Big Eats for the Big Game

The big day is almost here.  The one where all your friends and family gather around to watch football and eat until your heart’s content.

If you are tired of the same old buffalo chicken dip and pizza, Adrian, our Business Development Operations Manger and resident chef has some great and easy ideas to spice up your spread.

Bacon Wrapped BBQ & Pineapple Jalapeno Poppers

Here’s what you will need:

10 jalapeno peppers

  • Slice peppers lengthwise then remove and discard sees and core. Do not do this with your bare hands – use a paring knife and latex gloves.

1  8oz package of cream cheese – at room temperature

1 20oz can crushed pineapple

1 16oz package bacon  – NOT thick cut (center cut works best)

BBQ sauce

Brown sugar

Light corn syrup

Here’s what you’ll do:

Open can of pineapple and drain most of the liquid.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and add 1 teaspoon of light corn syrup. Stir and let sit for about 10 min.

Pour pineapple into a mesh strainer and drain thoroughly: the drier the pineapple the better.

Using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese till mostly smooth and add drained pineapple mix to combine.

Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.  Begin filling the peppers with the cream cheese mixture (not too full as the mixture will “puff up” a little while baking), and place them on the baking sheet.

One all the peppers are filled, take one slice of bacon per pepper and wrap the filled pepper.  Place back on the baking sheet.

Bake at 380 degrees for about 45 minutes.  Brush or drizzle with BBQ sauce, and bake for another 10-15minutes or until done.  (You can save yourself some mess by putting the BBQ sauce in a Ziploc sandwich bag, seal it shut, snip off corner and use this to pipe the BBQ sauce over the peppers!)

The Big Game Chex Mix

3 cups Corn Chex® cereal

3 cups Rice Chex® cereal

3 cups Wheat Chex® cereal

2 cup honey mustard flavor small pretzel twists, pieces or nuggets

1 cup smoked almonds

4 tablespoons butter or margarine

3 tablespoon yellow mustard or hot & spicy mustard

2 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoon seasoned salt

  • Heat oven to 275 degrees.
  • In a medium sized Aluminum Baking tin, mix cereals, pretzels and almonds.
  • In small sauce pan on med – melt butter, then add mustard, honey, and seasoned salt. Stir and bring to a slow boil.
  • Pour sauce over the cereal mixture and stir till well mixed.
  • Bake uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely (giving it a little stir every 5 minutes or so).
  • Store in airtight container

Big Game Eats

You Overpaid, but I get Scammed?

The “overpayment” scam is back and it targets everyone–consumers,  businesses and also nonprofits.

This classic scam has been around for a while. A scammer sends a check or PayPal wire to you, but then says that they “overpaid.” They then ask you to re-send or re-wire the overpayment to another account, usually giving them access to your bank information and more. From there, the scammers can take all of your money, not just the amount you “sent back.” And the original checks turn out to be worthless.

BBB offers the following advice to avoid an overpayment scam:

  • Know who you’re dealing with. In any transaction, confirm the buyer/seller/donor name, street address and telephone number.
  • Don’t wire. Never under any circumstances wire funds back to the person, a legitimate buyer/seller/donor will not insist upon this type of request.
  • Never assume that a check is legitimate, even if it’s a cashier’s check. It may take weeks for a financial institution to learn that it is counterfeit.
  • Never accept payment for more than the purchase price of a product or service.
  • Keep in mind, you are the party who is ultimately liable to your financial institution. Verify all checks, as well as certified checks, with the issuing financial institution.

Seinfeld Money

Top Ways of How Scammers Get to You

BBB has put together a comprehensive list of the top ways scammers contact consumers. All data was comprised from the new free, online tool Scam Tracker that BBB launched a few months ago.

The Top 5 sound all too familiar…the most used avenues in which we always warn consumers to be safe around when giving out personal information.

Phone—56%

  • Details: Calls soliciting personal information…your friend is trapped in a foreign country, money needed to deliver a package to your house, IRS tax scam—authorities coming to your house unless you pay, people posing as law enforcement, charities or other businesses.
  • What to Do: Take the phone number down and hang up, do not give any money or personal information. Call your phone provider and get put on a no-call list.

Email—15%

  • Details: Fake shipping notifications or “You Won a New Car!” a fake medical bill, etc…
  • What to Do: Unsubscribe and report as spam

Website—7%

  • Details: Popups and cookies in your browser
  • What to Do: Empty your cookies, block sites and popups, computer security settings

Facebook—3%

  • Details: Too good to be true scams, these are popular items, such as weight loss products, clothing, cruises, etc. Will usually say that one of your friends passed it along to you…
  • What to Do: Notify Facebook, unfollow or ask the social media engine to hide such posts from your Timeline.

Text Message—3%

  • Details: Not really a big one, but sometimes scammers will get reach of your cell number and text you…
  • What to Do: Again, you can block this number and report it to your cellular provider.

Others (under 3%)…Craigslist, in-person solicitations and online messages.

Scam Tracker is free and on our website, bbb.org. Anyone can use it to research if there is a scam going on in their area, how much money could have been lost and other specific details from fellow consumers. Scam Tracker is a heat-map for all of both the United States and Canada.

 

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Your Digital Life: STOP. THINK. CONNECT.

As our digital lives become ever-more connected, what happens to the vast amounts of personal data floating around in cyberspace?

According to a recent National Cyber Security Alliance/Zogby Consumer Survey, 77% of Americans feel it is “extremely” or “very important” those companies have easy-to-understand, accessible information about what personal data is collected about them, how it is used and with whom it is shared. Staying safe online and protecting personal data starts with the following message of STOP. THINK. CONNECT: take security precautions, think about how your online actions can impact your safety, security or privacy, and enjoy the Internet with greater confidence.

NCSA and BBB urge everyone to protect their online data with these five tips:

  • Personal info is like money. Value and protect it: Information about you, such as your purchase history or location, has value—just like money. Be thoughtful about who gets that information and how it’s collected through apps and websites.
  • Be aware of what’s being shared: Set the privacy and security settings on web services and devices to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s ok to limit how and with whom you share information.
  • Share with care: Think before posting about yourself and others online. Consider what it reveals, who might see it and how it could be perceived now and in the future.
  • Apply the golden rule online: Post only about others as you would have them post about you.
  • Keep a clean machine: Keep all software, operating systems (mobile and PC) and apps up-to-date to protect against data loss from infections and malware.

Cookie Monster Deleting Cookies

Planning on “Peyton” San Francisco Orange for the Super Bowl?

Our Broncos are headed to the big game next week and many fans are headed out to San Francisco to cheer the team on to a 3rd Super Bowl title. With all the excitement swirling around, BBB wants to give you some tips ahead of either booking a Super Bowl package or being your own travel agent.

The two most difficult elements of a Super Bowl trip to fulfill are game tickets and hotel rooms. BBB urges you to be safe when booking for your dream trip to the 50th Super Bowl.

  • Research the seller/broker.  Find out as much about the seller/broker as possible, including if they are a member of the National Association of Ticket Brokers.  NATB members offer a 200% guarantee on tickets that don’t arrive in time for a game, concert or show.
  • Know the difference between a ticket broker (legitimate and accredited reseller) and a ticket scalper (unregulated and unlicensed ticket seller).
  • Consider buying tickets only from official NFL ticket brokers
  • Check the ticket broker’s refund policy.  Only buy from a ticket reseller that provides clear details about the terms of the transaction.
  • Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute a false charge; never wire money to someone you have never met, and do not use checks or prepaid cards.
  • Check the seats out ahead of time. Always ask for section, row and seat number and double-check on the stadium seating chart to avoid obstructed view seats or seats that do not exist.
  • Ask questions to make certain you get all the answers you need to feel comfortable with your ticket purchase.
  • Use a secure connection and avoid public Wi-Fi.

top-5-ticket-scams

Getting your Ducks in a Row: Writing an Effective Marketing Plan

Google recently stated that “Every 2 days, humans produce as much info as produced by all mankind for the 20,000 years leading up to 2003.” Two days?! That’s crazy! So how exactly do you distinguish yourself through all the buzz, trends and confusion?

Mike Sukle, Creative Director and President of Sukle Advertising & Design presented recently at one of our ROI Series workshops and gave his two-cents on just how to create your strategy for effective marketing.

His first suggestion? Focus on IMPACT. You may have an unlimited budget for advertising, but throwing the money at every piece of media just because you have the resources, doesn’t mean you should. It is better to do a few things well, than spread yourself too thin… and this all leads to your brand equity.

Steps:

  1. Establish Objectives
    1. What exactly are you trying to solve? It is an awareness campaign, a goal of increasing revenue on x service or product, gaining more social media followers?
  2. Understand your Target Audience
    1. Learn your consumer
      1. Gender, age, income, location, etc…these are your metrics
      2. What kind of preferences do they have or problems can your company specifically solve?
  • A great way of gaining insight: send out email surveys, have comment cards at your office/store, ask them to write a review.
  1. Define the key touch-points
    1. Where does your brand come into contact with the consumer? You want to make sure any time you are interacting with the consumer, that it is an experience, and a good experience as that will build your brand loyalty.
      1. At your store
      2. On the radio
      3. In the morning, in the afternoon, commuting times
      4. On the phone
      5. Seasonally
      6. Social media
  1. Track and Evaluate
    1. Is or did the marketing work?
    2. What is the ROI that we received?
    3. What do you want to measure?
      1. This goes back to your objectives…were they met?
      2. Using Google Analytics is an awesome tool!

Check out this video from our ROI: Marketing 101 for more tips!

New Year, Better Wallet: 7 Budgeting Tips for Everyone

Many people start the new year with leftover debt from the previous year, and additional interest month after month just makes the problem worse as the year goes on. If one of your resolutions is to create a budget or get out of debt, BBB has some tips and tools to help you get on the right track to a better financial future.

  • Track your spending. Whether you prefer an app on your phone, computer software, or simply a notebook to jot down your expenses, keeping track is critical. It helps you see where you are actually spending your money, rather than where you think you are.
  • Categorize your spending. Create categories based on necessities (housing, utilities, food, transportation) and luxuries (entertainment, dining out, travel). If you have credit card balances, student loans, car payments or other debt, make “debt reduction” one of your necessary categories.
  • Set up a budget. Once you have an idea where you are spending money, you can set up a realistic budget. There are free online tools to help you, so there is no need to spend a lot of money. Be cautious of scams, however, and never share personal identifying information (PII) unless you are sure of the site’s legitimacy.
  • Pay down debt. One method is to pay off the credit account or loan with the highest interest rate first (the “ladder method”). Another is to pay off the smallest balance first so you feel a greater sense of accomplishment (the “snowball method”). Use whichever methods works best for you. The important thing is that you are doing it.
  • Pay bills on time. Consider online bill-paying that eliminates writing checks, buying stamps, etc. Automatic payments can be scheduled ahead of time and can help you avoid late fees and penalties for missed payments.
  • Save for the big things. Big purchases, such as vacation or holidays, can easily blow your budget. Avoid going into debt for these expenditures by saving up ahead of time and only spending what you are able to save. Many banks and credit unions offer savings clubs that might help.
  • Save for emergencies. Emergencies – car or home repair, unexpected medical expenses, job loss – can blow your budget. Financial experts suggest an emergency fund of 3-6 months’ living expenses. If that is too ambitious, start smaller and build up.

Cat Money

Tax Break Tips

April 15th: It’s the 105th day of the year, it’s Leonardo Da Vinci’s birthday, and it’s also Titanic Remembrance day (who knew?). But for most people, April 15th is dreaded tax day, where everyone must have their income taxes filed. If you are part of the 83% of Americans, who donated $358.38 billion(!!!) to charities in 2014, there are specific tax benefits that can help put money back in your pocket. While filing your taxes may be stressful, the BBB is here to help you on how to get the most out of your charitable contribution. Below are some tips on common deductibility questions.

General overview                     Leo Tossing Money

  • Only itemizers can deduct contributions. Contributions are deductible for the year in which they are actually paid or delivered. Pledges are not deductible until the year in which they are paid.
  • Direct contributions to needy individuals are not deductible. To be tax deductible, contributions must be made to qualified organizations.
  • Keeping records of contributions is essential for itemizers. Acceptable records include bank records and written communications from the charity. Contributions of over $250 require a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the charity.
  • There are over 20 categories of tax-exempt status. In general, only organizations classified as 501(c)3 and 501(c)19 are eligible to receive contributions deductible as charitable gifts.

Charity Auctions, Dinners, Galas, and Balls  

Rihanna in big dress

  • The general rule of thumb is that only the amount above the fair-market-value of your auction purchase would be deductible as a gift.
  • For example: at a fundraising event conducted by a charity, you pay $1,000 for a week’s stay at a beach house. The fair market value of this vacation is $600. Therefore, only $400 of the purchase would be deductible in this circumstance.
  • If you buy a ticket to a dinner for $100 and a similar meal at the hotel is $25, then only $75 dollars is deductible.
  • Some events may be very expensive, so if you don’t feel comfortable spending large sums of money on a dinner, you always have the option of making a direct donation, instead of attending the event.

Thrift Stores

Macklemore dancing in Thrift Shop

  • Determine whether your goods are in good used condition, and if it’s something the organization accepts.
  • Make a list of the items you’re donating.
  • Be sure to get a receipt from the organization to which you donate.
  • If you donate an Item valued at over $500 it may be in “fair” condition, but you will need to include a qualified appraisal with your tax return. For any noncash contribution over $500 you will need to complete and attach IRS form 8283 on your next tax return.

Car Donations

Dog looking at Car

  • If you are not familiar with the charity that is soliciting, check its website and see how the donation will benefit the organization. Sometimes the names of well know nonprofits are used without permission.
  • Verify that the recipient is tax-exempt as a 501c3 nonprofit, and check the IRS guidelines on vehicle deductions(publication 4303)
  • If you are claiming a car donation of over $500, you will need to complete and attach form 8283. If the car is worth more than $5,000, you will need to get a written professional appraisal. Many taxpayers find appraisers by contacting local car dealers.
  • Make sure the title of the car is transferred to the charity’s name, not an individual, and keep a copy for record.

 

BBB always encourages consumers to do their research before making any donations to charities. If you are looking for a charity to donate to, or if you are looking for assistance during tax season, check out findacompany.org for Accredited organizations who adhere to BBB’s eight standards for trust.