Internet Marketing: Lessons Learned & Best Practices Part 4 – Content is King



By Hector Cisneros

Photo Credit: blogger.com
When we started our journey in content marketing, we never envisioned our blog would grow to 35,000-plus page views on average each month.  We wrote articles because we wanted consumers and businesses to understand the sea change that was taking place in Internet marketing.  From our humble beginning of one blog a week to the phenomenal following our blog has acquired, we’re amazed and grateful for what has transpired.

Internet Marketing: Lessons Learned & Best Practices Part 3 – The Social Media Dynamic



By Hector Cisneros

Photo Credit: popularresistance.org

Social media is a revolution whose time has come.  Without a doubt, the advent of social media has dramatically changed the landscape of the Internet forever.  The changes are many and constant.  Despite all the wonderful benefits social networks bring, few business understand the benefits, much less understand how to use this medium. This article will expose the many mistakes and myths business have about social media and social networking.  The reader will come away with many useful tips and techniques that will help their business make the most of this evolutionary resource and marketing medium.  Pay close attention to the most common mistakes.  Implement proven techniques to grow your networks and spread your positive message, as we explore the best practices and lessons learned from the last seven years of the social media revolution.

Internet Marketing: Lessons Learned and Best Practices Part 2 – Website and SEO Principles

Compiled from 20 Years of Marketing Success 

By Hector Cisneros


Photo Credit: vintagecomputing.com
Did you know that most of the websites that exist today were created more than four years ago? And, for the most part, many website developers and designers haven’t upgraded what they consider to be key elements for a web page. Many still consider large banners at “the top of the fold” to still be important, most leave out critical home page elements needed to convey trust and credibility to visitors.  This article is part of a four part series to help clients create a unified and coherent marketing campaign. It delves into the best practices we’ve discovered during our successful marketing campaigns over the last 20 years. We put particular emphasis on the important changes that have taken place online in the last five years. So let’s jump right in a look at the best practices we’ve discovered for web page setup and pertaining to SEO.

Internet Marketing: Lessons Learned and Best Practices Part 1 – The Big Picture


Compiled from 20 Years of Marketing Success 

By Hector Cisneros

Photo Credit: gopixpic.com
Today our world is evolving at breakneck speeds.  All aspects of our lives are changing right before our eyes. The Internet, in particular, is moving faster than most segments of our lives.  Marketing has moved on from a single dimensional communications medium to a world of multi-dimensional and bi-directional communications mediums.  Newspapers, TV, radio, magazines and even billboards are moving to the Internet as part of their communications draw.  People have access to their computers, (smartphones and smart devices) 24/7 and use them everywhere they go. 

Marketing Your Blog in the 21st Century – Part 3 of Blogging 101



By Hector Cisneros

Photo Credit: hongkiat.com
How do you get found in a world of billions of competitors?  That’s what most bloggers ask me when I meet with them to discuss their marketing needs. Most blogs are like billboards in the desert. Few, if anyone, reads their great literary works because their blog is like a needle in a mountainous hay stack.

Learning the Tricks of the Trade – Part 2 of Blogging 101



 
By Hector Cisneros



Photo Credit: keepbouncing.com
Would you like to know writing secrets of three successful writers? Would it be useful if you know their tricks of the trade, the elements they use to capture a reader’s attention, captivating them to read on and to be engrossed to the very end of your article?  If that’s what you’re looking for, this second segment of Blogging 101 will deliver that in spades. It will provide the real tips and tricks of the trade provided by Carl Weiss, Robert Kaye and myself, successfully published writers and authors all.  So get comfy and dig in to read Working the Web to Win’s “Learning the Tricks of the Trade - Part 2 of Blogging 101.”

The Endless Scams of Christmas (and beyond)

Courtesy of www.1a20.com

By Carl Weiss

You may have heard of the 12 Days of Christmas, but what you probably haven't heard of are the Endless Scams of Christmas. In their efforts to "liven up" the holidays, cybercriminals this year are going to act like the Grinch in their efforts to ruin your holiday spirits. So in this season of giving I though it only appropriate to give all of our loyal readers the lowdown on the top 12 cyberscams that you can expect to see this upcoming yule.

Terrorists Have Hijacked Social Media: A Dangerous New Paradigm



How Are Terrorists Using the Internet to Spread Their Message of Hate? Part 3

By Robert Kaye


Photo Credit: frontpagemag.com
Last night on Facebook, I was chatting with my cousin and a few other friends. 

But did you know that at the same time on Facebook, al-Qaeda’s English language online magazine, “Inspire,” reran an article on how to make a bomb in an everyday kitchen?  On Twitter, ISIS tweeted photos of Christian captives it had crucified and beheaded.  And on YouTube, a newly posted video showed Palestinians dancing in the street and distributing candies in celebration of the recent terrorist attack that murdered four rabbis and a border policeman in Jerusalem.

How to Grow Your Twitter Flock – 14 Surefire Tips for Explosive Organic Growth


By Hector Cisneros

Photo Credit: publiseek.com
Ever wonder why all the media outlets use Twitter? Are you curious about how useful Twitter really is?   What happened?  Are you providing the wrong content?  Are you using the wrong posting schedule? Are you engaging your audience in a useful way? Are you wondering why you only have 300 people following you, after a full year’s worth of work?

The real questions is:  Are you really looking to grow your Twitter following or are you just dabbling in Twitter because someone said it was cool?

The Banner Blitz is Back


Image courtesy of entrepreneurs-journey.com
Back at the turn of the century banner ads were everywhere. You couldn't read a zine or surf a web portal without seeing dozens of banner ads all vying for your attention. While some were static, others were so animated that they hurt the eyes to stare at them. Then in 2003 banner ads were declared as dead as the dodo bird. Was this due to the fact that they were ineffective as a source of traffic? Or was it more the fact that over time animated ads had become annoying? Regardless, the bane of in-your-face online ads was over ... Or, so it seemed.  Ten years later, banner ads resurfaced with a vengeance. 

How to Survive a Big Mac Attack


After years of enjoying some of the most secure machines online, lately the vaunted Mac has gotten some worms in its core. Everyone from CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson to 17,000 Macs that were recently infected with botnets were reported in media sources. To make matters worse, on October 21, Apple posted a security warning for users of its iCloud online storage service amid reports of a concerted effort to steal passwords and other data from people who use the popular service in China.

The Magic Formula for Blogging Success: a Training Series for Bloggers

Blogging 101 - Part 1: We Start With Commitment – It Succeeds When Talent Falters 

By Hector Cisneros
Courtresy of www.flickr.com

I’ve met many writers in my life.  Some have incredible writing skills; their grammar and spelling are impeccable.  Their creativity was remarkable.  Many are successful business owners and senior officers in corporations.  The same is true for many business owners I know. Their English speaking, writing, grammar and spelling skills are far superior to mine, and in many cases, they’re very creative and disciplined.  Yet both of these groups of talented people often have less-than-stellar writing success when it comes to blogging.

Will Pay-to-Play Payoff Online or Will it Kill the Golden Goose?

By Carl Weiss
Money (That's What I Want) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s said that the best things in life are free.  But as Berry Gordy so aptly added in 1960, “But you can keep them for the birds and bees.  Give me money, that’s what I want.” The song aptly named , "Money (That’s What I Want)" went on to become the first hit for Gordy’s Motown record label Tamla.  It also went on to be covered by many prominent recording artists such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Doors, among others.  

What Every Business Needs When it Grows Up

14 Things Smart Businesses and Mature Professionals do to Grow Their Companies in a Weak Economy in the 21st Century 


By Hector Cisneros

Photo Credit: dreamstime.com
When an economy is strong, even weak companies and products can thrive.  But what happens when the economy struggles in recession for several years?  What happens when you have the emergence of consumer driven social media with its potentially viral and instant, word-of-mouth sharing, of both positive and negative reviews on products or services?  What happens when we have a fundamental shift in our way of life, where many consumers have only part-time jobs, while concurrently, taxes and consumer goods prices keeps rising?

“IT” Now Stands for Internet Terrorism



How Are Terrorists Using the Internet to Spread Their Message of Hate? Part 2                

By Robert Kaye

Photo Credit: frazar.net
Ah, yes, our World Wide Web. Where would most of us be without it these days? For many of us, it’s difficult to imagine a life without the interconnectivity and instant interaction of the Internet. The Internet is a powerful tool that most would agree is now an indispensable part of everyday life. But this powerful tool is a double-edged sword.  Benevolence and crime live side-by-side in the spaces of the World Wide Web. It provides power to those who are good and those who are evil. And a new evil has reared its ugly head: Internet Terrorism.

Go Fund Yourself!

Courtesy of Courtesy of engageduniversity.blogs.wesleyan.edu

Can You Kick Start Your Business with Crowdfunding?

By Carl Weiss

Can you crowd fund yourself to success? Recent developments in crowdfunding have made this highly lucrative online venue even more popular. Take for instance Zack Brown,"the Potato Salad Guy," who wanted to raise $10 to make potato salad and wound up with $55,000 for his efforts on Kickstarter. In today's still shaky economy, many entrepreneurs are turning to crowdfunding to start or expand a business, especially since the banks have tightened rules regarding business loans. Other creative sorts are simply using crowdfunding to generate income, in and of itself. So if you're interested in learning the ins and outs of one of the hottest commodities on the Internet, read on because you may just be ready t o"go Fund Yourself!"

Many people have used crowdfunding sites to jumpstart new businesses or take existing businesses to the next level.  With a proliferation of crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, RocketHub and more, these sites have given a number of entrepreneurs the chance to fund a pet project or business that would have otherwise languished. 

Let’s face it, banks are not exactly throwing their cash around these days.  Friends and family cannot always be relied upon to have the wherewithal to back your dream. Credit cards, while another opportunity for self-funding, is fraught with many risks, especially since the credit card companies' draconian policies can suddenly ramp up your interest rate to 25% or more.  This is one of the reasons that crowdfunding got its start.

Crowdfunding Can be Music to Your Ears

Courtesy of Courtesy of www.technollama.co.uk
While most people think the phenomenon of crowdfunding is an invention of the 21st century, its roots can actually be traced back some four hundred years to a time when many publications were sold by subscription before the first copy came off the presses.  However the trend to branch out to other business models is indeed a recent development.  While there is some conjecture as to which website was the first to offer crowdfunding, Wikipedia lists ArtistShare, which started in 2003.  Slanted toward the recording industry, the site was designed to allow recording artists to raise funding in order to expedite the expensive process of bringing out a new album.  (Imagine how Mozart would have jumped at the opportunity in the 1770s to have thrown off the yolk of the church and embraced crowdfunding in order to have artistic control of his career.)

By 2006, there were three more hats in the crowdfunding ring: EquityNet, Pledgie and Sellaband. While Sellaband was another crowd funding brand devoted to the fan funding of recording artists, EquityNet and Pledgie were something else altogether.  Founded in 2005, Equity Net was designed to help startups and existing businesses to raise equity capital from accredited investors.  Used by more than 10,000 entrepreneurs, EquityNet provides access to 20,000 individual investors, including angel investors.  To date it has helped companies raise more than $200 million.  Pledgie.com was the first site to take crowdfunding to a whole new level by allowing a broad spectrum of entrepreneurs, artists, philanthropic causes and others to use the Internet to fund their project or cause.  Created in 2007 by Mark Daggett and Garry Dolley, the site permits anyone the opportunity to pitch their cause in order to solicit donations.  (The site has a list of 50 categories under which to solicit funds.)

Courtesy of Courtesy of mashable.com
However, it wasn’t until 2008/2009 that crowdfunding hit the big time with the introduction of such sites as IndieGoGo, KickStarter, and RocketHub.  Whether it was a combination of savvy marketing or just being in the right place at the right time, these three platforms definitely made their mark by raising funds in a big way.  To date, Kickstarter is the current BMOI –Big Moneymaker on the Internet, having raised more than $10 million for smartwatch startup Pebble, along with a number of multimillion dollar funded projects. For a list of the top-10 Kickstarter projects go to http://www.bornrich.com/top-10-kickstarter-campaigns-raised-money.html?view=all

Not to be outdone, IndieGoGo raised more than $2 million apiece this past year for the independent films Lazer Team and Gosnell, the Movie.  They also raised more than a million dollars for a video series called Tabletop Season 3 that is all about tabletop games. To see more, go to: http://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2014/09/50149-crowdfunding-best-top-10-successfully-funded-kickstarter-indiegogo-films/

Courtesy of Courtesy of okgamedev.com
Then there’s RocketHub.com.  While not yet as well-known as Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, this crowdfunding platform begun in January of 2010.  Just like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, on RocketHub you get to pitch your project, select a funding goal and choose a deadline by which to raise funds.  The chief difference with RocketHub is that if you do not reach your stated goal you get to keep the funds raised minus 12%. (There's an eight percent fee charged for unsuccessful projects plus a four percent transaction fee.)  With both Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, you need to make your strike number in order to collect funds.

Courtesy of Courtesy of  techcrunch.com
Of course, there are other crowdfunding sites that have joined the fray as well, such as FundRazr, Fundly, GoFundMe, Microventures, FundaGeek, Peerbackers and more.  Each of these platforms have their rules and regulations, fees and disclaimers.  Before selecting a platform you need to read their rules and regulations.  However, even this doesn’t mean you will be accepted, much less successfully funded.  The bad news is that if you are rejected, it is difficult if not impossible to find out why or what you need to do to meet a site’s criteria since most of the crowdfunding sites do not have a customer service number, chatroom or email address to which funders can respond. The good news is that with all the crowdfunding sites out there, just because you crash and burn on one doesn’t mean you will flameout on another.  (It’s all part of the learning curve.)

Another Look at Potato Salad

Courtesy of Potato Salad
As mentioned earlier, recent changes to the rules at Kickstarter have opened the doors for projects that would have previously been turned down out of hand.  Take for instance Zack Brown, "the Potato Salad Guy."  His proposal that sought to raise $10 to make potato salad instead raised $55,492 when it went viral.  (Talk about supersizing your order.)  Not only did Zack’s project not have any definitive objectives, once he raised $55k, he wound up hiring a bunch of lunch trucks to throw a potato salad party with his windfall.  Check out Zack’s project at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/324283889/potato-salad/comments

Let’s Go Fund Yourself

I know what you’re thinking … "How do I get some of that salad, the green kind?"  The first thing you have to do is decide on which type of crowdfunding model fits your needs best.  That’s right, this is not a one-size-fits-all industry.  Currently there are three flavors from which to choose:
Courtesy of Crowdfunding Insider

  1. Reward-Based Funding – Just as the name implies, while you are not required to give up points or pay back funds raised in this way, you do need to provide something of value (real or intangible) in order to raise funds using this model. Rewards could be anything from having your name written on the closing credit roll to books, t-shirts and/or real merchandise being created for the funds raised. 
  2. Equity-Based Funding – As the term implies in this funding model you are required to give up a percentage of the business or points in a movie. 
  3. Credit-Based Funding – This third model if successful can provide funds that are paid back just as you would a loan. This form of funding can also encompass micro-loans which is another form of crowdfunding that has reached a worldwide audience.
  4. Donation- Based Funding – Donation funding are basically charity based where you ask for donations. this type of funding is available on many social media platforms and can be used to raise fund for what you feel you need help with. It is also one of the primary ways charities raise funds on the web.
Which Crowd Funding Platform is Right for You?

When it comes to selecting the best platform that fits your needs, the first thing you need to do is
search the crowd funding site for current and previously funded projects.  See how closely they conform to your proposed project.  Look for failed as well as successful projects and try to determine what went wrong.  Then write up a proposal which, while not plagiarizing that of a successfully funded campaign, closely emulates its format. (Even this does not mean that the project will be given a green light.  It just makes the odds of acceptance better.)

Then comes the fun part; creating your presentation.  This should include visual elements such as one or more videos, photos of your finished product or prototype, photos of you and your team, etc.  The better you convey your project from concept to completion, the better the chance it will resonate with those considering your project. 
Courtesy of blogs.agriya.com

In fact, it is this last part of the creation process that is the most important part for successfully raising funds: engaging and activating your audience.

While major crowd funding sites have anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of viewers that doesn’t mean that each and every one of them is going to see your proposal.  So if your idea to raise funds is to set it and forget it you could be in for a rude awakening.  Since most projects are restricted to a 30- or 60-day term in which to raise funds, the onus is on you to get the ball rolling fast and early.  This means you need to write your proposal, shoot videos and photos, but you also need to start networking as soon as the project goes live.

This boils down to having your troops (people in your social networks), in place to hit the beach and start fanning the flames.  Through the use of social nets, email blasts, text messaging, phone calls as well as up-close-and-personal grassroots in your face meetings you need to get your friends, family, coworkers and anyone else you can, convince to not only buy into your project, but get their friends, family and coworkers to do the same.  If you can somehow get a news media person to pick up your story, even better. The beauty of the crowdfunding community is that if you can get the ball rolling, then many times the crowd and sometimes the owners of the funding site will rally around your cause.  If, on the other hand, you think you can simply launch your project and forget it, you’re going to be sadly disappointed.
Courtesy of blogs.shu.edu

However, as I mentioned earlier in this blog, just because you crash and burn doesn’t mean that your hopes to raise funds are over.  Lick your wounds, learn from your mistakes, and try another crowdfunding platform to toot your horn.  Who knows, maybe you can use crowdfunding to kick start your business.

In this article, I outlined the major crowd funding platforms and the basics of how they work. I have present a means to determine which is best for you and a strategy to make sure you’re found.

If you’d like to find more articles like this, read, “CrowdFunding, It’s a Game Changer”  and “In
Search of Digital Donations” or enter the words “Crowd funding or Digital Donations” in the search box at the top of this blog to find even more. If you found this article useful, please share it with friends, family, coworkers and associates. If you have something to add or have a different opinion, place them in the Comments section below.  It’s been my pleasure sharing this information with you.

Until next time

If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century", fill out the form below. 

Thanks for sharing your time with me.



Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, an award-winning digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalkRadio.

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Attack of the Botnets



By Robert Kaye and Hector Cisneros

Photo Credit: arlnow.com
Ever wonder how Google knows what’s on your website? Have you ever been infected by malware or a computer virus? Ever pondered how these spammers got your email address? I have one word for you: BOTs! The World Wide Web is crawling with them.  Spider bots to index your website, evil bots that can make you wish you never had a computer, bots that scrape the web for ID information, and bots that you can buy ― but unfortunately break search engine rules ― which then render your domain as an outcast in a sandbox kingdom that no one can find.

Dirty Tricks Can Deep Six Your Business



By Carl Weiss
 
Photo Credit: kulwantnagi.com
For the past ten years, the search engines have moved heaven and earth to crack down on black hat practitioners who used underhanded techniques to generate online results.  

But what most website owners don't know is that much of the same technology used to legitimately promote businesses online can also be used to do them harm.  In this article we'll explore a number of dirty tricks that are being used by unscrupulous website owners to harm to their competition.  This growing trend has the potential to once more unleash a tidal wave of unfair trade practices that may adversely affect the balance of power online. If you want to find out how dirty tricks can be used to give your business the deep six, then read on and find out competitors can use dirty tricks to deep six your web presence.

How Are Terrorists Using the Internet to Spread Their Message of Hate?



By Robert Kaye

We’re at war. 

Photo Credit: zerohedge.com
You may recall that some of our earlier blogs discussed how major U.S. corporations, various government agencies (including the FBI, and the military), financial institutions and its citizens – you and me – are being attacked by individual, criminal syndicates and foreign government-sponsored hackers. (See our previous blogs such as “ The Hack Attack is BackWho Wears a Black Hat on the Wild, Wild Web?  How Close is the US to Experiencing a Digital Pearl Harbor?” and others.)

Can DIY SEO Work For Your Business?



By Carl Weiss & Hector Cisneros

Photo credit: cougardigitalmarketing.com
If you own a small business and have a website, or plan to launch a basic business website in order to get more visibility, no doubt you’ve heard about the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your website. This is especially important if you plan on selling goods directly on your site.  The rub is that many times web designers spend more time fretting on form rather than function.  As a result, many websites we’ve surveyed don’t have many of the On-Page SEO elements that are needed to get properly indexed by the search engines. 

Has Google Given Everyone the Bird with its Pigeon Update?

By Carl Weiss
Courtesy of www.dailymail.co.uk

Many website owners were startled in late July when their page rankings on Google suddenly flew the coop.  When the dust and feathers had cleared, it was apparent that the world's most popular search engine was once more tinkering with its algorithm.  However, it wasn't until quite recently that Google not only admitted that they had once again thrown a monkey wrench into the works, but they had also given it a name: Pigeon.  In this article, we'll discuss what "the flock" this means to businesses hoping to achieve Page One ranking on Google.  We'll also let you know how this algorithm change now affects local businesses, who previously ranked organically, may now be forced to pony up money for pay-per-click campaigns.  And that's not chicken feed.

The Hack Attack Is Back

By Hector Cisneros

Hacking: The Art of Exploitation Second Edition
Hacking: The Art of Exploitation Second
Edition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I’ve have been working in the computer industry since 1981, and clearly remember the very first computer virus that appeared soon after the personal computer age began. Mind you, this pre-dates the beginning of Internet by 12 or so years. Computer viruses and hacking are nothing new. However, our dependency on a worldwide network to conduct business, (the internet) and the pervasiveness and frequency of massive hack attacks is new. So, if you want to learn who the hackers are, who's being hacked, and most importantly, how to protect yourself and your financial assets from these criminals, then read on and learn the answers to these and other questions in this week’s Working the Web to Win article, "The Hack Attack is Back.”

Like I said earlier, hacking is not new. What is new is our overwhelming use and dependency on computer systems, especially the Internet, which allows us to communicate worldwide virtually instantaneously.  Computing devices and the Internet have ushered in a well-spring of inventions, mass communications and innovation. Unfortunately, they’re also act as a double-edged sword, in that smart criminals can take advantage of the complexity and the massive social addiction that people have with what seems like new-found power. This allows hackers of all kinds to invade our lives in a multitude of ways.

English: Monolith as displayed at the
English: Monolith as displayed at the "Hackers at Large" conference in Enschede, The Netherlands, 10-11-12 August 2001. The monolith has been erected by the German hacker group CCC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The invention of hacking pre-dates the Internet. However, the birth of the Internet has made it ultimately easier for hackers to take advantage of people who only know how to use computer system. “E-Hackers”, as they are sometimes called now, sprung for smart criminals that hacked phone systems, banking, or government computers before there was an Internet. The act of hacking is nothing more than circumventing a computers security system to gain access to that systems data. As the Internet grew in popularity, so did online hacking.

Hacking is just one of many cybercrimes that follows the money. The Internet has become a major part of most people’s lives and is an extremely important asset to most businesses. Hacker’s hack for many reasons. Most do so for financial gains, some to do because they’re smart and they can. Right now, our dependency on the Internet as a utility for transactions is immense. Unfortunately, our security for these transactions are a legacy from the credit cards days, all pre-Internet technology. Hackers are taking advantage of this dependency and the many security holes that these old systems have. They also take advantage of human nature for complacency, laziness and our need to socially interact.

In 2012, we predicted that massive hack attacks would take place on our banks, retailers and government institutions. This was not  far fetched because smaller “hack attacks” were already taking place back then. Today, massive hack attacks have become daily headlines.  
Courtesy of www.linux.com

Today’s headlines are shouting about massive hack attacks on Target, JP Morgan Bank, Home Depot and Apple’s iCloud. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Most hack attacks aren't even reported because companies fear the legal repercussions and the bad press. The Russians and Chinese have government-sponsored hacker teams. There are also vast criminal syndicates that are well-financed coming for us. I fear that soon will come the day, when terrorists decide to jump on the hacking band wagon as well. We’re all extremely vulnerable!

Sadly, our government has been very slow to take these problem seriously. The FBI and other agencies have announced that this is a massive problem, yet our government is not funding any kind of meaningful counter-treat to thwart or eliminate this type of crime. To make matters worse, the NSA is also hacking massive amount of information in the name of national security. This is giving foreign governments’ the ammunition to join the hack fest as well.

The problem is not just the technology. Banks and credit card companies are working on more secure cards system, but they’ll not be fully implemented for several years. The first step is to replace existing credit cards with ones that have smart chips on them. The other parts of these upgrades will be rolled out over the next two to three years, where a better verification system is added to the mix.

An Opus smart card
An Opus smart card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
However, no amount of smart technology can protect you from foolishly using your card in an unsafe way. Nor can that technology protect you from giving away your personal information. The real problem is how lackadaisical people treat this issue. Most don't take this threat seriously until all their money is stolen and their lives are ruined. We have written, and warned about the growth of hack attacks for several years. Now it’s a fact that the chicken has come home to roost and millions of Americans’ credit card information has been compromised.

So what can we do to protect ourselves in this climate of weekly hack-a-thons? Here is my high priority list that anyone can and should implement:

1.      First, find out what your banks’ policies are with regard to your accounts being hacked. Most banks that are FDIC-insured provide protection against fraud; but don't take my word for it, ask them. If they say you’re not protected, move your money to a bank that does. 
2.      Also, inquire about single use credit cards. These can be purchased for making Internet purchases as a one-time use card (some can be refiled). This way, if the card information is compromised, you’re only liable for the amount on the card. These are good for making purchases online, especially during the holidays. 
Courtesy of www.paypal.com
3.      Another way is to use PayPal or some similar payment system. Make sure that your PayPal account doesn’t have access to your debit card or bank account directly. Only use a credit card as the final means of payment. This gives you two layers of protections for fraud.
4.      If you using a debit card to make purchases, stop! Use a regular credit card for store and online purchases. If a hacker gets your debit card number and password they can empty your account. If they get your credit card number and password you’re only liable for the first $50, or so and in most cases, nothing if you dispute the charges right away. 
5.      If you currently don't have an ID protection service, get one. There annual cost is relatively low and many offer monthly plans. These programs can help stop a criminal from assuming your identity, stopping them from wiping out your bank accounts and assuming new credit in your name that they then never pay. Anyone can purchase ID protection service like the one that Life Lock offers. Also many of the credit verification companies sell this service as well. I have even noticed that many insurance companies now offer these type of policies as an add on to a home owners policy.
English: A paper shredder
English: A paper shredder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
6.      If you don't have a shredder, buy one. They are generally inexpensive and good ones can be had for under $100. Shred all financial documents that are headed to the trash. This includes credit offers of any kind. Some shredders can also destroy CDs, DVDs and credit cards, all of which can contain financial or sensitive personal data. Don't keep massive amounts of financial data laying around your house. If a thief breaks into your home (because they saw you post on Facebook that you were on vacation, for example), they’ll have free reign to gather whatever they need to steal your ID and access your financial accounts.
7.      Speaking of keeping your data secure: Make sure your smart devices (computers, tables, smartphones, etc.) are password-protected with at least an eight-digit password made up of numbers, letters and some special symbols. This way, if they steal your any of your digital devices, you’ll have time to take measures to protect your accounts while you file a claims and replace your gear.
Courtesy of soft102.blogspot.com
8.      Every smart device needs to have a couple of layers of anti-malware protection. I use Trend Micro, Malwarebytes, Spy Bot’s Search and Destroy and Advance System Care on my computer. These programs need to be run on a weekly basis. If you’re not scanning your devices, you’re still vulnerable! My tablet and smartphone have two of these anti-malware programs and an application that can lock and locate my devices if they’re stolen.
9.      Make sure you keep your all your smart devices up to date with regards to security updates. If you’re running Microsoft Windows, this is almost a weekly process. Check for these update regularly or better still, turn on automatic updates so they’re added as released.
10.  If you love free apps for your tablet and/or smartphone, beware! Many of these apps compromise the security of that device. Even if the app is legit, a not legit app may be able to use the legit one to steal your data. Free apps have their price as a real risk to your security.
11.  Regularly check the FBI and other scam/fraud websites to learn about and lookup current or suspected threats and scams. Many anti-virus software vendor also have free database lookup services where you can check for suspicious and malicious software threats. These databases often provide information on how to remove the treat, even without purchasing their product. Some even have free online scanning services to help you remove the malware, absolutely free of charge.
English: Jodi
English: Jodi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
12.  Last but not least, refrain from visiting websites of a dubious nature. This includes porn sites, warez, free software apps, online first-run movies and music sites. Criminals are betting on their ability to hook you with their tempting bait and once you swallow the hook, their hack attack begins. I use a browser plug-in call Web of Trust that’s free and rates web links (websites in real-time in your browser), even before you click on them. Also many antivirus programs such as Trend Micro have built-in warning systems to stop you from visiting questionable sites. However, as I said before, no amount of smart technology can keep you from acting in a very stupid way.

In this article, I discussed the new hack attack era we’re now living in. This new climate of wide-spread hack attacks can adversely affect every man, woman and child in America, (or any other countries for that matter). I have provided my high priority list of a dozen things anyone can and should do to protect their financial assets and identity. This way you won’t become a victim during this new era of hack-a-thons, taking place worldwide.
If you'd like to read more articles like this one, check out "Trick or Tweet? The Vulnerabilities Inherent to Twitter and All Social Networks" and "Working the Web - Is There a Cyber Attack in Your Future?" or enter the words “hacking” or “hack attack” in the Search box at the top of this blog. If you found this article useful, please feel free to share and repost it. I welcome your opinion and comments, just add them to the Comments section below.
That’s my opinion; I look forward to hearing yours.

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Hector Cisneros is COO and director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web To Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.” 

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