Archive December 2015

Prevent Identity Theft

Tis the season for holiday shopping, but it’s also the season for holiday thievery. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) in San Diego, Calif., estimates that 15 million people are victims of identity theft every year. The not-for-profit group reports that it gets more calls about lost and stolen wallets and purses during the holiday season than at any other time of the year. To make sure identity theft does not spoil your holidays, the ITRC has several tips for safeguarding your personal data.

1) Never share your social security or credit card numbers in a public environment. Instead of verbally sharing requested sensitive information, write it down for the clerk, then take the slip of paper home with you. Also: when talking on your cell phone in public, don’t give out any personal information that could be overheard.

2) Keep store receipts in your wallet, not inside the bag with your purchase.

3) Carry only what you need when shopping, and keep purses, backpacks 
and bags zipped or fastened shut to deter pickpockets.

4) Use debit cards judiciously or leave them at home — they are a direct 
link to your bank account. By using credit cards instead, you can review the billing statement afterward and dispute any suspected fraudulent activity.

5) When shopping online, print out the Web page describing the item(s) you ordered, as well as any email messages and contact information for the online seller.

6) Do not provide your social security number, birth date or mother’s maiden name in an email or within a website.

7) Make sure the latest anti-virus software is installed on your computer before shopping online.

CRS Your Home Newsletter, December 2013

Curbing the Winter Blahs

While the weather outside might be frightful, your home’s curb appeal can still be delightful. The following ideas from HGTV.com can help make your home stand out even when it’s cold and gray outside.

Clean the gutters. Clogged gutters can cause water damage to your home, create ice dams that can damage gutters and attract pests.

Keep visitors safe. Clear the walkways, driveway and stairs of snow and ice so prospective buyers can make it to your front door without slipping.

Provide proper lighting. As the days get shorter, it gets darker earlier. Lights can illuminate the path to the front door, and sconces or lanterns on each side of the door can give buyers a warm welcome.

Colorize the exterior. Bare trees won’t hide your home’s faded or chipped paint, so five your home a fresh coat. A front door painted in a bright color can make it stand out amidst the gray landscape.

Use winter decorations wisely. Keep holiday decorations to a minimum, and use them to show off your home’s best features. A string of white lights around the windows can make your home look festive.

Bring out the green. Evergreen trees and cold-weather plants, such as pansies and witch hazel, can liven up a dreary landscape.

By following these simple tips, your home can make a great first impression in any season.

CRS Your Home Newsletter, November/December 2015

Don’t Ruin Their Holiday

It’s easy to overlook our furry companions during the rush of seasonal celebrations. The holidays can be disruptive to pets’ routines, so it’s important to keep their eating and exercise habits to a normal schedule, according to the American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The following tips can help keep pets out of harm’s way during the holidays.

Anchor the Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall over, injuring your pet. This will also prevent the tree water, which may contain poisonous fertilizers, from spilling. Also keep wires, batteries and ornaments out of paws’ reach so pets don’t get hurt.

Consider decorating the tree with bows or strands of popcorn, ribbon or garland. Avoid shiny strands of tinsel that can be tantalizing to cats, but also dangerous. One small nibble can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting and dehydration.

Fresh holly and mistletoe might appear harmless, but when ingested, pets can suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Instead, choose colorful, artificial plants made from silk or plastic.

Don’t leave lighted candles unattended. Pets can accidentally burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Place candles in appropriate holders on a stable surface, and extinguish them when exiting the room.

With so much activity going on, give your dog or cat a quiet place to retreat to, complete with fresh water, their favorite toy and snack, and a place to snuggle.

CRS Your Home Newsletter, November/December 2015