Weekly business rail, with tips on preventing ID theft, BBB tips for businesses on gift returns and more.

Tip of the Week


Even if you're expecting a refund, tax time can be stressful. Gathering all the necessary income and financial information, making sure forms are completed and filed on time, and waiting to see if you'll owe or get money back can weigh heavily on your mind well before April 15. Do you really need one more thing to worry about? Unfortunately, you also need to think about security and identity theft at tax time. Whether you file online or by mailing paper forms, your tax return contains a staggering amount of information about you. You need to protect that information at every step of the preparation and filing process.


First, arm yourself with information about what the IRS is doing to combat identity theft. The Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit organization that aims to educate consumers about identity theft prevention, reports that the IRS has implemented several measures, including:


- Development and implementation of standardized processes for tracking and handling identity theft reports. 


- Creating procedures to identify and resolve identity theft cases related to taxes.


- Tracking identity theft incidents reported by taxpayers.


- Tracking identity theft cases discovered by the IRS.


Next, know the signs of tax-related identity theft. If you receive a written notice from the IRS (they don't contact taxpayers via email) that they received more than one tax return for you in the same year, or IRS records indicate you received income from an employer you don't know, you may be a victim of identity theft.


Keep in mind that as tax time approaches every year, criminals impersonate the IRS by email, phone, websites and even tweets - all in an effort to scam your information. Be suspicious of any email or phone contact you receive, and if you suspect it's a scam, go to www.irs.gov/contact/index to determine if the contact is legitimate. Forward suspect emails to the IRS investigative team at phishing@irs.gov.


- ARA


BBB Watch


While most retailers love the holidays and the increased sales of the last quarter of each year, no one looks forward to the dreaded post-holiday gift returns. The Better Business Bureau is advising businesses to make sure that their return policies are simple and solid before tackling customer gift returns this holiday season.


"Though returns can be a hassle, it's important for retailers to keep their customers in mind when it comes to their policy," said Steve J. Bernas of the Better Business Bureau.


The BBB recommends that businesses consider the following when creating, solidifying or simplifying their return policy:  


Make sure the customer is aware of your policy. Display you policies at the checkout counter and on your website.


Provide gift receipts. Be sure to offer one at the time of purchase. This will make the return process smoother after the holidays.


Encourage customers to return the merchandise unused, unworn or unwrapped. Everyone likes getting merchandise in its original package and by encouraging customers to return goods this way, you better your chances that the product can be resold.


Make online returns easy. Lay out the return rules clearly. Explain who pays for the return shipping, where the customer sends the return, and any forms or mailing labels you want them to use.


Stay calm and helpful. The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone and making returns is usually not high on the customer's list of fun things to do. When working with a customer, always go into a return with a smile. If their experience is good, you may win over a new customer.


For more business tips, visit www.bbb.org.


The List


According to Forbes, here are the NBA’s most disliked players:




Kris Humphries

LeBron James

Kobe Bryant

Tony Parker

Ron Artest

Chris Bosh

Carmelo Anthony

Paul Pierce

Dwyane Wade

Lamar Odom

Number to Know


5.2 percent: Amount that sales at Sears Holding Corp. stores (Sears and Kmart) were down this holiday season, which prompted the move to close about 120 stores.


Tech Talk


Mobile analytics company Flurry said that 240 billion apps were downloaded on Christmas Day, a record amount for any one day.


GateHouse News Service