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How to Buy Stuff Online Without Getting Scammed

How to Buy Stuff Online Without Getting Scammed

Fifty years ago, science fiction writers predicted that in future we would be able to just press a button in order to buy something, pay for it, and have it delivered—all without getting out of our chair. Now it seems that we are already living in this future.

Up to a point, that is. The problem is, human nature never changes. Yes, people have developed new and amazing ways to do business. But they’ve also figured out new and fascinating ways of swindling you out of your hard-earned money.

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We all know how to buy stuff online, but we don’t always know how to avoid getting scammed. Dealing with internet fraud after the fact is hard, expensive, and can even involve hiring a lawyer experienced like Joe Tacopina. But it is far easier to avoid fraud in the first place. Here are a few tips on how to do it.

1. Take reviews with a grain of salt

When you are going to buy stuff online, it’s a good idea to look at some reviews. But be ready to separate the wheat from the chaff. At least some reviews are going to be more or less blatant promotions. Look for reviews that have substantial evidence behind them: research, analysis, and statistics from different sources. For example, take this series of gold dealer reviews. The author comes to a certain conclusion, but his argumentation is absolutely transparent.

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2. Check the e-commerce platform

Make sure the shop you are dealing with is using one of the well-respected e-commerce platforms. It doesn’t make you 100% secure from fraud, but the risk is much less than if you buy from an independent store using a self-made shop script.

3. Follow the crowd

Online shopping is one of the activities where getting off the beaten path isn’t usually a very good idea. If a lot of people go to a certain place to buy certain things, it usually means that it is the best place to get them. Of course, some things are unique or hard to find and can only be bought at specific stores. But the more general your needs are, the less you should consider dealing with small and obscure sites. So, if you are after books, go to Amazon. If you want games, visit Steam. If you want to find individual people selling all kinds of stuff, use eBay.

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4.  Compare prices before buying

The simplest way to do this is to use comparison shopping engines. Stick to the largest and best-known of them: they collect information from more shops and thus present more objective information. In addition to prices, you may find out more about stores and products in question, which will help you understand whether the price tag is justified.

5. Find ways to spend less

Coupons and promotions immediately come to mind. However, they are inconvenient if you have to keep track of them on your own. It is better to use a service like Yipit to find what you need at the moment.

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6. Know when to shop offline

There are cases when, no matter what your preferences are, it is still wiser to shop offline. For example, there are groups of products that are not very well suited for being bought remotely, like clothing and perfumes—in other words, goods that are too difficult to judge without seeing them in person. Clothes may be the wrong size, the perfume may not smell exactly how remember you remember. It’s better to find that out before you actually pay for the product.

It’s easy and fun to buy stuff online, but you should always keep your bases covered. After all, you cannot be too careful.

Featured photo credit: Internet open via flickr.com

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Melissa Burns

Entrepreneur

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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