Tackle Your Tech | 5 Tips For Safe Online Shopping + Tech Gift Ideas

Empty Nest Blessed by Suzy Mighell
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woman shopping on phone with christmas tree background

I don’t know about you, but when my kids left, I felt really behind when it came to tech. All I really knew how to do was to post on Facebook! It’s pretty amazing that I’m now working in a field where understanding tech is an integral part of my daily life.

For me, a big part of learning something new is fear. ???? I don’t know what I’m afraid of, but I think after years of being the person with all the answers for three kids, I just don’t want to feel stupid and old! And tech can make me feel that way, for sure.

Thankfully, the beauty of tech is that it’s actually full of how-to guides (think Google, YouTube, and more) that can help you figure out how to do just about anything tech-related, right in the privacy of your own home! I started my Tackle Your Tech series to encourage you as you learn and grow in this area. I hope it’s helped you relinquish fear and get inspired and even excited about some of the ways tech can enhance your life!

Today, I’m sharing some tips to help you stay safe online as you shop and also giving you the lowdown on my favorite tech gift ideas. Many of these are tech devices Bob and I have integrated into our empty nest refresh and remodel project this year. Updating the “smart” features in our home was a priority for us, and it’s an important upgrade if you want to increase the value of your home—whether for your later years, or for resale. For the most part, these items aren’t a part of my Holiday Gift Guide, so this is all new content!

Tackle Your Tech: 5 Safe Online Shopping Tips

woman safe online shopping on her phone with christmas tree in background
Is that Mrs. Claus shopping online? ????

1. Safe Online Shopping Tip: Pass the Password Test

According to a 2018 internet security study, the average person has at least 200 online accounts requiring passwords! Think that number sounds high? Consider all of the retailers where you shop, financial companies, utilities, health care providers, social media sites, government offices, travel services, entertainment subscriptions, food, and grocery delivery services! Now consider how that number has jumped during the pandemic. Gulp. ????

You probably already know that password management is essential to staying safe online. Are you doing a good job of managing your passwords? Whether you write them all down in an internet password keeper notebook (like the one in the Gifts for Senior Adults section of the Empty Nest Blessed Holiday Gift Guide) or use an online password keeper, it’s important to vary your passwords. No more passwords like “password123,” okay? And no more using the same password on every site!

A good rule of thumb: If your password is easy to remember, it’s probably too easy! While that used to be fine when the internet was young and new, as the number of sites has grown, security issues have grown, and the sophistication of hackers has grown as well! A strong password should be longer than eight characters, and consist of a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, numerals, and symbols.

Be careful about doing things like using Facebook or Google to log in and register on apps or websites. If one of those sites has a security breach, it will endanger your data as well!

In 2021, I’m going to be partnering with a well-known online security firm to bring you more information about staying safe in our fast-paced, digital world! Tech-wise, things aren’t slowing down any time soon, and it’s more important than ever to keep your online information secure. I can’t wait to tell you more in January!

2. Safe Online Shopping Tip: Only Shop at Merchants You Trust

An online security breach is a PR nightmare for a brand, so all of the reputable, well-known brands have multiple levels of security in place. Still, be careful, because no firewall is unbreachable! Only shop with brands that are trustworthy, and even then, look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar (at the front of their URL) and be sure “https” appears in the website’s address bar before making an online purchase.

3. Safe Online Shopping Tip: Pay With Credit Cards (But Keep a Paper Trail)

All credit card companies monitor accounts for fraudulent charges 24/7, providing you with an extra level of security as you shop online. Shopping online with credit is generally safe, but you should always keep a paper trail. While that doesn’t mean you have to actually print out every receipt on paper, consider making a folder in your email where you store receipts and can easily access them if needed. (If you don’t know how to do that, Google “How to make a folder in email for “insert the name of your email provider HERE.”

4. Safe Online Shopping Tip: Watch Out for Scary Emails

Beware of emails telling you things like your account has been hacked, your identity has been stolen or asking you to verify your financial information. Do not click on any links in emails from brands or individuals you do not recognize or find suspicious in any way. Look for things like bad grammar, misspellings, or logos that look a little “off.” It’s better to be safe than sorry! If you’re not sure about something, look for a way to verify, like going to the brand’s website and contacting customer service to double-check.

5. Safe Online Shopping Tips: Be WiFi Wise

Don’t send personal or credit card information over public WiFi (places like coffee shops, libraries airports, hotels, or other public places). Instead, use only secure wireless networks, so that all the information you send is protected and remains private.

Tackle Your Tech: High & Low Tech Gift Ideas

  1. Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – In the market for a new tablet? Experts actually say you need to replace your tablet approximately every 3 years to keep up with security features, memory size, and speed needed to run all programs. (See 6 Signs You Need a New Tablet for more info on this.) Just add a keyboard to this one, and you’ve got a great little laptop! I love my iPad, but after getting a new Microsoft Surface Laptop this year and talking to friends who own the Surface Pro, I’m impressed! Whether you go with a Microsoft Surface or an updated iPad, look for features like all-day battery life, an updated camera, and an Intel® Core™ processor that is on par with a laptop.
  2. Flameless Candles – In a fun, low-tech addition to this post, I wanted to share this set of three (4” 5” 6”) real wax pillars. They have the most realistic LED flames I’ve ever seen! My daughter-in-law has them, and when we were at her house for Thanksgiving, I couldn’t believe how real they looked! These would make a great gift! They’re in the Gifts for Senior Adults category of the Empty Nest Blessed Holiday Gift Guide!
  3. Honeywell Home WiFi Smart Thermostat – Bob and I installed these (Yes, ourselves – it wasn’t hard!) this year, and we love them, so I feel comfortable recommending them. You’ll save money when you program & control your WiFi thermostat from an app anytime, anywhere. The display can match your decor (!), and it works with Alexa.
  4. Ring A19 Smart LED Bulbs (Starter Kit) – If you already have a Ring Doorbell, this is an easy upgrade! (If you don’t, see number 11 below!) With the Ring Bridge device that comes with this starter kit, you simply replace the existing bulbs in any indoor or outdoor lights that you want to program. (Goodbye, clunky light timers!) You can turn lights on/off remotely, customize scheduling & connect to other Ring devices, all from the Ring app. I think this is an ideal upgrade if you’re on-the-go as much as we are! (For security’s sake, if nothing else.)
  5. iRobot Roomba Robot Vacuum – I’ve told you before that I thought my house and floors were clean—until I bought a Roomba! ???? I could not believe how much dirt it picked up! ???? This one works with Alexa, so you can control it with your voice or simply program it to clean on a set schedule.
  6. Oculus Quest 2 All-In-One Virtual Reality Holiday Bundle Set – It might just be the perfect pandemic splurge! Use this Virtual Reality (VR) all-in-one set to virtually escape your home with one of 100s of games & worlds to teleport to!
  7. USB C Hub, 9-in-1 USB C Adapter with Ethernet Port – Many of the newest laptops come with only 1 USB port. ???? It’s okay! This comprehensive computer add-on has 3 USB ports, so you can connect a keyboard, mouse, thumb drive to a laptop all at once.
  8. eero mesh WiFi system – Got spotty WiFi coverage at your house? We used to have that problem, but as part of our empty nest refresh this year, we had an eero mesh WiFi system installed. (Mesh networks blanket your home in wireless by sharing the job over multiple radio beacons.) It replaces your router and covers up to 5,000 sq. ft., and it works with Alexa.  Problem solved! (Our WiFi coverage is awesome now!)
  9. Compact Monochrome Laser Printer – Upgrade your printer game with this efficient & speedy black & white laser printer. Print quickly and wirelessly from a computer, phone, or tablet! This is the one we own.
  10. Power Strip Tower, Surge Protector – Power up every device you own with this sleek power strip tower. Charge your laptop, tablet, phone, AirPods & more!
  11. Ring Video Doorbell – This HD video doorbell has a LIVE view option that lets you see, hear, and speak to people who are on your porch from your phone or tablet anytime, anywhere. You get a notification when someone is at your door or rings your doorbell. It’s so good for security! Gone are the days when you would answer the door without knowing who is there and what they want. Works with Alexa, and for a limited time, you can get it with a free Echo Show! The Echo Show is an Alexa-enabled compact 5.5” smart display screen that can do things like show you who is at your door (via your Ring Doorbell), show you movies, recipes, the weather, the news, and even act as a digital photo frame! This is an amazing deal!
  12. Microsoft Surface Laptop – Most experts estimate a laptop’s lifespan to be three to five years. It may last longer than that, but its utility will be limited as technology outpaces its internal components, and security becomes an issue. (For more on the signs it’s time to upgrade, check out THIS article.) With either 13.5″ or 15″ touchscreens, these light and slim laptops provide speed, updated performance & long battery life. After owning my old laptop for 5+ years, I upgraded this year to a 15″ Surface Laptop. I should’ve done it sooner! This sleek laptop is so light and speedy.
  13. Cord Organizer Cable Clips – They may be low tech, but let’s face it, corralling the cords from all of your devices is a real thing! Affix these cable clip organizers to the back of your desk and string all of your cords through them to bring order to the chaos.
  14. BONUS! Fingerprint Padlock – (It didn’t make the collage, but it’s a good one!) This biometric lock opens with the swipe of a fingerprint. Use it for your fence, gym locker, luggage, school lockers, and more. Great gift idea for under $20! (Bob is getting two of these in his stocking for our backyard gates!)

Technology can seem daunting, and I get that! But you don’t want to get stuck and refuse to move forward in our fast-paced world! Taking precautions and making small updates can have a big impact on your quality of life, safety, and online security.

Got questions about anything I shared with you today? Leave me a comment and ask away! I’ll do my best to answer or point you in the right direction.

Blessings,

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Suzy Mighell

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