3 Must Dos Before Selling Your Phone

Apple announced today that it will be expanding its phone trade-in program and for the first time allow users of competing smartphones to trade in their devices for a credit towards a new iPhone.

For those who made the switch away from Apple and now have buyer’s remorse, to those whose resistance to the iPhone is crumbling in the face of cool new additions such as Apple Pay and connectivity to the forthcoming Apple Watch, this news is potentially exciting.

Don't let the prospect of a new phone credit cost you when it comes to your data security.
Don’t let the prospect of a new phone credit cost you when it comes to your data security.

Before rushing off to your nearest Apple Store to make a deal, consider the contents of your current phone. If you’re like a majority of Americans now, your phone is a smartphone, which means there is a lot more of your life on it than in years past.

From photos to bank details and health information, your phone is a sensitive file, which could contain a lot of interesting data to crooks or snoops.

That new iPhone has waited this long, it can wait a few more moments while you ensure your data is protected. Take these three precautions before you resell your phone and sleep soundly:

1. Back It Up

If your smartphone is an extension of your computer, then crucial work, personal and financial details are likely on there. Not to mention some important apps. You don’t want to lose your historical steps in your health tracking app, priceless photos of your cat Alfred or any other data for that matter. Depending on your device, consult Apple, Google or Microsoft, all of which have step-by-step instructions on how to do back-up their devices.

2. Use a Third Party to Wipe Your Device

Relying on the factory-reset option is not bulletproof, as these unfortunate ex-owners found out a few years ago. Basic security apps can often recover phone data erased by the conventional wipe methods. In fact, there is a whole industry that specializes in such services. Likewise, it’s best to engage third party software providers such as Autowipe, Cerberus or Lookout to make sure the job is done right and your data is really deleted.

3. Don’t forget your SIM and Memory cards

If you’re trading in an Android phone for the new iPhone you likely have used an SD card to boost its memory. Remove that, along with the SIM card which keeps identifying info about your phone, including the phone number. You don’t want either of these falling into the wrong hands.

In short, don’t trade speed for your data security when upgrading your phone. Even a new iPhone isn’t worth that.

Online Dating: Don’t “Happn” Upon the Wrong Person


With all the investment flowing into the online dating space at the moment, it’s understandable that increasingly outlandish ideas will find backers and then appear in your mobile phone’s app store almost as quickly as they were dreamt up.

Happn wants to create more spontaneous coffee dates.
Happn wants to create more spontaneous coffee dates.

The latest incarnation, aimed at those who don’t find Tinder risqué enough, is Happn, an app that takes instant matching to the next level. What level that is exactly, is “to be determined”… just like the backgrounds of the dates that Happn will set you up with. That’s because Happn connects you to people in your precise physical location. In other words, those right inside your neighborhood coffee shop, at your regular supermarket, or next door to your apartment. In short, whomever you happen to “cross paths with.”

In one way, Happn, a French company that has launched its app in New York and as of this week, San Francisco, is the closest to the experience of “real life” encounters that often lead to first dates that any online dating platform has yet achieved. Happn’s backers have compared it to Craigslist’s missed connections page, whereby now their users will be able to more effectively act on such experiences.

Similar to the aims of Coupleizer, Happn tries to dispense with the elaborate pre-game show of multiple messages, elaborate profiles and weeks-long beanplating that can occur before an often disappointing and abruptly ended first date. In this way, Happn is firmly in the Tinder camp of “date now, ask questions later.”

As we mentioned in our post on Coupleizer, this approach does have some advantages. For example, many con artists rely on building up an emotional connection online which can play out over many months of messaging before they seek money or otherwise cause problems for their vulnerable victims. An online dating platform that cuts to the chase, will obviously not appeal to such elements.

However, we have also voiced our concerns about the immediacy of Tinder-style dating apps, their geo-location features and the pressure of matching with someone near you. Happn’s approach takes these concerns and elevates them to a new level. As Fast Company reports in its profile of the app, Happn zooms in on your location, within 275 yards.

This brings up any number of concerns, especially for those who have been stalked or harassed in the past. Additionally, at a time when many are concerned about their privacy and digital footprint, offering anyone who happens to use the same app as you the ability to potentially track your movements, raises alarm bells.

Keeping in mind how quickly flirting in a first message or date can go to malicious harassment afterwards, we think there are enough concerns here for users to seriously consider the use case for this app before crossing paths with anyone who “happns” by.

Avoid These Costly House Price Assumptions

By now everyone should be aware that house prices don’t always move rationally, and in some cases can move very irrationally to the detriment of new home owners.

In fact, according to recent data, more than 10% of all US homes with a mortgage are still “underwater” (i.e. have negative equity) as a result of the after effects of the financial crisis that occurred more than five years ago.

Prices in certain areas are going up, up, up....Photo credit: © Lunamarina
Prices in certain areas are going up, up, up….

While very few people, including the financial experts, foresaw the housing crisis and appreciated the complex effects it would have on homeowners across the country, there are some basic steps you can take as a potential home buyer to limit your risk in making what is likely the most important purchase decision of your life.

While DIY tools now allow shoppers to compare historical home prices, tax information and piece together neighborhood trends, it’s important not to view this type of data in a vacuum, nor make overly rosy projections based solely on historical data.

That’s the message of a new paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which looked at house price dynamics that led up to “bubble” situations such as in the immediate run up to the 2008 financial crisis. While the paper is fairly technical, there are a few recommendations you can apply from it which may help inform your own research and strategy for buying a new home:

1. Historical price increases do not necessarily reflect current demand

Shopping for a new home and seeing dramatic recent increases in prices may tell you it’s time to buy before prices rise even higher. Unfortunately, a decision like that could also lead you to buying in at the height of a bubble. Past home prices don’t tell you about the current fundamentals of your area’s market. Overlooking this fact is a mistake many new homebuyers made in the mid-2000s.

2. Be Wary of Multiple Big Price Increases Within Short Periods of Time

This could be a sign that prices in your city or state are becoming disjointed from market fundamentals. Before you splash down that premium, consider consulting with a professional who may have a better idea of the market’s supply and demand dynamics, which are equally as important as price trends.

3. Home prices keep rising—until they don’t

As simple as this axiom sounds, many people forgot it in the mid-2000s and compounded their errors with small or no down payments on homes they couldn’t really afford. The odds of another synchronized national housing crisis of the likes of 2008 is thankfully fairly small, but mini-bubbles can pop up in certain cities, counties or even neighborhoods.

Today, prices in metropolitan areas like San Francisco, New York and Washington DC are breaking all previous local records. Whether these are “bubbles” or an accurate long-term reflection of future demand is not for us to say, but does likely warrant further investigation before making a purchase.

Use data on historical home prices as one tool of many when making a decision on a property purchase. Consider your needs for the property, time horizon and other factors before pulling the trigger, particularly in areas where home prices have risen substantially in short periods of time.

Hang Up on this IRS Scam


According to the Associated Press, a nationwide tax scam has cost Americans over $15 million and counting since 2013. In fact, testimony from a Treasury deputy inspector general notes that these scammers are operating the largest and most pervasive scam on record.

Don't let fake IRS agents separate you from your money.
Don’t let fake IRS agents separate you from your money. Photo credit: Chris Potter

The odds are you or someone you know could be or already has been targeted. As tax season approaches deadline day, it’s likely that this scam will become even more frequent immediately after April 15th.

Here are some tips from the professionals on how to avoid getting ensnared in this IRS scam:

  1. Know that the IRS does not initiate contact by phone. They will send multiple pieces of correspondence by mail detailing any back taxes or fine you are responsible for.
  1. The IRS does not act like debt collectors. The hallmarks of this scam invoke aggressive and even threatening accusations over the phone, in the vein of the worst types of debt collectors. The IRS does not use the phone this way and would also not use aggressive language to collect immediately on back taxes.
  1. The IRS does not demand payment by debit or credit card over the phone. The scammers in this case are pushing their victims to load up prepaid debit cards to then transfer the money to an account over the phone. This is not a practice that the IRS partakes in.

This scam has been so successful because it plays on people’s fears and ignorance about official procedures. The most important thing you can do is stay up to date on your records and be 100% sure of your current standing with the IRS and other government agencies that collect taxes.

With that confidence and your knowledge of how the IRS actually works, you can feel confident to hang up on any fake IRS agents who may be looking to part you with your money this year.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read on Facebook

Our parents used to tell us “don’t believe everything you see on TV.” Their parents told them, “don’t believe everything you read.” Has the time come to warn our kids about the dangers of believing every Facebook update they encounter? Sadly, the answer appears to be yes…and it’s not just kids who are the gullible ones, we are too!

Not everything that grows on Facebook is so pleasant. Photo credit: mkhmarketing
Not everything that grows on Facebook is so pleasant. Photo credit: mkhmarketing

In fact, according to a recent survey, a majority of Americans now view search engines (something Facebook aspires to be) as a more credible source of news than actual news sites. This might be considered disturbing for a number of reasons, not least of which involves the “right to forget” controversy impacting Google in Europe.

On the bright side, it seems like news aggregators such as Facebook are taking their newfound powers seriously, by adjusting their algorithms to root out news sources of questionable quality, as well as outright hoaxers.

Gawker offered up a comprehensive article outlining some of the worst offenders. These are sites that rely on click bait from controversial and often straight-up false headlines to drive surges of traffic to their sites. While Facebook can be applauded for improving the aggregation of their news content, it’s good to keep in mind this won’t solve everything.

Here are additional ways you can get tripped up by fake Facebook news:

1. Uncle Bob’s impassioned theories about the IRS/vaccines/other

We all have a friend or family member with “out there” views that we have either hidden from our news feed or keep on it just to laugh at.

Keep in mind that all 450 of your friends also have an Uncle Bob connected to them, and not everyone agrees on the definition of “crazy.”

Many people on your news feed and connected to it will think nothing of sharing and promoting opinions as fact. Before you click the share button…investigate and verify.

2. Satirical Articles

Satire can be hilarious and brilliant, but when casually scanning your Facebook feed it can be easy to get caught up by sources other than The Onion.

Many serious news sites like the New Yorker and New York Times utilize comic writers and satirists and will promote their work on Facebook. Before you share a “news item” make sure it’s real or soon you will be the butt of jokes among your Facebook friends.

3. Scams

More concerning than your crazy uncle or taking a satirical article seriously is falling for one of the multitude of scams that live on Facebook.

From “viral video” links that load malware on your hard drive to a new “free giveaway” that tricks you into giving up your personal information to hackers, there are many ways to get ripped on Facebook from seemingly innocuous information.

Kim Komando has a good roundup of the methods scammers use to separate users from their money.

As social media becomes an increasingly normal part of life for people of all ages, it’s good to be conscious of the fact that misinformation that used to spread by TV, radio and phone will all find a natural home on social media platforms like Facebook. Use common sense, your intuition and verify the information before you trust it.

Tinder Charges Older Users Extra For Premium Access


Question: What’s more difficult than kissing your carefree twenties goodbye?

Answer: The realization that with your 30th birthday, Tinder will charge you twice as much to access its Tinder Plus premium service.

Tinder 3-3-15
Your Tinder Plus dates will be more expensive if you’re 30 and up. Photo credit: Chris Goldberg

What will Tinder Plus offer?

For starters, the much coveted ability to “reverse swipe,” which allows users to reconsider potential dates they have rejected. This will be a clutch added feature for those particularly desperate nights when users find new matches unavailable or unwilling. Additionally, Tinder Plus features Passport, the ability to browse users in different locations.

Unfortunately, if you’re 30 and older and want to enjoy these amazing benefits, you’ll need to pony up $20 per month, compared to just $10 per month for those 29 and under.

A spokesperson for Tinder defended the pricing structure by pointing to the harsh economic realities facing younger users, who have less pocket money to spend despite the fact that they all share each other’s Netflix and HBO Go passwords.

While the bold pricing move may surprise some, those familiar with our coverage of Tinder before shouldn’t be too shocked. Tinder’s success and fame is largely down to its popularity with younger users and its success at inserting itself into youth pop culture has been impressive.

In fact, as we have previously noted, the fastest growing age segment on Tinder is aged 13-17, registering 7% of total users according to Tinder’s CEO earlier this year. Far from viewing this as a problem for a site known for encouraging promiscuous hookups, Tinder’s business strategy likely involves growing their younger user base.

As Snapchat’s recent valuation has demonstrated, capturing younger users’ attentions and holding them long enough for advertisers to inject their products into their consciousness is a golden ticket for many of the new school of social networking and dating apps.

Ironically, for those apps like Tinder that have built their infrastructure around Facebook, the latter’s aging demographics may be a hindrance to staying top of mind with college-aged kids and twenty-somethings.

Hence we have the first of what may be many moves like it to continue to prioritize and incentivize younger users at the expense of us old fogies.

Perhaps, though, this is a blessing in disguise for older, more serious online daters as the platform’s suitability for delivering high quality matches is questionable at best. When polled, 64% of Tinder users viewed the app as “a game to play with” rather than a serious dating site.

Combined with its growing number of younger teenage users, perhaps the mature crowd is better spending its money elsewhere.