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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

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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.

Pop Culture

SNL sketch about George Washington's dream for America hailed an 'instant classic'

"People will be referencing it as one of the all time best SNL skits for years.”

Saturday Night Live/Youtube

Seriously, what were our forefathers thinking with our measuring system?

Ever stop to think how bizarre it is that the United States is one of the only countries to not use the metric system? Or how it uses the word “football” to describe a sport that, unlike fútbol, barely uses the feet at all?

What must our forefathers have been thinking as they were creating this brave new world?

Wonder no further. All this and more is explored in a recent Saturday Night Live sketch that folks are hailing as an “instant classic.”

The hilarious clip takes place during the American Revolution, where George Washington rallies his troops with an impassioned speech about his future hopes for their fledgling country…all the while poking fun at America’s nonsensical measurements and language rules.

Like seriously, liters and milliliters for soda, wine and alcohol but gallons, pints, and quarters for milk and paint? And no “u” after “o” in words like “armor” and “color” but “glamour” is okay?

The inherent humor in the scene is only amplified by comedian and host Nate Bargatze’s understated, deadpan delivery of Washington. Bargatze had quite a few hits during his hosting stint—including an opening monologue that acted as a mini comedy set—but this performance takes the cake.

Watch:

All in all, people have been applauding the sketch, noting that it harkened back to what “SNL” does best, having fun with the simple things.

Here’s what folks are saying:

“This skit is an instant classic. I think people will be referencing it as one of the all time best SNL skits for years.”

“Dear SNL, whoever wrote this sketch, PLEASE let them write many many MANY more!”

“Instantly one of my favorite SNL sketches of all time!!!”

“I’m not lying when I say I have watched this sketch about 10 times and laughed just as hard every time.”

“This may be my favorite sketch ever. This is absolutely brilliant.”


There’s more where that came from. Catch even more of Bargatze’s “SNL” episode here.


This article originally appeared on 10.30.23

Photo from Pixaba7

Having the courage to report to the police when things appear off.

When you see or hear an Amber Alert, what do you usually do?

Sometimes it's the middle of the night, and the buzz of your cell phone stirs you out of a deep sleep before you can silence it. Other times, the alert interrupts your favorite song on the radio. Maybe you wait patiently for it to end. Maybe you change the station.


After all, who hasn't wondered, "What are the odds?"

Sure, the alerts are heartbreaking, but what are the odds you'll bump into the missing kid? What are the odds you'll see the getaway car? What are the odds you'll be able to do anything about it? Turns out, better than you think.

Here are five stories of people who suddenly found themselves face to face with a kidnapped child ... and rose to the occasion.

High intensity situations require calm nerves and quick thinking. Kudos to these people for noticing the Amber Alerts at the right time and, in some cases, for having the courage to act right then and there.

1) 2-year-old Ronnie Tran was found when his baby sitter, John Tuong, saw an Amber Alert ... for Ronnie.

John Tuong had no idea he was baby-sitting a missing kid.

Ronnie was kidnapped by his 65-year-old maternal grandmother, who, along with an accomplice, had attacked and restrained his mother. She left Ronnie with a family friend, John Tuong, who merely thought he was baby-sitting his sister's boyfriend's son.

Tuong saw an Amber Alert on his phone the next morning and realized the kid in the alert was actually asleep in the next room. John called the police immediately and Ronnie made it home safe.

2) 6-year-old Kloe was taken from her bed on February 21, 2015. Thanks to a gas station employee, she was back home on February 22.

Kloe was abducted in the middle of the night by a family friend. After she was reported missing, an Amber Alert went out, which, luckily, was seen by a clerk at a local gas station. The clerk recognized Kloe from the alert and tipped off police that he had seen the girl, the man who had taken her, and the van he was driving.

The clerk's account helped police narrow their search, and Carlin was eventually stopped on the interstate by a trooper, some 300 miles from Kloe's home, and taken into custody.

Kloe made it home to her family safe and sound the next day.

3) Leah and Jordan's kidnappers' RV broke down. The cops that pulled over to help had just seen the Amber Alert.

Amber Alerts aren't just for bystanders, they're for law enforcement too.

After 3-year-old Leah and 4-year-old Jordan were taken by relatives of their mother, the kidnapper's RV broke down on the side of the highway. Two deputies stopped by the vehicle to try to help them get back on the road. Luckily, the deputies had seen the Amber Alert and recognized the kids inside the vehicle.

Both made it back home safely the next day, but who knows what might have happened had the RV not broken down or if the cops weren't on the lookout for the missing kids.

4) A stranger stole a car with 3-year-old Bella inside. Later, a quick-thinking bystander physically pulled her to safety.

Leslie and Bella pose inside her bakery, Mini Cupcakes. Photo courtesy of Leslie Fiet, used with permission.

A strange woman asked to bum a cigarette from Bella's father as he walked into the 7-Eleven convenience store. He gave it to her. Then, the woman jumped in the car, with Bella still inside, and drove off.

Later on, the owner of a local cupcake bakery, Leslie Fiet, spotted the car after seeing the Amber Alert and she heroically pulled Bella from the backseat.

"My initial thought was to call 911 (when I discovered the car) but then I looked closer and saw Bella was in a tremendous amount of stress, hyperventilating and crying," Fiet told ABC News. "I just dropped my phone and ran out the door."

She locked Bella, and herself, inside the bakery until Bella's parents and police could arrive.

5) A pizza shop employee on her break spotted 7-year-old Nicolas and followed his kidnapper until police could arrive.

Courtney was brave to follow the kidnapper; and it paid off. Photo courtesy of KRIS TV.

Courtney Best, who was working at a small pizza shop in Corpus Christi, Texas, saw an Amber Alert on her phone while on her smoke break. She looked up and just happened to see the vehicle in question, a white Dodge Avenger, sitting in the parking lot in front of her with a child inside.

She followed the car, while on the phone with police, as it drove away.

"Cause, what are the odds? What are the odds of me looking at my phone?" Courtney told KrisTV. "And I usually don't even look at Amber Alerts, as bad as that sounds. I look at them and I don't really pay attention."

Thanks to her quick thinking, the police were able to recover Nicolas and return him safely to his family.

According to Robert Hoever of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, about 95% of Amber Alerts are resolved within 72 hours.

Robert, who is Director of Special Programs at the NCEMC, told Upworthy, "You can definitely see a huge change in how fast children are recovered today. The technology out there today helps."

In addition to wireless alerts, his organization also partners to issue alerts via Internet service providers, search engines, Internet ad exchanges, and even digital billboards.

And, Robert adds, if you ever find yourself in a situation like this, with any sort of information about a missing child, call 911 before you do anything. Emergency personnel will be able to help you navigate the situation.

We see a lot of Amber Alerts go viral, which is great, but we don't often get to see the happy endings.

Sadly, not every Amber Alert ends with a reunion. But the more we share these alerts with our networks, the more people they reach and the more likely they are to be seen by the right people.

In the meantime, it's comforting to know that most of these kids eventually make it home safely.


This article originally appeared on 08.10.15

A woman is shocked to learn that her name means something totally different in Australia.

Devyn Hales, 22, from California, recently moved to Sydney, Australia, on a one-year working visa and quickly learned that her name wouldn’t work Down Under. It all started when a group of men made fun of her on St. Patrick’s Day.

After she introduced herself as Devyn, the men laughed at her. "They burst out laughing, and when I asked them why, they told me devon is processed lunch meat,” she told The Daily Mail. It's similar to baloney, so I introduce myself as Dev now,” she said in a viral TikTok video with over 1.7 million views.

For those who have never been to Australia, Devon is a processed meat product usually cut into slices and served on sandwiches. It is usually made up of pork, basic spices and a binder. Devon is affordable because people buy it in bulk and it’s often fed to children. Australians also enjoy eating it fried, like spam. It is also known by other names such as fritz, circle meat, Berlina and polony, depending on where one lives on the continent. It's like in America, where people refer to cola as pop, soda, or Coke, depending on where they live in the country.


So, one can easily see why a young woman wouldn’t want to refer to herself as a processed meat product that can be likened to boloney or spam. "Wow, love that for us," another woman named Devyn wrote in the comments. “Tell me the name thing isn't true,” a woman called Devon added.

@dhalesss

#fypシ #australia #americaninaustralia #sydney #aussie

Besides changing her name, Dev shared some other differences between living in Australia and her home country.

“So everyone wears slides. I feel like I'm the only one with 'thongs'—flip-flops—that have the little thing in the middle of your big toe. Everyone wears slides,” she said. Everyone wears shorts that go down to your knees and that's a big thing here.”

Dev also noted that there are a lot of guys in Australia named Lachlan, Felix and Jack.

She was also thrown off by the sound of the plentiful magpies in Australia. According to Dev, they sound a lot like crying children with throat infections. “The birds threw me off,” she said before making an impression that many people in the comments thought was close to perfect. "The birds is so spot on," Jess wrote. "The birds, I will truly never get used to it," Marissa added.

One issue that many Americans face when moving to Australia is that it is more expensive than the United States. However, many Americans who move to Australia love the work-life balance. Brooke Laven, a brand strategist in the fitness industry who moved there from the U.S., says that Aussies have the “perfect work-life balance” and that they are “hard-working” but “know where to draw the line.”

Despite the initial cultural shocks, Devyn is embracing her new life in Australia with a positive outlook. “The coffee is a lot better in Australia, too,” she added with a smile, inspiring others to see the bright side of cultural differences.

Science

A study reveals the cheapest time to buy airfare

The average flyer misses the best deal by 15 days.

Taking a trip on the airline.

Everyone seems to have a theory on the best time to purchase airfare to save the most money. Some say it's right before take-off. Others will swear that prices are lowest six months before the flight. Well, now we have the truth. A scientific study was conducted by Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Commission that found the best times to buy flight tickets to get the best deal possible.

When we actually buy...


DOMESTIC: 32 DAYS IN ADVANCE

INTERNATIONAL: 59 DAYS IN ADVANCE

When we should buy...

cheap deals, Expedia, ticket prices, domestic flights

Get your boarding pass ready.

Photo from Pixabay.

DOMESTIC: 57 DAYS IN ADVANCE

The ideal advance-purchase time for domestic flight to snag the lowest average airfare is 57 with prices climbing most rapidly in the 20 days leading up to the flight. On a flight that averages $496, it will cost $401 57 days before the flight and around $650 the day of departure.

INTERNATIONAL: 171 DAYS IN ADVANCE
For a ticket that averages $1,368, the lowest average of $1,004 happens around 171 days before take-off. On the day of, the price will be around $1875. Ticket prices begin to dramatically escalate 75 days leading up to departure.

(H/T Conde Nast Traveler)


This article originally appeared on 10.14.15

John Arthur Greene (left) and his brother Kevin


A childhood game can go very wrong in the blink of an eye.

"You'll never get me!"

“Freeze! Put your hands up."

If you've ever played cops and robbers, you know how the game goes.


John Arthur Greene was 8 and he was playing that game with his older brother Kevin. Only the two brothers played with real guns. Living on a farm, they were both old hands at handling firearms by their ages.

The blast from the gun must have startled them both.

firearms, family, children

John Arthur Greene (left) and his brother Kevin.

Image from "American Idol"/YouTube.

“We were always extremely safe. They were never loaded," John said.

Except this time it was. And John's brother died in his arms while he watched.

It happens more often than you would ever want to imagine.

In federal data from 2007 to 2011, which is likely under-reported, an average of 62 children were accidentally killed by firearms per year.

Here's a chilling example from Everytown for Gun Safety:

"In Asheboro, North Carolina, a 26-year-old mother was cleaning her home when she heard a gunshot. Rushing into the living room, she discovered that her three-year-old son had accidentally shot her boyfriend's three-year-old daughter with a .22-caliber rifle the parents had left in the room, loaded and unlocked."

And the numbers may actually be getting worse.

With an increase in unfettered access to guns and philosophical opposition to gun regulations, the numbers seem to be on the rise. Here's how many accidental shootings happened at the hands of children in 2015 alone, by age:

gun safety, laws, research data on gun deaths

Unintentional Firearm Injuries & Deaths, 2015.

From January 19-26 of 2016 — just one week — at least seven kids were accidentally shot by another kid.

American Idol, guilt and sorrow, accidental shootings

Accidental shootings of kids in one week, January 2016.

If the pace holds up for the rest of the year, America would be looking at over 300 accidental shootings of children, in many cases by children, for the year. That's far too many cases of children either carrying the guilt and pain of having shot a loved one or hurting or killing themselves by accident.

John Arthur Greene has been able to manage his feelings of guilt and sorrow through music and by sharing his story for others to hear.

He told his story during an audition for the final season of "American Idol." He says music has helped him keep his brother's memory alive:

"Right now I lift him up every day and he holds me up. Music is how I coped with everything."

It's a powerful reminder. No matter how we each feel about gun safety laws, guns should always be locked away unloaded and kept separately from ammunition.

Our babies are too precious to leave it to chance.

Watch John Arthur Greene's audition for "American Idol" here:

This article originally appeared on 03.07.16