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Send Your Holiday Packages Early This Year

Send Your Holiday Packages Early This Year

Illustration for article titled Send Your Holiday Packages Early This Year

Photo: George Sheldon (Shutterstock)

Every year, the United States Postal Services (USPS) asks us to send our packages and greeting cards as early as possible in the holiday season. But this year, they’re really serious about it. This is always a very busy time of the year for mail carriers, but throw a pandemic and an already difficult year and it’s a recipe for delays. Here’s what to know about mailing holiday packages in 2020.

Get an early start

Even with the addition of seasonal workers, the USPS is requesting that we mail our packages as soon as possible. Per a statement from the USPS:

During this unprecedented time, it is expected that more holiday gifts and greetings will be sent through the mail, as families and friends will hold virtual celebrations instead of opening gifts in person. The Postal Service always encourages customers to send their holiday gifts and cards early. This year is no different.

Important mailing dates of the 2020 holiday season

It may seem as though we have a lot of time before Christmas, but when you take into consideration the busiest periods for the USPS, we really don’t:

The busiest time of the season peaks two weeks before Christmas, when much of the last-minute shopping starts. Customer traffic is expected to increase beginning Dec. 7, with the week of Dec. 14-21 predicted to be the busiest mailing, shipping and delivery week.

If you’re aiming for packages to arrive by December 25th, the USPS recommends getting them in the mail by these dates at the absolute latest:

  • Dec. 15 — USPS Retail Ground service
  • Dec. 18 — USPS Priority Mail Express service
  • Dec. 18 — First-Class Mail service (including greeting cards)
  • Dec. 18 — First-class packages (up to 15.99 ounces)
  • Dec. 19 — Priority Mail service
  • Dec. 23 — Priority Mail Express service

The money-back guarantee on Priority Mail Express shipments mailed Dec. 22 through Dec. 25 applies only if the package was not delivered, or delivery was not attempted, within two business days. Other than that, there are no guarantees—these dates are just estimates.

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You Can Your Get Girl Scout Cookies Delivered by Grub Hub

You Can Your Get Girl Scout Cookies Delivered by Grub Hub

Illustration for article titled You Can Your Get Girl Scout Cookies Delivered by Grub Hub

Photo: David Tonelson (Shutterstock)

There is no better season than Girl Scout cookie season. Now is the time to re-up on your favorite fund-raising treats. I’m talking about the Thin Mints, the Caramel d-Lites, the Tagalongs, and the Do-si-dos. Every year young, entrepreneurial Girl Scouts are tasked with selling cookies to raise money for their troupes. The cookie drive promotes financial literacy for the scouts and teaches them modern business skills.

Today’s youth are particularly well-positioned to become tech moguls in the cookie trade, as the pandemic means they will be handling more and more of their business via online sales—and now, even in partnership with the food delivery service Grub Hub. Here are the different ways you can order cookies online this year.

Use Grub Hub

On February first, Girl Scout cookies will be available for purchase with the online food delivery app Grub Hub. Simply sign up or log into the app and enter your zip code or address to find the Girl Scout troupe in your area. Deliveries will be made between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. daily, directly to your door. The Grub Hub service is only available in select cities, so use the app’s cookie finder site to find out where you can get Girl Scout cookies delivered.

The cookie drive is about raising money for youth to take trips, earn badges, and gain life skills. For this reason, Grub Hub is waiving its fees to ensure the local troupes receive the full proceeds from your purchase.

If Grub Hub cannot service a city or town near you, don’t worry, you can still find a cookie seller in your area.

Use the Girl Scouts’ Cookie Finder app to order from your regular supplier

Download the Girl Scouts’ own “cookie finder app” for Android and iOS. Type in your zip code and find the local troupe or scout you want to support. The app launched five years ago to allow cookies sales to expand and grow into the digital landscape, and to help Girl Scouts learn more about the modern world of sales and online business by tracking their orders and handling shipping online.

As the Girl Scouts’ website explains, “Through it, she has access to even more tools that teach her about marketing, budgeting, resource allocation, and other critical business skills—encouraging and guiding her as she makes her way to cookie boss success.”

Take advantage of added bonuses

When you order cookies online this year, you will have the option to donate a box or two to frontline workers. Yup, nurses, EMTs, and other first responders can enjoy free, delicious cookies in appreciation for the immense work they are doing during the pandemic. If anyone deserve a treat, it’s them.

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Be Wary of Buyers Who Offer to Overpay

Be Wary of Buyers Who Offer to Overpay

Illustration for article titled Be Wary of Buyers Who Offer to Overpay

Photo: OPOLJA (Shutterstock)

The Better Business Bureau has issued an alert about a grift impacting consumers who sell their stuff online. If you get an offer that’s a lot more than what you’re selling your item for, think twice about the transaction—it’s likely an overpayment scam.

How overpayment scams work

Overpayment scams are a persistent problem that plagues online selling. Typically, they prey upon listings on reseller sites like Facebook marketplace and Craigslist, as well as eBay, Etsy, Amazon Handmade, and others.

Here’s how it works: after you post a listing for an item online, a normal-seeming “prospective buyer” will contact you and agree to purchase your item. The catch is that they’ll send you more money than you ask for—either via a check or through a digital wallet—and explain it away by noting some sort of made-up restriction on their account, or chalk it up to a simple error.

The scam takes a turn once you’ve been overpaid, as the buyer will invariably ask for some of their money back. They will likely be really nice about it, too, as if it were a simple mistake best handled informally between the buyer and seller. After you return the money, however, the initial payment will turn out to be false, as the check or transfer will be denied. At this stage, you will have lost the difference between the phony payment and the cost of your item, as well as the item itself.

How to avoid the scam

Part of what makes this scam so effective is that it lowers your guard—why would a scammer send you more money than you need? So, as a rule of thumb, don’t let people overpay you for items on online marketplaces.

The BBB also offers these tips:

  • Don’t ship an item before you receive a payment. Make sure any payments you receive are legitimate before you ship your item to the seller. If you ship before they pay, you will have no way to get your item back.
  • Don’t believe offers that are too good to be true. Unless you a selling a rare or highly desirable item that several people are bidding on, you should not expect anyone to offer to pay more than what you are asking. If someone tries to overpay you, consider it a red flag.
  • Look out for counterfeit emails. Scammers are skilled at imitating emails from popular payment services, such as Venmo or PayPal. Examine all emails carefully. If an email comes from a domain that isn’t official or contains obvious typos and grammatical errors, it’s probably a scam.
  • Report scams to the online marketplace. Be sure to report suspicious activity including dishonest buyers or sellers.

The BBB recommends reporting these scams as you encounter them on their scam tracker, found here. Even if you didn’t fall for the scam, your report can help protect others from getting conned.

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How to Watch Nvidias GeForce RTX: Game On Event Today

How to Watch Nvidias GeForce RTX: Game On Event Today

Later today, Nvidia’s “GeForce RTX: Game On” live event will give us our first look at the company’s latest gaming-focused hardware. (Here’s hoping any new announcements drop the price and raise the availability of its top-shelf graphics cards.)

The livestream starts on Tuesday, January 12, at noon ET/9 a.m. PT. You can watch on Nvidia’s official live events page, as well as its official YouTube and Twitch channels. The official page also has links to add reminders to your Google or iCal calendar.

Jeff Fisher, senior vice president of Nvidia’s GeForce division, will host the event. That means we probably won’t get a peek at Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang’s inexplicably large spatula collection again, but at least we’ll see the next set of graphics cards in Nvidia’s RTX 3000 series—hopefully.

Nvidia hasn’t given any hints on what it plans to unveil, but we can assume one or two more RTX 3000 series GPUs will be announced based on leaks and rumors. That includes the RTX 3050, which would theoretically be the most affordable of Nvidia’s current-gen cards. It’s also rumored Nvidia is working on an RTX 3080 Ti that will fill the gap between the RTX 3080 and 3090 for specs and price.

Again, both the 3050 and the 3080 Ti are only rumors—but they would make sense, from a business perspective. Supply shortages and import tariffs are driving up the prices on all GPUs. Having an affordable option available for customers on a budget is a smart move, while a new high-end model could help increase your odds of finding any kind of high-end 3000 series card before they sell out.

Nvidia is also expected to show off its mobile RTX chips for laptops and portable gaming hardware. Leaked specs for an upcoming ASUS laptop include an RTX 3080, which is normally too beefy to fit in a laptop. We’re curious to see what happens here, too—assuming said leaks are accurate.

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What You Need to Know Before Secretly Recording Your Enemies

What You Need to Know Before Secretly Recording Your Enemies

Given how relatively common it is for presidents and shady political activist groups to secretly record phone conversations, it makes it seem possibly acceptable. But is it? Turns out the answer is kinda complicated. If you’re thinking of secretly recording a conversation with someone, you should probably read this first.

Whether you’re recording a phone call or an in-person conversation or trying to record the conversations of others, it all comes down to consent, and how the federal government and each state’s individual laws define that. You might want to capture your enemy’s true nature on tape for all to hear, but here’s the deal: it’s probably illegal.

What federal law says

According to the Wiretap Act of 1968 (18 U.S.C. § 2511.), it’s illegal to secretly record any oral, telephonic, or electronic communication that is reasonably expected to be private. So, for example, recording a conversation with somebody in a bedroom, with the door shut, on private property, without them knowing is technically a federal crime in the loosest sense.

There are, however, a few exceptions to this law that create some sizable loopholes. The biggest being the “one-party consent” rule that says you can record people secretly if at least one person in the conversation consents to the recording, or if the person recording is authorized by law to do it (like a police officer with a warrant). If we go back to our bedroom recording, that means you could record your conversation as long as one person—you—consents to it. Sneaky, eh? But here’s the catch: you have to actually be a part of that conversation. If you were simply recording two other people talking while standing nearby and not saying a word, you then have no consent from any of the parties, and thus it would be illegal.

State laws can preempt federal law

Federal law does not always reign supreme when it comes to recording conversations in the U.S.. Eleven states have “two-party (or all-party) consent” laws, meaning you cannot record conversations unless every single person in that conversation gives consent. Those states are:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania
  • Washington (not D.C.)

If we go back to the secret bedroom recording example, everyone in the room would need to consent to your recording if you were in one of the states listed above. But then it wouldn’t really be a secret recording anymore, would it?

While a state’s recording laws usually determine the legality of taping conversations, federal law takes precedence and preempts all state laws if it’s considered to be more protective of privacy. So even if a state did allow secret recordings without any consent, federal law would preempt that state’s laws.

Location, location, location

The other important aspect to consider is where you’re recording your conversation. The federal Wiretap Act promises a “reasonable expectation” of privacy, so there’s some wiggle room there. A closed-off bedroom in a private home is a reasonable place to expect privacy, so taping there can be risky, even with the power of one-party consent. If there was a party being thrown in that house, however, things could be a little different. Litigator Deborah C. Logan explains:

Whether one has a reasonable expectation of privacy in a given situation depends upon the context: Was the conversation in a public or private location? Did the individual being recorded treat the subject matter as private? A person who is bragging at a party about cheating a friend in a business deal cannot later object to the introduction of a recording of this admission as evidence in a lawsuit filed by his ex-friend.

As you can see, public locations open things up a tad. Secretly recording a conversation at a park or train station is perfectly legal if you’re in a one-party consent state and part of the conversation. But it’s still illegal in a two-party consent state.

And the definition of “safe places to record” changes on a state-by-state, case-by-case basis. Public places are almost always safe, but the definition of public place can get stretched sometimes. For example, a privately owned business office may seem like a private location, but some states, like Florida, do not “recognize an absolute right to privacy in a party’s office or place of business.” That doesn’t mean you should go secretly recording your mean boss, though, since it can still be illegal depending on where you are, what’s being said, and how it’s being said.

You also have to be careful about recording phone calls, especially if you’re talking with someone who’s in a state with different laws than yours. If you live in New York, a one-party state, and want to record a phone call with someone in California, a two-party state, you need to have their consent in addition to the consent you’ve automatically granted. If you use an app to record a cell phone call, you need to double-check that you’re not recording all calls by default and accidentally taping people illegally.

Audio and video aren’t the same thing, but can be intertwined

Video recording law is different from audio recording law—and a topic for another time—but it’s important to know what those differences are. Generally speaking, you have the right to record video in all public spaces without need of consent. A public space is defined as anywhere any member of the public can legally access, so public transit facilities, parks, streets, etc. are all fair game. Recording video on private property, though, is up to the discretion of the property owner, private security, or police—but secret video recordings are illegal on all private property in some states, like California.

But here’s the most important part: Recording video of a conversation in public might be legal, but recording audio along with that video is not, if you’re in a two-party state. For example, recording a video of your heated conversation with a surly sales associate is illegal in all two-party states if they don’t give you permission to record them. Even in one-party states, recording video like that is dubious at best.

You do, however, have the right to record video and audio of police officers or public officials performing official duties if they are in public places. That said, you may only do so as long as you are not interfering with those activities or violating other laws in the process.

What happens if you get caught

If you get busted secretly recording conversations, you could face jail time, fines, or even be sued. The federal Wiretap Act lists a possible sentence of five years in prison with a fine of at least $500. But that’s usually in addition to the state law’s being violated. Getting busted in California (Cal. Penal Code § 631.), for example, can net you another year in prison and a $2,500 fine. Also, most states let the non-consenting party who was recorded sue you for damages, which could be much worse than those other fines.

When in doubt, follow these tips

If you’re thinking of recording a conversation, do yourself a favor and follow these tips from the Digital Media Law Project:

  • Check local laws first: Always know what your state’s recording laws are before you do anything, and double check laws if you’re recording calls from out of state. Do you need everyone’s consent? Or just yours? Where are you recording?
  • Know what consent looks like, and get it before you record: Consent is best when it’s verbal and part of your recording, but give a preemptive warning as well. Notify the other parties that you intend to record your interaction, wait to record until they agree, begin recording, then ask for permission again on tape.
  • Don’t be sneaky: I know, you’d probably love to catch a cheater red-handed, or record your boss sexually harassing you, but those types of secret recordings can seriously backfire. More often than not, the recordings are usually deemed illegal and inadmissible in court, then you get busted for breaking the law and sued by the person you were hoping to take down.

It may be a hard pill to swallow, but secret recordings are rarely a good idea, whether you’re a president or a wannabe P.I. Get consent, don’t hide your camera, microphone, or recorder and don’t try to goad people into revealing their deepest, darkest secrets without them knowing they’re on tape or you’re going to make things worse for yourself.

This story was originally published in May 2017 and was updated on Dec. 21, 2020 to align the content with current Lifehacker style.

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How to Cash Checks in Venmo Without a Bank Account

How to Cash Checks in Venmo Without a Bank Account

Venmo will soon roll out a new “Cash a Check” deposit feature for all iOS and Android devices. It will allow all Venmo users cash a check using their mobile phone—no trips to an ATM or waiting in line at the bank necessary. The feature even works for users who don’t have a bank account connected to their Venmo account.

Like other Venmo transactions, users can select how fast they want their money—either “in minutes” or “in 10 days.”

The latter option will cash the check for the full amount, while opting to get it faster will result in a 1% transaction fee (the fee is waived for government checks for qualifying U.S. adults, including the latest $600 Covid relief stimulus payment). Venmo’s Cash a Check FAQ page says it normally takes “10-15 minutes and in rare circumstances, up to 1.5 hours” to verify and approve your deposit.

Cashing checks with your smartphone isn’t anything new—many banks and credit unions already offer digital check deposits in their mobile apps, but you need to maintain an active checking account with that institution, and it will typically be several days before the funds are available. Since you do not need a bank account to use Venmo (or its Cash a Check option), those who don’t use a bank or whose banking apps do not include mobile deposits will be able to cash their checks easily.

How to cash a check with Venmo

  1. Open the Venmo app, then tap the three-line menu button.
  2. Select “Manage Balance.”
  3. Select “Cash a Check.”
  4. Confirm your personal information
  5. Type in the check’s amount.
  6. Using the in-app camera, take a photo of the front and back of the check, then tap “Next.”
  7. Select if you want the funds available “In 10 Days” or “In Minutes.”
  8. After the deposit is confirmed, write “VOID” across the check and safely store it for your records.

The check’s amount will be added to your Venmo balance. Your balance can be used to send money to other users, shop online, and for some in-store transactions. You can also transfer the balance to a connected bank account; doing so takes about 3 business days to clear, or you can transfer it instantly for another 1% transfer fee (capped at $10).

[Android Central]

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