoyed by even those on a gift list with sensitive skins. The men on a gift list will enjoy the scents of cypress wood, sandalwood or teakwood. Any man would appreciate the triple-milled soaps fueled with grape seed oil and extract suitable for his skin type.

For those creative types on a gift list, books with detailed instructions on how to make their own milled soaps as well as a few supplies such as: shredded soap, molds, essential oils and scented oils, they will certainly like the results of their going to the trouble.

Prices vary for regular the soaps to triple hand milled soaps, it depends upon the soaps size. Since women co-worker's give each other fragrance gifts anyway, two bars of hand milled soap that cost a little over four dollars each and beautifully wrapped will do. When, the gift cost is set for at least ten dollars. If the cost of gifts for co-workers is set somewhat higher at twenty dollars, a gift set of three triple milled bars can be found to cost close to that amount.

Therefore, gift buying just became easier with the purchases of these soaps. Also, it pays to notice where the soap product came from. For the simple reason, the real milled soap product contains the purest ingredients.

However, it would be even more wonderful. If, the soaps were made by an individual putting their own stamp on the hand milled soaps to give as a gift. According to either instructions by online video or by written ones, the results are not that difficult to achieve. It would be something treasured to the lucky ones receiving that kind of a gift.