There’s no denying it, the holiday shopping season is upon us! Even with Black Friday and Cyber Monday behind us, those of us shopping for the holidays will likely be out looking for sales and deals for the next few weeks. However, don't let the pursuit of the perfect present be a reason to let your guard down when it comes to safe shopping.
Gift cards are always a popular present. After all, who wouldn’t be excited about buying something for themselves that suits their individual wants and needs and can be used at their convenience? (It’s important to note that under North Carolina, gift cards purchased for a specific store or restaurant (not a generic gift card, for example, that can be used for any business in a mall or a Visa/MasterCard gift card) are valid for 4 years. Under federal law, they are valid for 5 years but may be subject to certain fees in the fifth year.) Buyers and recipients should remember to always treat a gift card like cash—if you lose it, it’s not replaceable. And if the store goes out of business, generally there is no recourse if the gift card has not been redeemed.
Although convenient, gift cards are also frequent targets for scammers. Gift card vendors have become better at preventing theft by, for example, requiring PINs or other extra steps before making a purchase, but these tactics are not foolproof. Be especially wary of emails, pop-up ads, or websites offering FREE gift cards. These enticements could be an attempt to steal your personal information, release malware into your computer, or otherwise get you to disclose your financial information (like a credit card number).
Even those racks and racks of gift cards in the grocery stores could be tampered with by thieves. If you do purchase one of these cards, ensure that its outer packaging is completely intact, so that no one could have copied the card number or scratched off the PIN that may appear on the back of the card. Better yet, buy gift cards directly from the company’s website or physical store.
While on the subject of purchasing gifts online, which many shoppers do these days, be sure to directly type the retailer’s web address into your browser. Just conducting a web search for a company that you’re interested in may send you to a fake or look-alike website. Also, when making any purchases online, make sure that the address in the top of your internet browser begins with https and not just http. That extra “s” at the end means that the website has secured your personal information through encryption or some other means.
Remember: Thieves DON’T take a holiday. Happy—and safe—shopping!
North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM (1-877-566-7226) or (919) 716-6000.
Since it's almost Father's Day I was thinking about my Dad. His birthday and Father's Day arrive at the same time this year. He recently celebrated his 80th birthday. I can't believe it's been so many years already. Time surely flies.
When I was little, my dad was always the fun one. He was my hero. When I heard one of his many cars (he was a car buff) pull up in the driveway, I was so excited to see him I would smoosh my face into the window of the door to see him walk up. Every time.
We didn't have much money. Actually we had no money. We were the kids that got clothes from the salvation army before the hipsters thought it was cool. Every now and then, my dad would find some extra money and he would take us for a 5 cent ice cream cone at Thriftys. If we were really lucky, we would get the triple scoop for 15 cents.
My dad has a huge soft-spot for stray animals. He would bring home so many animals our backyard turned into a genuine petting-zoo. We actually sold tickets to the neighborhood kids! We had an owl for many years that was my absolute favorite.
Along with this soft-spot for stray animals, my dad had an even bigger sense of duty to help those in need, especially when it came to people in our church. My dad was gone at work or church activities a lot. Oftentimes too much for me. He would come home every night completely worn out and fall asleep in his chair. I'm not going to lie, as a child I was very resentful when my dad was too tired to play with me but would get his tie and shirt on and go over and help someone in need without grumbling. Now as an adult, I understand that what he did took a lot of effort and strength. I know he missed us too. He was following what he thought was right. His duty has always been to help anyone or anything in need.
On church Sunday, I was always the first one in the car after my dad. While waiting for the rest of my family to join us, I had my dad all to myself. These moments made me so happy because he was proud of how I was always on-time, like him. One of the coolest things about church was that my dad would draw us little pictures during the very lengthy and dry church services to keep us entertained. I thought he was the best artist in the world. All of us kids would fight to see who got to sit on either side of him.
In high school, Saturday night was my big night. If I wasn't sneaking out to a punk concert, I was at our church dances. I had a curfew and had to be back "no later than 11:30pm", which worked out perfectly because that is when Saturday Night Live came on. After we would come back from the dance, my dad was always fast asleep. I of course always woke him up so that we could watch SNL together, and he never complained. In fact, he would go watch my favorite character, Mr. Bill, with me and my friends and we would all laugh and laugh. It was the best.
Aside from my dad being quite the doodler, he was also quite the letter writer. He would write me novel-sized letters every time I disappointed him (I still have them all) that always ended in “I love you daughter”. As you can imagine, I have quite the stack of letters! By the way, I love you too dad. ♥
One of our biggest points of contention was that I was quite the little punk rocker in my day. My classical music loving dad was no fan of my loud, rebellious, punk music. To this day, I'm still trying to convince him otherwise. I think it's working. The last time I saw my dad, I heard him humming along to the Ramones while we were in the grocery store. Don't pretend it didn't happen dad!
As I talk about my dad, I think it's important to mention that I was adopted at the age of 3. During my 20's I decided to go and find my birth father. I found him. When I met him, I was shocked by how similar we were. He looked and spoke like me. It was super cool. I came to find out that he didn’t even know I had been put up for adoption (his signature was forged). He did know of me though. He bought a crib when he heard I was going to be born. He was 17 years old and a California surfer dude when my birth mother got pregnant. So young. We had some great conversations and visits, but to be honest, he just wasn’t my "dad". He was a nice guy who just happened to be my birth father.
We stayed in touch off and on for years, but after a period of no contact, I was told that he had died from liver cancer. I’m glad to have met him. Really. This experience has given me the perspective to appreciate all the life, time and energy the man who actually raised me gave me.
I have never for a moment questioned by dad's love for me. Even as an adopted child, he made me feel special, like he was lucky to have me. As the years have passed, my dad has always been there for me. When I call my dad, I always know I'm going to hear his heartfelt laughter and learn from his wisdom. The best piece of advice my dad has ever given me, "You can't walk into a smoke-filled room without coming out smelling like smoke." I didn't even smoke so I had no idea what he was talking about. Now I know better. I pass this dad-wisdom onto you. Use it wisely. :)
While we may differ in our tastes in music, we are the same with our sense of humor, love of Thrifty chocolate chip ice cream and being quite the sticklers when it comes to being on time.
You know, after all of this talk about my dad. I need to go visit him. It's been too long!
Finally, I wanted to wish my dad a happy father's day and birthday.
Happy Father's Day and Happy Birthday, dad. You deserve it.
Love, your daughter,
PS. The last time I went to visit my dad, he was wearing this button I gave him many years ago. I had no idea he still had it. My dad is truly awesome.
Hi 👋 My name is Laurie and I am a Social Media Marketing Manager based in New Bern, NC. I am married to the man of my dreams, a mom and in love with my adorable grandson, Noah. I love checking out new local restaurants, festivals and events while searching for great places to host monthly Girls Night Out. You can usually find me checking out all things live music, the best hospitality in town and working on my campaign to bring Bonefish Grill to New Bern-it's going to happen!!