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Pop Culture

Prefer to buy gift cards as Christmas presents? You should be aware of this holiday scam.

Every year, millions of Americans fall victim to gift card Grinches. Here's how to avoid being holiday hoodwinked.

gift card scam, gift card scam awareness, gift card fro christmas, discounted gift cards
Canva

Watch out for gift card grinches this holiday season

Once upon a time, gift cards were seen as lazy, impersonal choices for Christmas presents. But nowadays, mindsets have shifted. In today’s more practically-focused, convenience-driven world, gift cards reign supreme. After all, when finances are tight, a free $20-$100 always offers the bonus gift of relief. It’s really no surprise that 29% of celebrators say they would actually prefer to receive gift cards or physical gifts according to Civic Science.


However, there are a few greedy Grinches out there ruining the gift card purchasing experience with multiple styles of scams. This kind of naughty behavior is so prevalent that since 2022, 73 million Americans have become unsuspecting targets

.


Over on TikTok, just type in hashtags like #GiftCardScam and #GiftCardScamAwareness, and you’ll find countless people sharing their own horror stories of being duped over what should have been a stress-free purchase.

One particular method used by scammers, as explained in a PSA below, is stealing cards in bulk, carefully opening the card envelope without damaging it, cutting off the tops of the cards with the vital information on it, then carefully placing the cut up card back into the envelope and resealing it.

The perp then returns the envelopes back to the store, and once an unsuspecting shopper purchases the gift card, they drain it for all its worth.

@quantum.healer PSA | Gift Card Scam Alert Please take note of the gift card scam that is alarming and is increasing this holiday season. #psa #fyp #fypviral #christmas #holidayseason #giftcardscams #bediligent #educationalpurposes #hawaiitiktok #hawaiitiktokers ♬ original sound - Suzy Aledo

To avoid being bamboozled, shoppers are encouraged to feel for the entire card inside the envelope, or ask the store to remove the cards from their envelope at checkout.

Scammers can also might put a fake barcode on top of the card, or simply scratch off the barcode, after they’ve recorded it of course. That’s why it’s vital to check a gift card thoroughly before walking out of the store with it.

Of course, occasionally cashiers are the ones doing the gift card swaps, so it pays to keep a watchful eye.

More often than not though, gift card scams happen over the phone or online. A few examples below:

An imposter calls pretending to be from a well known company or government agency claiming you owe money, and—of course—that the only way to pay them is with gift cards.

This is just a huge NO. Even if whoever is on the other line can somehow whip up personal information (which they procured on the dark web) no actual company would only take payment in the form of gift cards.

@abc7newsbayarea Gift cards are only for gifting! Scammers love using gift cards to steal your money and will try to trick you into buying them. 7 On Your Side’s Scam School has another lesson on what to look out for. #giftcards #giftcardscams #imposter #scam #scam? #scams #scamcalls #fraud #7onyourside #scamschool #abc7scamschool #news #fyp #foryoupage #abc7news ♬ original sound - ABC7 News

“Charity” campaigns on social media seemingly raising fund fora good cause, and accepting gift cards as payment.

Aura.com suggests using sites like CharityNavigator.org ,The Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance andCharityWatch.org to check for any charity’s legitimacy. But if they’re asking for gift cards, it’s a dead giveaway they are not.

Fake websites for checking gift card balance.

This one is particularly sneaky, as almost everyone has the need to check their gift card’s remaining balance at some point. Your safest bet is to call the number on the back of your card to check the balance.

Fake profiles on dating sites that ask for gift cards as romantic gestures—a trip to see you, help with an emergency, etc. etc.

It’s a good general rule of thumb to never send any kid of money to a person you haven’t met. And to be aware of catfishing.

@sandyleenelson #duet with @Lori Fullbright #safetytip #fyp #foryoupage #scam #money #giftcardscams #London #Nigeria #notlove #dontfallforit #lie #liar #widow #onlinedating #Canada ♬ original sound - Lori Fullbright

An “accidental” refund that requires to to pay back in gift cards.

This happened to a woman in Wisconsin June 2022—she received an email from Amazon alerting her to a “fraud” on her account. When she called the phones number listed, the supposed Amazon rep “accidentally” refunded her $10,000 and told her she had to pay it back in gift cards. Sadly she didn’t realize it was a scam until she had lost $11,500.

If a rep “accidentally” sends you a refund, that’s a red flag. And if they suddenly need it to be paid back in gift cards, that red flag turns bright crimson.

One last tip regarding this, from Aura: Avoid installing remote access software, such as AnyDesk or TeamViewer, since these are the tools scammers use to manipulate your screen and make it look like they’ve refunded you too much money.

A random text from a family member in “urgent” need of help.

It’s best to trust your instincts here. If a message doesn’t quite sound like your loved one, it probably isn’t them. But rather someone who hacked their email or phone number.

Fake text messages from a boss or colleague in need of, you guessed it, “urgent” help.

Usually when this happens, the fake boss or colleague will ask that you send photo of the cards with the card number and PIN easily visible. But bottom line:no boss should be asking their employees to purchase gift cards. That’s just weird.

@ktsarna I tried my best… #fakeboss #scammers #scamtext #giftcardscams #boredathome ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys - Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey

Getting a notification that you’ve won a sweepstakes that you never entered, and that you have to pay certain fees with gift cards.

In this case—the “winner” is the loser. Basically, you can’t win sweepstakes you haven’t even entered. So if you get a notification saying otherwise, someone is trying to hoodwink you.

Discounted gift cards being sold on platforms like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.

Look, it’s no surprise that these online selling sites are pretty much the Wild Wild West. And when you’re in a lawless territories with very little projections, a good rule of thumb to live by is : if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

In this scenario, a three-way call to an automated line will be initiated between you, the seller and the marchant to “prove” the balance is on the card. But as you type in the card number and PIN, the scammers are able to reverse engineer that information using the key tones. Crazy, right?

There are, however, legitimate discounted gift card selling sites like CardCash or ClipKard if you’re looking to save, without being scammed.

No one deserves to have their holiday season ruined by a Scrooge. Hopefully this information helps make your Christmas shopping a little safer.

Ileah Parker (left) and Alexis Vandecoevering (right)

True

At 16, Alexis Vandecoevering already knew she wanted to work in the fire department. Having started out as a Junior Firefighter and spending her time on calls as a volunteer with the rest of her family, she’s set herself up for a successful career as either a firefighter or EMT from a young age.

Ileah Parker also leaned into her career interests at an early age. By 16, she had completed an internship with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, learning about Information Technology, Physical Therapy, Engineering, and Human Resources in healthcare, which allowed her to explore potential future pathways. She’s also a member of Eryn PiNK, an empowerment and mentoring program for black girls and young women.

While these commitments might sound like a lot for a teenager, it all comes down to school/life balance. This wouldn’t be possible for Alexis or Ileah without attending Pearson’s Connections Academy, a tuition-free online public school available in 31 states across the U.S., that not only helps students get ready for college but dive straight into college coursework and get a head start on career training as well.

“Connections Academy allowed me extensive flexibility, encouraged growth in all aspects of my life, whether academic, interpersonal, or financial, and let me explore options for my future career, schooling, and extracurricular endeavors,” said Ileah.

A recent survey by Connections Academy of over 1,000 students in grades 8-12 and over 1,000 parents or guardians across the U.S., highlights the importance of school/life balance when it comes to leading a fulfilling and successful life. The results show that students’ perception of their school/life balance has a significant impact on their time to consider career paths, with 76% of those with excellent or good school/life balance indicating they know what career path they are most interested in pursuing versus only 62% of those who have a fair to very poor school/life balance.

Additionally, students who report having a good or excellent school/life balance are more likely than their peers to report having a grade point average in the A-range (57% vs 35% of students with fair to very poor balance).

At Connections Academy, teens get guidance navigating post-secondary pathways, putting them in the best possible position for college and their careers. Connections Academy’s College and Career Readiness offering for middle and high school students connects them with employers, internships and clubs in Healthcare, IT, and Business.


“At Connections Academy, we are big proponents of encouraging students to think outside of the curriculum” added Dr. Lorna Bryant, Senior Director of Career Solutions in Pearson’s Virtual Learning division. “While academics are still very important, bringing in more career and college exposure opportunities to students during middle and high school can absolutely contribute to a more well-rounded school/life balance and help jumpstart that career search process.”

High school students can lean into career readiness curriculum by taking courses that meet their required high school credits, while also working toward micro-credentials through Coursera, and getting college credit applicable toward 150 bachelor’s degree programs in the U.S.

Alexis Vandecoevering in her firefighter uniform

Alexis, a Class of 2024 graduate, and Ileah, set to start her senior year with Connections Academy, are on track to land careers they’re passionate about, which is a key driver behind career decisions amongst students today.

Of the students surveyed who know what career field they want to pursue, passion and genuine interest is the most commonly given reasoning for both male and female students (54% and 66%, respectively).

Parents can support their kids with proper school/life balance by sharing helpful resources relating to their career interests. According to the survey, 48% of students want their parents to help them find jobs and 43% want their parents to share resources like reading materials relating to their chosen field.

While teens today have more challenges than ever to navigate, including an ever-changing job market, maintaining school/life balance and being given opportunities to explore career paths at an early age are sure to help them succeed.

Learn more about Connections Academy’s expanded College and Career Readiness offering here.

Pop Culture

Here’s a paycheck for a McDonald’s worker. And here's my jaw dropping to the floor.

So we've all heard the numbers, but what does that mean in reality? Here's one year's wages — yes, *full-time* wages. Woo.

Making a little over 10,000 for a yearly salary.


I've written tons of things about minimum wage, backed up by fact-checkers and economists and scholarly studies. All of them point to raising the minimum wage as a solution to lifting people out of poverty and getting folks off of public assistance. It's slowly happening, and there's much more to be done.

But when it comes right down to it, where the rubber meets the road is what it means for everyday workers who have to live with those wages. I honestly don't know how they do it.


Ask yourself: Could I live on this small of a full-time paycheck? I know what my answer is.

(And note that the minimum wage in many parts of the county is STILL $7.25, so it would be even less than this).

paychecks, McDonalds, corporate power, broken system

One year of work at McDonalds grossed this worker $13,811.18.

assets.rebelmouse.io

This story was written by Brandon Weber and was originally appeared on 02.26.15

Sponsored

3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

Joy

Family posts a very chill note to neighbors explaining why their dog is on the roof

“We appreciate your concern but please do not knock on our door.."

via Reddit

Meet Huckleberry the dog.

If you were taking a stroll through a quiet neighborhood and happened to catch a glance of this majestic sight, you might bat an eye. You might do a double take. If you were (somewhat understandably) concerned about this surprising roof-dog's welfare, you might even approach the homeowners to tell them, "Uh, I'm not sure if you know...but there's a...dog...on your ROOF."

Well, the family inside is aware that there's often a dog on their roof. It's their pet Golden, Huckleberry, and he just sorta likes it up there.


To put passersby at ease and ebb the parade of concerned parties knocking on their door, Huckleberry's human put up a note explaining the whole weird scenario to those interested:

pet tricks, Reddit, animals, #hucktheroofdog

There’s a dog on the wooof!

via Reddit

It reads:

"Huckleberry is living up to his name and learned how to jump onto our roof from the backyard. We never leave him in the backyard without someone being at home. He will not jump off unless you entice him with food or a ball!""

We appreciate your concern but please do not knock on our door... we know he's up there! But please feel free to take pictures of him and share with the world! #hucktheroofdog."

Of course, they ended it with a hashtag for photos shared on social media. Also, it seems a little strange that the owners mention that Huck is willing to jump 10 feet off a roof to chase food or a ball, but do nothing to suggest that people refrain from urging their dog to make that (seemingly dangerous) leap. Maybe Huck's got the whole process down to the point it's just not a concern.

This may seem like a pretty odd phenomenon, but not so odd that there isn't a whole corner of Reddit devoted to dogs who just seem to really, really enjoy roofs. It's called r/dogsonroofs, and boy does it ever deliver on that name.


This article originally appeared on 12.05.18

Democracy

This Map Reveals The True Value Of $100 In Each State

Your purchasing power can swing by 30% from state to state.

Image by Tax Foundation.

Map represents the value of 100 dollars.


As the cost of living in large cities continues to rise, more and more people are realizing that the value of a dollar in the United States is a very relative concept. For decades, cost of living indices have sought to address and benchmark the inconsistencies in what money will buy, but they are often so specific as to prevent a holistic picture or the ability to "browse" the data based on geographic location.

The Tax Foundation addressed many of these shortcomings using the most recent (2015) Bureau of Economic Analysis data to provide a familiar map of the United States overlaid with the relative value of what $100 is "worth" in each state. Granted, going state-by-state still introduces a fair amount of "smoothing" into the process — $100 will go farther in Los Angeles than in Fresno, for instance — but it does provide insight into where the value lies.


The map may not subvert one's intuitive assumptions, but it nonetheless quantities and presents the cost of living by geography in a brilliantly simple way. For instance, if you're looking for a beach lifestyle but don't want to pay California prices, try Florida, which is about as close to "average" — in terms of purchasing power, anyway — as any state in the Union. If you happen to find yourself in a "Brewster's Millions"-type situation, head to Hawaii, D.C., or New York. You'll burn through your money in no time.

income, money, economics, national average

The Relative Value of $100 in a state.

Image by Tax Foundation.

If you're quite fond of your cash and would prefer to keep it, get to Mississippi, which boasts a 16.1% premium on your cash from the national average.

The Tax Foundation notes that if you're using this map for a practical purpose, bear in mind that incomes also tend to rise in similar fashion, so one could safely assume that wages in these states are roughly inverse to the purchasing power $100 represents.


This article originally appeared on 08.17.17

Pop Culture

Listen to this organ in Croatia that uses the sea to make hauntingly beautiful music

It's a 230-foot-long organ that turns the rhythm of the waves into actual music.


In 2005, a Croatian architect designed a 230-foot-long organ that turns the rhythm of the waves into actual music.

Nope, not nonsensical bellows or chaotic tones. Real, actual, music.


Most of us have never seen, or heard, anything like it.

Imagine walking along the picturesque Adriatic Sea, treading lightly on a set of white stone steps as a cool breeze rolls past.

Carved into the steps are narrow channels that connect to 35 organ pipes, each tuned to different meticulously arranged musical chords.

As the waves lap against the steps, they push air through the pipes and out whistle-holes in the surface above, making a harmonious and completely random musical arrangement.

But you don't see what's happening below the surface. You close your eyes and all you hear is a song like you've never heard before, one completely unique to the movement of the sea at that exact moment.

Take a listen: Here's what it sounded like at one particular moment, on one particular day. On any other day, it might sound completely different.

(Hit the orange button to hear it.)

Pretty amazing, right?

The Sea Organ, or the Morske Orgulje, is an incredible feat of architecture designed to bring life back to one of the world's oldest cities.

Photo by Lisa/Flickr

assets.rebelmouse.io

Zadar, a 3,000-year-old city on the coast of Croatia, was almost completely destroyed in World War II –– so many of its ancient landmarks lost forever. Years after a rebuilding that featured lots of plain, concrete structures, award-winning architect Nikola Bašić was brought in to bring some delight back to the coastline.

That's when he came up with the idea.

No doubt he was inspired by the hydraulis — a nifty little instrument built by the ancient Greeks that used water to push air through tuned pipes — or even the Wave Organ in San Francisco — a set of curved tubes built in the 1980s that amplify the gurgles and howls of the Pacific Ocean.

But the intricate design of the Sea Organ is what sets it apart and makes it truly something to marvel at.


This article originally appeared on 11.06.15

Pop Culture

A comic about wearing makeup goes from truthful to weird in 4 panels.

A hilariously truthful (and slightly weird) explanation of the "too much makeup" conundrum.

Image set by iri-draws/Tumblr, used with permission.

A comic shows the evolution or devolution from with makeup to without.

Even though I don't wear very much makeup, every few days or so SOMEONE...

(friends, family, internet strangers)

...will weigh in on why I "don't need makeup."


Now, I realize this is meant as a compliment, but this comic offers a hilariously truthful (and slightly weird) explanation of the "too much makeup" conundrum.

social norms, social pressure, friendship, self esteem

“Why do you wear so much makeup?"

Image set by iri-draws/Tumblr, used with permission.

passive aggressive, ego, confidence, beauty

“See, you look pretty without all that makeup on."

Image set by iri-draws/Tumblr, used with permission.

expectations, beauty products, mascara, lipstick

“Wow you look tired, are you sick?"

Image set by iri-draws/Tumblr, used with permission.

lizards, face-painting, hobbies, hilarious comic

When I shed my human skin...

Image set by iri-draws/Tumblr, used with permission.

Not everyone is able to turn into a badass lizard when someone asks about their face-painting hobbies. Don't you kinda wish you could? Just to drive this hilarious comic all the way home, here are four reasons why some women* wear makeup:

*Important side note: Anyone can wear makeup. Not just women. True story.

Four reasons some women* wear makeup:

1. Her cat-eye game is on point.

mascara, eyes, confidence

Her cat-eye game is on point.

Via makeupproject.

2. She has acne or acne scars.

acne, cover up, scarring, medical health

She has acne or acne scars.

Via Carly Humbert.

3. Pink lipstick.

lipstick, beauty products, basics, self-expression

Yes, pink lipstick.

Via Destiny Godley

4. She likes wearing makeup.

appearance, enhancement, creative expression

Happy to be going out and feeling good.

Happy Going Out GIF by Much.

While some people may think putting on makeup is a chore, it can be really fun! For some, makeup is an outlet for creativity and self-expression. For others, it's just a way to feel good about themselves and/or enhance their favorite features.

That's why it feels kinda icky when someone says something along the lines of "You don't need so much makeup!" Now, it's arguable that no one "needs" makeup, but everyone deserves to feel good about the way they look.

For some people, feeling good about their appearance includes wearing makeup. And that's totally OK.


This article originally appeared on 05.28.15