Have a safe, happy Thanksgiving – and use caution on Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Happy Thanksgiving! We hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday – here are some tips for keeping things safe & healthy!
Thanksgiving weekend used to be all about turkey, football, and family but in recent years – for better or for worse – it’s all about the shopping. One can now progress from the biggest shopping day of the year – Black Friday – right through to Cyber Monday in a whirlwind frenzy of shopping. Except this year, Black Friday may start early at some of the nation’s biggest box stores. In what many are calling “Grey Thursday,” some stores are starting sales early, on Thanksgiving Day itself – much to the consternation of some store employees.
If you plan to brave the crowds, here are some tips for a Black Friday Personal Safety Plan to keep from being trampled, mugged, scammed, or otherwise abused. You might also want to check out these Black Friday Shopping Tips from Consumer Reports for some best shopping practices.
Saturday, November 24, 2012 is Small Business Saturday, a day we can really get behind. The purpose of this day is to to celebrate and support local small businesses. Why not support your friends and neighbors? It’s a great way to ensure that your local community continues to thrive and grow.
Cyber Monday is all about online shopping – no crowds, but be alert for scammers, spammers, and phishers. Shopping online can be fun and comfortable, but you need to take steps to ensure that your shopping is secure and safe.
Here are a few safe shopping tips:

  • Make sure that your web security, anti virus and malware detection programs are updated and that your firewall is on. Many experts suggest the “belt and suspenders” approach of having more than one program as a backup.
  • Make sure that your browsers are up to date.
  • Watch out for email phishing offers, they are getting pretty good at creating authentic-looking emails spoofs of mailings from big name entities. Don’t click the link, type in the website.
  • Make sure that any purchases are made in a secure environment – check for “https” in the address in your web browser – that all-important “s” stands for “secure” – never conduct a transaction without it.
  • Public Wi-Fi is not secure so avoid doing banking and transactions that would expose your credit cards, passwords, or personal info.
  • Before shopping, it’s a good time to update your passwords. Create unique passwords for each site – here are some tips for creating secure passwords.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for “free” gift offers and contests from unknown sites – don’t give away any personal information or credit card numbers to anyone you don’t know. Stick with reputable sites and brand names.

Here are a few more tips:
11 Tips for Safe Online Shopping from PC Magazine
Holiday Shopping Dos and Don’ts
Consumer Reports Guide to Online Security
OnGuard Online

Have a safe, happy Thanksgiving – and use caution on Black Friday & Cyber Monday

With any luck and proper planning, you won’t find Thanksgiving as perilous as the turkeys in our video clip do, but be aware that Thanksgving is the leading day for residential fires (PDF), averaging about 2,000 for the day, double or more the number that would occur on an ordinary day.
See our tips for preventing kitchen fires and our past post on the dangers of deep fried turkeys.
What should you do if a fire breaks out? According to the National Fire Protection Association:

  • Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire
  • Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
  • If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
  • Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
  • For an oven fire turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

We’d add a final step if damage occurs: File a report with your insurer or your local insurance agent.
Be safe and enjoy the holiday!

Real Life Angry Birds

When you head off to start your work day, bird attacks aren’t usually high on your “risk management” list. But the following clips of workers going about their business and fending off angry birds might make you think twice. The enraged birds aren’t discriminatory – office workers, mailmen, cops – all equally at risk. We’re not sure if this is seasonal revenge by the turkey and goose population who are tired of having their kin folk end up on holiday platters or what, but be warned!

Common Post-Disaster Scams

After any disaster, there’s usually a second wave of problems that can occur in the form of what has become known as disaster fraud. People who want to contribute to the recovery are scammed by phony organizations, bogus emails, and fraudulent websites. And adding insult to injury, people who have suffered devastating home and property losses are often targeted by crooked contractors, fly-by-night home repair scammers, and identity thieves. That’s not all: in the months after a disaster, thousands of flood-damaged cars make their way to the market duping unwary consumers. (See our prior post: Consumer alert: don’t buy a flood-damaged car.)
Below, we’re including an excerpt from our EAP’s blog that offers useful links on common post-disaster charity and home repair scams. (For more resources, see their Hurricane Sandy Recovery Toolkit.
Sadly, there is no shortage of fraudulent opportunists willing to take advantage of people’s generous nature. Be particularly careful of solicitations via phone, email, or social networking sites. The FTC Warns Consumers: Charity and Home Repair Scams May Appear After a Disaster. See the FTC Charity Checklist to get tips on how to avoid scams. You can also check out more a charity in advance through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.
Disaster Recovery Scams – The FTC talks about common disaster recovery scams.
After a Disaster: Repairing Your Home – If your house has been damaged by a natural disaster, you may look for a reputable contractor to help with repair and restoration. Inevitably, the demand for qualified contractors after a disaster usually exceeds the supply. Enter the home repair rip-off artist, who may overcharge, perform shoddy work or skip town without finishing your job. This guide from the Federal Trade Commission the Federal Emergency Management Agency offers tips for consumers who may be facing major repairs after a disaster.
Disaster Fraud – The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud discusses post-disaster contractors and adjusters fraud.
Report Fraud: The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.