With Black Friday in the rear view window, it’s time to focus on Cyber Monday, a holiday first mentioned in a NRF press release in 2005. At that time, the organization noted that the sharp increase in web traffic after the Thanksgiving weekend occurred because “consumers may have faster or more secure Internet connections at work and choose to shop there.” Despite having faster connections eleven years later, consumers are still lured by Cyber Monday deals. Shoppers spent $3.19 billion last year on the day and that number is expected to rise this year - according to Adobe Digital Insights, it is expected to be the largest online shopping day in history.
If you are planning to click away, here are Network World’s 12 Tips for Safer Shopping:
- Only download or buy apps from legitimate app stores.
- Suspect apps that ask for too many permissions.
- Check out the reputation of apps and particularly the app publisher.
- Only enter credit card info on secure shopping portals.
- Avoid using simple passwords, and use two-factor authentication if you can.
- Be alert for poisoned search results when using search engines to find products.
- Don’t install software that sites require before you can shop.
- Don’t use free pubic Wi-Fi to make purchases.
- Be suspicious of great deals you learn about via social media or from email addresses you don’t recognize.
- Turn off location services while shopping to minimize the potential personal data that could be compromised.
- Make sure the connection to e-commerce sites is secured (HTTPS).
- Double check the validity of the SSL certificate for the site.
In addition to Cyber Monday, the holiday weekend now extends to Giving Tuesday. Last year, over 700,000 people raised $116 million in over 70 countries and expectations are for even larger numbers this year, because post-election charitable giving has already spiked dramatically. Even before the election, Americans were known for their generosity. The U.S. is the world’s second most generous nation in the world (after Myanmar), according to the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF).
Americans gave $373.25 billion in 2015 and with changes to the tax code likely to occur next year, there could be a surge in giving before the end of 2016. Financial planners and tax preparers are urging clients to step up their charitable giving this year, because deductions are likely to be less valuable or potentially go away, in the coming years.
As you rush to complete your donations, you should be aware that earlier this year, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said “Fake charities set up by scam artists to steal your money or personal information are a recurring problem.”
To help avoid a costly mistake, here is a four-step checklist for your charitable giving.
Step 1: Confirm that the Charity is Legitimate. One of the simplest scams perpetuated by fraudsters involves using a name that seems familiar to a nationally known organization. To help taxpayers conduct research on organizations, the IRS has established an online search tool, Exempt Organizations Select Check , which allows users to search for and select an exempt organization and check certain information about its federal tax status and filings.
Remember, there’s a big difference between “tax exempt” and “tax deductible.” Tax-exempt means the organization doesn’t have to pay taxes. Tax deductible means you can deduct your contribution on your federal income tax return. Select Check allows you to find legitimate, qualified charities to which donations may be tax-deductible. Legitimate charities will provide their Employer Identification Numbers (EIN), if requested, which can be used to verify their legitimacy through EO Select Check. The IRS notes that it “is advisable to double check using a charity's EIN.”
Step 2: Research Charity’s Financial Health. Once you have confirmed that the group is legitimate, you can also see what others say about the organization by going to the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Watch and GuideStar. You will also want to know that its finances are healthy and that it is efficient, ethical and effective. Charity Navigator provides 0 to 4-star rating system, which includes a review of each charity’s fiscal performance. The site also helps you understand what portion of your donation goes to support overhead, versus goes to the cause itself.
Step 3: Determine how you will donate to the charity. You should NEVER send cash donations or wire money to someone claiming to be a charity. And do no not provide any personal or financial information until you’ve thoroughly researched the charity. If you are making a gift of appreciated securities from a taxable investment account, you will need to get information about how to send the assets-be sure to confirm all receiving account numbers.
If you are planning to send a check, your payments must be postmarked by midnight December 31st -- just writing “December 31st” on the check does not automatically qualify you for a deduction; and pledges aren’t deductible until paid. Donations made with a credit card are deductible as of the date the account is charged, so if you are a little late in the process, you probably should stick to credit cards.
Step 4: Keep Good Records. For any cash or property valued at $250 or more, you must have a receipt (bank record, payroll deduction or written communication) identifying the organization, the date and amount of the contribution and a description of the property. For text message donations, flag the telephone bill with the name of the receiving organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount given.
MARKETS: In a holiday-shortened week, all four US stock indexes closed at new record highs and saw their third consecutive week of gains.
- DJIA: 19,152, up 1.5% on week, up 9.9% YTD
- S&P 500: 2213, up 1.4% on week, up 8.3% YTD
- NASDAQ: 5398, up 1.5% on week, up 7.8% YTD
- Russell 2000: 1347, up 2.4% on week, up 18.6% YTD (15-day winning streak)
- 10-Year Treasury yield: 2.36% (from 2.34% week ago, highest since July 2015)
- British Pound/USD: 1.2477 (from 1.2356 week ago)
- January Crude: $46.06, down 0.6% on week
- February Gold: $1,186.10, down 2.5% on week, 9-month low
- AAA Nat'l avg. for gallon of reg. gas: $2.12 (from $2.15 wk ago, $2.05 a year ago)
THE WEEK AHEAD: The Labor Department will release the final employment report before the Federal Reserve’s December 13-14 policy meeting. Barring a very strange reading (the consensus estimate for job creation in November is 170,000 and the unemployment rate should remain at 4.9 percent) or a sudden, exogenous event, a quart-point rate increase is assumed to be a done deal.
8:30 Chicago Fed National Activity Index
8:30 Q3 GDP-2nd Estimate
9:00 US/S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices
10:00 Consumer Confidence Index
OPEC Meeting in Vienna
8:15 ADP Private Payrolls Report
8:30 Personal Income and Spending
9:45 Chicago PMI
10:00 Pending Home Sales
2:00 Fed Beige Book
Motor Vehicle Sales
9:45 PMI Manufacturing Index
10:00 ISM Manufacturing
10:00 Construction Spending
8:30 November Jobs Report