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Updated: 12/31/2012 08:00:36AM

Have a happy and protected new year

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L oo king back on my sixth year writing this consumer advocate column, I can confidently predict a happier and more protected 2013 if you promise to make these resolutions: Trash all mailings involving a contest, sweepstakes or lottery, especially if they require wiring or sending money, regardless of the amount. Seniors are the primary target of these bogus notifications. Remember, you can’t win anything you didn’t enter! With sophisticated printing technology, many of these notices come with legitimate-looking, but phony checks. Unfortunately, check scams are still rampant. Learn about many of them online at, including overpayments for goods listed in classified ads or fake home rentals.

Be on the lookout for phishing scams. That’s where a purportedly legitimate — but fraudulent — email or cell phone text message is used to steal money or personal information. Never click a link, reply, or open an attachment until you’ve verified the legitimacy of the source. Typically, phishing messages are not personalized. Be highly suspicious of requested personal information including account numbers and passwords. Even if you think the email or text is legitimate, the address may be “spoofed” or forged. Read the Federal Trade Commission’s “How Not to Get Hooked by a ‘Phishing’ Scam,” at

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