imposter-scams-top-the-ftc-fraud-list-for-2018

Imposter scams top the FTC fraud list for 2018

Hand Holding Megaphone With Speech Bubble SCAM. Announcement. Vector illustration

In 2018, people reported losses of nearly $1.48 billion in fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC.) That was a $406 million over what consumers reported losing in 2017. One in every 4 people who report fraud to the FTC suffer some monetary losses.

The FTC, which monitors fraud through its Consumer Sentinel Network, has collected tens of millions of consumer reports about fraud, identity theft, and other consumer protection topics over more than 20 years. In a recently issued report, The 2018 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book (FTC), the FTC summarizes nearly 3 million consumer reports. Reports encompass both those in which money was lost, as well as those in which mo money was lost.

They sort consumer reports into 29 top fraud categories, and of those categories, in 2018, the three that topped the list of reports were:

  • Imposter Scams -18%
  • Debt collection – 16%
  • Identity theft – 15%

chart- top 10 fraud categories

Related: Imposter scams top the list of 2018 consumer fraud complaints and Fraud alert: This is (not) the government calling.

Some other key fraud report findings include:

  • Telephone was the method of contact for 69% of fraud reports with a contact method identified
  • Wire transfers continue to be the most frequently reported payment method for fraud
  • Those aged 20-29 reported losing money to fraud in 43% of reports, while people aged 70 – 79 reported losing money in 15% of their reports.
  • People aged 70 and older reported much higher median losses than any other age group.
  • States with the highest per capita rates of reported fraud in 2018 were Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Delaware, and Maryland.
  • States with the highest reports of identity theft were Georgia, Nevada,California, Florida, and Texas

You can search the full report to find a breakdown of information on fraud by state – here are more highlights.

consumer fraud infographic

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

know-the-signs-stroke-can-happen-at-any-age

Know the signs: Stroke can happen at any age

May is American Stroke Month. The recent deaths of beloved filmmaker John Singleton, aged 51 and actor Luke Perry, aged 52, serve as a sad reminder of why awareness of stroke warning signs is so vital. It’s also important to have a response plan for what to do if a stroke is suspected.

Generally, we tend to think of stroke as a medical condition affecting the elderly – and while stroke risk does increase in older years, the reality is that people of any age can suffer a stroke. In fact, health authorities say that the stroke risk for younger people is climbing.

“The deaths of Perry and Singleton underscore the fact that strokes are becoming more common among middle-aged adults. Between 2003 and 2012, the odds of being admitted to a hospital following an ischemic stroke — the most common type of stroke — increased 35.6% among U.S. residents ages 35 to 44. For those 45 to 54, the odds increased 20.5% over the same period, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.”

It’s important to learn stroke symptoms and act immediately, because with rapid treatment, stroke damage can be limited and the person can have a better chance of recovery. Experts say to think FAST: Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Slurred speech, and Take action, time is vital. The symptoms are ones that we might identify as a stroke in the elderly, but we might not be looking for such symptoms in people who are young or middle-aged. In younger people, these and other common stroke symptoms might be misattributed to intoxication or drug use.

Limit your risk

Here’s some good news: an estimated 80% of strokes in the US are considered preventable. There are two primary types of risk factors for stroke:

  • Uncontrollable factors, such as age, gender, race and ethnicity, family history, a prior stroke and certain health conditions.
  • Modifiable factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, a diet high in saturated fats, physical inactivity and obesity.

Learn more about stroke risk factors that are controllable and steps you can take to control them. See also: 7 things you can do to prevent a stroke.

This video depicts an elderly person who is having stroke symptoms and what happens afterwards. It’s well done. Save a life by having a better understanding of stroke and by knowing what signs and symptoms to look for.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

get-your-ride-on-may-is-national-bike-month

Get your ride on: May is National Bike Month

Haul the bike out of the cellar or the garage because May is National Bike Month, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists and celebrated in communities from coast to coast. National Bike to Work Week 2019 will take place May 13–19. Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 17.

Biking is a great way to experience the outdoors and to get good exercise. It’s also a much more economical and earth-friendly form of transpiration than cars. Whatever your reason for biking, there are a few important steps to take to make sure you are safe on the road.

Finally, don’t forget to protect your investment! Bicycle theft may be covered by your homeowners or renters insurance but there is ordinarily a rather high deductible. If your bike is particularly valuable, you may want to speak with your independent insurance agent about a floater policy to keep it covered at all times.See our prior post which includes a video bicycle insure quiz and link to more information on insuring your bike from the Insurance Information Institute.  In addition to a discussion about insurance, they suggest marking your bike, writing the serial number down and taking several photos of it to help police in identification. They also recommend registering your bike with local police and the National Bike Registry.

Year-Round Bicycle Maintenance

Spring Tune Up - Bicycle Maintenance
Source: Fix.com Blog

Quick Fixes - Bicycle Maintenance
Source: Fix.com Blog

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

national-prescription-drug-take-back-day-april-27

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day: April 27

Do you have expired or unused prescription medicines sitting around in your kitchen or bathroom cabinets? Now you have a safe and anonymous way to dispose of them: National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on April 27.

According to the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), unused or expired prescription drug medications are a public safety issue, leading to potential accidental poisonings, misuse and overdose. Too often, unused prescription drugs find their way into the wrong hands. That’s dangerous and often tragic. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet. That’s why it was great to see thousands of folks from across the country clean out their medicine cabinets and turn in – safely and anonymously – a record amount of prescription drugs. During the last Take Back Day in October 2018, more than 457 tons of medications were turned in at more than 5000 collection sites nationwide for proper disposal.

Proper disposal of unused drugs saves lives and saves the environment!

Use the Collection Site Locator – enter your zip code to find a site near you.

If you or someone you love needs help for a prescription drug problem, find treatment using the treatment services locator.

The DEA offers tips for disposal if no disposal instructions are given on the prescription drug label and no prescription drug take-back program is available in your area:

  • You must not share your prescription drugs – they were prescribed to you.
  • Remove the medicine from its original container and mix it with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter.
  • Place the mixture in a sealable bag, empty bag, or other container to prevent medicine from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.
  • Scratch out all identifying information on the prescription label to make it unreadable to protect your identity and the privacy of your personal health information.
  • Do not flush medicines down the sink or toilet unless the prescription drug labeling specifically instructs you to do so, and check with your community’s laws and regulations prior to taking such action.

See more in this PDF tip sheet: How to properly dispose of your unused medicines

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

car-thieves-are-just-driving-away-with-our-cars-for-the-darndest-reason

Car thieves are just driving away with our cars for the darndest reason!

We’ve all misplaced our car keys at one point or another, but are people getting more forgetful?

That would appear to be the case if we review the recent report that the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) issued on car thefts. Thieves are driving away with our cars because we are making it too easy for them by leaving our keys and fobs right in the vehicles!

While car thefts in general are on a downward trend, the numbers of cars stolen due to keys in the car are on the rise. And it’s not just a slight uptick – there’s been a 56% increase since 2015 and an 88% increase since 2013!  Every single day last year, an average of more than 200 cars were stolen due to keys in the car. You can learn more in the NICB press release on thefts of vehicles with keys, along with the short video and infographic, below.

Sometimes the keys or fobs left in the car are not due to forgetfulness – thefts spike in the winter when there are more cars being warmed up in cold weather. Beyond that, NICB doesn’t speculate as to why. It may be because they are quieter. We previously talked about how quieter, keyless cars are related to an increase in carbon monoxide deaths. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess: Too much trust in anti-theft and theft-recovery systems? An aging population of drivers? Distracted by our phones as we are powering off our cars? Hard to know.

To prevent this happening, NICB advises drivers to:

  • Lock the vehicle, set the alarm and take all keys or FOBS.
  • Do not leave the garage door opener in the vehicle.
  • Take a picture of your registration on your cell phone and do not leave the registration or other papers with personal information in the vehicle.
  • Never leave a car unlocked and running to warm it up or while stopping for a quick cup of coffee. It only takes a moment for the opportunistic thief to jump inside and drive off.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

thinking-of-a-side-hustle-check-with-your-insurance-agent

Thinking of a side hustle? Check with your insurance agent

Today, it seems like everybody’s got a side hustle, which is essentially just a fancy rebranding of what used to be called moonlighting. But today’s moonlighting often comes with a twist …. these gigs often involve using your personal car or home to generate extra income. Whether it’s driving for Lyft, dropping off packages for Amazon, delivering meals through DoorDash, renting your home through Airbnb or just taking advantage of a tourist influx during a big local event by renting out your home, five words of advice: check with your insurance agent.

If your goal is earning some extra cash, make sure you understand and are covered for potential risks. You might think you are covered by working for a third-party service, but if you injure yourself or someone else while working, if you damage or lose someone’s property or if you suffer a loss to your own property, you may be on your own. Here are just two examples:

Home rental – If you want to start renting out all or a portion of your home through a peer-to-peer rental service, what happens if a guest is injured on your property? Or if a guest burns the whole place down in a cooking fire, will your rental service cover your home replacement?

Some services, such as Airbnb and VRBO, offer programs such as host guarantees or host liability insurance. On first glance, these may look adequate – $1 million liability coverage should be enough, right? But like most things, you need to read the fine print because there are conditions, limitations and exclusions that could leave you exposed to serious loss. You also should not assume that your own homeowners policy will provide coverage in a home rental scenario. Insurance Information Institute says:

Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies are designed for personal risks, not commercial risks. Some insurers now offer a home-sharing liability insurance policy that can be purchased on a month-to-month basis, but there may be exclusions and limitations, so read the policy carefully. If you plan to rent out all or part of your home on a regular basis, many companies will consider this a business use and you may need to purchase a business policy—specifically either a hotel or a bed-and-breakfast policy.

Ridesharing – Check with the service you are contracting with about any coverage that they might offer – states are increasingly mandating that third-party services provide some coverage, but again – there could be conditions, limitations and exclusions that leave dangerous gaps in your coverage. And it’s a mistake to assume that your own personal auto insurance will cover you. Insurance Information Institute says:

Generally a standard personal auto policy will not provide coverage for ride-sharing. A standard personal auto insurance policy stops providing coverage from the moment a driver logs into a TNC ride-sharing app to the moment the customer has exited the car and the transaction is closed.

They also advise:

Prospective drivers should ask the TNC what level of coverage it provides. Drivers should also contact their own auto insurer to address gaps, if any, in their liability protection. It is also recommended that TNC drivers review a copy of their TNC’s insurance contracts so they know the exact terms and conditions of the coverage.

Learn more: Ride-sharing and insurance: Q&A

These are just two common examples of so-called side-hustles, but other income-generating activities might call for other types of coverage, such as product liability or home business coverage. Your agent can also help you assess the adequacy of coverage offered by a third-party.  If you are considering a side-hustle, give your independent insurance agent a call to talk things over.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

your-annual-reminder-any-dog-can-bite

Your annual reminder: Any dog can bite

This week is Dog Bite Prevention Week and the US Postal Service would like to remind you that although there are about 78 million good doggies here in the U.S., “any dog can bite.” They should know. Their carriers suffer about 6,000 dog attacks a year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million people are victims of dog attacks each year. The most susceptible to dog attacks are small children, the elderly and postal carriers, in that order.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says that most, if not all, the dog bites that occur are preventable. They tally some recent numbers: In 2017 there were nearly 350,000 people treated at hospital emergency rooms for non-fatal dog-related injuries. Of those people, there were nearly 10,600 children two years old or younger who visited emergency rooms as a result of dog bites​.

Liability Insurance and Dog Bites

Besides the human and canine trauma that can result, dog bites are also a costly problem. In 2018, dog bites and other dog-related injuries tallied $675 million in liability claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and studies by State Farm. In terms of states, California is #1, with 2166 claims at an average claim cost of $45,542. Florida is #2, with 1281 claims at an average claim cost of $43,893. Texas, Illinois and New York round out the top five states in terms of claims counts and expenses. You can check to see where your state falls on this III interactive state-by-state dog bite liability map.

Your homeowners insurance policy will typically cover and claims related to dog bites, up to the liability limits. If you have a dog, you should talk to your agent about liability limits and also the type of dog you have. I talking about dog bite liability, III says that

“Some insurance companies will not insure homeowners who own certain breeds of dogs categorized as dangerous, such as pit bulls. Others decide on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether an individual dog, regardless of its breed has been deemed vicious. Some insurers do not ask the breed of a dog owned when writing or renewing homeowners insurance and do not track the breed of dogs involved in dog bite incidents. However, once a dog has bitten someone, it poses an increased risk. In that instance, the insurance company may charge a higher premium, nonrenew the homeowner’s insurance policy or exclude the dog from coverage.”

See our prior post on dog breeds that are sometimes blacklisted by insurance companies.

Helpful dog bite prevention resources

Dogs attacks occur for a number of reasons. The dog may be protecting territory. They may feel threatened by strangers or startled. They may be annoyed if they are eating. American Humane offers these tips for dog owners:

  • Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet.
  • Interactions between children and dogs should always be monitored to ensure the safety of both your child and your dog.
  • Teach your children to treat the dog with respect and not to engage in rough or aggressive play.
  • Make sure your pet is socialized as a young puppy so it feels at ease around people and other animals.
  • Never put your dog in a position where s/he feels threatened.
  • Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep him/her healthy and to provide mental stimulation.
  • Use a leash in public to ensure you can control your dog.
  • Regular veterinary care is essential to maintain your dog’s health; a sick or injured dog is more likely to bite.
  • Be alert, if someone approaches you and your dog – caution them to wait before petting the dog, give your pet time to be comfortable with a stranger.

Find more dog bite prevention tips:

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

its-national-work-zone-awareness-week

It’s National Work Zone Awareness Week

Highway road construction zones are a dangerous place, an area where accidents are more likely to happen. Workers perform their jobs in a high-risk environment as multi-ton metallic vehicles speed by them all throughout their shift. But despite the vulnerability of the road workers, drivers are the most frequent fatality in work zone crashes. Between 2016 and 2017, fatal crashes in work zones increased by 3 percent while fatal crashes outside of work zones decreased by 1.5 percent.

Work zones are a highly dangerous and unpredictable environment for drivers, who encounter narrow lanes, sudden stops and traffic pattern shifts. Work vehicles can be entering and exiting. Normal road markings may be obstructed, replaced by unfamiliar signage. Paved shoulders are not in place.

This week marks National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 8-12 – a campaign to raise awareness about the risks for workers and the general public alike, and to offer a reminder to “drive like you work here” around work zones for the safety of all.

Here are infographic tips from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – copy them  and share them on social media.

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

new-consumer-protections-for-prepaid-debit-cards

New consumer protections for prepaid debit cards

Prepaid debit cards are more and more common in our daily lives. They’ve become the standard for gift cards. Parents find them a convenient way to send a child off to college with a stipend of credit to use for spending and emergencies. Some employers even use them to pay their workers. And, increasingly, instead of issuing a check for a refund, more and more companies are issuing prepaid credit cards. A report in the LA Times talks about some of the problems that practice can create for consumers: More refunds are being made with prepaid debit cards. Is that a good thing for consumers?

Just a few of these problems include:

  • You become fair game for marketing from the financial firm that issues the card
  • The card may have a finance charge if it is unused for a period of time, eating into the value
  • Prepaid cards are often forgotten and go unused
  • You have to read the fine print to learn about fees, expiration and other terms of use
  • Some cards have limitations on where they can be spent

New consumer protections now in effect

Starting on April 1 of this year, consumers will have more protection when they opt for prepaid debit cards, thanks to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – but to activate that protection, users must register the cards on the card issuer’s website. Consumer Reports explains: New Prepaid Card Rule Goes Into Effect.

Prepaid cards issued on April 1 and thereafter will have clear disclosures of key fees on the outside packaging so that consumers can compare cards before they buy.

Consumers who use these cards will also be protected from liability in cases of unauthorized transactions or fraud, as users of debit cards have long been.

The rule applies not only to the plastic you buy in brick-and-mortar stores but also to payroll cards, cards for government benefits such as Social Security. It also applies to funds held in dedicated “stored value” accounts on mobile person-to-person payment services like Venmo and Cash.

Among the protections that the article explains in detail:

  • Protection from unauthorized errors and charges
  • Disclosure if the card has no FDIC insurance coverage
  • Basic account information at no charge
  • Limits on how overdrafts are handled

Prepaid cards are popular for a variety of reasons. They’re more secure than cash and they work much like a debit card, but they don’t require pre-approved credit. But until now, consumer protections have been limited.

As with most financial vehicles, if pays to be a savvy consumer. US News featured a good overview, including the pros and cons, in an article about how prepaid credit cards work. It talks about the types of cards, offers alternative payment options, and compares the benefits to those of secured credit cards and debit cards. Be an informed consumer!

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

home-burglars-reveal-the-tricks-of-the-trade

Home burglars reveal the tricks of the trade

How do home burglars choose a home to rob? What makes it easier or harder for them to break into a home? What can homeowners do to ensure their home is not a target? To learn the answers to these questions, Portland Oregon KGW TV’s investigative team sent letters to inmates currently serving time for burglary in the Oregon Department of Corrections. Inmates were surveyed anonymously about how they broke in, when the crime occurred and what they were looking for. See: We asked 86 burglars how they broke into homes

Here’s an eye-opening video as a KGW reporter rides around a neighborhood with a former home burglar who talks about how he cased homes and commit robberies.

The linked article above is also worth reading. When asked “What is the one thing homeowners can do to avoid being burglarized?”: “Burglars suggest homeowners make their property visible with good lighting and trimmed bushes and trees. You should get to know your neighbors and alert police if you see anything suspicious.”

  • “In my opinion, I think homeowners should always leave a TV or radio on,” said one inmate.
  • “Get a camera and make it visible!” wrote another.
  • “Put bars on your windows and doors, get an alarm, keep an extra car in the driveway, keep lights, TVs and radios on when you leave your home,” read one questionnaire.
  • “Home alarm, know your neighbor so they can report suspicious people around the neighborhood,” said a burglar.

More secrets from robbers

For another brief video and tips from burglars see How do you prevent a burglary? Convicted thieves tell all – KSL in Salt Lake City.

We previously featured a post on Burglar Secrets: Expert advice on how to protect your home.. While links to the original article we cited are no longer operational, we excerpted several tips in the post. Among them,  mistakes that burglars said people often make:

  • Bragging about valuables, new purchases
  • Leaving doors and windows unlocked or garage doors open
  • Failing to enable security systems
  • Leaving valuables visible through windows
  • Leaving valuable things like bikes and riding mowers laying about in the yard
  • Having uncovered windows that allow views into the home

Talk to your insurance agent

Your home insurance company might also have good information about keeping your home safe. And if you have home security systems, you may earn a discount on your insurance policy – talk this over with your independent insurance agent.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.