Archive for the ‘Press Releases’ Category

Buyer Beware: In the Wake of Harvey and Irma How to Avoid Buying a Flood Damaged Vehicle – Consumer Federation of America

Press RELEASE
Contact: Jack Gillis, 202-737-0766

September 11, 2017

With Harvey and Irma Flooding Millions of Vehicles, There’s a Good Chance Unscrupulous Sellers Will Try and Sell These Potentially Dangerous Vehicles

Washington, D.C. – With over 13 million vehicles in the path of Harvey and Irma, flood damaged vehicles could run in the millions. “While, hopefully, these vehicles will have their titles marked flood damaged and go to salvage yards, many will likely re-enter the market as used cars,” said Jack Gillis, the Consumer Federation of America’s Director of Public Affairs and author of The Car Book.  Because of the computerization, electronics and sophisticated safety technology in today’s vehicles, it’s critical that you avoid getting stuck with one of these lemons.  “Looks can be deceiving—with a nice clean up, these water infested vehicles, may actually look pretty good—which means knowing how to identify a flooded vehicle is critical. When it comes to buying a car, three out of four of us buy used. So there’s a big incentive for disreputable sellers to move flood damaged vehicles north hoping to sell them to unsuspecting buyers,” said Gillis.

Here are some important tips for avoiding a flood damaged vehicle:

1.     Check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) which is located on the driver’s side dashboard, visible through the windshield, with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) or CarFax (both currently offering free flood history information). Even if the database has no flood information, beware, as fraudsters have ways of getting around VIN registration information or it simply wasn’t reported.

2.     Use your nose.  Beware if the vehicle smells musty or damp or if you smell some kind of air freshener.  Close up the windows and run the air conditioner and check for a moldy smell.

3.     Look for dirt, mud and water stains.  Check the carpets, seat upholstery, cloth lining inside the roof, if you see any dirt or mud stains, beware. Feel under the dashboard for dirt or moisture and look in the glove boxes, ashtray, and various other compartments for moisture or stains. If you see straight stain line either on the inside of the door panel, engine compartment or trunk—watch out, that’s probably how high the water went in the vehicle.  Tip: If the carpeting, seat coverings or headliner seem too new for the vehicle, that’s a sign that they may have been replaced due to flood damage.

4.     Listen for crunch.  Pull the seats forward and back and try all of the safety belts. If you’re looking at an SUV with folding seats, try folding them all.  Listen for the ‘crunchy’ sound of sand or dirt in the mechanisms or less than smooth operation.

5.     Check the spare tire (or inflator) area. Look for mud, sand or stains on the spare tire and jack equipment and the well under the spare tire. Check under the trunk carpet for a rigid board and look to see if it is stained or has water damage.

6.     Power up.  Be sure to try all the power options including windows, locks, seats, moon roof, automatic doors, wipers, window washers, lights, AC system, etc.  If any don’t work, sound funny, or operate erratically, beware. And don’t forget the sound system.  Try out the radio, CD player and Bluetooth connectivity. Adjust the speakers front and back and side to side to listen for any crackling or speaker failure.

7.     Check for rust or corrosion.  Look around the doors, in the wheel wells, under the seats, under the hood and trunk and inside the engine compartment.

8.     Look under the hood.  Look at the air filter.  It’s often easy to check and will show signs of water damage.  Check the oil and transmission fluid.  If it looks milky or has beads of water, watch out.

9.     Take a test drive and listen for unusual engine or transmission sounds or erratic shifting and acceleration. Set the cruise control to see if it is working properly.

10.     Check out the head and tail lights; look closely to see if there is any water or fogging inside.  Same with the dashboard—are any of the gauges foggy or containing moisture droplets.

The Consumer Federation of America is a nonprofit association of more than 250 consumer groups that was founded in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education.

Advertisements

Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills offers advice about helping victims of Hurricane Harvey

Mills warns consumers to avoid giving to potentially fraudulent websites

Press Release
OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
08/29/2017 04:04 PM EDT

AUGUSTA – Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills advised Mainers to choose wisely in sending funds to agencies to help the families and communities suffering from the extreme weather produced by Hurricane Harvey in Texas this week.

“A natural disaster brings out the best us, and people around the world offer whatever we can to aid victims like those down in Texas this week,” said Mills. “Unfortunately, it also sometimes brings out people who take advantage of our good nature and provide no help to those in need.”

AG Mills warned against giving money to organizations that are unfamiliar or not recommended by her office or other official sources. AG Mills shared a list of those organizations that are considered reliable

“If consumers have any questions or complaints about a particular organization I encourage them to call our Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-436-2131.”

Other sources for guidance related to charitable giving can be found at the links below for the Maine Attorney General, the Texas Attorney General, and the Federal Trade Commission. http://www.maine.gov/ag/consumer/charities/index.shtml

https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/charities-nonprofits-registration-filings

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2017/08/ftc-advice-helping-hurricane-harvey-victims

The American Red Cross is encouraging people to donate money on its website, http://www.redcross.org, or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10. Apple is also accepting Red Cross donations via iTunes and the Apple App Store.

The Red Cross is also seeking blood. Upcoming blood drives in southern Maine:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at: Portland Blood Donation Center 524 Forest Ave., Portland

Thursday at: Maine Mall, 364 Maine Mall Road South Portland

AG Mills added that she plans on donating blood in the coming days.

Americares, an emergency response organization based in Connecticut, is delivering emergency medicine and relief supplies and working with a local clinic in Houston. Make a donation at americares.org.

United Way Worldwide has a relief fund to provide shelter and basic needs, as well as long-term recovery efforts. Donate at https://www.unitedway.org/.

The Salvation Army is accepting donations for hurricane relief at give.salvationarmyusa.org.

To help pets stranded by Hurricane Harvey, donations are being accepted by the Humane Society of the United States at http://www.humanesociety.org/.

For volunteer opportunities or other places to donate, check with National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, at nvoad.org. ###

It’s Mosquito Season in Maine

Press Release

Maine.gov
07/13/2017 11:39 AM EDT

AUGUSTA – Summer is here, which means the arrival of mosquito season in Maine. Following recent identification of a case of Jamestown Canyon virus in the state, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) wants to raise awareness about arboviral diseases, including Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), and West Nile virus (WNV), which are serious infections that are transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. Although rare, these diseases have potentially severe and even fatal consequences for those who contract them.

Jamestown Canyon virus is a relatively rare disease that can be carried by multiple mosquitoes including mosquito species that are present here in Maine. The case involved a mature adult from Kennebec County who had symptom onset in early June. The case required hospitalization but the individual is recovering at home. Symptoms of arboviral illnesses include fever and flu-like illness, and can result in encephalitis or meningitis. Jamestown Canyon virus as well as the two more well-known diseases-West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis -are viruses transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. They cannot be transmitted from human to human or animal to human.

“This case reminds us all that mosquitoes are more than a nuisance, but they can also carry disease,” said State Epidemiologist, Dr. Siiri Bennett. “Prevention is key if Mainers are going to protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases.”

Steps Mainers can take to protect themselves from mosquito bites include:

  • Wear long sleeves and long pants
  • Use an EPA approved repellent on skin and clothes – always follow the instructions on the label
  • Take extra precautions at dusk and dawn
  • Use screens on your windows and doors
  • Drain artificial sources of standing water where you live, work, and play

The risk for being bitten by a mosquito is highest from dusk to dawn and when temperatures are above 50 degrees (and especially above 60 degrees). These are the conditions when mosquitoes are most actively biting.

The mosquitoes that carry EEE and WNVs pick it up from infected wild birds. The virus replicates in birds, which act as natural reservoirs for the disease. Maine tests mosquitoes for EEE and WNV starting in July and continuing through the summer months.

Maine CDC provides information on mosquito-borne disease surveillance in Maine on a weekly basis. These reports are posted every Monday beginning July 17th through mid-October at www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/vector-borne/arboviral-surveillance.shtml

For More Information:

(Maine) Law Allows 14 and 15 Year Olds To Be Hired in New Occupations Immediately

Teens can work in movie theaters, bowling alleys, permanent amusement parks and in certain places in bakeries and hotels

PRESS RELEASE

July 10, 2017
Contact: Julie Rabinowitz, 207-621-5009

AUGUSTA—The Department of Labor’s bill to modernize the regulations governing youth employment, LD 1564, which was amended by the Senate to include an emergency preamble, is now law and effective immediately.

“There is no better preparation for the responsibilities of adulthood than working when you are a teenager,” stated Governor LePage. “My administration has placed a high priority on opening up more opportunities for young people to work, and on our fourth attempt in five years at passing these much needed reforms, the Legislature responded. There is more we can do, so we must continue to help young people gain the experience, skills, and knowledge about their own career interests that can only come from holding a job.”

LD 1564, sponsored by Senator Brian Langley of Hancock County, encourages minors to develop work skills earlier by removing some of the barriers to employment that existed in statute and brings certain provisions into compliance with federal law to ensure that young people are protected from hazardous conditions. It amends laws relating to minors 14 and 15 years of age to allow them to work in bowling alleys, movie theaters and permanent amusement parks, and to clarify their employment in bakeries, hotels and rooming houses—opening more occupations and broadening the things they can do.

“Employers in these industries can immediately begin making job offers to 14 and 15 year olds for the newly expanded occupations,” advised Commissioner of Labor John Butera. “Maine’s employers need these workers to help in this tight labor market, and we’ve seen a surge in permits this year. Our team is working hard to turn around approved permits as soon as possible.”

The work-permit application can be downloaded and printed directly from the department’s website: http://www.maine.gov/labor/laborlaws/publications/mainework_permit.pdf . The approval process has three steps: the employer makes the job offer and helps complete the application, the parent or guardian signs the application and brings it to the superintendent’s office. The school system sends the form to the department. Be sure the application form includes proof of age, the parent’s or guardian’s signature, the actual business name, and the specific job duties (e.g., “dishwasher”) for faster turn-around.

The bill also allows for the modernization of the work permit process, clarifies that graduates of vocational programs who are under 18 years of age can work in the occupations for which they were trained, grants the department, not just superintendents, the ability to revoke a permit and allows the department to make rules governing employment. Included as well are restrictions in employment relating to legalized marijuana.

A copy of the Guide to Maine Laws Governing the Employment of Minors and permit is posted on the Maine Department of Labor website at http://www.maine.gov/labor/bls/index.shtml .
Businesses with questions about employing minors can call the customer service line at (207) 623-7900 or email their request to mdol@maine.gov .

 

In Highlighting Elder Abuse Awareness Day, State Officials Urge Mainers to Report Suspected Cases of Financial Exploitation

PRESS RELEASE
June 13, 2017
Contact:  Judith Shaw
Administrator Maine Office of Securities
1-877-624-8551
TTY:  Maine Relay 711

June 15th Observance Draws Attention to under-reported ‘Crime of the 21st Century’, and the Need for People to Report Concerns about Abuse of Seniors

AUGUSTA Officials at Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (DPFR) are focusing attention on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day–recognized each June 15th throughout the United States and in other countries, and often referred to as the ‘crime of the 21st century,’ because of its increasing prevalence and devastating impacts.

“The abuse of seniors is among the most under-reported crimes, and its impact can have devastating consequences for its victims,” DPFR Commissioner Anne Head said.  “Unfortunately, the perpetrator is often a relative or caregiver, making it more difficult for the senior to come forward.  Each of us has a responsibility to report concerns about potential abuse.”

Commissioner Head noted that financial abuse is among the most common forms of elder abuse, costing its U.S. victims an estimated $2.9 billion a year.

The Commissioner highlighted the Department’s five agencies, all of which are dedicated to educating the public and helping the victims of financial abuse.  She pointed out the Downeaster Guide to Elder Financial Protection available through the Department’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection by calling 1-800-332-8529 or at www.Credit.Maine.gov under “Publications”.  She also highlighted the many resources available through the Bureau of Financial Institution’s online Consumer Library (www.maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions).

Maine Securities Administrator Judith Shaw, who serves on the Maine Council on Elder Abuse Prevention, noted the frequency of investment fraud and the importance of reporting suspected cases.  “Of special concern, is investment fraud of seniors,” Administrator Shaw said.  “Victims can lose their entire life-savings, with little opportunity to recover financial stability.”  For investment-related questions or concerns, the Office of Securities within the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation can be reached at 1-877-624-8551 and at www.investors.maine.gov.

Signs that an older adult may be vulnerable to possible abuse or exploitation may include:

  • Social isolation and/or recent loss of a spouse or partner
  • Recent decline in health or in the ability for self-care
  • Lack of familiarity with financial accounts
  • Dependence on another to provide everyday care or essential services
  • Willingness to listen to telemarketing calls or respond to solicitations from unverified charities or businesses

Red flags of possible victimization include:

  • Senior has injuries that are not adequately explained
  • Change in appearance or poor hygiene
  • Senior is missing checks, account statements or documentation regarding finances
  • Running out of money at the end of the month
  • Senior appears fearful or depressed
  • Senior is accompanied by a caregiver who is overly protective or dominating

Partial List of State Agencies and Organizations in Maine providing information, services and education on elder abuse, including financial exploitation: 

Maine Office of Aging and Disability Services:

www.maine.gov/dhhs/oads

1-800-262-2232 or 207-287-9200

Adult Protective Services:

www.maine.gov/dhhs/oads/aging/aps/

Hotline: 1-800-624-8404

Legal Services for the Elderly:

www.mainelse.org

1-800-750-5353 

Maine Area Agencies on Aging:

List of regional agencies with full contact information:

www.maine.gov/dhhs/oes/resource/aaa.htm

Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation:

(Five Agencies Offering a Wide Range of Assistance to Seniors and Caregivers)

www.maine.gov/pfr

Office of Securities:  1-877-624-8551

(Investment Questions or Concerns)

www.investors.maine.gov

Bureau of Financial Institutions:  1-800-965-5235

(Banking Questions or Concerns)

www.maine.gov/pfr/financialinstitutions

Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection:  1-800-332-8529

(Credit, Foreclosure, General Financial Scam Concerns)

www.maine.gov/pfr/consumercredit

Bureau of Insurance:  1-800-300-5000

(Insurance-related Questions or Concerns)

www.maine.gov/pfr/insurance

Office of Professional and Occupational Licensing: 207-624-8603

(Questions or Concerns Related to Licensed Professionals)

www.maine.gov/pfr/professionallicensing

State Officials Caution Maine Residents about Threats Posed by Severe Weather as Hurricane Season Approaches

PRESS RELEASE 

GARDINER – With the Atlantic Hurricane Season approaching, Governor Paul R. LePage and Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa are reminding Maine residents about steps that can be taken to protect people, minimize property loss and speed recovery after weather-related damage.  The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st and runs through November.

Governor LePage and Superintendent Cioppa encourage Mainers to review their homeowners or renters policy and to evaluate the benefits of flood insurance.  They also urge residents to complete a home inventory checklist and assemble an emergency supply kit.

“The start of the hurricane season is a good time to remember that severe weather can strike anytime and it’s important to be prepared,” Governor LePage said.  “There are simple steps we can all take to keep our families safe and property protected, and to recover quickly if damage occurs.”

Cioppa urged residents to understand what’s covered by their homeowners or renters policy and make sure coverage is adequate.  “Standard homeowner policies do not cover flooding, which is surprising to many people.  We should all take time to become familiar with our policy, purchase additional coverage if needed, consider whether flood insurance makes sense, and complete an inventory of possessions.”

Flood InsuranceFlooding is typically not covered by a standard homeowners policy.  Due to a 30-day waiting period for coverage to take effect, quick action is needed for a policy to be in place for much of this year’s hurricane season.  Details are available from the National Flood Insurance Program by calling 1-800-427-2419 or online at www.floodsmart.gov.  The website includes tools to help homeowners assess their flood risk.

Inventory Checklist:  A checklist can be enormously helpful in establishing an insurance claim.  Although a copy of the inventory can be kept at home, a second should always be maintained with insurance policies, medical records, and other important documents in a safety deposit box or other secure location.  The inventory should include photos and video of property.  A free checklist can be obtained on the Bureau’s website www.maine.gov/insurance (directly at www.maine.gov/pfr/insurance/consumer/individuals_families/homeowners_renters/home_inventory_checklist.html).

Additionally, the Governor and Superintendent encouraged residents to establish an emergency supply kit.  It should include several days of drinking water (at least one gallon per person per day), non-perishable packaged or canned foods, a non-electrical can opener and cooking utensil.  The kit should also contain first aid materials, necessary medications, basic tools, a battery or crank-operated radio and flashlights, extra batteries and any supplies needed for pets, as well as a list of important names and phone numbers, including insurance company contact information.

They also urged Mainers to familiarize themselves with resources provided by the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) — available at www.maine.gov/mema/prepare/.

The Bureau of Insurance is part of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. Consumers can reach the Bureau at www.maine.gov/insurance; by calling 800-300-5000 in state; or by writing to Bureau of Insurance, 34 State House Station, Augusta ME  04333.

###

Disaster Preparedness Tips for Homeowners and Renters from the NAIC

  • Take an inventory of your valuables and belongings. This should include taking photographs or a video of each room. This documentation will provide your insurance company with proof of your belongings and help to process claims more quickly in the event of disaster.
  • To enable filing claims more quickly, keep sales receipts and/or canceled checks. Also note the model and serial numbers of the items in your home inventory.
  • As you acquire more valuables — jewelry, family heirlooms, antiques, art —consider purchasing an additional “floater” or “rider” to your policy to cover these special items. These types of items typically are not covered by a basic homeowners or renter’s insurance policy.
  • Remember to include in your home inventory those items you rarely use (e.g., holiday decorations, sports equipment, tools, etc.).
  • Store copies of all your insurance policies in a safe location away from your home that is easily accessible in case of disaster. You may want to store your policies and inventory in a waterproof, fireproof box or in a safe, remote location such as a bank safe deposit box. Consider leaving a copy of your inventory with relatives, friends or your insurance provider and store digital pictures in your e-mail or on a Web site for easy retrieval.
  • Know what is and is not covered by your insurance policy. You might need additional protection depending on where you live. Make sure your policies are up to date. Contact your insurance provider annually to review and update your insurance policy.
  • Keep a readily available list of 24-hour contact information for each of your insurance providers.
  • Find out if your possessions are insured for the actual cash value or the replacement cost. Actual cash value is the amount it would take to repair or replace damage to your home or possessions after depreciation while replacement cost is the amount it would take to repair or replace your home or possessions without deducting for depreciation. Speak with your insurance provider to determine whether purchasing replacement coverage is worth the cost.
  • Speak with your insurance provider to find out if your policy covers additional living expenses for a temporary residence if you are unable to live in your home due to damage from a disaster.
  • Appraise your home periodically to make sure your insurance policy reflects home improvements or renovations. Contact your insurance provider to update your policy

New development could cause scammers to capitalize on potential confusion

Senator Collins Cautions Consumers of IRS’s Use of Private Debt Collection Companies

PRESS RELEASE
April 14, 2017

Click image for more information

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, is cautioning consumers to be aware of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) new policy of using private debt collection companies to collect unpaid taxes.

Under the new protocol, the IRS has authorized four private debt collection companies to collect unpaid taxes. They are CBE Group of Cedar Falls, IA; Conserve of Fairport, NY; Performant of Livermore, CA; and Pioneer of Horseheads, NY. Only one of these companies will contact you in the event you owe money to the IRS.
Here is what you need to know about this new development:

  • If you have an overdue balance on your account, the IRS will first send you a letter informing you that it is giving your information to one of the four companies listed above, providing the company name and contact information.
  • The debt collector will then send you a letter confirming the account turnover prior to contacting you by phone.
  • Upon calling you, they will be able to discuss payment options, but the only way you can pay your tax debt is electronically or by check payable to the US Treasury.

“The IRS’s use of private debt collection companies to collect unpaid taxes is in the spirit of efficiency, but may create confusion for those already susceptible to the IRS impersonation scam, like our nation’s seniors,” said Senator Collins. “I urge consumers to remain vigilant and protect themselves from potential scams that could stem from this new development.”

If you know you don’t owe taxes or do not immediately believe that you do, you can report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484.

To read more about this change from the IRS, click HERE.

Never give personal information, such as bank account or credit card numbers, to someone you do not know. If you suspect fraud, please contact the Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470

%d bloggers like this: