Cybernaut 

Here .coms Santa Claus

In an ideal world, all anyone would want for Christmas is their two front teeth, and maybe world peace if your name isn’t George W. Bush. And if gifts absolutely had to be exchanged, the thought would actually count as much as the price tag.

Unfortunately we live in the age of crass commercialism. We are expected to give until it hurts, and receive in kind.

In addition, we are expected to intuitively know exactly what the people we give gifts to want. If we miss the mark, that goes to show that we; A) are thoughtless; B) were not listening; C) are cheap; or D) left things to the last minute.

That’s a lot of pressure to handle on a good year when you’re at home and can do your Christmas shopping right up until stores close on Christmas Eve. But if you find yourself living in Whistler, thousands of kilometres away from your family and friends, then the pressure is really on.

Unless you send your gifts by courier or express post – or celebrate the orthodox Ukrainian holidays – you have about a week left for Christmas shopping if you crossed an ocean to be here, and less two weeks left if you’re from anywhere on the continent.

Ordinarily this would be a good time to panic, but fortunately the Internet can help you with shopping, shipping, and even your Christmas cards.

Shopping

The Internet is one big mall where you can buy virtually anything, only better There are no parking lots, crowds or store greeters to avoid. You don’t have to listen to muzak. It’s open around the clock, and you don’t need shoes, shirts or even pants to get service.

There is one catch – shopping online often requires you to put your credit card and mailing information online.

I’ve done this a dozen times, and have yet to be burned. The only drawback is that once I spent money online, the word got out pretty fast and the number of spam e-mails I received easily quadrupled.

Consumers have to realize that their credit card numbers are already out there. Restaurants keep records, airlines and gas stations keep records. They don’t send their records back and forth over the Internet, but they are in an electronic form somewhere, and thus vulnerable to hackers. Even the major financial institutions get hacked now and then for information.

However, if you’re worried then you should know that there are lots of different ways of paying online without using a credit card. If you do use a credit card, some systems are safer than others.

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