Computer tips and advice to help keep your PC in tip top shape.
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|December 11, 2011
You’re driving along a dirty street in a tough part of town.
As you pass by a dimly-lit store, you see a shirt you’ve been interested in buying ever since you saw John Travolta wearing it in “Saturday Night Fever.”
On the front window is a hand-lettered paper sign that says “Big Saile, 20 per sent off.”
You pull over and head for the front door.
Once inside, you work your way through the rickety display racks to find the shirt in your size, then take your prize to the counter.
The guy behind the counter lazily gets off his vinyl-covered stool decorated in early-American duct tape.
He is covered in tattoos and is sporting fresh stitches in his forehead.
“Cash or charge?” he asks.
You happily hand over your Visa, your head still filled with images of you spinning among twinkling dance-floor lights.
“Our machine isn’t working, so I’m just gonna write down all your information on this bag, okay?”
You can almost feel the thick, lustrous John Travolta-esque hair returning to your head.
It’s okay, right?
Of course not.
You wouldn’t trust your credit card in a shady dive of a store, but that doesn’t mean you should always “leave home without it” because of the possibility your credit card could be misused.
The same is true on the internet.
There are thousands of places where online credit card transactions are safe and secure.
You just have to use the same kind of “caveat emptor,” or “buyer beware” that you employ when shopping in real life.
For starters, you should be pretty safe if you stick with names you know.
Sears, J.C. Penney, Radio Shack, Best Buy, and Office Depot, are all commercial symbols you trust in any mall or strip center.
The same is true on the internet.
In addition, you will find sellers like Land’s End, Amazon, and Computer Discount Warehouse that aren’t usually tenants in your nearest mega-mall, but are just as trustworthy when it comes to your card.
The key is to use names you trust, and to do a little research on the names you don’t recognize.
One option is to visit www.bbbonline.org, which is the internet version of the Better Business Bureau.
Unfortunately, the BBB has fallen on hard times, and isn’t the protective consumer agency it once was, so you’ll want to look at some other places.
Also, on the sites themselves, look for testimonials. Of course, these can be faked, but their existence gives you something to use.
But most of all, use your common sense.
As the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
While credit card abuse and identity theft are growing problems on the internet, they shouldn’t force you into cowering in cyberspace.
Like shopping in real life, one of the advantages to using your credit card is that you can dispute a charge and usually have it taken off your statement.
Also, if someone rips you off, you have the added comfort of having the enormous financial and legal muscle of Discover, Amex, Visa, and MasterCard going to battle for you, unlike cash transactions that you usually have to defend on your own.
Another option is to sign up for PayPal, which gives protections similar to your credit card. Pay Pal also limits the amount that thieves can access to the amount actually in your PayPal account.
Again, don’t be afraid to shop online, where great deals and deep discounts abound.
Just use the same logic and defensive approach you employ when shopping in real life.
If you have a question or need advice about a computer problem, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll try to answer it here in a future column. Or to schedule an appointment for a Computer Help technician to come to your home or business in the Mesquite, Nevada area, call (702) 346-6357 and mention this story for the lowest rate in town.