If you’re not aware, the wide world of the internet and E-commerce was recently rocked by the revelation of the Heartbleed bug, which was an error in the code of OpenSSL, the secure socket layer encryption software used by many major websites.
This bug may have exposed millions of users’ sensitive information to data thieves; passwords, credit card details, etc. According to analysis, up to 17.3% of the 1 million top ranked websites use OpenSSL software which may have been vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug, including many of our members’ favorite sites for shopping.
At this point, there’s no need to panic. The best course of action is just to change your passwords for any site you think may be compromised. All of the largest online companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, banks and mega-merchants and the like are all aware of the problem and have been working to fix it with patches in their security code.
If your information on these sites was exposed to Heartbleed, then replacing the vulnerable password will serve to re-secure your information. Once all websites have been patched and all passwords have been reset, then this bug, which has been out “in the wild” for about two years, will be extinct.
For smaller sites, there are ways to check if they’ve been fixed to remove Heartbleed vulnerability, like the following tools:
If a website has not yet remedied the problem, then changing the password will not help, as the new password will still be exposed to the bug. Once they’ve patched, you’ll want to make the change to ensure security.
In case you’re wondering, OPAS Servers were NOT exposed to the Heartbleed bug – the security software we use is not one of the kinds affected.
We wanted to be certain we addressed this serious but controllable issue. So many of our customers conduct online purchasing from so many different merchants, and we want to make sure you’re all aware of the best methods for remaining safe in doing so.
Attention, OPAS members!
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are almost upon us, and there’s some things you NEED TO KNOW!
A savvy online shopper can save a whole bundle by shopping on these dates from November 28 to December 2, but if you’re not prepared, you’ll find that all your hopes for great deals are replaced with frustration of blocked orders, slow transactions, and sales that end before you can get your order in!
But if you are prepared, not only can you survive this chaotic shopping wilderness, but you can thrive!
Today and in our next installment, we’ll be talking about what you need to know!
- It’s never too early to begin preparations! As an international shopper, you have a number of hurdles to overcome – many of the best deals offered by merchants during this season, even online deals, come with “no international shipping” as a catch. So if you don’t already have one, get an account with OPAS! You’ll get a US address in the sales tax-free state of Oregon to place your orders with!
- Find some merchants to buy from! Sure, everyone will be pushing sales on Black Friday weekend, but how are you to know the best ones for you? There’s plenty of lists out there, on sites like:
- Find out the shipping status of the merchants you want to buy from! There are a lot of merchants that won’t ship to package forwarders! We call them Black List merchants, and we have a whole document listing them out, available for download. Check it out! Here at OPAS, we have methods to get around these blocks, including our Personal Shopper service!
Here’s our Black List document!
- Get a US Unlocked card! International credit card fraud is one of the biggest threats for merchants on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Even those that accept international payment methods will be watching for transactions where the shipping and billing address don’t match, and this could lead to canceled orders. Get a US Unlocked card with an address that matches your OPAS address, and be sure it’s loaded up! US Unlocked needs time to process your application for a prepaid US card, so be sure to submit sooner rather than later!
Here’s a link to US Unlocked that leads through the OPAS site. Use this link and you’ll get a discount on your US Unlocked sign up fee!
- Prep your credit cards! If you’re planning on only using your own payment methods to make your purchases, make sure your balance is paid down. We find many of our customers use prepaid cards to shop, so make sure you’re loaded up. If you’re using a credit card with a limited line of credit (another shopping method we find customers use for security purposes), make sure there’s no outstanding holds that could suddenly come due and disrupt your balance.
That's all we have for today, so follow these helpful guidelines and email any questions to may have to us at email@example.com. You'll soon be prepared for the biggest sales events of the year in the US!
Next time, we'll talk about OPAS' specific policies for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, including how it will affect our Personal Shopper service.
Here at OPAS, one of the greatest benefits of our service is the fact that as we’re located in Oregon, all purchases made to an OPAS mailbox are not assessed US state sales tax, which runs between 7% and 10% in most of the other states in the US.
If you’re an established OPAS customer, you’ve probably heard us talk about this before in emails, or seen our frequent mentions of it on our website and in this blog, but news this good needs spread, and we want to make sure everybody knows how much they can save with OPAS, not just on shipping costs, but on the very items they’re buying to ship.
To that end, we ask: How Much is the Tax on That?
That’s $119.99 USD on Amazon.com.
In Florida, that’s $8.39 in tax. In California, it’d be about $10.79 in tax. That may not sound like a whole lot, but let’s look at some higher cost items, shall we?
Let’s suppose you went on a shopping spree at Ralph Lauren…
Suppose you spent $400.00 USD on your new wardrobe. In Florida, you actually spent $428.00. In California, it’d be $436.00. Starting to see the savings, right?
How about if you decided to buy this lovely new Dell Inspiron laptop, at $799.00 USD? How much is the tax on that?
Well, for Florida shoppers, the tax would be $55.93, and in California, it’d be $71.91!
But you don’t have to worry about that, because as an OPAS customer, you get to order your merchandise in the best state in the US to shop in... Oregon!
Buying from US Stores for Mother's Day
Mother's Day is celebrated on different days around the world, but more than 80 countries celebrate it on the second Sunday of May. The US is one of those countries, so if you're preparing for the May 13th holiday this year, here are a few gift suggestions that you can buy from US stores using your package forwarding address.
Apple Products for iMoms
This year, Apple has set up its own Mother's Day gift guide. Ideas include a new iPad or iPhone, or even an Apple TV. What makes these gifts truly Mom-worthy is that Apple will engrave them with your message for free. Even gift wrap is available!
And if you're one of those who is worried about ordering from the US Apple Store with a package forwarding address, don't be! OPAS can help you get the products you want from the Apple Store. :)
Personalized Mother's Day Gifts
If the Apple Store is a little too industrial for you, try getting your mom something more personal. Many US stores offer personalized items like jewelry, glassware, or decorations that will remind your mother how much you care every day.
A few US online stores that offer such items, and have special selections set up for Mother's Day, are Personalization Mall, Red Envelope, and Uncommon Goods.
If variety and practicality are what you're after, you can't beat the Mother's Day gifts at Amazon.com. There are the typical "mom" gifts like household items, but also more creative Mother's Day categories like "Professional Mom," "Fit Mom," and "Crafty Mom."
Moms for Men
For men having a hard time deciding how to honor their mothers, AskMen.com offers 10 Mother's Day gift ideas. Some of them, like flowers and spa treatments, won't export very well but others, like candles or home decor, are perfect.
Yes, you can ship perfume internationally with your package forwarding address. And that gift card is even good for free international shipping.
This Mother's Day, What Are You Buying from the US?
What great gifts have you found using your package forwarding address? Many shoppers are still looking for ideas, so share yours in the comments section!
Buying Online in the US from the Far East
Today we had a slew of interesting purchases come in for our customers; items they had bought that had arrived for our check-in process. I thought you might like to see some of the most interesting items, where they came from and where they are going.
- One box non drowsy Claritin from amazon.com going to Japan
- 9 t-shirts from Hollister.com going to Singapore
- Hugo Boss Men’s Boxer Briefs from Amazon.com going to Kawaguchi, Saitama, Japan
- Black and white Coach handbag from Hitch N Post on eBay going to Osaka, Japan
- Yoga Clothing from Gilt going to New Taipei City, Taiwan
- Pink hard shell iPhone case from Kate Spade going to San Mateo, CA along with a red patent leather Coach wallet from amazon.com
- Size small Victoria Secret leopard print satin PJ’s going to Hong Kong
- 2 US Army Vietnam war era veteran shirts going to Tokyo
- Another black iPhone hard case from Green Valley Trading going to Tokyo with a Samsung and a Motorola phone.
- Book “The Venetian Money Market; Banks, Panics and the Public Debt. 1200 – 1500, Money & Banking in Medieval & Rennaissance Vol 1 Venice” from Better World Books in Mishawaka IN going to Sedro Wooley, Washington USA
- Book: “Understanding Health Care” by Richard Worman from Amazon.com going to Mizuho-Ku,Nagoya-Shi, Aichi, Japan
- Children’s clothing from Carter’s Osh Kosh B’gosh going to Hong Kong
- Guitar case from Amazon.com going to Nishikimachi,Iwaki-shi , Fukushima-ken, Japan
What interesting items have you bought from the US to ship overseas?
Use Your Package Forwarding Address to Buy US Sports Collectibles from Amazon's Newest Store
Did you find a place to watch the Superbowl in your country last weekend? Or maybe you're more interested in the NBA, NHL, or MLB? Whatever sport gets you excited, you can find thousands of unique items and collectibles, from cards to autographed equipment, on Amazon's new Sports Collectibles & Memorabilia Store.
The store contains over 2 million items and all come with Amazon's "A to Z guarantee," so you can be sure that you'll get what you're expecting. That can be reassuring if you're usually hesitant about buying sports collectibles on sites like eBay.
You can browse the store by sport, year, type, team, or price, so it's easy to find something that interests you.
Get NFL, NBA, and NHL Collectibles Outside the US
Amazon's new Sports Collectibles store is only available in the United States. But that doesn't mean you can shop from other countries! Just use your US package forwarding address to order your sports team merchandise from aywhere in the world.
If you don't already have one, get a US forwarding address here. Then you can enter your new US address when you check out with Amazon, and have your order forwarded to your country.
Where Else Can You Buy American Sports Items Online?
Amazon's new Sports Collectibles store is great news for international fans of US sports. But where have you bought your collectibles until now? There may not be many NFL fans in your country, but there are millions around the world. Share you tips in the comments section!
Digital Tools Make Online Shopping Easier for Package Forwarders
Amazon.com is one the most popular online shopping sites for package forwarders. Even though there are different Amazon sites for many countries, the US site usually has the best prices, and even some products that aren't available in other countries and can't be shipped outside the US.
Sometimes, there are so many great deals on the Amazon US site that it's hard to navigate and keep track of them all. Here are three tools for your web browser or desktop that make shopping on Amazon a little easier.
3 Tools to Make Package Forwarding from Amazon.com Easier
PictureFox is an add-on for the FireFox web browser that makes it easier for you to view and compare images of different products.
When you search for a product on Amazon, you get a list of search results, with a small image of each product. If you want to see a larger image of the product, you have to click through to the individual product page, then click again on the product's individual image gallery.
With PictureFox, you don't have to leave the search results page to see a larger image. Just move your mouse over the thumbnail, and images from the product's gallery will be displayed automatically and added to the PictureFox gallery.
How PictureFox makes package forwarding easier: When shopping across borders, the ability to compare prices is essential. With PictureFox, you can even compare photos from Amazon's US site with photos from your local Amazon site, side by side in the PictureFox gallery.
- Amazon Deals!
Amazon Deals! is another browser add-on, this time for the Google Chrome browser. Amazon Deals! puts a small button on your browser's toolbar that simply lists all the up-to-the-minute deals and discounts available on Amazon.com's US site.
Even though there are other ways to get access to these deals (for example, by following @amazondeals on Twitter), the Amazon Deals! add-on is much more convenient, since it shows the deals in the same window you shop through.
How Amazon Deals! makes package forwarding easier: One of the greatest features of package forwarding is consolidation. The Amazon Deals! add-on puts your bargain hunting and your shopping in the same place, so you can find great deals more easily.
PriceWatcher is a downloadable application for both Windows and Mac that lets you track the price of specific products on Amazon. As soon as the price drops on a product you want, PriceWatcher will alert you.
In addition to the Amazon US site, PriceWatcher also works with the Amazon UK, Germany, France, Canada, Japan, Italy, Spain and China sites, so you can compare prices across countries.
How PriceWatcher makes package forwarding easier: If you want to buy from the Amazon US site but don't live in the US, you might miss a deal if the product you want goes on sale while your time zone is asleep. You can set PriceWatvcher to automatically add the item you want to your shopping cart once it hits a certain price, even if you're away from your computer.
Best Online Tools for Package Forwarding?
What other tools do you use to make buying from US stores easier? Do you prefer browser add-ons or desktop applications (or mobile apps)? Join us on Facebook to take our poll and join the conversation.
Want International Shipping on Amazon's Kindle Fire? Here's How.
Last week Amazon finally unveiled its Kindle Fire, a new tablet computer that runs on the Android operating system. Some experts have suggested that this may be the first tablet to truly disrupt the iPad's dominance, mostly because of it's unbeatable price: $199.
But for those keeping an eye on the tablet market from outside the US, the Kindle Fire might seem a bit out of reach: so far, Amazon has only announced plans for US sales, and has not set any international release dates.
Amazon won't offer international shipping, but you don't necessarily have to live in the US if you want to preorder the device (which goes on sale November 15th). You just need a US address.
Get a US Address to Preorder the Kindle Fire Outside the US
Luckily, if you really want to buy a Kindle Fire outside the US, there's an easy way to get around Amazon's "US Only" policy. Here's how to do it, in three easy steps:
- Get a US address from a package forwarding company
In just a few minutes, you can register for a package forwarding account and have your very own US address.
- Use your new address to preorder the Kindle Fire
Your US package forwarding address is a standard street address, so you can use it to buy "US only" items from Amazon.com, or any other US store.
- Ship your Kindle Fire internationally
Amazon will send your Kindle Fire to your new US address. Once it arrives, you can login to your package forwarding account to ship your package anywhere in the world.
While You're At It...
Now that you've got a package forwarding account, you can also combine your Kindle Fire with other purchases, even ones from different stores, to save on the international shipping cost. If you need some shopping ideas, check out our free US Shopping Guide.
Tax-Free Shopping at Amazon?
As reported today in the LA Times, starting Friday (tomorrow), all retailers based outside of California will have to collect sales tax on sales made to California customers. In this case, "all retailers" includes online-only stores like Amazon.com and Overstock.com, and "California customers" includes YOU, if you currently use a package forwarding company with a California (CA) address.
Both Amazon and Overstock reacted to the new law by immediately terminating affiliate relationships in California as a way to bully the state into a repeal. (Their logic is that California will lose jobs and income tax revenue as a result of the canceled affiliateships.) There's a lot of discussion online today about what this means for small businesses that depend on their relationships with Amazon, but what does internet sales tax mean for consumers?
Tax-Free Shopping Online vs. Big Box Stores
Since online-only retailers didn't have to collect sales tax, they had a very strong advantage over traditional big-box retailers like Walmart, Target and Best Buy. The president of the California Retailers Association is quoted in the Times article as saying on behalf of these stores, "You can't give one segment of retail a 10% discount every day. It's just not fair."
The great thing about package forwarding is that you, the shopper, CAN get a 10% discount every day, even from stores like Walmart and Best Buy. Using a tax-free address in Oregon effectively gives you a coupon for 10% off when you shop at US stores.
Shopping Tax-Free in the US and Shipping Internationally
Most of the discussion online is focused on how the new law affects US shoppers. But international shoppers have just as much cause to pay attention.
First of all, it's not just California that's demanding sales tax for online sales. If you have an address in Connecticut (CT, where the sales tax will soon increase) or Florida (FL, where local business are pushing for online sales tax) you'll probably have to pay sales tax on purchases made from Amazon and other online stores very soon.
But since Oregon has no states sales tax, your Oregon package forwarding address will let you shop tax-free forever. :)
Tax-Free Shopping for US Residents
Again, it's not just California that's moving in this direction. New York already passed a similar law last year, and Texas is still fighting with Amazon over whether or not it will demand sales taxes.
It seems more and more likely that eventually Amazon will have to cave to the states and start collecting taxes. And when that happens, the only way to save the 6% - 10% you used to save online will be to shop tax-free using your Oregon package forwarding address.
From Internet Deals to Dealing With Internet Sales Tax
How does the thought of having to pay sales tax affect your buying habits? If you're an international shopper, will you switch from a package forwarding address in a taxed state to one in Oregon? If you're a US resident, on what kinds of purchases can you save the most by shopping tax-free? Leave comments below!
Amazon "Subscribe & Save" Automates Purchases, Saves Money
What do you buy over and over again? Cleaning supplies? Bath products? Snack foods? Amazon.com Subscribe & Save is a way to automatically get a new shipment of these products as often as you'd like. Instead of buying these products again and again, Amazon will send them to you on a regular schedule (every month, two months, three months, or six months).
In addition to the convenience of getting a consistent supply of items you need, if you use Subscribe & Save, you also get a discount on each item your subscribe to, plus free shipping to your US address.
That's Free Shipping... To Your US Address :)
Amazon's Subscribe & Save program does not ship outside the US, so you'll need a package forwarding address if you live in another country and want to get international shipping.
Since regular products like coffee, vitamins, and household products are usually less expensive in the US to begin with, by using Amazon's discount subscription service you can save a lot of money. And since you can always consolidate packages, it makes sense to ship subscription items along with purchases from other USA stores.
For example, let's say you use Subscribe & Save to have your favorite coffee pods, bath products, and a box of cookies shipped to you every two months. You can use the same schedule to shop for things you buy less often. Maybe one month you want a new pair of shoes, the next month a sweater, and the month after that a new laptop computer. You can use your subscription schedule as an opportunity to shop for other items and save money on international shipping!
How Does Subscribe & Save Work?
It's easy to get started. Just shop for anything in Amazon's Subscribe & Save store. You'll be asked to choose the delivery schedule (1, 2, 3, or 6 months), and the quantity of the item you want delivered each month. Enter your package forwarding address at checkout, and you're signed up.
You'll automatically receive your items according to the schedule you selected, and you'll be notified by e-mail each time a new item arrives for you at OPAS. You can then choose to ship your subscription items, hold them, or combine them with other purchases.
What Do You Subscribe To?
Is it coffee and tea? Baby and childcare items? Office supplies? Pet products? Snack foods? (You can even subscribe to US-brand snack foods that you won't find in other countries!) Tell us what you subscribe to in the comments section, or leave a note on our Facebook wall.