Friday, May 19, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend Predicted to See Record High Number of Vacationers



National holidays, especially those that fall at the beginning or the end of a weekend, tend to lead to travel plans for a lot of Americans. The three- or four-day weekend is the perfect time for many vacationers to spend some time away from home with their family and friends. While holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's usually lead to a lot of travel plans, many people prefer the shorter weekend trips over Veteran's Day or President's Day. According to Hugo Martin's L.A. Times article, the upcoming Memorial Day weekend is expected to break records in terms of the number of vacationers. 

According to experts, this phenomenon could be due in large part to falling gas prices. As the cost of gasoline goes down, it becomes cheaper to travel, which is encouraging for people who want to go on vacation. It's expected that the prices will stay low at around $3 per gallon, which is the cheapest they've been over Memorial Day weekend since 2009. Partially due to the low gas prices, most of the vacationers are expected to be driving. In fact, statistics show that around 2.52 million will be driving to their destinations, a 2.9% increase from last year.

Similarly, there is expected to be a 3.4% increase in the total number of vacationers, up to 3.03 million Southern Californians, according to the Auto Club of Southern California. This will be the sixth consecutive year where the number of travelers increased, potentially a sign of a strengthening economy, in which consumers feel secure enough to spend money on travel. Some of the top destinations for travelers include San Francisco, San Diego, and Las Vegas, as well as famous landmarks like the Grand Canyon and some national parks.

The biggest increase of all, however, is among the number of Californians choosing airplanes as their mode of transportation. Over this Memorial Day weekend, over 300,000 Californians are expected to fly on commercial airlines, which is a 6.2% increase from last year's numbers. Even with all of the recent issues with airlines, the growing numbers could indicate that people are traveling further, which means that they are taking more time off of work than just the three-day weekend. That could point to growing comfort with the state of the economy or better financial management on the part of consumers looking to go on vacation. 

***************************************************************************************************
Find out more about us at www.sepulvedaescrow.net. Any Questions? Contact our Escrow Expert! Sepulveda Escrow Corporation (818) 838-1831. Follow our company on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Google+.
**************************************************************************************************

Friday, May 12, 2017

California Tourism Indutry Grows for Seventh Consecutive Year



Tourism can be a huge economic boost for any given state or country. Tourists stay at hotels and motels, they eat at restaurants, and they shop at stores, all of which can help to stimulate the local economy. Big cities like Paris, New York City, and London are popular tourist destinations, but cities throughout California, especially Los Angeles and San Francisco, have been booming over the past several years. In fact, according to Makeda Easter's L.A. Times article, research shows that California's tourism industry has grown every year for the past seven consecutive years.

Data showed that spending on travel in California was up 3.8% last year to $126.3 billion. Over a million jobs in the state are involved in the tourism industry, up 2.5% from the year before. Even tax revenue was up from tourism-related expenditures. Tax revenue was over $10 billion last year and tourism incorporated nearly 3% of the state's GDP (gross domestic product). Not only is California generally a popular tourist destination, economists believe the continuing improvement of its tourism industry could be due to economic growth around the country and the world.

As the global economy improves, people have more money to spend and feel more stable and willing to spend the money. Because of that, they tend to take more vacations and spend more money on travel. Research shows that California is the number 1 tourist destination in the country. Its tourism industry is 2.5 times bigger than that of Florida, which has just as many tourist attractions and theme parks as California. Additionally, of the hundreds of millions of tourists each year throughout California, many of them come from different parts of California itself, rather than from out of the state or from other countries.

California tourism is expected to keep going strong. Some theme parks, such as Disneyland, are undergoing changes and renovations that they hope will bring in more visitors, but only time will tell if the improvements will succeed. People like to visit California for its weather, beaches, and popular social scene, but as the value of the dollar continues to increase, people may look to travel outside of the country for vacation. California can be a very expensive place to live, so people's preferences can change pretty quickly. Maybe next year will be the eighth consecutive year of growth. We'll just have to wait and see.

***************************************************************************************************
Find out more about us at www.sepulvedaescrow.net. Any Questions? Contact our Escrow Expert! Sepulveda Escrow Corporation (818) 838-1831. Follow our company on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Google+.
**************************************************************************************************

Friday, April 28, 2017

Uber Update Lets Users See How They Have Been Rated by Drivers



Especially for people living in densely populated cities like Los Angeles or New York, it can be difficult to justify owning a vehicle. Traffic is usually difficult to deal with, parking can be nearly impossible to find, and unless you're driving a significant distance each day, the combination of gasoline, insurance, and maintenance can make it all too costly. Fortunately, ride-sharing technology gives people a way to get around town without having to own a car of their own.

While there are many ride-sharing smartphone applications, the two most popular and well-known are Uber and Lyft. Each has similar business plans: they take a percentage of every dollar earned by one of their drivers. Both driver and rider have the opportunity to rate each other, and the ratings help other drivers and riders to choose whether they want to use the service. Until recently, riders could see all of the ratings (on a 5-star scale) that other riders had left for their driver, and drivers could see ratings left for riders. According to Tracey Lien's L.A. times article, a recent update to the Uber app will allow riders to view their own ratings.

Uber executives hope that this update will help both drivers and riders to improve the ride-sharing experience. The riders can rate the drivers on safety, friendliness, and cleanliness of the vehicle, while drivers can rate riders on whether they leave a mess in the car or if they slam the doors. Because riders will now be able to see what drivers think of them, it is hoped that they will be more cognizant of their behavior and will, therefore, become better passengers.

Everyone wants to have a high rating on apps like Uber because the app's algorithm matches up riders and drivers based on similar rankings. So, if a rider has close to 5 stars, they will likely get paired up with a driver with a 5-star rating. If they have a lower score, they will, in turn, be paired up with a less-sought-after driver. While this update should be beneficial to everyone, another update aims to help drivers avoid being negatively affected by the behavior of other passengers in an UberPool, in which a rider chooses to share the ride with another user of the app. Lately, Uber has had some bad press, but the changes they are making could help to improve their image, retain their drivers, and win back potential riders.

***************************************************************************************************
Find out more about us at www.sepulvedaescrow.net. Any Questions? Contact our Escrow Expert! Sepulveda Escrow Corporation (818) 838-1831. Follow our company on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Google+.
**************************************************************************************************

Friday, April 21, 2017

LA County to Offer Lower Utilities Rates Through Community Choice Aggregation Programs



In this day and age, as technology continues to advance and resources are stretched thin, energy sources are often on the mind of the common consumer and government entities. Electricity rates have been going up, and even as we search for alternative, green energy options, it can be difficult to make those options affordable. Fortunately, earlier this week, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved a public energy program that gives Southern California Edison customers an alternative, government-backed energy source to purchase from. According to Ivan Penn and Nina Agrawal's article in the L.A. Times, the public energy program is expected to lower individual costs by around 5% and is open to residences and businesses alike.

Not only will the energy program be providing power to customers at a lower cost, it will also be focusing on green energy sources. The county will be able to purchase energy from the market and invest in solar energy projects. Because the community choice aggregation (CCA) programs are government entities, they aren't allowed to make a profit on customer rates, which means they will charge the bare minimum to break even. This is very different from companies like Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric Co., who can charge however much they want.

Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in the L.A. County will be able to enroll in the new CCA program, and many people in other counties could be allowed to as well, depending on local regulations. This new energy plan is expected to revamp the entire electricity industry. Private companies will be forced to find ways to lower prices and bring in green energy sources in order to compete with the government entity. Competition tends to drive down prices and drive up demand, so everyone should be happy in the long run. Some private electricity companies worry that the long-term implications of this project remain to be seen and that we should take things slow before rushing into anything.

All in all, CCA programs seem almost too good to be true. A government program that lowers rates and improves the usage of green energy sources seems like a pipe dream. Yet, with proper planning and careful budgeting, it could work out. Technology is redefining various industries, and to survive, the entire country has to change with it. With the new program, new customers can decide exactly what kind of energy they want: wind, solar, or other resources. By giving people options and lowering costs, customers become loyal and are more willing to face the changes that come with dramatic improvements. As long as the CAAs make sure their budgeting is solid, things should work out, at least for the near future.

***************************************************************************************************
Find out more about us at www.sepulvedaescrow.net. Any Questions? Contact our Escrow Expert! Sepulveda Escrow Corporation (818) 838-1831. Follow our company on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Google+.
**************************************************************************************************

Friday, April 14, 2017

Telemarketers Aim to Scam via Social Engineering



Most people have experienced robocalls and telemarketers looking to sell them something. While such calls are annoying, up until recently, they were just annoying. Very few people actually bought the products being sold, but they sold enough to make robocalls economically feasible. Most recently, however, the robocallers have taken a new strategy: known as the "can you hear me" scam. David Lazarus, in his latest L.A. Times article, discusses the popular new telemarketer scam and what you can do to protect yourself from it.

Just as technology is constantly improving to make overall quality of life go up, that same technology can be used to make life more difficult for some. Technology similar to that used by Apple's Siri and Google's Alexa is now being used by computer programmers to make telemarketing calls by a computer seem conversational enough that the recipient doesn't hang up immediately. Because the technology is not perfect yet, the target will quickly catch on and realize that they're speaking to a computer, but in the first few seconds, they may say something that can be used against them.

The "can you hear me" scam is a feat of human engineering, where telemarketing companies demonstrate a thorough understanding of the dynamics of true human conversations. By using that knowledge, the computer is able to get a response they want, in order to scam the responder later. In this scam, the computer asks "can you hear me" with the same inflections as a human, which can usually cause the recipient of the call to respond "yes." Giving an affirmative response is the worst thing you can do in that situation, according to police officials.

When the recipient of the call says "yes," the computer already has what it needs to move forward with the scam. The affirmative response can easily be edited later to make it seem like the target was giving the company approval for a purchase of some kind. There have been several situations over the past months where people have responded to the question "can you hear me" and later found that their credit card had been charged for products they never ordered. A safe rule of thumb when dealing with telemarketers, especially those employing these tactics, seems to be to hang up immediately. If you're not sure if someone is a telemarketer or not, avoid affirmative responses and ask a lot of questions to determine if the answers seem like they are coming from a computer. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are just starting to boom, so be on the lookout for similar scams in the near future.

***************************************************************************************************
Find out more about us at www.sepulvedaescrow.net. Any Questions? Contact our Escrow Expert! Sepulveda Escrow Corporation (818) 838-1831. Follow our company on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Google+.
**************************************************************************************************

Friday, March 31, 2017

Waze's Latest Feature Enables Users to Order Food in the App



Technological innovations in this day and age are often about making day to day tasks easier or more convenient. They help people to save time and money on mundane tasks like ordering food or obtaining transportation. This week, according to an L.A. Times article by the Associated Press, the navigation app Waze has started to team up with fast-food restaurants like Dunkin' Donuts in order to combine the services offered by the two companies and make ordering coffee and other foods on the way to work a seamless process.

Waze is a popular navigation app for smartphones and tablets, which relies mainly on information input by users. It provides turn-by-turn directions and can even tell drivers in real time which route will have the least traffic. While Waze has teamed up with fast-food restaurants like Taco Bell and Dunkin' Donuts in the past, it was mainly an advertising partnership, where the restaurants paid Waze a fee each month to help remind drivers of the different food options on their route. Now, their business strategy has changed, and become more direct.

Instead of just advertising with Waze, and hoping that the ads will make a few drivers visit their restaurant, Waze has now integrated a method for drivers to order from Dunkin' Donuts and pick it up on their route, all without opening up another app. If the trial run with Dunkin' Donuts goes well, Waze could relatively easily update the system to work for any number of merchants and restaurants. One day, people could be able to order food, reserve parking spots, and even get prescriptions filled, all on the way, without the inherent distractions involved with working from several apps at once.

Users of Waze's new system will have to have Dunkin' Donuts' app on their phone, but as long as they are logged in, Waze will be connected and will be able to access their account at the push of a button. Additionally, users of Waze's system have to be registered with Dunkin' Donuts' customer loyalty program, at least until the chain has determined whether the concept works well enough to offer to all of its customers. Waze has been growing in leaps and bounds lately. Recently, they integrated a feature similar to Uber or Lyft where drivers are paid to pick up and drive with other Waze users looking to Carpool. All of these updates seem to be going well for Waze, but it will take a bit of time to see just how well.

***************************************************************************************************
Find out more about us at www.sepulvedaescrow.net. Any Questions? Contact our Escrow Expert! Sepulveda Escrow Corporation (818) 838-1831. Follow our company on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Google+.
**************************************************************************************************

Friday, March 17, 2017

Deter Hackers by Improving Online Security on Social Media Accounts



As time goes on and technology continuously improves, the ability to hack into the new technology improves with it. So, because hackers are getting smarter and finding ways to attack our internet-enabled devices, we too have to develop and work harder to prevent such attacks. Over the past few years, popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been targets of hacking and phishing schemes. According to Jessica Roy's article in the L.A. Times, one feature on your Twitter account could be making you more vulnerable to hackers.

Lately, there have been several situations in which Twitter accounts have had their security compromised. From celebrities like Justin Bieber to multi-million-dollar businesses like McDonald's, hackers are taking over. Sometimes they just want to "troll" and post something that they think is funny or that might get a reaction. Other times, the messages are designed to trick other people into clicking a link that will allow the hacker to break into other accounts. 

In at least one case, the cyber attacks were due to third-party tools and applications, such as "Twitter Counter." Years ago, when Twitter was still new, third-party applications like Twitter Counter allowed users to keep track of followers, find new followers, and post their Tweets on a schedule. Nowadays, few people use such tools, because Twitter has since updated their system to be able to offer many of the same abilities. However, even though most users stopped using Twitter Counter, many of them forgot to disconnect the tool from their account, leaving them vulnerable to a cyber attack. 

Because the third-party tool is more easily hacked than Twitter itself, criminals often look to use a program like Twitter Counter as a springboard to get into an account. Once they have hacked the app that has permission to access your account, they will have the ability to post from your account. In order to prevent similar issues on your account, make sure to check the options on your account (under "settings and privacy") and revoke access to any third-party applications that you don't use. To make your account even more secure, Twitter has some built-in security features. 

First, two-step authentication can be enabled on your account. While it seems more annoying to have to put in a password and a special code sent to your cell phone by text message or call, overall it can be worth it to avoid data thieves. Additionally, to make your account even more secure, you can choose a complicated password with a variety of letters, numbers, and symbols. Finally, make sure your password doesn't match that on one of your other accounts. If you use the same password for every platform, then if one account is compromised, they all will be. These quick and easy changes to your behavior online can help to protect you and make it much more difficult for hackers to make you their next target.

***************************************************************************************************
Find out more about us at www.sepulvedaescrow.net. Any Questions? Contact our Escrow Expert! Sepulveda Escrow Corporation (818) 838-1831. Follow our company on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Google+.
**************************************************************************************************