‘Tis the season to follow these wise shopping tips, anti-fraud precautions

The holiday shopping season is underway, with plenty of bargains, solid sales numbers and enough festivities to make it seem almost like a normal year. Just don’t let online phishing scams, overspending and other perils ruin it.

a close up of a keyboard: State Labor and Industry Department employees do not call, text or email individuals and say they are investigating fraud, or ask for their full Social Security number, says Jerry Oleksiak, department secretary.

© Metrographics
State Labor and Industry Department employees do not call, text or email individuals and say they are investigating fraud, or ask for their full Social Security number, says Jerry Oleksiak, department secretary.

This is a time when many consumers can really dig themselves into a financial hole if they’re not careful. Here are some seasonal risks to beware of, along with suggestions for keeping your personal information, and money, safe.


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SAVE: COVID-19 pandemic will change retail patterns but won’t extinguish holiday sales

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Heed e-commerce security tips

Online shopping will grow at double-digit rates this holiday season, according to estimates by the National Retail Federation and others. While convenience and good deals are among the lures, consumers need to be cautious.

Shameka Walker, an attorney at the Federal Trade Commission, recently provided some updated tips for safe remote shopping. These include having late-version antivirus software installed on your computer, taking time to make sure the online merchants or sellers you deal with are legitimate, keeping records of online purchases until you receive the goods and sticking with secure checkout sites. Those are website addresses that start with “HTTPS,” where the “S” stands for secure.

She and others also recommend paying with credit cards, which provide added protection compared with debit cards, checks, cash and other forms of payment.

With credit cards, you may dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payments while the dispute is investigated. If someone else uses your card without permission, your liability generally is limited to $50, she said. Many credit card companies improve on this and won’t hold consumers responsible for any unauthorized charges —  in addition to providing extended product warranties, reward points and other benefits.

Monitor accounts regularly

The holiday shopping season can be a good time to adopt best practices regarding credit cards and other forms of payments, if only because you’re doing more spending, possibly at unfamiliar retailers.

Such tips include regularly monitoring your accounts for accurate transactions and setting up text alerts so that you’re notified of unusual activity.

“Anytime (a transaction) is over $25, I’m going to get an alert,” said Cyndie Martini, president and CEO of Member Access Processing, a company that, among other services, coaches credit unions and their members on credit and debit card use.

While a $25 threshold might seem low to many people, triggering an excessive number of alerts, fraudsters often make a lot of modest-dollar transactions in hopes consumers won’t notice, Martini said. At any rate, you can raise the notification limit if you prefer.

Martini also recommends tracking transactions as often as once a day. If that seems excessive, you might opt for a service such

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Hurt by pandemic, local retailers say shopping local this season more important than ever

Small business owners feeling the pain of the pandemic in their bottom lines say it’s never been more important to shop local this holiday season.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are considered the biggest shopping events of the year for big-box and online retailers, but local entrepreneurs look forward to the day wedged between the two — Small Business Saturday.

The event encourages shopping local and supporting independent operations, and it’s usually one of the busiest days of the year for these retailers.

While the day is important, local business owners said they were counting on strong sales all season to help them survive in a marketplace where everything has changed.

Scott Starbuck, who opened City Soles in Wicker Park in 1995, said sales at his shoe store were down exponentially because of the coronavirus — and he worries they won’t be bouncing back soon.

“We won’t even be able to see recovery until a vaccine [is available] and we can say things like, ‘Socially distancing was so last year,’” said Starbuck, who imports his footwear from Europe and South American and also sells jewelry and other handmade goods from local artists.

Starbuck, a member of the board of retailers for the Wicker Park-Bucktown Chamber of Commerce, said sales at many shops are down 60 or 70%.

“I mean a victory story is being down only 50% right now,” Starbuck said.

Scott Starbuck opened City Soles in Bucktown in 1995.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The fourth quarter is the busiest time of year for most businesses, with many counting on traffic from holiday shopping to keep them afloat.

This year is expected to be different and they’re trying to adapt. Many owners said they are ditching shopping bags for shipping boxes as customers continue to flock to the internet for gifts.

Lindzi Shanks and Kat Connor, co-owners of Nibbles and Nosh and XO Marshmallow in Rogers Park, have converted the closed dining area of their brunch spot to a packaging and shipping center to complete the hundreds of orders of gourmet marshmallows and hot cocoa.

“While the cafe saw a decrease in visitors, online we saw a massive increase, so by making that pivot we’ve been able to not only keep all our employees that worked in the cafe, but [also] hire more people just to keep up with online sales,” Shanks said.

Lindzi Shanks, left, and Kat Connor, right, owners of Nibbles and Nosh and XO Marshmallow, have seen an increase in online sales amid the pandemic.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Renee Matsushima and Michael Trailer, the mother-son duo who own Tee Mart Decorated Apparel in Rogers Park, are also putting an emphasis on shipping their products during the pandemic.

The pair opened their store a week before Gov. J.B. Pritzker imposed the state’s stay-at-home order in March.

“We had to really shift gears almost instantly,” Trailer said. “We switched over to Etsy and we did a lot of sales there.”

The majority of Tee Mart’s sales come from online orders now, but

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No. 18 Cyclones take first loss of 2020-21 season


Iowa State’s highly anticipated 2020-21 season started off with a convincing win Wednesday, but the No. 18 Cyclones fell short in the second game of the season in a 76-69 loss at South Dakota State.

Iowa State (1-1, 0-0 Big 12 Conference) trailed nearly the entire game after surrendering an early lead. South Dakota State led by as many as 12 points in the first half before taking a 37-33 lead into the break. The Cyclones trailed by four entering the final period but were unable to regain the lead.

Preseason All-American Ashley Joens led the Cyclones with a game-high 36 points, thanks in part to a 15-for-16 effort at the charity stripe. Freshman Lexi Donarski (13 points) and senior Kristin Scott (11) also reached double-figures. Freshman Emily Ryan added seven rebounds and a game-high six assists.

Next on Iowa State’s schedule is a Big 12 matchup at TCU. The game is set for a 6:30 p.m. tip Wednesday.

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Digest: MU women open season with 96-78 win | Sports

Smiths help Mizzou roll past Oral Roberts 91-64

A sparse crowd, owing to COVID-19 restrictions, watches the first half of a game between Missouri and Oral Roberts on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

The Missouri women’s basketball team opened its season with a 96-78 win over North Alabama at Mizzou Arena. Hayley Frank led the Tigers with 24 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Aijha Blackwell, the St. Louis native, added 21 points and 10 rebounds. (Dave Matter)

Missouri State puts men’s basketball season on hold: Missouri State’s men’s program has suspended activities for at least two weeks because of positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing with its program. As a result, all game are canceled or postponed though Dec. 12. (News services)

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SIUC men’s coach tests positive for virus: Southern Illinois University Carbondale men’s basketball coach Bryan Mullins has tested positive for COVID-19, the school announced Friday, saying he was asymptomatic. The program has been shut down since Nov. 12 because of others testing positive. The women’s team also was paused Friday, for at least a week, because a player tested positive. (News services)

U.S. women win soccer exhibition match: Rose Lavelle and Kristie Mewis scored as the U.S. women won a rematch of last year’s World Cup final, beating the Netherlands by the same score as the match in Italy, 2-0, this time in Reda, Netherlands. The United States hadn’t played in 261 days because of the pandemic. (AP)

Meronk leads European golf tourney: Adrian Meronk opened a three-shot lead after two rounds of the Alfred Dunhill Championship, European PGA Tour event in Malelane, South Africa. His second-round 66 moved him to 13 under par. Joachim B. Hansen and Richard Bland were tied for second, at 10 under. Robin Roussel, who shared the first-round lead with Meronk, has a 71 and fell into a tie for fourth place. (AP)

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Purdue women’s basketball set to begin 2020-21 season


The Boilermakers open the season Sunday against North Alabama at Mackey Arena

Lafayette Journal & Courier

WEST LAFAYETTE – Five days after it was originally scheduled to open the 2020-21 season, the Purdue women’s basketball team will play Game 1 on Sunday.

The Boilermakers are set to host North Alabama at Mackey Arena. The season opener against Bowling Green was scheduled for Nov. 25 but was pushed back to Dec. 13 due to COVID-19 concerns around the Falcons’ program.

What to know about coach Sharon Versyp’s team heading into its first of five non-conference games:

Purdue begins the season without a full roster. At least four players aren’t expected to play in the opener – senior Karissa McLaughlin, sophomores Bria Harmon and Roxane Makolo and junior Cassidy Hardin.

McLaughlin underwent reconstructive ankle surgery last spring and could return to the lineup at some point. Makolo suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice and Hardin is working her way back after surgery.

With injuries, COVID-19 and contact tracing, the preseason practices have been a “juggling act,” Versyp said.

“It’s always fluid,” she said.

The Boilermakers have four newcomers – two transfers (Brooke Moore, Rokia Doumbia) and two freshmen (Madison Layden, Ra Shaya Kyle). Moore was granted immediate eligibility and will play point guard and shooting guard. She averaged 8.6 points last season at Auburn. Doumbia transferred from Arkansas. 

“She’s just a scorer and she has the competitive drive that we need,” junior Kayana Traylor said. “She makes us better all the way around.”

With McLaughlin sidelined, Purdue needs to find its offense from a variety of players.  

“Fire, energy, scoring,” Versyp said of what she expects from Moore. “She’s got a nice confidence and swag about her. She’s a great one-on-one player. The speed and basketball IQ and understanding of the game, she can flat out score the ball. She has a lot of confidence about her and that’s contagious.”

Once Moore learned she would be allowed to play this season, the 5-foot-7 guard changed her mindset.

“I was trying to help prepare the team,” said Moore, who is from Atlanta. “I still worked on my game, but I also was more passive, and I was taking my time and going to every practice trying to learn as much as I can. After that, I had to watch more film every day and get shots up.”

The idea McLaughlin will likely play this season should provide a spark. The senior still has work to do but it’s a promising sign.

“The biggest thing now is just getting the ankle moving again,” Versyp said. “She’s starting to run, she’s starting to do a couple of defensive drills, starting to shoot and jump. Just getting back in the shape, that’s going to be the big key.”

When it was announced the Homestead graduate was undergoing surgery, McLaughlin was expected to sit out the season to recover.

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2020-21 Season Preview: Notre Dame Women’s Basketball

Notre Dame kicks off the 2020-21 women’s basketball season on Friday when the Fighting Irish take on the Ohio Bobcats. That will mark the beginning of the Niele Ivey era in South Bend.

Ivey is a former point guard and assistant coach at Notre Dame, and she begins her first season in charge of the program. Ivey, of course, was part of a Notre Dame national championship as a player (2001) and coach (2018).

Ivey now gets a chance to build a title contender of her own at Notre Dame. It would be unrealistic to expect that this season, but the Irish should bounce back from the disappointing 13-18 finish from a season ago.

The question is how far will the Irish bounce back this season. We start to get our answer on Friday. Key number one will be getting much better at scoring. The Irish led the ACC in scoring (88.6) by almost 11 points in 2018-19, but that number dropped to 64.9 a season ago.

There are a number of key questions and factors that will tell the story.


Notre Dame landed two of the nation’s best recruits in the 2019 class, and both were impact players for the Irish last season. Seeing them become stars in the ACC is needed for the Irish to get back on track.

Forward Sam Brunelle was arguably Notre Dame’s best player last season, and her scoring presence was felt immediately. The 6-2 sophomore returns as the team’s second leading scorer (13.9 PPG), and her inside-out game should take a big step forward this season. 

Brunelle can score in the post, she can dish from the high post and she has impressive range. Brunelle led the Irish with 58 made three-pointers last season. The talented forward led all ACC freshmen in scoring last season, and she is expected to become one of the league’s top players this winter.

Classmate Anaya Peoples earned All-ACC freshman honors last season despite playing just 19 games due to a shoulder injury. She is healthy now, and the expectation is that she becomes a force for the Irish on both ends.

Peoples scored 12.6 points per game and grabbed 8.1 rebounds per contest. She had three double-doubles in the six games prior to her injury. Peoples is a powerful athlete that can run the floor, attack the rim and her handle is impressive.

If she can improve her perimeter shooting and free-throw shooting (41-83) she could become one of the league’s top guards. 


Guard Destinee Walker was a solid player in her first season after transferring from North Carolina. She set a career-high with 14.5 points per game. She’ll need to improve on her assist (56) to turnover (65) ratio this season.

Junior Katlyn Gilbert was injured early in the 2018-19 season, so last season was considered her freshman season, and she was named to the ACC All-Freshman squad. 

The former McDonald’s All-American showed she can be a volume scorer last season, and

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What To Get Your Colleagues, Employees, And Clients This Holiday Season

It’s that time of the year again! The time for showing appreciation to those who make your life possible or better. Every year, I curate my own list of what to give that special someone in your professional life, whether that’s your colleagues, clients or employees. Here’s my holiday gift guide from last year and a special edition mini gift guide for this year as well. 

Here’s my 2020 list of the best holiday gifts. I am truly hopeful that you will find something for everyone on your list. 

For the Kitchen Maven:

Tovala: The ultimate countertop oven for the busiest professionals. You can order a variety of Tovala meals or make your own. It steams, bakes, and toasts in one. It can replace the toaster and the microwave. 

Hurom Slow Juicer: Hurom’s latest H200 Slow Juicer now has an even larger inlet that can fit whole-sized apples. Less prep and less cleaning means more time to enjoy fresh-squeezed juice. Yes, please. 

The Tchibo Coffee Machine: German-engineering launches in America. It is a bean-to-brew machine. No pods needed. An excellent choice for a coffee enthusiast. You can also throw  in some holiday blends from Coffee Chicks. 

Jura E8 Coffee Maker: Flat white? Cappuccino? Macchiato? This is a beast of a coffee machine and it really does do it all. This is ideal for everyone in the office…or home office. 

Blue Diamond Cookware: If they love to cook, you can’t go wrong with some great finds from Greenpan. These are loved by cooks all over the world. Also in the category is Proclamation Duo which minimizes with two pans and you can get a dozen cooking methods with zero clutter. 

Fiesta Dinnerware: From star shaped candy dishes to colorful pitchers, you are bound to find something to like. Also in the dinnerware category is Poketo with their bamboo dinnerware. 

Taotronics Air Fryer: Great for someone in your life who is trying to eat healthier but still loves the deep-fried texture.

Espresso Machine by illy and cups: Bright red, this Y3.2 iperEspresso machine makes both espresso and coffee with one touch. It also doesn’t take up much space.

Viking Culinary: I recommend the teapot (comes in three colors) or a reversible wood prep and carving board. Makes prepping and cleaning a breeze. 

Crate&Barrel Fellow Stagg Kettle: Perfect for pour-over style coffee or tea. Doesn’t take up much space and looks great. Also available in three different colors.

Jung Lee Pharos Tea Pot and Mug Set: Even if they are just entertaining for one, this is a lovely piece sure to delight. It has one teapot and comes with two mugs – inspired by the lighthouses of Portugal. 


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No. 9 UCLA women’s basketball team routs Cal State Fullerton in delayed season opener

UCLA made it worth the wait.

After the No. 9 Bruins’ season opener was postponed by two days, they picked up a dominant 98-49 victory over Cal State Fullerton in the rescheduled game Friday at Pauley Pavilion.

Sophomore Charisma Osborne led the Bruins with 31 points and a career-high six assists. Preseason All-American Michaela Onyenwere added 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists for UCLA, which forced 25 turnovers and scored 44 points off the miscues, never letting the Titans get closer than 10 points after the 2:30 mark in the first quarter.

“This is as much about the purity of the love of the game and the collegiate sports experience and what it does for young people as it does a win or a start to a normal season,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “This is about a lot of deeper things.”

On Wednesday, the Bruins arrived on campus at 8 a.m. buzzing with excitement. They had waited more than eight months for the game. They came to Pauley Pavilion and warmed up. Then they were told there was a 15-minute delay as Fullerton awaited COVID-19 test results. Then 15 minutes turned into an hour. Then an hour turned into an indefinite postponement.

Delivering the final news to her team in the locker room was like “the wind was just taken out of their sails,” Close said.

Instead of stewing in the disappointment, the Bruins, wearing their full game uniforms, went to Mo Ostin Center for practice. During the one-hour, 15-minute session, they were “elite,” Close said.

“This year is all about adapting,” Onyenwere said. “This team has continued to step up to the plate when those opportunities present themselves.”

The Titans got retested Wednesday night, Close said, when UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond signed off on paying for additional PCR tests, each costing about $80. The results came in Thursday, and the team had rapid-response tests Friday.

“We needed to make sure there was no chance [of a positive case],” Close said. “You see the number of games that have already been canceled across the country, so it was really important that we had an opportunity to play this game.”

Just as the Bruins passed a major hurdle in this pandemic-affected season, another one appeared. With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, the Los Angeles County Public Health released a new stay-at-home order Friday, prohibiting all public and private gatherings with individuals not in the same household, excluding church services and protests.

How the order might affect sports remains to be seen. For the Bruins, it’s a reminder that they must continue to insulate themselves as much as possible to keep their season going.

“We have a saying in our program: ‘You can never get tired of doing it right,’ ” Close said. “We can’t let it wear us down.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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GCU women set school Division I scoring record in season opener


Molly Miller won her first Division I game as coach of GCU women’s basketball team. Photo by David Kadlubowski/GCU (Photo: David Kadlubowski/GCU)

Coach Molly Miller brought a fast and furious basketball pace with her from Drury and turned Grand Canyon’s women players loose in their season opener Friday.

It resulted in a school scoring record as an NCAA Division I program.

GCU’s 93-72 win over Weber State at GCU Arena broke the previous record of 92 points that the Antelopes scored in the first game as a Division I team in 2013 against Western State.

The 29-point first quarter tied a GCU most in Division I.

Miller, named the GCU head coach in April, was twice an NCAA Division II Coach of the Year at her alma mater Drury in Missouri, and was 32-0 last year, before COVID-19 halted the season.

That Drury team won games by an average margin of 28.5 points.

“The bottom line was how hard our kids played tonight,” Miller said. “That’s why we won this game, with defensive effort and intensity. Fifty-fifty balls were ours. We were going on traps. We were really aggressive.”

After building a 19-point lead in the first quarter, the Antelopes got outscored in the second quarter 26-19, but got back rolling to open the second half with a 27-18 third quarter.

Taylor Caldwell had 21 points, making both of her 3-point attempts, and added seven rebounds and five assists to lead GCU.

Kennedi Shorts had 17 points, Ny’Dajah Jackson 16 and Laura Piera 13 for the Antelopes, who shot 50% for the game. They made 12 of 19 shots in the opening quarter.

They forced Weber State into 27 turnovers and 40.7% shooting.

“This team is special,” Miller said. “I told them in the locker room they’re bonded. They rally around each other when good and bad happens. We’re going to have a lot of people doing a lot of things for each other.”

To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at [email protected] or 602-316-8827. Follow him on Twitter @azc_obert.

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Maryland women open season with 94-72 win over Davidson

As for the old, reloading with talent is routine for Frese, as is operating with a shorthanded, young roster. And the program is now a quinquagenarian: No. 12 Maryland tipped off its 50th season as a varsity team Friday with a 94-72 win over Davidson at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Fla.

There’s nothing new about a nonconference win for the Terrapins.

After a first half full of foul trouble that resulted in a three-point lead at halftime, Maryland found the right level of aggression in the second half and settled into a groove on offense that helped carry it to a win.

Wings Diamond Miller, a sophomore, and Angel Reese, a freshman, led the team with 20 points apiece. Reese, who was the No. 2 player in the Class of 2020 and the program’s highest-ranked incoming freshman ever, was one rebound away from a double-double.

“I just played confident,” Reese said. “I wasn’t really nervous, but my teammates just gave me the confidence to come out there and just play my game. I had a rough start. … I was actually able to play how I play in the second half; everybody got to see that. It was a great feel for my first game, running the court, everything. The college environment, I just love it.”

Call it rust or season-opening jitters, but the Terps were off from long range early and Miller was the only one to get to the foul line in the first half, when she made 6 of 8 attempts. Maryland relied on its defense and got a spark from Faith Masonius, a vocal, defensive-minded sophomore wing whose 10 points all came at the end of the second quarter.

But the first half wasn’t the best representation of what Freese believes this Maryland team can be. The Terps’ roster has a mix of experience levels — including a starting lineup that featured three newcomers in Reese and senior transfers Katie Benzan and Chloe Bibby — and the second half offered a more enticing glimpse of what their mix of veteran steadiness and potent offense could become.

Benzan, who joined the program this year after three seasons at Harvard, assertively helmed the offense and made 4 of 5 attempts from the floor for 11 points in the second half, finishing with 13.

Reese and Miller ran the court with ease; each standing 6-foot-3, they’re quick and used their long arms to disrupt Davidson on defense. On offense, they slipped to the basket in a flash, outpacing Davidson’s defenders for a bucket or at least drawing contact for a foul. Reese had 16 of her 20 points after halftime and made 6 of 9 tries from the free throw line.

“If you ask me who our two most consistent players have been all [preseason], it’s been those two,” Freese said of Miller and Reese. “They played how they’ve played leading up to this game — I thought, given the opportunity that you were able to see

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