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THIS IS THE TIME FOR FRAUDULENT CALLS AND CAR THEFTS

The end of the year is here and that means it's time to return unwanted Christmas presents and fill out New Year's resolutions. While you're at it, scrutinize any sales pitches you hear for tax-exempt investments. And keep an eye on your car, too.

The last week of December and the early part of January are prime time for investment scam artists and car thieves.

The odd combination may be the result of people rushing to arrange finances before tax forms arrive while letting down their guard as the holidays come to a close.

Officials in Florida's financial investigations division say they see an increase in complaints about bogus investment sales during the last week of the year.

"This is the time of year that boiler room operators prey on people looking for tax-exempt investments," said Don Saxon, director of the Division of Securities.

He said people considering such an investment should check out the company making the offer.

Meanwhile, Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics suggest that, in the past five years, January has been a fruitful one for car thieves.

Last year, about 17 percent of car thefts took place in January and December.

But while Americans are more careful about taking precautions in December -- such as locking gifts and valuables in car trunks -- they are not as vigilant in January.

"No one really knows why it's the case but the anecdotal evidence suggests that people let their guard down a little," said Brian Edwards, a spokesman for alarm company Code Alarm.

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