(BPT) - Resourceful thieves and cybercriminals continue to find new ways to hack U.S. consumers’ sensitive personal information. Dumpster diving, stolen or lost wallets and mail fraud should still be concerns, but the digital age of tablets, smartphones, PCs and Wi-Fi networks leaves people more vulnerable than ever.
Have you ever stored credit card information on your phone for added convenience to make payments in a checkout lane? Do you ever store passwords in apps to transfer funds between accounts? And what’s to keep hackers from accessing a wireless network you check your email on while you’re grabbing a quick cup of coffee?
”More than 15.4 million people a year will experience identity theft, with an average loss of more than $1,000,” said Jane Li, Mercury Insurance’s director of product management. “When one access point closes due to added levels of security, cyberattackers find another. Insurance companies like Mercury provide services that allow homeowners and renters to enjoy the convenience of accessing their connected devices at home and on the go, while also helping to protect customers from the potentially devastating effects of criminal infiltration, cyberextortion and identity theft.”
The following five do’s and don’ts can help stop criminals in their tracks and protect your connected devices, as well as your electronic identity.
Li recommends homeowners and renters speak with their local insurance agent to learn more about the endorsements they may be able to add to existing policies to help safeguard their finances if their identities are compromised or connected devices are attacked.
“It can be daunting to try to regain your financial footing if a criminal takes advantage of you,” said Li. “Insurance exists to help protect consumers from unexpected events and, in this case, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Music is everywhere, and today’s tech-enabled world makes it easy to enjoy the sounds of your favorite artists and storytellers no matter where you go. Learn about the many ways you can access music and podcasts while on the go with these tips that can make it easy to bring your audio library with you from the family room, to the car, to the gym and virtually anywhere else life takes you.
Take Music and Podcasts Everywhere You Go
(Family Features) Music is everywhere, and today’s tech-enabled world makes it easy to enjoy the sounds of your favorite artists and storytellers no matter where you go.
“In the connected world we live in, consumers want to be able to listen to their favorite music and podcasts wherever they are and however they choose to listen, whether that’s at home, in the car or on the run,” said Sten Garmark, vice president of product for Spotify.
Learn about the many ways you can access music and podcasts while on the go with these tips that can make it easy to bring your audio library with you from the family room, to the car, to the gym and virtually anywhere else life takes you:
Smart speakers are a must for any music-lover’s home with a wide range of devices that come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s listening to motown while you cook, turning up the jazz while you entertain or queuing up your favorite podcasts as you wind down for the night, smart speakers are equipped to stream all types of audio across your home. There are other sources for accessing your music, too. Smart TVs have become true information and entertainment hubs; going far beyond the music channels many cable and satellite providers offer, you can now access an array of apps, including streaming music, on many smart TV models. Another option: game consoles that integrate apps and features beyond their basic gaming function, such as streaming music for the best gaming soundtrack experience.
Also keep in mind that smart home hub capabilities often extend beyond simple device management, such as allowing you to use voice commands to play music and podcasts from streaming services.
In the Car
It’s no secret that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of apps designed to make driving easier and more enjoyable. You’re probably familiar with apps that provide directions or help you locate the cheapest gas nearby, but don’t overlook entertainment apps that can add a little fun to all that function.
If music apps like Spotify aren’t already integrated into your car’s audio system, you can access them through your smartphone then connect via an auxiliary cord or through Bluetooth with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which have in-car display options that make streaming audio simple and stress-free.
On the Run
Streaming music directly from your smartphone’s built-in speaker is almost always an option as well, even without any other device. When you want or need to keep your music to yourself, wireless headphones are an increasingly affordable, hassle-free option. Simply pair the headphones with your smartphone for a private music experience even when you’re in a crowded place.
Explore more options to take your music everywhere you go at Spotify-Everywhere.com.SOURCE:
There are obvious benefits to shopping online. You can skip the lines and congested parking lots all while taking your time and enjoying the comfort of shopping in your pajamas. One of the biggest draws, however, is the potential money savings. Learn how to make the most of your online shopping and nab the best digital deals with these tips.
How to Get the Best Deals Online
(Family Features) There are obvious benefits to shopping online. You can skip the lines and congested parking lots all while taking your time and enjoying the comfort of shopping in your pajamas. One of the biggest draws, however, is the potential money savings.
Learn how to make the most of your online shopping and nab the best digital deals with these tips:
Subscribe to email lists. In the past, most people avoided email lists like the plague. However, email subscribers get some of the best deals that retailers offer, so if you can tolerate a few more messages in your inbox, it’s a good way to stay in-the-know about sales and promotions.
Combine membership benefits. Many member-based programs are expanding their partnerships with other retailers to offer enhanced benefits. Keeping tabs on the latest offers can ensure you’re maximizing your membership. One example is Woot.com, which features daily deals on items ranging from top tech gadgets to kitchen gizmos to sporting goods, and now offers free shipping for Amazon Prime members. Visit woot.com/prime to learn more.
Seek out discount codes. Whether you subscribe to a site that aggregates codes, rely on a browser extension or even do a manual search, wait to confirm an order until first checking to see if there are any discount codes available. Some retailers make it easier than others by having a code tool built into their checkout screen, but even if they don’t, it can be worth the extra time to verify the current offers.
Check in on daily deals. Many online retailers specialize in daily deals and site-wide offers, which you can explore by visiting the individual sites or, in some cases, registering for notifications. Be aware that many of these deals are available for a limited time and in limited quantities, such as on Woot.com, which launches new deals every 30 minutes on select days. It’s to your advantage to understand how often your favorite sites post new deals and the flash sales they offer. Some of the best ways to stay connected are by subscribing to the site’s newsletter or following the site’s social media channels.
Use your shopping cart. Retailers have become quite sophisticated at monitoring shoppers’ habits and behaviors, and while it may feel a little invasive, it can pay off to your advantage. For example, if you place items in your shopping cart then close out of your browser, it’s possible you’ll receive an email within the next day or two with an offer to incentivize you to complete your purchase.
Take advantage of free shipping. If your purchase isn’t time-sensitive or you have some flexibility, take advantage of free shipping offers. Look for sites that provide free shipping for shoppers, or those that don’t offer free shipping every day but regularly run free shipping promotions. Check shipping thresholds to see when free shipping becomes available (often based on the price of the order) and consider combining purchases to take advantage of free shipping offers.
Once you have a few tricks in place, scoring savings online can be more lucrative and easier than old-school coupon clipping. Combine that with the convenience of shopping from home and you’ve got one smart deal.
Photo courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
(BPT) - The technology in our TV sets has changed a lot in the past decade. When it comes time to buy one, it's easy to lose track of which features matter for a good TV-watching experience.
You might find a TV at a tempting price, but you don't want to end up wasting money on a picture that blurs at the height of the action, looks distorted from side angles or doesn't support the latest technology.
At the same time, does the expensive model and its alphabet soup of features really give you a better picture for the price?
"With all the new TVs hitting the market in the next few months, it can be tough to know what to buy and what the numbers mean," says Katie Linendoll, tech expert, TODAY Show contributor and Emmy Award winner.
Since your TV set is a major source of entertainment for you and your family, it's important to know what to look for before you start shopping. With Linendoll's guidance on the latest TV features and technology, you'll be sure to choose a TV set with the brightness, sharp images and vibrant colors you're looking for. Because the last thing you want is to get stuck with a TV you'll regret.
Screen type: OLED or LCD?
For starters, there are only two kinds of TV panel technologies available right now: OLED (pronounced "oh-led") and LCD.
"OLED technology creates its own light, which means each pixel can be individually controlled and turned on or completely off," says Linendoll. Plus, OLED delivers over one billion different shades of color - about 64 times the amount of a conventional TV.
Many experts who have performed detailed technical reviews have deemed OLED the best TV tech ever made. Combined with rave reviews and its super-slim design, this tech is worth paying a bit more in price.
Currently, OLED is available in various screen sizes from LG, who led the introduction of the category a few years ago, and Sony announced they will also release several OLED sets later this year.
Unlike OLED, LCD (liquid crystal display) requires a backlight to make the picture. Most of today's LCD sets use LED lighting. LCD can create a bright, colorful picture but black levels will not be as dark as OLED, and some details can be lost in the shadows.
"This category of TV can still deliver very impressive picture quality, and it's often very attractively priced," says Linendoll.
While shopping for an LCD set, it's important to know major manufacturers have different names for their premium LCD models. You might hear of Q-LED (an LCD TV that uses quantum dot technology) - not to be confused with OLED - as well as Super UHD or XBR.
Brighter, more colorful picture
One big improvement in recent years has been the expansion of color capabilities in TVs. Nano cell and quantum dot technology, for example, are designed primarily to deliver a bigger spectrum of color than conventional LCD sets, creating more realistic-looking pictures.
How does it work? Nano cell, which is only found in LG's Super UHD TVs, uses extremely small particles (one nanometer in size), which provide more refined and accurate shades of color.
Viewing angles are important
Research shows that only about 10 percent of TV viewers sit directly in front of the TV, so viewing angle is extremely important. Moving even by as little as 10-15 degrees can make colors look washed out and black levels will start to degrade.
OLED TVs have the best performance at wide viewing angles; however, some LCDs, such as LG's Super UHD sets, use a special LCD type for a wider viewing angle.
The more pixels you have, the better the image quality. If you picked up on the buzz about 4K "Ultra HD," you know these TVs have more than 8 million pixels and display sharper, more lifelike images.
"Most new bigger-screen TVs you'd be considering, including OLED and LCD TVs, are 4K," says Linendoll. A newer enhancement to 4K is called HDR or high dynamic range, giving you more shadow detail and natural bright highlights.
Be sure the set you're looking at has 4K resolution and supports HDR; otherwise you will be missing out on what's quickly becoming the gold standard in TV features.
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