Category Archives: Companies and Warnings

The Heartbleed Bug takes over your internets!

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Mashable Article: The Heartbleed Hit List: The Passwords You Need to Change Right Now

Another craze has hit the web, and this time it looks bad for users of a LOT of common websites. The Hearbleed bug is the newest cyberthreat, or so says news outlets like the BBC (my go-to even for US news). This new cyber-threat has resulted in a breach of security of many major websites, resulting in news outlets to recommend a mass change in passwords. Check out the above article to see if any website account you have has been affected (most likely that’s a yes).

My advice: If you’re like me and don’t change your passwords that often (I do really like having them memorized…), then it’s probably about time you change your passwords anyway. As daunting and tedious as it sounds, spend a couple of hours going through all your accounts and making new passwords. I understand that it’ll take a long time, I did it this morning. What did I get out of it? Other than a major headache (or possibly my first migraine?) and a bunch of websites that I can’t remember my password to, I now am content to know that (at least for today.. probably) my secure accounts will remain secure.

Don’t know how to make a secure password? Google it. Or just click here: Tips for creating a strong password– Microsoft.com

If you’re like me and want to have a little more information about this cyber heart-breaker, check out these BBC* articles about the Heartbleed Bug:

Heartbleed Bug: What you need to know

Heartbleed Bug creates confusion on the internet

*I shamelessly promote using the BBC as your new source, even in the US. It’s got great international news that covers worldwide, and is a very reliable, fairly unbiased and well-written source. Here’s there homepage, check it out.

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Traveling: To Go or Not to Go

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If you’re getting close to graduation, you’ve probably heard people talk about taking trips to Europe or taking a year to backpack around the world. I know when I first heard that people ACTUALLY did that, I was flabbergasted. And it wasn’t surprise that people wanted to go abroad or take a year off to ‘find themselves’, I was more shocked at HOW CAN YOU AFFORD TO TRAVEL FOR SO LONG WITHOUT A PAYCHECK???? Because I’m frugal and I hate watching my bank account diminish with each credit card payment, the idea of traveling and spending so much money scared me to death!

Thanks to UltimosLibros for the image.

However, once I was given a ‘job’ offer with the Peace Corps and realized that I’d be living pretty much without personal expenses for two years, that savings cushion seemed to look a bit more tempting. I wanted to do something special with my boyfriend, a kind of ‘Thank you for letting me leave you for 2 years’ thing. I mentioned earlier that we had thought about going to Europe. He’d never been, I wanted to go back, etc. Well, traveling to Europe is a bit hard without a passport. I had to turn mine in to get a new PC specific one, so going outside the US was nixed.

Limited to staying within the US, my boyfriend and I decided on New York; he’d been once, I’ve never been. Once we finalized our decision about New York, I realized that we were planning VERY close to the birth of my nephew, so I modified our plans a bit: I’d fly up to stay a week with my sister, her husband and my new nephew, my boyfriend would fly up to meet me, then the two of us would take Amtrak to New York, stay there for a few days and then fly home. It definitely complicated arrangements a bit– we had to buy two one-way flights instead of one round trip, and we had to add in the expense of Amtrak. But all in all, not too bad.

Thanks to http://www.fitnessshowrooms.com/ for the image.

But here’s where it get’s hard: actually booking things. I hate booking things. I had to do it while I was in England, and it’s one of those grown-up things that is just time-consuming and annoying. I mean, who wants to spend time and hassle figuring out the best way to spend money? Not me. But I have to be a grown-up now; mommy and daddy can’t book my flight or tell me which hotel to stay at.

After doing all this, here’s what I learned:

(Rule #1) DO YOUR RESEARCH.

Check out this post on Y Travel Blog for more on how to plan longer trips.

Just like with everything else, I will spend hours if not days researching before I buy anything. Especially with travel arrangements, it always seems like you can find something better, something cheaper. But then, cheaper doesn’t always mean better and then you’re back at square one! It took my boyfriend and I about 2 weeks to finally make our final decisions. Granted, we made most of the decisions in the few days we were actually together  (he lives at school still and I live at my parents house 45 minutes away). But it still involved a lot of research and number crunching on my part.

If you’re wanting to travel, pretty much my favorite site to search flights is Kayak.com. It’s fast, it’s simple, and seems to be reliable. I like being able to easily change dates or airports, and it keeps each change saved under a new tab so you can compare quickly and without hassle. I haven’t used it for anything else (hotels, car rental, etc.), but I’m sure it works well.

Thanks to A Hopeful Traveler for the image!

Another amazing site I like to use is hostelworld.com. Especially if you’re a student or recent grad and want to travel cheap, this is the place to look for hotels, hostels, B&Bs, apartment rentals, and campsites. I used it when I was traveling in England and found an AMAZING hostel in Edinburgh. I’m using it now to find hotels in New York (my boyfriend doesn’t like the idea of a hostel). The site is reliable for booking and very easy to use!

A word of warning on booking your hotel though: make sure you check out the area you’re booking in to see what kind of transportation is available, what the area is like, etc. We almost booked a B&B in Newark, but were warned that Newark isn’t a great city to be in. While I’m sure the B&B there is excellent, we decided we’d rather pay the extra money to be in New York City close to the metro, and also know we’re in a safe area (as safe as any part of New York is at least).

Finally, you can’t plan a trip without knowing things you’re going to do. And for my boyfriend and I, that means planning out FOOD. We’re foodies; we love watching the travel channel and food network, anything like Man vs. Food or Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives is amazing. So we made sure to check out our options! Two great sites for this: TV Food Maps and Nomadic Matt.

(Rule #2) BOOK EARLY, BOOK CAREFULLY. Once you’ve got your trip all planned out, you’re probably getting ready to book. I like to have all my researched prices laid out on an excel template so I know what I should be paying, it helps calm the cheap-o in my brain a little. Be ready to book well in advance, but keep your eyes open for price changes; especially with airfare, prices will fluctuate pretty regularly, and will change depending on day of the week.

Here’s a tip to a cheaper flight: book a flight for a Tuesday-Thursday. They’re significantly cheaper than the rest of the week.

Your research should have found the cheapest options for you. For my boyfriend and I, flights actually turned out to be overall cheaper doing one-way tickets. We have to add in the price of Amtrak, but even with that it comes out to almost the same price as a round-trip airfare would have been.

Now, here’s where the BOOK CAREFULLY comes in. Buying plane tickets was easy. Find the airfare, hit purchase, fill in some info about yourself, and your done. Hundred dollars spent. Easy-peasy. Buying Amtrak, not so easy. Technically it should be just as easy; the process is similar, you even fill in less information. BUT, that’s if their website is working.

Unfortunately, it was my job to buy the Amtrak tickets (my boyfriend bought the plane tickets from New York, so it was only fair), and even more unfortunately I happened to try to buy  them while Amtrak was having a miniature crisis on Monday. As far as I can tell, for poor Amtrak it was the day that NOTHING went right. The snowstorm caused train delays and cancellations. The website crashed, which meant the phone lines were swarmed, and all their potential and current customers were angry. I tried to purchase tickets and kept having problems getting through the website, which should have been a warning to me to stop and try again the next day. But I was impatient. Finally I got to the payment page and was able to enter all my payment information and click “purchase”, only to receive a website error. I was worried. Did they have my payment info? Did the tickets get reserved? Would they bill me? I stressed all day, sent an email to them, checked my credit card account, checked the Amtrak twitter, tried to call (gave up on the 110 minute wait), and finally gave it up for the day. They hadn’t billed my card hours later, and I still hadn’t received a confirmation or a reply to my email. Who knew what was going on? Next day (today) I still hadn’t received anything from them and my card still wasn’t billed, so I felt a little more confident and a little more annoyed. Honestly, this seemed like too much of a hassle. If my boyfriend didn’t get motion sick, I could have bought two Megabus tickets for $9 total (check them out, they’re cheap, reliable, and did I mention cheap??)! I sent another email to Amtrak, which also went unanswered. I tried to call, and was given a 49 minute wait so I hung up. I finally was able to contact Amtrak through twitter, and they answered that without a confirmation there is no reservation. That’s all I needed. So I booked the train (again) and this time I received a confirmation, and my credit card did get billed. What an ordeal! I’m thankful to Amtrak’s Twitter people, but frustrated with their other forms of customer service failing. I know that they’re busy, but I gave them a whole day to answer an email! Now don’t take this as me telling you not to buy Amtrak. They seem like a great service, though a bit pricey. I will reserve judgement until I ride the train, but don’t expect to be displeased. If you’re willing to pay the money and don’t need to bother with customer service, give them a try!

(Rule #3) KNOW WHY YOU WANT TO TRAVEL. I’ve read the advice books that say everyone should travel in between graduation and settling into a job. I’ve gotten so much advice from friends and family to ‘just go’! Well, it’s not that easy. And if you feel the same way, then don’t go! If you want to step right into working, do it. If you don’t think it’s the right time for YOU to go out and spend hundreds or thousands of dollars and weeks or months traveling, don’t do it. Yes, it’s a great time for you to travel because you’ll never again have as much free time or as little responsibility. But will you enjoy it as much if you’re constantly worried about running your bank account dry?

The way I see it, the decision comes down to what you value. If you travel now you’ll have the time to see whatever you want and be gone as long as you want. But, you may have to sleep in train stations or in a 12-person dorm in a crappy hostel, and you may have to eat at fast food restaurants or out of vending machines, all to save money. If you travel after you’ve been working and saving up money your time may be limited to a week or two, but you’ll be able to stay at a nicer hotel and actually get some sleep, you’ll be able to eat out at nice local restaurants and participate in more activities without worrying about draining your bank account to zero. So weigh your options and make a decision. This is your life, don’t listen to wayward advice if it’s not right for you!

Good luck in your decision or planning, now I’ve got a hotel booking to figure out!

Caveat Job Seeker: Company Scams

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I’ve emphasized before that internet searches and online job hunting websites are a great source of open positions. But, as we all should know by now, not everything you see on the internet is as good as it may seem. The biggest problem at this point for me has been finding “Entry Level” jobs that turn out to not be as they were advertised.

Thanks to Reddit user rp416 for the image.

(Rule #1) BE CAREFUL. When searching online for jobs, be VERY wary of any position that advertises itself as “ENTRY LEVEL” or “MARKETING DEVELOPMENT”, etc. These companies typically advertise with flashy, eye-catching position titles, upper-case lettering, lots of exclamation points, or emphasis on marketing, management, and business development. Once you click on the link, the job description will give you some vague description of what the company does. They’ll try to draw you in with promises of fast movement to management, full training, and great company culture. But look carefully. Is it advertising for one position, or for a general idea of a job? Does it actually have a description of daily duties, or just give vague goals? These companies like to draw in a high volume of people with flashy, too-good-to-be-true opportunities. If you can’t believe your luck at finding such a perfect place, it’s probably not legit.

(Rule #2) DO YOUR RESEARCH. Not all of the companies offering a great job with upward mobility is sketchy. That’s why it’s really important to do your research. Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and other online job search websites have reviews that you can read for most companies. You should also check out the company’s website. If neither of these sources look good, think again about applying. In addition to those previously mentioned resources, do a basic Google search. If the company is sketchy, most likely someone will have mentioned it online somewhere. Another great resource is a blog I found, “Entry Level Job Scams”, which details companies that do this, complete with names and tactics. Check this out if you’re worried about job scams.

(Rule#3) BE SMART. If the job looks too good to be true, it probably is. If the emails you receive are from a Gmail or Yahoo, etc. account and not a company account, the place is a bit sketchy. Don’t throw out a good company because they fit one of these descriptions, but use caution and think through your decision to apply.

I called this “company scams” in the title of this blog for a reason. These companies don’t necessarily scam you– they just aren’t fully honest with their position advertisement and draw you in pretty deep before they reveal what the position actually is.

My experience with these companies is from last fall. I was in full job app. mode, and found what looked like something I was perfect for on LinkedIn. It was a marketing development position with a company that said they developed marketing strategies for a big-name cable provider. It was less than a day after I applied that I got a phone call asking to meet for an interview. I was so excited, and couldn’t wait to interview. The first interview was great. The office looked nicely put together, the interviewer was nice, but I felt like there was something a bit off– the interview only lasted about 15 minutes, and the questions were all personality-based, and when I asked about the day-to-day duties, the interviewer was a bit evasive and very vague. Still, I was naive and wanted to get an offer, so when I was invited to a second interview, I agreed.

It was the second interview that made me realize what I had gotten myself into. I arrived at the office, which was full of people walking around and talking, completely different from my previous time there when it was quiet and empty. I was taken back to an office, and paired up with a current employee who would be leading my interview for the day. I still wasn’t aware of what to expect, and was even more confused when the interviewer and another employee led me back outside to the parking lot, told me to follow them in my car, and then prepared to leave. I followed them for about half an hour, until we finally stopped at a Wal-Mart. We went in and sat at an attached cafe, where the interviewer asked me more in-depth questions. I finally learned what my job would be at that point– sitting at a table set-up in Wal-Mart, selling cable subscriptions. This was the “marketing development” job I had applied to? I stayed for the interview and to watch the two employees for a few minutes, then they sent me home and told me I’d hear back later.

You can’t imagine how angry I was at this point. I was mad at the company for lying to me about the job, I was mad at myself for falling for it, and felt taken advantage of. But to be honest now, my biggest problem was that I was naive and hadn’t spent a sufficient amount of time researching the company. So if you’re just starting your search, don’t be like I was. Keep your head and do your research. Know that not everything you see on these job search sites is accurate, especially if it seems too good to be true.