5 Tips to Help You Be Safe When Shopping Online This Holiday Season

Are you one of the increasing numbers of shoppers who embraces the convenience of making holiday purchases online? If you said yes, you’re part of a rapidly growing sector of consumers. Analysts predict that online retail sales this holiday season will surpass $94 billion this year, a new record.

If you’re like the majority of today’s consumers, making online purchases has become second nature and e-commerce is the new normal. Our collective acceptance of digital retail outlets, however, should not make us so complacent that we overlook the emerging risk of fraud.

A recent article in Forbes surveying 125 retailers found that online fraud attempts are estimated to increase by 43% this year. That’s a big jump. Rather than feeling anxious, these stats should motivate us to look for simple strategies to help minimize risks when shopping online.

With the right advice, it’s easy to shop online safely and benefit from great deals on holiday purchases. Here are 5 safety tips you can start using right away.

Review your transaction history often

Rather than waiting for your monthly statement to arrive, we recommend occasionally reviewing your transaction histories for your credit card, bank account, and Payza account. Make a quick review each week in December and January when your transactions are at their highest. If you wait for your statement to arrive, this high volume makes it more difficult to identify unauthorized purchases.

If you spot a transaction that you don’t remember making, report it immediately to your bank, credit card company, or Payza.

Watch out for phishing emails

Fraudsters know  you are shopping online more than usual during the holidays, which makes keeping track of all the online stores you visit and purchases you make more difficult. Expect more phishing email scams to show up in your inbox as cyber criminals try to take advantage of the holiday rush. Beware of fraudulent emails claiming there is a problem with a recent purchase made at a popular online retailer, or that claims there is a problem with your bank or credit card. Be very suspicious of any email requesting your personal financial information, passwords, and/or usernames for any issue related to payments and online shopping.

For even more information about phishing emails, check out our blog article on how to identify these fraud emails.

Shop on sites you know and trust, read reviews for sites you don’t know

If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are countless websites claiming to have high-end merchandise for sale at bargain prices. Most online retailers are legitimate businesses, but some aren’t. Play it safe and limit your purchases to retailers you know. If there’s a deal you simply can’t pass up from a site you’ve never heard of, be sure to research the reputation of the retailer before making a purchase. This is especially important for online auction sites where the seller may not be associated with the website – read the reviews and feedback for sellers.

Beware of fake reviews as well. A high number of positive reviews posted over a period of months to years offer the best estimate of trustworthiness for a seller.

Update your anti-virus software and operating system today

Be certain that you have downloaded all recent updates to your anti-virus and operating system. This ensures your computer is protected from known malware, spyware, and spamware bots that lurk behind the scenes at some online retailers and infect online shopping cart payment gateways. Make sure you are using the latest version of your preferred internet browser as well. Browsers are updated regularly to remove software vulnerabilities known to have been exploited by cyber criminals.

Use secure payment methods and check security certificates

Credit cards and online payment options, like your Payza e-wallet, are more secure methods to make purchases online because they have built-in fraud prevention screening tools to help protect your information. These protections may be absent when you make purchases using direct money transfers or personal checks.

Be sure to only make purchases from websites that have encryption technologies that protect your personal information, such as SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and HTTPS protocols (the “S” means “Secure”). You should see a “lock” icon next to the web address; when you click it, a security certificate should appear for that website; if no security certificate appears, you are likely at a fraudulent website and should navigate away immediately.

Additional resources

Here are even more tips and resources to help you stay safe this holiday season.

Payza Makes It Easy to Send Money This Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us. We all look forward to moments where we can cherish our time with loved ones and show our appreciation for friends and colleagues that have a special place in our hearts.

A common tradition this time of year is for family members living abroad to offer a helping hand to loved ones back home by sending money. The time is right since many fortunate employees receive a holiday bonus, giving them the means to send extra cash home. As an employer, you may want to express gratitude by offering a holiday bonus to your favorite contract employees or freelancer living in another region of the world. Whatever your motives for gift giving, you can rest assured that sending money online using your Payza account will free you from financial tasks and let you focus on joyous holiday gatherings.

The benefits of sending money with Payza 

Whether you want to send money online to China, Brazil, India, South Africa, or any of the more than 190 countries Payza serves, using our platform is fast, secure, affordable, and practical. We operate in many countries where other leading payment platforms don’t, so geographical boundaries pose no challenge when sending money to where it needs to go.

Fast because sending money from one Payza account to another is instant anywhere in the world. We offer several options to add and withdraw funds from Payza that take no more than a few business days to complete.

Secure because you can avoid the risks of sending money in the mail and our fraud prevention and security services ensure your money makes it to its rightful destination.

Affordable because we give you options to send money at competitive rates that suit you best, rates that are lower than many popular money transfer companies.

Practical because the recipient of your gift can use that money instantly to shop online at a variety of retailers, or just withdraw those funds to their bank account or Bitcoin wallet

We also provide unique banking services that enable you to pay a freelancer abroad with your domestic currency and have them receive your gift in their bank account in their local currency.

Ways to send money that suit your needs best

With our multiple options to add and withdraw funds from Payza, you decide which option is right for you. Consider these three scenarios for holiday gift giving:

In a rush and just in time for the holidays: Want to be sure that your gift will reach its destination on time? Want to avoid delays from bank holidays?  Add funds instantly by credit card and send them to your recipient just as fast! Your loved one will have their holiday cash in a matter of minutes to spend online or withdraw by their preferred method. This option is ideal for sending money to students away at college or family members eager to shop online.

money transfer international holiday remittence payza 1

On a budget, sending the most funds with reduced fees: Left yourself enough time before the holidays to add funds by Bank Transfer or Bank Wire and save on fees? Want to maximize the money you send home from a holiday bonus at work? This strategy requires more time to complete but is worth the wait because you and your recipient will benefit from the lower transaction fees.

money transfer international holiday remittence payza 2

Holiday bonus for contract employees and freelancers abroad: Sending payments to freelancers in many regions of the world is a headache for both the sender and receiver. Many booming regions of freelance workers, such as South Asia, lack online payment infrastructure that makes it easy to receive international payments. Payza developed this necessary infrastructure and makes it easy to send money to Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India. Consider our services specific to India:

money transfer international holiday remittence payza 3You send more than money, you send well-being

Our services are about more than sending money. With each international money transfer, what you really send is security and well-being. For the elderly parent back home, you can send the money they need for daily living expenses without them having to travel long distances to collect cash at a bank. For the child studying abroad, sending funds lets them to take a break from yet another meal of ramen noodles by offering the means to buy a quality dinner. For the freelancer in the developing world, your bonus enables them to invest in their business and gain greater financial independence.

The holiday season is about giving and this is why we want to make your acts of generosity as easy as possible.

From all of us at Payza, we wish you and your loved ones the happiest of holidays and all the best in the new year.

Going On the Road? 5 Tips to Stay Safe Online

During International Fraud Awareness Week, Payza is joining hundreds of other businesses and agencies in shining a spotlight on fraud in order to promote awareness, detection and prevention. Follow the Payza blog this week for insights on global fraud and tips on how to protect yourself and your business.

With the holiday season – and colder weather – quickly approaching, people are on the move to visit family, friends, and warmer climates (hopefully with a beach). They may be in between locations, but they are still connected.  It’s increasingly common to get free Wi-Fi almost anywhere you go: cafes, hotels, airports and train stations – even on buses, trains and airplanes! So even on the move you’re able to stay connected, but how can you be sure your connection is safe?

The risks are no different whether you’re connecting to a public network with your laptop, smartphone or tablet. The myth that Apple products, such as iMacs, iPhones and iPads have a more secure connection than PCs is untrue. Today’s devices are capable of carrying so much information (and most users keep both personal and business information on the same device) that it’s no surprise that hackers are as prevalent as ever.

For public hotspots, you can’t treat these connections like your secured home or workplace networks – the flip-side of free Wi-Fi is that anyone can connect to it, including criminals. When you’re sharing the same unsecured network with hundreds of strangers, there’s a lot that can go wrong. The key is to remember that these connections may not be secure, so you need to take extra measures to secure them yourself.

Don’t Give Hackers the Opportunity

It goes without saying that the safest thing you can do is to avoid shared network altogether, that way, the only way you could be hacked is to have your computer or mobile device physically stolen from you. Unfortunately, this is a very real threat in places such as bus or train stations, where hundreds of people or more pass through every day, which is why you should never let your devices leave your side and never leave your bags unattended.

When connecting to the internet, it might be a good idea to avoid unsecured networks. Public Wi-Fi networks which are protected by a password are safer because they are accessed by less people and cannot be accessed remotely.

But let’s be realistic, public Wi-Fi is all about convenience and for travellers, nothing can be more convenient than a fast, free connection. Whether you’re working remotely or just looking to check-in to your favorite social networks, you’re probably going to be using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection pretty regularly. So here are some tips for using a public network without putting yourself at risk:

1. Update your browsers, apps and anti-virus programs: Hackers are always finding new ways to infiltrate your computer. Most software updates, among other things, patch the latest known security vulnerabilities in your browsers and anti-virus software. Make sure to always stay up-to-date.

2. Disable cookies: Cookies allow websites to remember your preferences which makes for a more enjoyable online experience, but cookies can also be used for evil. Some sites will try to automatically download viruses or data-harvesting software onto your computer, but with cookies disabled, this won’t be possible. These links will help you disable cookies on Chrome and Firefox:

3. Don’t enter personal information into online forms: Online shopping, for example, requires the transmission of personal financial data. Fraudsters that are also tapped into a shared public network could be able to intercept that data, which might leave you a long way from home with an empty bank account.

4. Don’t access your email: It can be hard to resist, but accessing your email on a public network can expose a massive amount of personal information. Even if you are careful never to send any sensitive information over email, hackers can still hijack your contact list and use your account to send phishing emails.

5. Don’t advertise your absence: The popularity of geo-tagging on social media is a troubling thing. By “checking in” and advertising your location on Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you’re really advertising to potential burglars that you’re not at home. So go ahead and share that funny article or beautiful photo, but be careful not to highlight the fact that your home is unguarded.

We all love the internet, which is why it’s so easy to forget that it can still be a pretty risky place. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing to disconnect from time to time, especially if you’re on vacation! But when you do connect to a public Wi-Fi network, just remember to be extra vigilant and take those extra steps to protect your personal data.

Happier Holidays: How to Avoid Financial Burnout This Winter

The spooky costumes are packed away for next Halloween, pumpkin flavored treats are beginning to dwindle from the shelves and you’re still recovering from the onslaught of candy. Unfortunately, the winter holiday season kicks off with a vengeance before you’ve even had time to finish that candy corn and switch gears!

But don’t stress – Payza has some advice on how you can save money and your sanity by going cashless this holiday season.

The Case of the Missing Cash

The holidays mean celebrating with friends and family. Getting ready for the festivities means shopping for groceries, decorations, presents and more. With so much to buy, keeping track of coins and bills can be an extra hassle, especially in today’s busy and increasingly mobile lifestyle. But even more than being a nuisance, using cash can actually cost you money unnecessarily in the days ahead.

The recent Visa Payment Attitudes Study has revealed that tracking our cash is a concern for most people, as it should be – people who use cash to pay for everything lose a shocking average of $365 USD every year. A penny here and a dollar there adds up fast – losing that amount every year could add up to a whopping $16,425 USD over 45 years! That money could make a significant impact on several years’ worth of holiday shopping, or go towards important financial goals like saving for retirement.

Using cash does not leave a paper trail, so it can be challenging to keep track of those payments. Using cash also poses a risk when it comes to theft – cash sent in the mail can be easily stolen, and a skilled pickpocket can quickly separate you from cash kept in your wallet, purse or pockets. Even worse, you cannot report unlawful transactions made with your cash and file a ‘chargeback’ the way you can if you pay with plastic. But is paying with a card instead really the answer?

Putting it off With Plastic

While the benefits of avoiding cash are clear, there are several valid concerns surrounding using credit cards as well. Using a credit card to pay for goods and services reveals personal information to vendors, and privacy is an ever-increasing concern.

Another problem many people have with credit cards, especially during the holiday season, is overspending. It’s very easy to spend more than what your budget allows for when you are using plastic instead of counting out your cash.  Did you know that 13.6 million Americans are still paying for last year’s holiday shopping? The ‘buy now, pay later’ attitude is easier than planning ahead and saving up for holiday purchases. Unfortunately, more often than not something inevitably comes up when ‘later’ arrives and it’s time to settle the credit card bill, and nothing ruins the holiday spirit quite like compounding interest on overextended credit!

E-wallets are the Answer

So how can you survive the holiday season with your sanity – and your finances – intact? Following money management tips such as setting a spending limit (and sticking to it!) and planning ahead for holiday purchases will help keep the costs of the holidays within reason. Using an online payment solution, like Payza’s e-wallet, is a fantastic way to manage your budget while protecting your personal details and maintaining your privacy. Use your e-wallet for purchases big and small and rest assured you are only spending what you actually have.

Show your Employees you Care with a Year-End Bonus

Payza Corporate Disbursements Feature

‘Tis the season for sharing and showing appreciation to the people in your life, and this same sentiment applies to employers and their hard-working employees. If you really want to show your employees that you appreciate everything they’ve done for you this past year, and you want to see them continue the good work, you might want to consider rewarding them with a year-end bonus.

While debating this topic, it’s important to consider the benefits of a year-end bonus. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  1. What is the reason for the bonus? Are you giving it out to motivate your employees to do better next year, or are you rewarding a job well done? Be clear about what you are rewarding, it’s important to ensure that your bonus will actually motivate employees to work harder.
  2. Will you treat the bonus as a reward or a gift? Some employees may complain about the amount you’ve given them if you treat the bonus as a reward for a job well done. By taking the gift approach, you can make your employees a little more appreciative of the gesture. But then again, by taking the reward approach, you might end up with employees who will work a little harder to ensure the possibility of another motivating incentive.
  3. What kind of bonus will you be giving out? There is more than just one kind, including longevity bonuses for employees who have been with the company for a number of years, non-performance bonuses for all employees and performance bonuses for your VIPs. Take a good look at your resources and decide which approach is most feasible to you.
  4. It might enhance employee loyalty. In tough economic times, making a little effort to give a cash bonus, or even a gift, can show your employees that they are worth the expense. You can win over their loyalty by making little gestures like a year-end gift or bonus. Employees, in general, will work harder for companies/employers whom they know appreciate them.

If resources are tight, it’s always nice to show your appreciation in some way, even if it’s a $25 gift card or an office party. But if you decide that giving out a year-end bonus to your employees is something that interests you, you can use Payza’s corporate disbursement feature to send your cash bonuses. It’s free and easy to use, and allows you to send multiple payments of different amounts to as many people as you want to reward.

What are you doing to show your appreciation for your employees this year? Leave a comment below or join the conversion on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season from the Payza team!

Cool Smartphone Apps for Smart Holiday Spending

When it comes to holiday shopping, we need all the help we can get. Now that so many of us have smartphones, we can use any number of retail shopping apps and features to make our lives and shopping trips simpler and more organized. There is a wide variety of smartphone apps out there that can make smart holiday shopping a little easier and way more pleasurable.

Here are a few that we’ve come across that will be very useful in easing the stress:

  • Milo for Android (free): This app can let you know which store closest to you is carrying the item you’re looking for so that you don’t have to run around town for no reason. It will even save you from having to call the store which can also be a waste of time, especially if they’re really busy.
  • Holiday Gift Ideas for Android (free): With this free app, you can find the perfect gift for those hard-to-shop-for loved ones. Categories are created by age and relationship, and will show common interests for each group so that you have an easier time figuring out what to buy.
  • Barcode Scanner for iOS ($0.99) / Barcode Scanner for Android (free): When shopping, use this app to scan the barcode of the item you’re interested in purchasing, and you will get links and prices for the item at other stores so you can get it at the best price.
  • The Coupons App for iOS ($0.99) / The Coupons App for Android (free): This app works with your phone’s GPS capability to show you coupons for stores and restaurants located within a 20-mile radius of you. If you don’t need all of the coupons, you can send them to friends and family through email, text or social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter.
  • Christmas Gift Organizer for Android ($0.99): Use this app to create a shopping list, a budget and a to-do list to keep your holiday shopping sprees within your means and under your control.
  • Shopkick for iOS (free) / Shopkick for Android (free): Every time to make a purchase at participating “Shopkick” stores, you can earn “kicks” or points which you can eventually redeem for gift cards, movie tickets or merchandise.

These awesome smart phone apps are tools to make shopping easier, but it’s just as easy to use them to spend more than you intended, so make an effort to stick to your budget to avoid any unnecessary holiday or post-holiday stress.

These are some of the best we could find, but there are many others out there. If you know of any that we have not mentioned on this list, please share them with the Payza community by leaving a comment below or joining the conversation on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

For more tips on shopping smart this holiday season, check out these articles:

7 Credit Card Mistakes to Avoid During the Holidays

Ease the Stress of Holiday Shopping by Going Online

4 Ways to Stay Safe while Shopping Online this Holiday Season

Happy holiday shopping from the Payza team!

8 Ways to Boost your Holiday Sales in 2012

Attention Payza merchants! December is here and the holiday shopping season is picking up steam. As you read this blog post, you might already be preparing to meet the increased demands of your customers who are lining up outside of your shop. But you know there’s another horde of customers ready to go shopping online and to find that perfect gift from your store. To make the most in holiday sales, you have to know the best ways to boost your online retail sales.

So, without further ado, here are some tips that might help you reach your profit goals before the end of the year:

  1. Update your website. An out-of-date website can be a huge turn-off for customers as it looks like you don’t take pride in your products or services. It might also look like you’re out of business. If you’re not tech-savvy, you might want to consider hiring someone who is so that your website can always look its best.
  2. Make recommendations. Share your best-selling products and services under a category called “Great Gift Ideas” to make holiday shopping a little easier for your more indecisive customers. You can even create other categories such as “Great Gifts under $20” or “Gifts for Him/Her/Children.” Be creative and make holiday shopping easy for your customers.
  3. Offer gift cards. Some people are just plain hard to shop for. Offering gift cards will give your customers a chance to give the gift of choice to their loved one.
  4. Offer gift-wrapping. This little extra service might give you an edge on competitors who don’t offer gift-wrapping. It also makes it easier for your customers to send gifts to their loved ones directly from your store to their doorstep.
  5. Be clear about shipping times. If a customer does not know how long it will take to get your product after purchasing it, they may very well go somewhere else where this information is readily available.
  6. Offer free shipping for specific amounts. Shipping costs are expensive for customers and can deter them from shopping at certain online stores, so offer it for free if your customers spend upwards of $50, $100, etc. If what is in their shopping cart is just under that amount, they may spend a little bit more just to get the free shipping.
  7. Offer discounts and coupons. Everyone likes a deal. If you offer a good one, like “Buy One, Get One Half Price,” you might make a sale when you may not have otherwise.
  8. Provide easy online payment options. Everybody has their own preferred way to handle their money. You should offer your customers easy and versatile ways to pay for their order, or you might lose the sale at checkout.

Now that you know how to boost your sales, start putting these tips into practice – the holiday shopping season is officially in full-swing, so waste no time!

Let us know how you plan to boost sales this season. Leave a comment below, or join the conversation at our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Happy Holidays from the Payza team!