A guide to raising good men, by my mom

I can safely declare that I’m not going to end up on any list of media dirtbags. Like most men I know, I have managed to have a professional career and personal relationships free of assault, harassment or even run-of-the-mill jerkiness.

I feel confident in saying that because all the recent news coverage of indefensible — and in many cases criminal — male behavior has caused many men like myself to do some personal, sober mental accounting. A lot of guys I’ve talked to have been auditing their past actions, which is great, although it’s largely for others to judge our behavior as we may have blind spots in the rear-view mirror.

I tie my self-awareness on this front directly to being raised by my strong and supportive single mother.

For nearly 16 years growing up, it was just the two of us. She raised an only son, with no money for vacations and brand-name sneakers, much less paid childcare. In fact, when I was a kid, she worked primarily as a nanny, so she’d be home for me after school when I was young, and that meant she helped raise other kids as well.

I recently asked her whether she consciously thought about raising a good male and whether she had any guiding philosophies or values that informed how she brought me up.

“Yes,” she told me. “I wanted you to be the kind of person other people would like and admire, because I wouldn’t always be around, and you’d need other people to help you. So it was for your safety and also for the world.”

And so, here is my mom’s guide to raising good men.

Promote kindness and empathy

Throughout my childhood, she imparted what it meant to be a gentleman: being attuned to others’ needs and meeting them without being asked. I still think about those discussions. Her guiding virtues included being sensitive, compassionate, empathetic and self-disciplined. And she also wanted to pass on “the best qualities of a spiritual life, if not any particular religion: kindness, being charitable.”

To that end, she prioritized a parochial school education so these values would be reinforced by teachers, as well. It didn’t stop me from getting into trouble, but she was vigilant. I still remember the time she pulled me out of the Christmas choir because she caught me disrupting rehearsal along with other boys, with jokes and general goofing around. Embarrassing to be called out, but lesson learned.

Let them know words matter

My mom also had a zero tolerance policy for derogatory language. I will never forget the day I called her the b-word in a fit of ‘tween rage. I write “b-word” because to this day I have a “Clockwork Orange”-like aversion to the word, due to my mother’s swift, angry and righteous response. “Don’t you ever use that word to describe any woman, ever,” she growled just inches from my face. I never have since.

Build up self-worth

“I also wanted you to feel secure and have a high sense of self-worth,” my mom told me. She often encouraged me to engage with the wider world, even strangers, rather than retreat from it to build up that self-confidence.

She said she sees how I now help cultivate this same sense with my daughters. My wife and I reckon their strong-willed and forthright personalities are strengths that will serve them well their entire lives (especially if they come up against men to whom these kinds of lessons were not imparted).

Emphasize family ties

My mom also felt that part of forming a strong self-identity comes from how we internalize our own family, even one as fractured as mine. She aimed to impart a familial identity handed down from my great-grandmother to her children and grandchildren. Our first-generation Irish matriarch defined her brood as intelligent, solidly built, healthy, handsome, polite, well-mannered, politically engaged and Catholic. She passed these descriptions down in terms of “who we are,” what we represent and how we act.

Give the right feedback for the right age

A common criticism of parenting today is that kids are growing up thinking everything they do is worthy of praise. And while I do remember my mother being endlessly supportive of my creative efforts and ideas when I was little, she made a conscious shift as I got older and prepared to strike out on my own, to assessments that were more constructively critical.

When I was young, no artistic or writing effort was met with anything but praise. But I recall an essay I wrote for a high school contest that she tore down for poor word choice. And later, some life decisions I made about where to move were met with skepticism rather than blind support. My kids are young enough to be in the effort=praise stage, but I may follow her lead as I feel the stakes are raised.

Foster independence

In some ways, being raised by a single mother required that I develop independence. I was a latchkey kid who got myself to and from school at long distances. I had no allowance, so if I wanted money, I found a way to make it, like buying a snow shovel and going door-to-door after a big snow. I had my first (not-so-legal) summer job at age 12 (my idea, not hers).

Stay busy

One of my mother’s most inspiring parenting decisions was finding a youth boxing league for me to join when I was 10. I was getting in trouble for fighting at school, too often using fists instead of words. Boxing taught me some discipline. “You can’t be getting into fights at school now,” my coach, Mr. Hunter, explained, “because now you know how to really hurt someone.” It wasn’t true, but I believed it.

Kids get into trouble when they have too much idle time, my mom told me. This “Music Man” theory of behavior goes beyond just staying out of the pool halls. After-school activities, sports, artistic and literary pursuits and (in my case) paid jobs “help you understand the rules of engagement” in the world, is how she put it.

These virtues and parenting lessons I learned from my mom are not just about raising sons. They apply to daughters, of course. But it seems clear to me that if we raise young boys to be sensitive, empathic, self-disciplined, kind and industrious and to have a high sense of self-worth, we’d have fewer stories of men behaving badly and fewer victims of that bad behavior. That work begins with the boys.

Baby is first to be born in US after uterus transplant, hospital says

A baby born at a Texas hospital is the first in the US to be birthed from a mother who had received a uterus transplant, according to the Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.

The hospital has not revealed many details surrounding the birth, including when the baby boy was born. The patient and her family have also asked for privacy at this time, according to the hospital.

Giuliano Testa, the principal investigator of the uterine transplant clinical trial at the hospital called the birth a “milestone” and “a beautiful moment of love and hope for a mother who had been told she would never be able to carry her own child,” in a statement.

The transplant was carried out as part of a clinical trial to study new infertility treatment options for women who don’t have a functioning uterus. This could be because the women were born without the organ, lost the uterus or has one that no longer functions.

It’s an irreversible condition, called uterine factor infertility, affecting as many as 5% of women worldwide.

The world’s first baby born from a transplanted uterus was born at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden back in 2014. A 36-year-old woman gave birth after receiving a uterus transplant from a 61-year-old, unrelated donor.

Since then, the Swedish hospital has had a total of eight babies born to mothers who’ve received uterine transplants.

The Baylor team had input from the Swedish researchers in its current clinical trial.

Last year, Baylor researchers performed the first living donor uterus transplants in the US in four women. The procedure was unsuccessful for the first three patients, who had the organs removed.

The Cleveland Clinic performed the first uterus transplant in the US in February 2016, but the patient developed complications and the organ was removed.

How a uterus transplant works

A uterus transplant involves several steps, according to Baylor’s website outlining its uterus transplant clinical trial.

The women selected for the study had to be healthy with working ovaries. Before the surgery, a recipient undergoes in-vitro fertilization to retrieve eggs from her ovaries. Her eggs would then be fertilized in the lab with sperm.

After that, she receives a uterus and cervix transplant from the donor.

For a year after the transplant, the medical team checked to see how the recipient’s body reacts to the new organ. If all goes well, an embryo is transferred to the transplanted uterus and then closely monitored until a cesarean delivery.

The transplanted organ is not designed to be permanent, since recipients have to take anti-rejection drugs. After the first or second pregnancy, the donated uterus is to removed.

Young woman uses Instagram to help her lose weight

Twenty-year-old Morgan Bartley always struggled with her weight.

“I was chubby as a kid, but it didn’t become a huge problem until late middle school, early high school,” the Southern California native said.

As a teen, a series of health problems caused Bartley to go from overweight to obese. “When I was 12 years old, I had what’s called an ovarian torsion. That’s basically when the ovary twists on itself. My doctor decided to remove it entirely,” she said.

Two years later, Bartley had surgery to untwist her remaining ovary, which led to menopausal symptoms.

“I was trying to live life as a normal teenager, and I was having hot flashes on the way to class,” she said.

At the time, doctors told her she might never have kids.

“I’ve always wanted to have kids. … I fell even deeper into a depression and really started struggling with a binge-eating disorder.”

Between the ages of 16 and 17, Bartley gained more than 60 pounds.

“I was binge-eating multiple times a day. I would get enough food for three to five normal-size meals, and I would park my car in a deserted parking lot and stuff myself until I was sick,” she recalled.

Bartley was close to 300 pounds at her highest weight.

“I have always been a future-oriented person,” she said. “I remember one day having this overwhelming sense that none of this matters if I don’t take care of my weight first.”

‘Take my body back’

Bartley’s first step was starting a workout program. “It was time to take my body back. Take my life back,” she said.

Jami Klein worked as her personal trainer. “She was shy and a little uncomfortable when she first came in. She didn’t really enjoy fitness and had no idea where to start,” Klein said.

The trainer got Bartley working out for 30 minutes a day, three times a week, to start.

She soon lost enough weight to qualify for a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, which reduced the size of her stomach.

“I was able to use the surgery as a tool to lose weight. But as time went on, I realized it was becoming a lot more about what I was doing, the habits I was forming and the actions I was taking,” Bartley said.

She turned to social media for motivation.

“Probably the No. 1 thing that has kept me accountable has been sharing my weight-loss journey on Instagram,” she said.

At first, Bartley used Instagram to follow other people. But the more she shared, the more encouragement she received.

“I was even sharing non-scale victories. The first time I was able to shop at a normal store, I remember sitting in the dressing room crying because I fit into an extra-large top,” she said.

Now, Bartley is inspiring others, with more than 170,000 followers on her Instagram account, @morganlosing.

“Once people started following me, I really wanted to be a good example of changing for your health and not because you hate yourself.”

Bartley lost 115 pounds, and she’s learned to enjoy the journey.

“More than anything, I just want to be healthy and strong,” she said. “As the journey goes on, the number on the scale becomes a lot less important.”

For someone who used to hate going to the gym, exercise has become an outlet for Bartley.

“She changed tremendously,” said Klein, her personal trainer. “She started to have more fun and feel more comfortable. I started to see her self-confidence emerge.”

Now, Bartley is working toward her personal trainer certification to one day help others.

“Down the line, I could see myself working with people who have massive amounts of weight to lose,” she said.

She also froze her eggs and hopes to start a family one day.

“I feel confident knowing that my body’s not going to be the thing that stands in the way of me and what I want in life.”

Marian House gives new purpose to vacant Catholic school buildings for housing homeless

— Twenty-two newly renovated apartments in the Pen Lucy neighborhood of Baltimore City are ready for its first residents, all of whom were previously homeless, to move in this December.

The former Blessed Sacrament School on Old York Road was purchased by Baltimore non-profit, Marian House in December of 2016 after sitting vacant since 1974. Marian House purchased the school along with the former rectory and convent buildings of the Blessed Sacrament Parish, with plans to embark on its largest capital expansion project in its 35-year history.

The renovated school, now called The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building at Independence Place, will be Marian House’s second housing project utilizing a former Baltimore City Catholic school. The first occurred when the organization purchased the former St. Bernard’s Catholic School, located directly across from its headquarters on Gorsuch Avenue in Better Waverly, and opened the doors to Serenity Place, a 19 unit permanent housing facility in 2007. The purpose and spirit of The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building at Independence Place will emulate Serenity Place and eventually, the former rectory and convent buildings will be renovated to house women with children in need of transitional housing and supportive services.

Of the recent expansion, Marian House Executive Director, Katie Allston LCSW-C, states: “We are thrilled to expand the number of units we manage and the number of people we can help while simultaneously creating a campus in which staff and residents can build community. Supportive communities save lives!”

Since opening its doors to serve more than 35 years ago, Marian House has provided housing and supportive services to over 1,800 women through its transitional and permanent housing programs. The organization has become known as a leading housing organization serving women and children within a structured and holistic, healing community.

In addition to the 22 units, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building at Independence Place will also include community meeting rooms as well as office space for Marian House case management staff. Marian House will hold the building’s grand opening on Wednesday, Dec. 6th from 3:00 to 6:00 pm.

For more information about this project and/or Marian House, please contact Meg Montone, Director of Advancement, at 410-467-4250 or mmontone@marianhouse.org. To attend the Dec. 6th Grand Opening Event, please RSVP to events@marianhouse.org by Thursday, Nov. 29, 2017.

About Marian House

Marian House is a non-profit located in the Better Waverly and now Pen Lucy neighborhoods of Baltimore City that provides high-quality rehabilitative services and housing to women and their children. Founded in 1982 as a joint project of the Sisters of Mercy and the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Marian House was originally created to serve women being released from jail to rebuild their lives with housing and support. Today, key services Marian House provides include transitional and permanent housing, employment assistance, life-skills training, rehabilitation counseling, financial guidance, education, family reunification, and more. www.marianhouse.org.

Principal warns parents about growing trend called ‘Juuling’

A high school principal in Oregon is warning students and families about an e-cigarette that’s now popular with a lot of teens called “Juul.”

The small vaping devices are becoming a big problem all across the country, and at Sunset High School in Beaverton, parents received an email just this week about what’s known as “Juuling.”

Principal John Huelskamp wrote in the email, in part, “Juuls are the newest form of vaping and I believe are targeted directly at teens (especially girls). We are seeing them at an increasing rate here at Sunset and they are simple to convert to marijuana oil (THC).”

He went on to say, “Be it the nicotine intensity or the THC, the threat is real and growing.”

Huelskamp also included a link to a Boston Globe article about Juuling. The article explains how the specific Juul e-cigarette is sleek, tiny, and has been mistaken for a thumb drive.

FOX 12 spoke with some Sunset High School students who said they are aware of Juuling happening on campus.

“I’ve been hearing that people are bringing them to school and that it’s been a pretty big issue in the bathrooms. I don’t know, I feel people are getting really distracted by it,” said Sunset High School student Lauren Filer.

In light of the trend and school officials concerns, those students say they’ve noticed, for example, the entrance doors to the bathrooms used to be closed, but now, they’re usually kept open.

They’ve also seen teachers occasionally standing watch near bathrooms.

“Sometimes you see teachers by the bathrooms, just watching,” said Sunset High School student Jillian Jang. “Because teachers have been outside the bathrooms before and caught kids, and they get sent to the principal’s office.”

Something that makes it challenging for school officials to catch a student using the Juul – it has pods or cartridges with faint, fruity, or sweet flavors.

One student says she first heard others talking about the Juuling trend last year and thinks it became more popular because of social media.

With this weeks email to Sunset High School families, Huelskamp said it was an effort to “make sure all families are aware” of the growing threat that has been “preying on our students.”

Selena Gomez gives tearful speech thanking friend who gave her a kidney

Selena Gomez gave an emotional acceptance speech on Thursday when she received the Billboard “Woman of the Year” award, saying her best friend, who gave her a kidney earlier this year, should be the rightful recipient of the praise.

The singer took to the stage and cried as actress Francia Raisa presented her with the award. Gomez said the award should really be going to Raisa because she “saved my life.”

“I feel incredibly lucky,” Gomez said in her speech. “Honestly, I couldn’t be more grateful for the position I’ve been given in my career from seven to fourteen til now.” She went on to thank her team for helping her through a rough year.

In a Vogue magazine interview published in April, she said she spent 90 days in rehab in 2016. Gomez also revealed in September that had a kidney transplant because of her battle with lupus.

At the time she wrote a message on Instagram to her fans in a caption of a picture of her and Raisa recovering in the hospital: “I found out I needed to get a kidney transplant due to my Lupus and was recovering. It was what I needed to do for my overall health. I honestly look forward to sharing with you, soon my journey through these past several months as I have always wanted to do with you.”

Bowie Baysox ‘12 Days of Christmas’ ticket package includes special fan experiences

— It’s the Holiday season and the Bowie Baysox are celebrating the “12 Days of Christmas” by giving special experiences to fans with a purchase of a Holiday Ticket Pack.

The “12 Days of Christmas” experiences include Baysox General Manager Brian Shallcross coming to your house to do one hour of yard work whether it be raking leaves, mowing the lawn, trimming the hedges or other yard chores. There is also the chance to take batting practice from a Baysox coach, receive an autographed baseball from top prospects such as Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle, an opportunity to take the field with the Baysox starting lineup, the chance to broadcast an inning of a Baysox game on the radio and much, much more!

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to get some behind the scenes experiences for the baseball fans in your family during the 2018 Baysox season!

The “12 Days of Christmas” ticket pack is available at BaysoxShop.com until Tuesday, December 12, 2017 and includes sixteen (16) undated box seat tickets for the 2018 season to use on dates of your choice, a Trey Mancini collectible Garden Gnome and the item listed on the date of your purchase. Each package is just $160. Some restrictions and limitations will apply on each day so be sure to read the information before purchasing.

Other Holiday ticket packages available are the Baysox Home Run Holiday ticket pack and the Holiday Yuletide ticket pack.

The Baysox Home Run Holiday Ticket Pack includes eight undated box seat tickets, the Trey Mancini Holiday Garden Gnome and your choice of a Baysox baseball cap that is available in four colors (Orange, Black & Teal, Black & Red and a Baysox “Rocko” youth adjustable hat). Fans will also have the opportunity to replace the Mancini Gnome with a bobble head collectible of Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman or Zach Britton when placing their order. The Home Run Holiday ticket pack is available for a cost of $99.95.

The Holiday Yuletide Ticket Pack is available for $88 and includes the eight undated box seat tickets and the Mancini collectible gnome. Fans will once again have the opportunity to replace the Mancini Gnome with a bobble head collectible of Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman or Zach Britton when placing their order.

The latter Holiday ticket packs are now available for purchase at www.baysoxshop.com and will be available until Friday, January 5, 2018 or while supplies last. These packages will be available for pickup or shipped on or around Friday, December 15, 2017. Fans who purchase a 2018 Holiday ticket plan will receive all of the benefits of a Baysox season ticket holder including an invitation to take batting practice on the field during the June 2018 Season Ticket Holder Picnic, receive a special Season Ticket Holder gift when they attend their first game of the 2018 season and will be offered discounts on special Baysox events during the season.

For more information about the Baysox holiday ticket packages, fans may call the Baysox front office at 301- 464-4880 or visit: www.baysox.com.

Baltimore native stationed in Guam continues 75 years of Seabee tradition

“We Build, We Fight” has been the motto of the U. S. Navy’s Construction Force, known as the “Seabees,” for the past 75 years.

Today, Baltimore native and 2013 Baltimore Polytechnic Institute graduate, Constructionman Fubara Gombajiji, builds and fights with the Navy in Guam and around the world as a member of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, based out of Gulfport, Mississippi.

“I haven’t been in Guam that long, but I really look forward to going out in town and experiencing the culture and enjoying the beaches,” said Gombajiji.

Gombajiji works as a utilitiesman who is responsible for Hvac and plumbing maintenance and installation.

“Growing up in church, I was a pathfinder,” said Gombajiji. “It is kind of similar to a boy scout, but the lessons I learned as a pathfinder I’ve carried into being in the Navy. “

The jobs of some of the Seabees today have remained unchanged since World War II, when the Seabees paved the 10,000-mile road to victory for the allies in the Pacific and in Europe, according to Lara Godbille, director of the U. S. Navy Seabee Museum.

For the past 75 years, Seabees have served in all American conflicts. They have also supported humanitarian efforts using their construction skills to help communities around the world following earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

“We do an exercise called Black Hell Squad,” said Gombajiji. “We pretty much go out and train each other. I’m really proud of the team work and goals we accomplish during exercise like that.”

Seabees around the world are taking part in a yearlong celebration to commemorate the group’s 75-year anniversary this year. The theme of the celebration is “Built on History, Constructing the Future.”

Today, Seabees continue their innovative traditions, ensuring they always meet fast-paced challenges, according toGombajiji.

“I am proud of the hard work that Seabees like do every day,” said Rear Adm. Bret Muilenburg, commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command. “Their support to the Navy and Marine Corps mission is immeasurable, and we look forward to the next seven decades of service.”

Serving in the U.S. Navy has allowed Gombajiji to continue learning about himself and the legacy he wants to leave to future Seabees.

“The Navy has made me a better person by appreciating the world,” added Gombajiji. “What we do as Seabees gives us a better insight of all the impact we have in the places we and get to visit.”

Gail C. Christopher to give keynote at 37th MLK Breakfast

— Nationally recognized leader in health policy Gail C. Christopher will deliver the keynote address at the 37th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast on Monday, January 15, 2018, in the David S. Jenkins Gymnasium at Anne Arundel Community College, 101 College Parkway in Arnold.

The theme of this year’s breakfast is “Keep on Pushing.” Doors open and food is available at 7:30 a.m., with the program beginning promptly at 8 a.m. As in prior years, participants are asked to bring canned goods to be donated to a local food drive.

Former senior advisor and vice president of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, one of the world’s largest philanthropies, Christopher was the visionary for the organization’s Truth Racial Healing and Transformation effort for America.

In 2017 she left her leadership position at the organization and launched the Maryland-based Ntianu Center for Healing and Nature, utilizing her particular expertise in integrative health and medicine.

A prolific writer, she is the author or co-author of three books and a monthly column in the Federal Times. She has been in The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Dallas Times, National Journal, Essence, “Good Morning America,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” National Public Radio and documentaries on PBS and CBS.

Tickets for the breakfast are $35 at Evenbrite. They also are available by contacting Eugene Peterson at 301-538-0887 or Erica Matthews at 443-761-9734. Make checks payable to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast Committee and mail to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast Committee, Attn: Erica Matthews, P.O. Box 6412, Annapolis, MD 21401.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast Committee is the organizer of this annual event.

Golden Rules for Holiday Shopping!

If you bought the gifts in the holiday classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” it would cost a record $34,558.65, according to the 34th annual PNC Christmas Price Index. Few have a budget for all those birds and performers, but ‘tis the season to get carried away. Here are a few spending tips so you don’t overstuff the stockings— or your budget!

1. Be choosy: Identify your special partridge and pare down your list to those you’re actually close to. Don’t guilt-buy for those far-away relatives who will re-gift your tacky present anyways. If you can’t resist, create a funny e-card for free.

2. Create a budget: Don’t be one of the geese who lays a spending egg. Once you know who you’re buying for, decide how much you will spend per person. If $15 is all you can afford per person, then spend $15 – not $17 or $20. If that seems a bit Scrooge-like, tell your friends/family to set the same limits for you. Take advantage of online budgeting tools to set limits with text or email alerts to warn you.

3. Find the bargains: Be surfing while the swans are a swimming. Look for coupons and Groupons. When it comes to online shopping, there’s a cost for convenience. PNC calculates the online cost of the “The Twelve Days of Christmas” gifts is $45,096.00, which is 30 percent over the in-person approach. But you can save by watching for free shipping offers and no-hassle returns plus there’s Cyber Monday deals and Free Shipping Day on December 15, 2017.

4. Get crafty: Handy drummers are drumming up their own gifts. Whip up a few dozen batches of your special cookies, cake pops or brownies, package in pretty baskets with a bow and call it a day. Who on your list wouldn’t love a homemade treat over a store-bought gift?

5. Pay smartly: Like the maids, milk the most out of your money. Pre-paid cards mean you only spend a set amount and are perfect for kids to learn how to buy for others and stay on budget. Cash in on your credit card reward points to buy gifts. When using credit, make sure you have a plan to pay off your balance. For online payments, look for security or privacy seals first before submitting information. The payment page should have a lock icon and the address should start with “https”.

Be Aware of These 6 Holiday Ho Ho Hoaxes

Attention shoppers: a Monday Christmas holiday may mean an extra-long weekend for you to shop ‘til you drop, but fraudsters see it as more opportunity to trick innocent holiday revelers with holiday-related scams. From Black Friday to New Year’s Eve, take steps to help reduce the risk of fraud this season by learning about these common holiday scams and tips to protect yourself.

1. Gift Card Fraud

Gift cards – both electronic and plastic – are a popular option for gift-givers. For the eleventh year in a row, 61 percent of consumers want gift cards as a holiday present, according to the National Retail Federation. But gift cards also are highly prone to fraud. Because they do not contain customer information, they are not traceable and scammers can get money fast. In fact, downloadable e-gift cards carry the highest risk of fraud. According to Radial’s Annual Holiday Fraud Index, e-gift card fraud generally happens 10 times more during the holiday season but surges to 25 times more likely on December 26 and remains high until the new year. Guard against gift card fraud with these tips:

• Promptly use your gift cards. They are basically like cash sitting in your spare drawer – or your email inbox.

• With e-gift cards, confirm there is a legitimate sender and confirmation code you can use on the company’s website.

• Gift cards on unattended display racks carry more risk. Buy gift cards off of a company website or at the customer service counter where they are under surveillance.

• Look for gift cards in protective packing that have the number hidden, but make sure the seal isn’t broken.

• Watch the cashier activate your gift card and confirm the value after it is activated. And always get a gift receipt.

• Do not buy gift cards from an auction website or online marketplace, unless it is a verified exchange website.

2. Copycat Websites & Mobile Apps

Some say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but not when it comes to websites or apps. Fraudsters like to be copycats and engage in cybersquatting, where they profit by imitating someone else’s trademark. They take well-known brands, create a website with a few extra words in the URL, market goods using words such as “hot-selling” or “discount” and voila – they are in business. You hand over your credit card number, but the fraudsters have no actual merchandise to sell. To guard against these copycat websites, search online yourself for the real company’s website. Double check information such as a company’s street address or phone number when you enter their website. As an added precaution, use Whois.net, which allows you to check domain names and registration of websites. Use caution when downloading mobile apps[1]. Always download and install apps from well-known stores, such as Apple® Store, Google Play Store, Amazon Store and Windows® Store. Some applications can house malware capable of stealing your data as you use your phone or charge money to your app-linked accounts without your knowledge.

3. Fake Shipping Notifications

Did you get an email saying a shipper is trying to deliver a package or a package is undeliverable, but you don’t remember providing your email address? It could be a scam. Attachments or links in these emails could be a phishing attack and pollute your device with malware in an attempt to steal passwords, personal information or worst case – your identity. PNC offers tips to help you learn how to identify a phishing attempt. Always visit the shipping services’ valid website to call and verify. Fraudsters may also place a “missed delivery” postcard on your door that could contain false numbers. Some lead to a fraudulent company overseas, which is one expensive call to make.

4. Phony E-Greeting Cards

If you receive an e-card in your inbox and can’t make out the sender’s name, chances are it’s not a secret admirer, but a fraudster. Always delete an e-card from someone that you don’t know. Legitimate companies also will never make you share personal information to open a card.

5. Help Wanted: Seasonal Job Solicitations

You or your teenager may be looking to earn some extra cash to spend over the holidays, and seasonal jobs are a popular option. During your job search, go to the company’s main website to apply or apply in person. Never pay or share personal information to get a job lead.

6. Travel Scams

See a travel deal around the holidays that seems too good to be true? Chances are it is. Fraudsters reel you in with fake travel websites and vacation rentals, and stop responding once you enter your credit card number. Guard against these scams by dealing with a reputable travel agency or directly with a property owner.