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  Monday January 26th, 2015    

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Money Management (12/05/2007)
Don't let thieves and con artists ruin your holidays

Unfortunately, not everyone is filled with the spirit of peace and good will at this time of year. The holidays are peak season for criminals. The Minnesota Society of CPAs (MNCPA)recommends a number of steps you can take to avoid falling prey to their schemes.

Hold on to your wallet

Crowded stores and distracted shoppers are a boon to pickpockets, so try to limit the cash you carry so you donít have much to lose. Keep your wallet in a zipped bag, a front pocket or in a back pocket that buttons. When you take out a credit card for use, monitor its whereabouts during the transaction and put it safely back in your wallet. If your card is lost, report it to the card issuer immediately. And if you use your debit card at an ATM or in a store, be careful that others don't view your personal identification number.

Guard against your identity theft

Protecting your credit card is important because the loss of any identification could leave you open to identity theft, in which scammers use your personal information to make purchases in your name that they donít intend to pay for. As a result, itís not a good idea to carry essential ID such as a Social Security card in your wallet when youíre shopping in crowded stores. Take care to hold on to the receipts you receive for purchases or from an ATM, since they may contain personal financial information about your accounts that thieves can use.

Protect your packages

Always keep an eye on your shopping bags. If you rest them on the ground, place them in front of you so they canít be grabbed when youíre not looking. If you leave packages in your car, put them in the trunk or make sure they are out of sight so thieves are not tempted to break in.

Look out for online scams

Never provide your credit card or other personal information in response to an e-mail. If you do, you could fall victim to popular schemes like this one: A consumer makes a purchase from a large Internet retailer, then receives an e-mail notice purportedly from that retailer asking them to click on a link and re-enter their financial information. Don't do it, because there ís a good chance the sender is a con artist looking to steal your personal data. Close out the email and call the retailer's customer service number to find out if the notice is legitimate.

Check out charities

Many scammers create bogus ‘charities' at this time of year to take advantage of people's holiday generosity. Last year, for example, many phony groups sprouted up pretending to be collecting money for veterans or those currently serving in the military.

To guard against being scammed, it ís best to know the charity you are considering donating to. As a result, you shouldnít give money to anyone soliciting door-to-door, by telephone or via e-mail. Instead, ask for written information about the charity before you donate and see how donations are used. You can also check Web sites such as www.give.org or www.charitynavigator.org to verify the group's authenticity.



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