Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Most people have been looking forward to today for more than a year. Last year, many families were afraid to gather in groups and air transportation was very limited. This year we get at least a sense of normalcy. One change is some of the biggest retailers in the country will be closed today.

Tomorrow, however, is the official start of the Christmas shopping season.

It is important to have a budget and know how much you can afford to spend on gifts. Heading into Black Friday, it is estimated that 1 in 3 shoppers are still paying off last year’s holiday debt. That is a lot of interest! Estimates are that this year’s Christmas purchases will account for $207 billion in spending, and about 17% of that will take place this weekend between Black Friday to Cyber Monday.

Unfortunately, there will be a lot of cyber crimes committed during this holiday season. Almost every week, I receive emails claiming to be from major online retailer such as Amazon telling me there is a problem with my account. Those often come from a Gmail or other email account. Amazon is certainly big enough to have Amazon.com email addresses. If you receive one of these messages, log into your account directly to see if there is a problem. These type of messages come from many different companies; the only thing consistent is the gmail return address.

Sometimes, the message will say that the problem is payment related.

In this case check directly with the bank that has the credit card connected to the questionable account. Everyone gets cellphone calls that their vehicle maintenance agreement is about to expire. I get them multiple times weekly even though I have never had one. I even know people who do not own a car that receive them. This has been going on for so long, I do not understand why the government has not shut them down. These scam callers must get people responding or they would have stopped.

Counterfeit websites are also a problem. Often, they look very real. There may be slight difference in logo, colors or the website may have incorrect spellings.

Beware of sites which are offering the most in-demand Christmas gifts at discount prices. There will be supply shortages this year. In that situation the hottest items usually sell for more. Also keep an eye out for sites that want paid with wire transfers, money orders or gift cards. These types of payments are harder to trace and could be a red flag.

Some scams involve charities. It is estimated that 40% of contributions for the whole year happen in the fourth quarter of the year. Check the rating sites to be sure that the charities you are contributing to have a high percentage of contribution dollars going for the cause. In scam charities, large portions go to those who raise the funds. Why not consider the local Red Kettles? They help people in need right in our local communities.

Many people have been waiting two years to get together with their families.

The pandemic has created a situation that none of us have experienced anytime in our lives. Some grandparents have not seen or held grandchildren during this time. Let’s take time today to celebrate the many things we have to be thankful for, and let the everyday problems we must deal with take a slight pause.

Tomorrow, it is back to the real world. Stay on budget, watch for scams and provide some over sight to the financially vulnerable people in your life. Happy Thanksgiving.

Your Financial Future is written by certified financial planner Gary W. Boatman, MBA and CFP, who also wrote the book, “Your Financial Compass: Safe Passage Through The Turbulent Waters of Taxes, Income Planning and Market Volatility.” If there is an area that you would like to see discussed in the column, send your suggestions to gary@BoatmanWealthManagement.com.

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