Quick Blips: September 2017

We’re collaborating with the Local Unit Support Committee this month.

3 Bills Become Law on September 1

Abbott Signs Ban on Texting while Driving.” September 1, 2017, texting while driving is illegal. Texting will be punishable by a fine of up to $99 for first-time offenders and $200 for repeat offenses. The law prohibits the use of hand-held phones to “read, write or send an electronic message” while driving. (Amarillo Globe-News. 6.7.2017.
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HB3921 requires financial professionals to report suspected exploitation of clients 65 and over. They report the suspected abuse to Family and Protective Services and the securities commissioner. The law allows banks and securities firms to place a temporary hold on transactions. (Submitted by Dr. Amy Jo Baker).

HB1043 helps grandparents who are raising their grandkids. This bill empowers grandparents to obtain a court order to allow them to make important decisions on behalf of a child so long as “no objection is made by the child’s parent, conservator, or guardian.” Effective immediately, grandparents can get a court order to authorize decisions running the gamut from health care and immunizations, to enrolling a child in a school, to authorizing athletic and other extracurricular activities. (Submitted by Dr. Amy Jo Baker. From AARP http://states.aarp.org/new-protections-texas-pocketbooks/).

Access, Custody, and Visitation Referrals

The Legal Hotline for Texans: The Hotline provides services to Texas residents age 60 and older. Call (800) 622-2520 or go online at www.tlsc.org/legalhotline.asp.

https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/seniors/grandparents-page  Attorney General’s Office Ken Paxton

FTC Combats Tech Support Scams  

Scammers; often claiming to be with legitimate companies such as Dell, Microsoft, McAfee and Norton; offer to rid the computer of malware for fees ranging from $130 to $330—all for completely unnecessary repairs and warranty programs, and for software programs that are available free. Computer owners should heed the warning not to allow anyone to access their computer remotely and not to trust any pop-ups proclaiming their PC has a virus. (Vincent, Nicole. FTC. Submitted by Sharon White, I&PS District 16 Chair).

Secret Accounts Are Scams

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports that scammers are telling people they can pay their bills using so-called “secret accounts” or “Social Security trust accounts” and routing numbers at Federal Reserve Banks. In exchange for personal information, like Social Security numbers, people get what they think is a bank account number at a Federal Reserve Bank. But this really is just a way to get your personal information, which scammers can then sell or use to commit fraud, like identity theft. Citizens do not have accounts at the Federal Reserve Bank. If you see a video, text, email, phone call, flyer, or website that describes how you can pay bills using a Federal Reserve Bank routing number or account, report it to the FTC. It’s a scam.  

(Tressler, Collene. Consumer Education Specialist, FTC: Consumer Information. “No Secret Bank Accounts to Pay Your Bills.” Aug. 17, 2017).

“Word Play: Phubbing” (fǝb iNG) verb:  A combination of the words phone and snubbing, phubbing describes the experience of having a dinner companion who spends more time on his or her smartphone than talking to you.” (<Spry Living.com>. Parade. 8.2017.)

Don’t Post the Most.” Posting a full photo of yourself allows scammers to create a fake profile of you and fake identification cards to steal your personal information. Avoid giving away your location. Some “tags” can give your location away. (Heloise. Amarillo Globe-News. 6.6.2017.)

“Live Better Now: Run for Your Life.” Runners who average about two hours of training per week, regardless of pace or mileage, lived about three years longer than non-runners, according to a study in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases. Researchers compared running to walking and cycling. Running came out on top, dropping the risk of premature death by 40 percent.  A 30 minute jaunt around the neighborhood has a big payoff later in life. My friend Mary Burleson ran a marathon this summer and won first place in her age bracket (75), and she proudly had a faster time than when she was 30. She is on a clogging team that clogs at County Fairs all over Oklahoma.  (“Spry Living.” Parade. July 2017. 2 and Judy Hart.)

Work-at-Home Scams

At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a federal court entered a temporary restraining order halting a deceptive work-at-home scheme. The defendants allegedly lured consumers into buying an online system, falsely promising that they would earn thousands of dollars in their spare time working from home. According to the FTC, the defendants operated under various brand names, including Work at Home EDU, Work at Home Program, Work at Home Ecademy, Work at Home University, Work at Home Revenue and Work at Home Institute. They routinely claimed people could earn “hundreds of dollars per hour from home, without any special skills or experience.” Businesses must provide “written substantiation for the earning claims” and “the beginning and ending dates when the representative earnings were achieved.” Earning claims must have proof in hand, and that has been the law for 34 years.  (Dorman, Frank. Federal Trade Commission. “FTC Obtains Temporary Restraining Order Halting Work-at-Home Scheme.” 8.17.2017.) (Fair, Lesly. “FTC Says Consumers Worked Over by Promoters’ Work at Home Claims.” FTC. 8.17.20117).

Phone Scammers in Texas and New Mexico: Xcel Energy reports scammers claiming to be customer agents. These scammers threaten over the phone to disconnect Xcel Energy customers if they do not immediately pay a past-due balance. Xcel Energy reminds customers that they will receive printed disconnect notices in the mail if their accounts are overdue. If you doubt the authenticity of someone claiming to be from Xcel, hang up immediately and call Xcel at 1-800-481-4700 to check the status of your account. (Davis, April. “New Phone Scams Prompt Local Warnings.” Borger News-Herald. 7.3.17. pp. 1-2). 

XCEL Offers Tips to Save Money and Keep Cool: (1) Raise the thermostat from 72 to 78 to save approximately $100 over the course of the summer. (2) Install programmable thermostats that raise the setting when the house is empty and lowers it to a comfortable level when everyone comes home. (3) Use ceiling fans to help circulate cool air through the home. (4) Open interior doors to improve the circulation of cool air inside. (5) Use a whole-house or attic fan to draw in cool nighttime air and push out hot air during the day. (6) Change your air conditioning filters. (7) Plant trees on the sunny sides of the house. (8) Close drapes and blinds during the heat of the day. (9) Turn off unnecessary lighting and replace incandescent bulbs with LEDs, which use 75-80 percent less energy than traditional bulbs and last 25 percent longer. (10) Run washing machines, dishwashers and clothes dryers with full loads after the heat of the day. (11) Go to Xcel’s website and select “Programs and Rebates.”              (Davis, April. “Xcel Offers Tips to Save Money and Keep Cool.” Borger News-Herald. 6.6.17. pp. 1-2).