Archive for the ‘Consumer Alerts’ Category

Public Health Alerts Now Accessible on Maine CDC Website

PRESS RELEASE

January 30, 2019
Human Services

Health alerts that were recently released only to professionals will now be available to the public

Augusta, ME – This week, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), with support from Governor Janet Mills and Acting Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Jeanne Lambrew, will make health alerts available on the Maine CDC website to ensure the public has easily accessible and relevant public health information at their fingertips. This comes with the issuance of the first alert for 2019, announcing that influenza has officially entered widespread status in Maine – a reminder for Maine residents to continue taking precautions to keep themselves healthy throughout the influenza season.

The Maine CDC routinely issues health advisories through the Health Alert Network to providers, various healthcare entities, child care facilities, city and county health organizations, and local, state, and federal agencies. Health alerts directly keep those on the frontlines updated on pertinent public health information including disease outbreaks, emerging trends, and guidance on anticipated public health concerns.

While health alerts are written for and distributed directly to professionals to inform their prevention and treatment practices, the information can also be useful to the general public who may be interested in specific details surrounding current public health issues within the state.

“Health alerts deliver incredibly important information when its needed most, such as updates related to the current status of influenza, Lyme disease, and hepatitis,” said Maine CDC Director, Dr. Bruce Bates. “Having this information readily available on our website is another tool we can use to keep folks informed on emerging public health concerns, and ultimately keep Mainers safe and healthy.”

Acting Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew added, “A key component of public health is public awareness and engagement. This change is part of our effort to increase transparency and build trust in the Department.”

Health alerts for fall 2018 through the most current are available here: www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/all-health-advisories.shtml

This page will be updated as new health alerts become available.

Like Maine CDC on Facebook: www.facebook.com/MaineCDC/

Follow Maine CDC Twitter: twitter.com/MEPublicHealth

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This is what a Social Security scam sounds like — Federal Trade Commission

Earlier this month, we told you about a growing scam: people pretend to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and try to get your Social Security number or your money. That scam is now growing exponentially. To compare: in 2017, we heard from 3,200 people about SSA imposter scams, and those people reported losing nearly $210,000. So far THIS year: more than 35,000 people have reported the scam, and they tell us they’ve lost $10 million.

Here’s what one of those scam calls sound like:

Scammers are saying your Social Security number (SSN) has been suspended because of suspicious activity, or because it’s been involved in a crime. Sometimes, the scammer wants you to confirm your SSN to reactivate it. Sometimes, he’ll say your bank account is about to be seized – but he’ll tell you what to do to keep it safe. (Often, that involves putting your money on gift cards and giving him the codes – which, of course, means that your money is gone.)

Oh, and your caller ID often shows the real SSA phone number (1-800-772-1213) when these scammers call – but they’re faking that number. It’s not the real SSA calling.

Here’s what to know:

  • Your Social Security number is not about to be suspended. You don’t have to verify your number to anyone who calls out of the blue. And your bank accounts are not about to be seized.
  • SSA will never call to threaten your benefits or tell you to wire money, send cash, or put money on gift cards. Anyone who tells you to do those things is a scammer. Every time.
  • The real SSA number is 1-800-772-1213, but scammers are putting that number in the caller ID. If you’re worried about what the caller says, hang up and call 1-800-772-1213 to speak to the real SSA. Even if the wait time is long, confirm with the real SSA before responding to one of these calls.
  • Never give any part of your Social Security number to anyone who contacts you. Or your bank account or credit card number.

If you get one of these calls, tell the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

 

Fake calls about your SSN — Federal Trade Commision

The FTC is getting reports about people pretending to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) who are trying to get your Social Security number and even your money. In one version of the scam, the caller says your Social Security number has been linked to a crime (often, he says it happened in Texas) involving drugs or sending money out of the country illegally. He then says your Social is blocked – but he might ask you for a fee to reactivate it, or to get a new number. And he will ask you to confirm your Social Security number.

In other variations, he says that somebody used your Social Security number to apply for credit cards, and you could lose your benefits. Or he might warn you that your bank account is about to be seized, that you need to withdraw your money, and that he’ll tell you how to keep it safe.

But all of these are scams. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The SSA will never (ever) call and ask for your Social Security number. It won’t ask you to pay anything. And it won’t call to threaten your benefits.
  • Your caller ID might show the SSA’s real phone number (1-800-772-1213), but that’s not the real SSA calling. Computers make it easy to show any number on caller ID. You can’t trust what you see there.
  • Never give your Social Security number to anyone who contacts you. Don’t confirm the last 4 digits. And don’t give a bank account or credit card number – ever – to anybody who contacts you asking for it.
  • Remember that anyone who tells you to wire money, pay with a gift card, or send cash is a scammer. Always. No matter who they say they are.

If you’re worried about a call from someone who claims to be from the Social Security Administration, get off the phone. Then call the real SSA at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). If you’ve spotted a scam, then tell the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

Tagged with: government, imposter
Blog Topics:

Money & Credit

Contact lens seller turns a blind eye to the law — Federal Trade Commission

Cosmetic contacts lenses – also known as costume or decorative contact lenses – can change the way your eye looks without correcting your vision. While they may seem like just another fashion accessory, the fact is all contacts require a prescription.

Anyone who sells you lenses without getting a copy of your prescription or verifying your prescription information with your prescriber is selling them illegally. That’s important because contacts that don’t fit can have serious consequences, including conjunctivitis (pink eye), scratches and sores on the cornea, even blindness.

But according to the FTC , one California-based contact lens seller turned a blind eye to the law. In its complaint, the FTC alleges that Lawrence L. Duskin – owner of HollywoodColorContacts.com, WorldColorContacts.com, and TopModelContacts.com – sold cosmetic contact lenses without getting customers’ prescriptions or verifying prescriptions with prescribers, and failed to maintain records of consumers’ prescriptions.

The FTC’s proposed order permanently bans Duskin from advertising, marketing, promoting, dispensing, or selling contact lenses, and includes a civil penalty judgment of $575,000.

If you’re in the market for cosmetic contacts, see an eye care professional for an eye exam and prescription. Once you have your prescription, only buy contacts from sellers who require your prescription (or will verify it with your eye doctor) and who sell FDA-approved contact lenses. Your sight may depend on it.

If you come across someone selling contact lenses without a prescription, tell the FTC.

For a more in-depth look at your prescription rights for contacts – and glasses – read Prescription Glasses and Contact Lenses. It includes a list of what you should see in your prescription.

Tagged with: eye care, prescription
Blog Topics:

Health & Fitness

Buying an internet-connected smart toy? Read this.

 

December 6, 2018
by Cristina Miranda
Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC

Before giving in to your kid’s plea for a new toy, you may want to collect some information about it. Why? Well, for one thing, that toy may want to collect information about your kid. I’m talking about internet-connected smart toys with cameras, microphones, and sensors. The ones that know your kids’ voices (and yours). Smart toys that silently collect data on each interaction, listen to conversations, and share their location while kids play.

Internet-connected smart toys have opened up a whole new set of possibilities for toys — experiences that are educational, just plain cool, or both. But smart toys run the risk of being hacked by criminals, or having their data misused, just like any other device.

Before buying a smart toy this holiday season, be sure you know how it works. If you can’t find information on how a smart toy collects, shares, or secures your kids’ data, think about buying something else.

  • Have there been security issues or recalls reported for this smart toy? Search online for the toy’s name, the company that makes it, plus the words “complaint,” “security,” and “privacy.”
  • What do watchdog and safe harbor groups have to say about it? Many offer smart toy recommendations.

Understand the smart toy’s features:

  • Does the toy come with a camera or microphone? What will it be recording, and will you know when the camera or microphone is on?
  • Are you okay with a toy that sends email to your child or connects to social media accounts?
  • Can parents control the toy and be involved in its setup and management?

Understand what information the smart toy collects, and how it will be used:

  • What kind of information does the toy collect when your child plays with it?
  • Where is this data (including pictures and recordings) stored, how is it shared, and who has access to it? Does the toy company give parents a way to see and delete the data?
  • If the toy collects personal information from your child under 13 years old, the toy company has to tell you about its privacy practices, ask for your consent, and give you the right to have your child’s personal information deleted. If it doesn’t, consider buying a smart toy that does. Or consider whether your kids might be happy with a toy that’s not quite so smart.

For more information, check out our Protecting Kids Online page.

Tagged with: child identity theft, identity theft, online security, personal information, privacy

Blog Topics:

Privacy, Identity & Online Security

New twist to grandparent scam: mail cash — FTC warns those over 70

In 2018, the Consumer Sentinel Network has seen a striking increase in the median dollar amount that people 70 and over are saying they lost to fraud. Digging into the data, we found some common stories with an unusual twist: people 70 and older report mailing huge amounts of cash to people who pretended to be their grandchildren.

$9,000 is the median cash amount that people 70+ sent to family or friend imposters

People 70 and over rarely report to the FTC that they paid a scammer with cash. But for one particular type of fraud – family and friend imposters – fully 25% of people 70 and over who reported to the FTC how they paid money told us they sent cash.

We call these family and friend imposter scams, but you may know them as the “grandparent scam” and with good reason. People 70 and over report that the scammer posed as a grandchild, usually a grandson, about 70% of the time.

People from all age groups reported median individual losses of about $2,000 to family and friend imposters – far higher than the median loss of $462 reported to us this year for all fraud types. But the story is much worse for people 70 and over who sent cash – they reported median individual losses of $9,000.

When we looked at fraud reports from all age groups, and from all Sentinel data contributors, we found that aggregate losses to family and friend imposters have increased. Losses over the past year reached $41 million, as compared to $26 million in the previous year.

Like many scams, these start with a phone call using some common ploys. In about half of the reports of cash payments, people said the caller claimed to be in jail or other legal trouble. About a third of these reports mentioned a so-called car accident (some mentioning texting or drinking while driving). In both cases, the callers play on people’s emotions and sense of loyalty: they may be told they’re the only person trusted enough to call for help, and they’re often told not to tell anyone.

Read the entire report

Hang up on spoofed SSA calls

If you get a call that looks like it’s from the Social Security Administration (SSA), think twice. Scammers are spoofing SSA’s 1-800 customer service number to try to get your personal information. Spoofing means that scammers can call from anywhere, but they make your caller ID show a different number – often one that looks legit. Here are few things you should know about these so-called SSA calls.

These scam calls are happening across the nation, according to SSA: Your phone rings. Your caller ID shows that it’s the SSA calling from 1-800-772-1213. The caller says he works for the Social Security Administration and needs your personal information – like your Social Security number – to increase your benefits payments. (Or he threatens to cut off your benefits if you don’t give the information.) But it’s not really the Social Security Administration calling. Yes, it is the SSA’s real phone number, but the scammers on the phone are spoofing the number to make the call look real.

What can you do if you get one of these calls? Hang up. Remember:

SSA will not threaten you. Real SSA employees will never threaten you to get personal information. They also won’t promise to increase your benefits in exchange for information. If they do, it’s a scam.

If you have any doubt, hang up and call SSA directly. Call 1-800-772-1213 – that really is the phone number for the Social Security Administration. If you dial that number, you know who you’re getting. But remember that you can’t trust caller ID. If a call comes in from that number, you can’t be sure it’s really SSA calling.

If you get a spoofed call, report it. If someone calls, claiming to be from SSA and asking for information like your Social Security number, report it to SSA’s Office of Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 or https://oig.ssa.gov/report. You can also report these calls to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

For more tips, check out the FTC’s How to Stop Unwanted Calls and Government Imposter Scams. If you think someone has misused your personal information, go to IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft and find out what steps to take.

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