Can you be hypnotised to lose weight?

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We review The Hypnotic Gastric Band by Paul McKenna

We hear all the time about obesity in the UK.  There are many ways to lose weight, but taking the drastic step of elective surgery is not something that many would consider or afford.

Needing to lose weight myself, I decided to try out the very sucessful Paul McKenna book:

Now I am a very sceptical person, and did not believe for one minute it would work.  I have seen stage hypnotists and do believe people can be given hypnotic suggestion, but did not believe it would work on me.

Although I had low expectations, my main worry was how I would 'remove' my gastric band if I did get down to my ideal weight,  so I proceeded with some trepidation.

The technique works in three steps:

1. Read the book from cover to cover

2. Watch a DVD to learn a technique to control stress

3. Listen to the hypnotic trance on a CD

The book is not very long and I read in about an hour.  It explains how a surgical gastric band procedure is performed.  It is also highly critical of other companies that operate slimming clubs and sell diet food.  The technique does not require you to buy any special food nor cook special slimming recipes. You just eat what you want, when you are hungry, and lose weight.  The book also reassured me on my concerns about 'adjusting' the gastric band in the future so I decided to proceed.

The DVD is really to help people that find stress leads to comfort eating – not something I do.  However, I watched and learnt the techniques anyway to ensure I did everything correctly.  I recently had other stress in my like and found the technique useful there so was worthwhile to learn anyway.

Lastly you listened to the CD with the hypnotic trance. I decided to wear headphones to ensure maximum concentration and I lay down in a quiet room.

The fist time I listened I did not really remember much from about halfway in and worried I had just fallen asleep.  So the next morning I listened again when I was wide awake, but even then the last 5 minutes I found hard to recall.

I didn't feel any different after the CD.  I did feel motivated by some of the sections in the book and I wanted the whole process to work, but I could not see how it had really made any difference.  There are simple rules to follow when having a meal, and I tried to stick to them but I was not sure I felt any different.

So, did it work?

As the book suggested, I did start to find I got full before I cleared my plate.  I was always guilty of stuffing in the food on my plate as – I would hate to see good food go to waste.  However, now I just could not finish eating everything.  Also, I stopped picking at sweets during the day as I did not feel hungry.

I always made a big bowl of cereal for breakfast, but after the hypnotic session I found myself tipping away almost half as I was full.  Now I often skip breakfast and have a glass of milk instead.

I started to feel like I wanted to eat salads for lunch and I would settle for cheese on toast in the evenings – rather than a large ready meal in front of TV.

I was amazed at how easy I had adapted to these huge changes in he way I ate.  If I was hungry, I would eat plenty – but only if I was hungry.  I don't alway stick to the eating rules, but this does not seem to matter for me as I only eat until I am full.

After three months

I have now lost over 15Kg (about 2St 7lb) in weight.  I have even felt like I need to go to the gym as I am so full of energy – no mean feat at my age!

I never thought this would work, but the results on me are plane to see.  Maybe it could work for you too.  It is very good value and can be bought at all good book stores or here on Amazon:

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Review: Alive and Active Seated Exercise DVD with Simon Roll

Picture of Alive and Active DVD

You will recall a while back we asked Simon Roll, a qualified personal trainer with a degree in Sports Science, to give us some insight into his thoughts on exercise and fitness for seniors.

Simon is passionate about ensuring our lifestyle doesn't cause our health to deteriorate as we make significant changes once we enter retirement. For many it is a time to do what they want, as opposed to what they need to do – they can finally kick back and enjoy life at a different pace – often faster rather than slower! But in order to keep up with that pace, we need to make sure that we maintain our fitness as much as possible – after all, if you don't use it, you lose it, and I can attest to that. A few years ago, I started to succumb to osteoarthritis, and like many I did entirely the wrong thing – I became less active as my joints became progressively crunchier. I knew I was making things worse, but I didn't really know what to do – I couldn't keep up with a fitness class, and I didn't feel safe walking outside on my own. Plus the fact that, as walking was relatively high impact, my knees really felt it. I started to do less and less.

Picture of Alive and Active DVD

I really wish I had known about Simons video back then, and I am really relieved I am aware of it now – it's like the answer to my prayers! Here, at last, is a fitness plan that I can do from the comfort of my own home, without having to move loads of furniture (which is never going to happen!) and which I can do at my own pace. And, what's more, I can do it seated! My poor knees won't take the hammering they were taking!
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This DVD is excellent for those of us who are either immobile now, or who are still mobile but might suffer from joint pain, and I would hasten to add you don't have to be a senior to benefit! My daughter, who has back and joint problems, tested this video with me and was impressed. Simon manages to keep up a steady pace that certainly gets you out of puff, and gets you to exercise a good range of muscles (at least, that's how it felt)!

The were a couple of elements that weren't to my personal taste – some of the music used wasn't really my thing, but Simon is obviously tailoring his plan to a wide range of people and so you ain't gonna please all of the  people all of the time! But what I did enjoy was the way he talks to you – it's not patronising, it's not that horrible schmaltzy fake enthusiasm that certain fitness DVDs from across the pond use and what's more important is that he is sending a very positive message. If we want to make the most of our retirement, and do all the things we have been waiting to do, we need to keep as fit as possible. This DVD can help that happen, and if you feel your fitness has already deteriorated then it's a great place to start reversing the trend and get you going again!

Visit www.aliveandactive.co.uk for more information and to order a copy of the DVD

Alive and Active DVD in Box

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Police and Crime Commissioner Elections – waste of time!

Police and Crime Commissioner Elections Leaflet

Today a leaflet arrived about the Police and Crime Commissioner elections on the 15th November this year. We had seen articles on the news and knew they were coming up soon, so we decided to find out more about them.

Apparently, the role includes “meeting the public regularly to listen to their views on policing”, “producing a police and crime plan”, “deciding how budget will be spent” and “appointing Chief Constables”.  Quite why the Home Secretary is not doing this already is unclear in this period of austerity. Do we really need to pay someone else to do her job as well as the millions of pounds it will cost to run the election process?

Common Sense

If we really must appoint someone to be Police and Crime Commissioner for every police region in the country, did no-one have the sense to hold the election alongside local elections, or a national election?  Yet again, common sense seems to have eluded everyone involved.

As they are going ahead, we decided to look at the caliber of those standing for the Thames Valley Police area – one of the largest police forces outside of London. The leaflet we received did not actually include the details of who is standing, so to find this out you must go online to websites such as the www.choosemypcc.org.uk website.  Retired Peoples Club readers may be online and able to access this website, but we worry about the huge number of older voters who do not have internet access or are unable to get online.  How will they find out who they wish to vote for – especially with so many local newspapers going out of circulation?

Are the candidates up to the task?

There are Six Candidates standing, so we decided to look at their profiles to see how suitable they might be for the job.

Barry Cooper (UKIP), re-assuringly states “I have absolutely no professional experience with the criminal justice system” , the Labour candidate – Tim Starkey – is “a strong opponent of 20% police cuts, also advocates reforms to modernise police”. We all know 'reform' and 'modernise' are are political justifications for saving money, so he manages to contradict himself in a single sentence.

One of the independents is Patience Tayo Awe, an IT project manager who's wish to “maintain the integrity of the Police service and truly empower the people” sounds like a corporate mission statement from the nineties and we all know that IT projects rarely deliver what they propose on time and have a tendency to go massively over budget (who can forget the NHS National Database debacle).

The Liberal Democrats have put forward John Howson and Anthony Stansfeld is standing for the Conservatives. However, it is not so much to politics that we have an issue with, our concern relates more to why we are bothering to have the election at all.

Partly politics are already responsible for consecutive governments tinkering with the Health Service and Tax systems to try and score political points, it seems inevitable that they would eventually subject the nation's police service to the same treatment. The whole process seems to be an expensive and confusing waste of time and money.

As for the profile for independent Geoff Howard, on the www.policeelections.com website they are still waiting for his details to show up.

Unfortunately, we fear it is the electorate that will not show up and predict the lowest turn-out ever for a national election process.

Let us know your views and comments.

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Time to stop admissions to the Inter-National Health Service

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The scandal of Health Tourism has been around for a long time.  When the NHS was founded there was a scandal reported that pregnant mums from the United States of America would fly to the UK to give birth as this was cheaper than pay the fees to give birth back home in the US.

However, the scale of todays problem, as reported on Panorama (3rd October BBC) and in the national press, is absolutely shocking.  Here at the Retired Peoples Club we try to avoid taking any political sides but appeal to the current government to fix this as a matter of national urgency.

The solution cannot be that difficult

1) Treat everyone in a ctitical state until they are stable, whether they have proof of entitlement or not.

2) Require sight of documents such as a Passport, Driving Licence, Pension Book, P60 and utility bills to prove identity and residency in the UK before providing any non urgent treatment or GP Services.

If foreign nationals work and pay tax in the UK, then of course they should get treatment, but if they do not pay tax in the UK, then why should they get treatment without paying?

The NHS is not free, all UK Citizens that pay tax fund this service.  We struggle to maintain a National Health Service for the UK as it is, we can't afford to provide an InterNational Heath Service for the whole world!

Our greatest concern is over the view expressed by Anna Soubry (health minister) who believes 'honest tax paying UK citizens would be offended if asked to provide ID to get treatment'.  Quite the contrary – RPClub believes most UK people would rather prove their entitlement and see the millions, if not billions of Pounds saved, used to reduce waiting times and provide new treatments.

Tell us what you think, leave a comment below.

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Is John Lewis losing it's lustre?

John Lewis store

Famed for it's unique partnership approach to retail, few shops have fared as well as John Lewis in the recent retail downturn – but we have noticed some worrying trends at the nations' favourite department store.

An afternoon shopping at John Lewis used to be a pleasurable experience with well thought out displays that showcase the goods in a way that allows customers to look and feel the items before they buy.  A store stocked with well chosen items that cater to the tastes of the John Lewis customer, with a pricing policy that leaves you with the knowledge that you are always getting the best price on brand items and  a no quibble exchange policy all backed up by helpful, genuinely interested and enthusiasic staff that know the products in their area and are able to give sound practical advice without trying to 'value add' or 'up sell' in the conversation.

Unfortunately, the experience described above seems to be evaporating at an alarming rate.  The staff – the owners of John Lewis – are their best asset, we wonder if they are happy with the changes that have taken place in their stores?

Value range – no thank you!

What on earth are they thinking.  Customers shop at John Lewis for the range and choice of quality brand items.  If customers want cheap and cheerful non-branded goods and small appliances, they would shop for those at the supermarkets or discount stores.  Also, who at John Lewis thought their customers would be attracted to the  lurid basic packaging?

Pile em high!

What is going on with the shop displays?  Rather than showcasing the items, the shelves seem to be crammed with stock.  The lower shelves now seem to be exclusively overloaded with boxed up items  - all of which seem to have been opened by previous shoppers, calling into question whether parts are missing or the item is damaged.

The worst offending areas for over stacking the goods in the store are the china, glass,  tableware and linen departments.  They are rapidly starting to look like a cross between a jumble sale and a Marrakech street market.

What happened with taking a ticket and having the sales assistant fetch the item from the stock room (or have it sent to customer collection) whilst you enjoy the rest of  your shopping or a quick sit down and a cup of tea?  In fact, more often these days, staff seem to suggest that all the stock they have is on the shop floor and are unable to find anything if it isn't already on display.

The suggested alternative options are either to use their 'Click and Collect' service, but then you need to return at a later date to pick up your item, or have them order the item which will invariably take longer. We believe customers want to be able to buy the item whilst they are in-store without the need to return and collect at a later date.

There seems to be little space set aside to showcase innovation or new design ideas.  Customers are looking for the latest designs and fashions, not an experience akin to an out dated Habitat store – we know what happened to them.

Habitat Closing

Buyer beware

No, not the customers, we mean the product buyers at John Lewis.

One of the games we like to play is who can spot the items that will be in the next clearance sale.  We are often correct, so how do the stock buyers get it so wrong?  People shop for products at John Lewis because they are prepared to pay a bit more for a quality items that last a lifetime.  They should not wasting floor space with items you could buy in your local retail parks.

For instance, we believe buying electrical items at John Lewis is all about the choice, pricing and ability to compare a whole range of branded items and allow the customer to make a final informed decision.  We have noticed in the white goods and kitchen equipment department the product range is becoming overloaded with own-brand equivalents.  Whilst they undoubtedly do the job, most John Lewis customers are looking to invest in a brand with a proven track record when they make their purchase.  Often high-end brands are a lifestyle choice and John Lewis needs to remember this if they want to retain their existing customers.

The TV section is fantastic, but innovation and cutting edge items seem to take forever to make their way into other areas.  For example, John Lewis must be one of the biggest suppliers of the SONOS sound system in the UK, but they don't have the latest base speaker component on display in their store, yet it is available on their website.

When it comes to range, there are problems in the lighting department too.  For example, if you want a lamp shade, this is fine as long as you only want to choose from white, a few pastel shades and a couple of earthy colours.

John Lewis now seems to only stock the items that will sell, rather than those that will inspire and delight.

They are now mainstream and no longer the trend-setting store they once were.

Saving grace

The good news is their staff is still their best asset.  Initially we had some concerns that departments seemed to have been combined and this might affect the expertise of the staff, however the staff who work in these areas do seem to be knowledgeable on the items for sale in this relatively new setup and they are always happy to give advice or assist when approached.  Somehow, unlike many other stores, they also seem to get the balance right between being around and willing to help without intruding or constantly asking if assistance is required.

Modern Sofa

Time to change

Don't get us wrong – John Lewis is still our favourite store by a mile.  We appreciate that shortcuts may have been taken to keep competitive during the downturn, but if they wish to stay on top, now is the time to up the game.  Internet competition is a problem for all retailers.  Customers however still like to be inspired by creative new design ideas and displays, educated and helped with technology and be excited to see the latest and greatest in innovation.  Meeting this need is their best chance of keeping the customers walking through the door.

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Why exercise in retirement is more important than other life stages

Retired lady swimming

We all know that keeping fit and healthy is something we should all aim for, but once retired this can be a real challenge.

We ask our friend Simon Roll from Alive and Active   to tell us more about the importance of keeping active in our retirement.

“Throughout much of the last couple of decades, the benefits of healthy eating and regular exercise have been drummed home to us all. We frequently see pictures in the papers of adults and children alike carrying far more weight than is necessary. The government have initiated several campaigns to get us all moving and eating better as the financial burden of our unhealthy lifestyles on the NHS is colossal

Despite their best intentions, I can’t help but feel that in their bid to keep Britain healthy, there is one population who have been a little left out of the loop, our seniors.

If anyone can gain a better life from the benefits of exercise it is surely our golden generation. I know we all look forward to retirement as a time to slow down and do what we want as and when we please. Surely we’ve earned it by then? Of course we have but we must also be aware that there are trade off’s to a new sedentary lifestyle.

I recall my mother in-law retiring from work as a full time teacher in a secondary school. Not less than a year after retirement, I remember her saying “I honestly don’t think that I could now keep up the pace of what I was doing a year ago”. Ok, so this is not the biggest sin but what if we start slowing down at other things such as our brisk walking speed to a level that now suits a less hectic lifestyle? Carrying the shopping bags in one or two at a time in favour of the old ‘three in each hand’ because everything had to be done in a hurry. Consider our household technology; upgrading our vacuum cleaner to one that is far easier to push around, easy glide irons, power steering on our cars… the list goes on.

Without realising it, we’ve made our lives so easy that we rarely exert ourselves at anything. Before long, going back to a life where we could walk fast, lift heavier objects and perform an activity for any length of time has become almost impossible.

I say ‘almost’ impossible because it is never too late to exercise and turn back the clock. However, it does need to be the ‘right’ kind of exercise. I’m a firm believer that working on muscle strength, flexibility and endurance are fundamental to staying healthy and mobile in our older years, as is working at a level just outside of our comfort zones.

Core work is another ‘must’ as a weak core leads us to slumping, poor posture and as a result poor balance. Trips and falls are a frightening concept to most over a certain age, particularly to those suffering from diseases such as osteoporosis. A quality exercise programme can help improve balance, coordination, strengthen bones and joints and even help reduce the pain of arthritis.

Need more convincing?

Not only is exercise a huge plus from a physical point of view but it is also fantastic for us where matters of the mind are concerned. Feeling fitter gives us confidence, boosts our self esteem and even relieves anxiety and symptoms of depression.

There are dozens more reasons why exercise is beneficial to our health in our senior years but my personal favourite is that it gives me the choice to stay independent for as long as possible and live my retirement to the full.”

Simon Roll

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Why not visit www.aliveandactive.co.uk to find our how you can keep fit in your retirement.

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Self scan checkouts – are they serving you or the supermarket?

Self Checkout till

I remember – as a child – self-service machines would dispense postage stamps, bubblegum or allow you to pay for a carpark ticket.  When it came to groceries the only self service was the honesty box to buy eggs or vegetables outside our local farm.

Today's self-service checkouts seem to assume anything but honesty from customers.  Beeping to call an assistant, questioning the goods in your bag or hurrying you to pay for your shopping and remove your purchases from the bagging area.  To  many people they look like expensive intimidating machines that occupy the space where once there was a friendly face at the 'less than 10 items' till.

So, why do so many people avoid self-service checkouts?

We could write pages on the pros and cons of the self-service checkouts, but the fact is they are here to stay in every supermarket.  Love or hate them, we hope the following information and usage tips will convince you to give self-service a go.  After all, they are there for everyone, not just the tech savvy few grabbing dinner on the way home from work.

Most people avoid them because they are not sure how they work or believe they are too much trouble.  Read on to find out more about how they work.

Finding your way around the self-service checkout till

Typical self scan checkout

On one side (normally the left) is an area where you can place your basket.

The far side  of the self-service till will have another larger space where you place your purchased items. This is called 'The Bagging Area' where carrier bags are normally available on metal prongs that are supposed to help hold the bag open as you place in your purchased items.

In the middle are the important bits of the machine:

  • A screen to give you instructions through each stage of your purchase
  • A black glass window to which you show the bar code on each item you buy
  • A metal plate for weighing loose items such as bananas or potatoes (not on all tills)
  • A Credit or Bank Card reader if you pay by card (sometimes this has a panel to sign your signature rather then keypad for PIN number)
  • Slot that dispenses your receipt
  • Coin and money slots for cash payment
  • A curved bowl to collect any change in coins you are due

Before you use a self-service till, there are a few things you need to know about how the machine works.

Keeping you honest

Every product you scan MUST be placed in the 'Bagging Area' BEFORE you move on to the next item.  This is because supermarkets know the weight of everything you are buying.  When you scan the barcode, they look up both the price and the weight.  The bagging area is really a large set of scales and makes sure that all the items placed in it weigh as much as the store expects it to be based on your purchases.

So, if you accidentally place an item you have not scanned with your other purchases – the till knows and announces 'there is an unexpected item in the bagging area'.

The shop will also put security tags on item such as expensive bottles of alcohol, electrical products and DVDs.  If you scan to pay for one of these items, the till will announce that you need assistance from a member of staff to remove the security tag.

The final thing you need to know is that the till is aware which items are not suitable for sale to children,  so purchases such as alcohol or sharp knifes will also require an assistant to verify you are old enough to buy them.

Top tips to help you quickly through the check-out

1. Keep all the security tagged, age sensitive items together.  Call over the  assistant and have them approve all the items in one go.

2. If you want to use your own bag, you need to place it in the bagging area so the store can weigh it and have an assistant approve  it is empty.

3. In some stores you need to weigh loose items such as apples in the store and get a barcode sticker.  Make sure you have done this before going to the till.

Other stores need you to look up and weigh the item at the till.  This is done by placing the items on the metal plate below the scanning window and then using the touch screen monitor to find the name of the item.  Pictures of the most common fruit and veg items people buy are displayed first, so be sure to look before you start to search by typing in the name of your item.

Once you find the name of the vegetable or fruit you are buying, press the select button and the till will weigh what is on the metal plate and calculate the cost.  You must now move it to the bagging area.

4. Do not try to bag up your goods as you scan them.  The till will start to complain if you take too long positioning your shopping in your bag.  Also, if you lift up a previous purchase to re-arrange your shopping the till will complain because the weight of goods has changed in the bagging area.

It is far easier to just pile up all your purchases in the bagging area, make payment and then take your time to bag up your shopping in your own time before you leave.

5. Make sure there is a barcode on all of your purchases, otherwise you will need to wait for assistance to look up the price.

6. Your 'Points' Store Card can be recorded at any time simply by scanning the barcode on your card in front of the scanning window.  This also applies to money off vouchers or special offers. However, often you must scan your store card first, before you can use the vouchers.

7. Pay attention to the screen to make sure the items you scan do show up on screen with the value and description you were expecting.  There will be a beep to confirm scanning worked.

If you are in a row of self-scan checkouts it can be easy to hear the 'beep' from the neighbouring till and  wrongly assume you scanned your next item.  You will then get a warning 'Unexpected item in bagging area' when you place the unscanned item with the other purchased goods.  This is resolved by removing the item and making sure it is correctly scanned.

Pay and Go

Once you have scanned all your items, you select the 'Finish and Pay' button on the screen.

If you pay with a debit card, you can select to have cash-back before making final payment.

Any multi-buy offers are not calculated until the final paying stage, so do not worry if they do not show as you scan in your purchases.

When paying by cash, use the coin and/or the notes slot in the central panel of the till.  Credit cards are either swiped on the side of the card reader or slid up into the bottom of the card reader (as you would at a manned till).

Your receipt and any vouchers will be dispensed from the receipt slot on the central panel.  Change is dispensed in the bowl at the front of the machine below the scanning window.

The one gripe with most self-scan tills is that you can not redeem your car parking if this is offered by the store.  However, just take your parking card and receipt to the customer service desk and they will redeem your parking.

We hope next time you shop you will give the self-scan till a try.  Let us know how you get on!

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Turmeric – natures super-spice!!

Turmeric Root

In Ayurvedic medicine, Turmeric has long been held in great esteem, but inceasingly, it is now being heralded as a major weapon in the fight against dementia, arthritis, stroke and cancer. US researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, are conducting human trials with a drug derived from the active ingredient in turmeric – curcumin. Initial testing in animal trials suggested that the drug reached brain cells and reduced muscle and movement problems, typical after effects of a stroke. Dr Paul Lapchak, who led the study, said the drug appeared to have an effect on critical mechanisms which might protect brain cells after a stroke.

But stroke is not the only condition that can be managed using turmeric derivatives. Professor Murali Doraiswamy, of Duke University in North Carolina, confirmed that there was evidence that eating a curry two or three times a week could help lower the risk of dementia. Dr Susan Sorensen, of the Alzheimer's Society, said : “Indian communities that regularly eat curcumin have a surprisingly low incidence of Alzheimers disease bit we don't yet know why. Alzheimer's Society is keen to explore the potential benefits of curcumin in protecting the brain and we are conducting our own research into this area”.

In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is traditionally used to stem inflammatory processes in the body, and in modern western medicien, thereare also experiments into its use in managing arthritic conditions as well as osteoporosis. But the most recent report on turmeric and its properties appeared on the BBC website this week. Trials have begun at hospitals in Leicester to invesitgate the effects that curcumin has when used in conjunction with conventional chemotherapy for bowel cancer. Around 40,000 people a year are diagnosed with bowle cancer in the Uk each year. Professor William Steward from Leicester University, leading the study, said that animal tests that combined the two were “100 times better” than either on their own and that had been the catalyst for the study.

Clearly many of these trials have yet to announce their findings, but what seems clear is that turmeric may hold the key to some very promising drug development on some of the Uks most serious diseases and conditions. Whilst takeaway curry has its own health risks, learning to cook curries at home is a great way to start introducing turmeric into your food. But apart from curries, turmerics sunshine yellow can be put to use in mildly spicy dishes, such as this gently spiced butternut soup recipe. The turmeric intensifies the already orange colour of the squash, and the flavour is sweet, mellow and warming.

Roast Butternut Soup

1 small butternut squash, halved, deseeded and sliced into 1 inch slices
1 onion, diced
1.25 litres chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 garlic clove, crushed
1.5 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tsp turmeric
1 mild chilli, deseeded and chopped
100ml of half fat single cream
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
  2. Coat the butternut slices in 1 tablespoon of oil and roast in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes until soft and the edges are browning. Allow to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, fry the onion in the remaining half a teaspoon of olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic, chilli and turmeric. Fry for a further minute or two to cook the spices out. Add the roasted butternut, and cover with the stock. Cook until butternut and onions are very soft, about 10 minutes.
  4. Allow to cool a little then blend with a stick blender until smooth.
  5. Add the cream, and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve with some warmed crusty bread slathered with some nice garlicky soft cheese. Delish – and good for you!
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Online shopping – Secure or Not sure?

Padlock

Shopping online can be the best way to secure a bargain.  No parking fees, no queueing or waiting for opening time.  The younger generations don’t hesitate to buy online at sites like Amazon and eBay.  Inputting their card details or paying with services such as PayPal. However, many older people still show healthy scepticism toward online shopping, worried about giving away bank or credit card details online.

We decided to take a fresh look at the issues and ask ‘Is online shopping safe and secure?’

 

Our perspective on risk

Shopping online will probably never be 100% safe, so we thought it would be good to start by putting the risk into some context.

The average british woman carries over £2,000 worth of items in their handbag. Some are even prepared to spend up to £1000 on the actual handbag itself, but even the contents soon add up if – like most people – it contains cash, sunglasses, mobile phone, perfume, make-up, travel documents, identity cards and irreplaceable items such as treasured photos of family members, inherited jewellery and other sentimental items.

So, if you go to the shopping centre and leave you bag behind at the cafe, in the changing rooms – or worse have it stolen – you will be spending the rest of the day at the Police Station, Lost Property, cancelling credit cards, blocking telephone and you will probably  be left very upset by the whole experience.

The probability is that 1 in 5 women will have their handbag stolen at some point in their life. Men do not tend to run this risk, but they are just as prone to loose wallets full of cash.  The latest Home Office Statistics on crime show that over 1 in 100 people have items such as handbags, wallets, phones and other valuable items stolen each year.

In the United States, the IC3 (Internet Crime Complaints Centre)  has been compiling online crime data for a number of years.  Last year, just over 1 in 100 people reported an online related crime.  These figures include identity theft as well as fraud using illegally obtained payment details from online shoppers.  Unfortunately the Home Office do not yet provide similar figures, but this 1 in 100 figures is probably comparable to the UK.

So, the risk of having your money stolen online is about the same as having your handbag, wallet or phone stolen.  If it happens, you only have the hassle of dealing with one bank or credit car company.  Also, as long as you have not been unduly careless with your security details, your credit card provider or bank will probably cover your loss.

 

So, shopping online is probably no more risky than going to the shops in person

Of course there are lot’s of good reasons for continuing to shop in person and we are not trying to suggest you should stay home and only shop online in the future.  However, we hope you can see that the risk of online theft is no more likely than loosing your handbag or wallet.

 

Make sure you are not that 1 person in 100!

  • Try to only shop at reputable online shopping sites for brand names you have heard of.
  • If you do not know the web address for the shop you want, search for it using popular search engines like Google, Bing, Ask and Yahoo.
  • Look for signs the payment pages on the website are secured.  Only put in your credit card, bank or any personal details if the web address starts https:// rather than the normal http://  The ‘S’ means secure.  Your browser may also show a Padlock icon by the address bar and in most modern browsers the website address will show in green if a strong level of security is in place.
  • Online retailers do NOT need to know your cards PIN number, so never give this out on line.  However, they most likely will ask for the security code on the back of your card, by the signature strip.  This is know as the CSC (Card Security Code) but may also be referred to as the card verification value (CVV).
  • Some banks card issuers now request that the shopping website links you to their own online security web page to ask for an online shopping password before allowing you to complete payment, so do not worry if this happens.
  • Make sure your PC is running the latest security software to stop Viruses and SpyWare.  Most good packages will now warn you if the website you are on is not to be trusted.  Using an Apple computer or device will mean you are less likely to have a virus or spyware on your PC, but nothing is 100% safe.
  • Always be on your guard.  If it doesn’t feel right or you are not sure – close down the browser and shop at another website.
  • NEVER store your PIN, Security Codes, Passwords or similar information on your computer.  There are software programs that can store passwords in a secure way, but if you are unfamiliar or unsure – just do not put them on your computer.
  • NEVER email your payment details to anyone.  This would be the online equivalent of writing your card payment details on a postcard to someone in Australia – where anyone involved in the delivery process could copy them down for fraudulent use.

First time caller

The fist time you shop online and it is a significant sum, your Credit Card company may call you to ensure you are really making the purchase and that your card has not been stolen.  This is quite normal and does not mean the website is unsafe.
Banks and Credit card companies keep a check on your spending habits and if you do something unusual – such as shop online for the first time – they are likely to check all is well.  Yes, it can be annoying but it is for both their protection and yours. Calling to inform your card provider before making the purchase can help.

And finally – tip from the editor

Never type all your credit card or password details into a website at once or in the correct order.

The type of spyware that captures your payment details might be hiding on your computer, monitoring you as you type in your password, credit card number, etc and recording all the details.  Others may take a secret picture of the web page without you knowing so they see what you have typed in, or they may be intercepting your payment data as it is passed to the card provider.

As an additional precaution, I type in values such as card number, bank account,  password, security code a few characters at a time, moving around the web page completing a bit more information each time until all the numbers or letters are input.  Often I will add extra numbers to the card or password as I type them in, only to highlight the characters I don’t need with the mouse and delete them before hitting the enter or confirm key.

Happy – and secure – Shopping!

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Posted in Finance, Lifestyle, Technology

Calls to cut falls in the elderly

Caduceus with First-aid Kit

Injuries from falls are the leading cause of death in people over 75 in the Uk.

Last week, an NHS Confederation report said a more joined-up strategy at local, rather than national level, was needed in order to cut falls in the elderly.

The NHS Confederation, a group that represents NHS managers in England, believes that government policies for the last 20 years have not been entirely successful, with many patients experiencing disjointed care.

Read more on this report. (link to BBC article opens in new window)

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Posted in Care services, Health, Lifestyle