Consumer

Towing scams, here’s how to avoid falling victim to one

A new campaign from the National Insurance Crime Bureau is warning drivers to be wary of rogue tow truck drivers who prey on accident victims. The insurance industry-backed organization says it is getting frequent reports of scammers who show up at accident scenes falsely claiming that they were sent by an insurance company or called by the police and then overcharge for services that aren’t always covered, sometimes acting belligerent toward uncooperative car owners. According to an NICB spokesperson, “rogue towing” is particularly common in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and New York City, and it is both an insurance fraud and a safety issue. A series of public service announcements offers several tips to drivers on how to avoid or deal with a suspicious situation, including: – Never give permission to tow your vehicle, or even deal with an unsolicited operator who arrived without being called by you or the police. – Do not give tow truck drivers insurance or personal lien holder information. – Confirm that the signage on the tow truck matches the information on any paperwork they provide. If a truck does not have signage, ask the driver for company information. – Ask to be provided with documentation showing prices, including storage fees, and the location where the vehicle is being towed before they hook it up. – Call the police if you have any concerns about the tow operator’s legitimacy.

Good advice..

2019 Labor Day deals that’ll save you big time

Shop ‘til you drop. Labor Day is here and so are the sales that come along with it. Now that summertime is ending and the holidays are only a few months away, it’s shopping season. Whether you’re looking to add to your wardrobe or hobby list – or just want to update your pad, there are deals out there to make life easier. Here are just a few retailers Opens a New Window. that are open on Monday with sales that will save you a pretty penny. Just click here:

Enjoy!    🙂

 

Trump administration seeks to juice dishwashers by scrubbing energy regulations

For years, consumers have complained about slower, noisier dishwashers that produce dirtier dishes, the result of tighter federal efficiency regulations that the Trump administration is now seeking to unload. The Energy Department last month proposed a rule to create a new dishwasher product class that would finish a normal cycle in an hour or less by using less stringent energy standards than permitted under the current rules. Sam Kazman, general counsel of the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute, which led the charge for the regulatory clean-up, said the ever-tighter restrictions on energy and water have produced machines that take twice as long without getting dishes as scrubbed as earlier models. “Basically, these dishwashers have turned into crap, and it is solely the result of the Department of Energy’s so-called efficiency regulations,” said Mr. Kazman. He cited data from Consumer Reports showing that average wash times have increased from about 70 minutes in 1983 to 140 minutes in 2018 as manufacturers slow down the cycles to “compensate for the negative impact on cleaning performance,” as the department acknowledged in 2016. “The result has been ever longer and longer cycle times,” said Mr. Kazman. “Back in the late ‘70s, they were reporting one-hour times, not just for cleaning but for drying as well. Now it typically takes over two hours, in some cases two-and-a-half hours, and the dishes come out neither very clean nor very dry.”

Agreed…  For more on this, click on the text above.

Toys R Us to reopen stores in the US later this year: report

Toys R Us Opens a New Window. is expected to reopen stores just in time for the 2019 holiday season. Though the toy retailer closed down Opens a New Window. last year, Toys R Us is expected to launch an e-commerce site and several stores in the U.S. later this year, according to Bloomberg Opens a New Window. The new stores are expected to be about a third of the size of traditional Toys R Us outlets, but with play areas and other experiences, the outlet reported. To reduce costs, the stores could use a consignment inventory model, where the company would be able to return items that aren’t sold, Bloomberg reported. A former executive of the company, Richard Barry, has been trying to bring back the chain by pitching his ideas out to toy makers, sources told the outlet. Barry is now the CEO of Tru Kids, Inc., a new company that took over the Toys R Us brand earlier this year. “Effective January 20, 2019, the new company, Tru Kids Inc. doing business as Tru Kids Brands, became the proud parent of Toys R Us, Babies R Us, Geoffrey and more than 20 established consumer toy and baby brands,” Tru Kids Brands said in a press release in February. The new company will be led by Barry, the former Toys R Us global chief merchandising officer, as well as other experienced toy executives. “We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write the next chapter of Toys R Us by launching a newly imagined omnichannel retail experience for our beloved brands here in the U.S.,” Barry said in a statement announcing the plans. Barry added that despite unprecedented efforts to capture the U.S. market share this past holiday season by other retailers, there is still a significant gap and huge consumer demand that has been left behind by the demise of Toys R Us. He said that both brands still remain powerful in the marketplace and continue to have brand affinity and loyalty with more than 9.5 million followers across their social media channels. Barry told The Associated Press that while he and his team are still working out all the details on when and how the brand will re-emerge, they do plan to officially relaunch in some form by this holiday season. He also said that e-commerce will play a key role in the brand’s future. In September 2017, Toys R Us filed for Chapter 11 reorganization and later liquidated its business last March after falling prey to several billions in debt and tough competition from online retailers such as Amazon and Walmart. Tru Kids will be headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey, about a 20-minute drive from Wayne, New Jersey, where Toys R Us was previously based.

How to spot job scams online and avoid losing money

Job seekers, beware. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning of fake job postings, scam recruiter emails and work-at-home schemes. According to the bureau, these scams often begin with an email or text Opens a New Window. from a supposed employer asking you to apply for a job or help wanted ad, often using real company names or government agencies. Some victims of the scam reported doing fake interviews through a video chat service, the agency said. It added that job offers without an interview are also more likely to be a scam. The agency warned these fake companies could charge you upfront for training or ask for your personal and banking information Opens a New Window. for a credit check or to set up direct deposit. They could also ask you to buy expensive supplies or equipment, or the company could claim you were “accidentally” overpaid and ask you to wire back the difference. “No legitimate job would ever overpay an employee and ask for money to be wired elsewhere,” the agency warned. “This is a common trick used by scammers.” The BBB advised keeping an eye out for jobs that are more likely to be scams such as secret shopper or work-from-home positions or jobs that don’t need special training or have generic job titles. “If the job posting is for a well-known brand, check the real company’s job page to see if the position is posted there. Look online; if the job comes up in other cities with the exact same post, it’s likely a scam,” the bureau said. The BBB also recommended getting details confirmed in a contract before paying a job recruiter to help you get a job. “Be cautious sharing personal information or any kind of pre-payment,” it said. “Be careful if a company promises you great opportunities or big income as long as you pay for coaching, training, certifications or directories.”

Sage advice..

Kroger recalls steaks, beef over possible E. coli contamination

Meat lovers were notified of another recall affecting rib-eye steaks and ground beef products over possible E. coli contamination. Consumers in the greater Cincinnati area who purchased Kroger bone-in rib-eye steaks, boneless ribeye steaks and in-store produced ground beef are encouraged to check the label before eating the product. All affected meat was produced between April 23 and June 7, but the company is concerned that consumers may have stored affected products in the freezer. Kroger said it has not received any reports of adverse reactions related to the recall. E. coli infections vary from patient to patient, but it often produces severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Some patients may develop a fever, but most symptoms are resolved within five to seven days, although others may be sickened for up to 10. About five to 10 percent of cases result in a potentially life-threatening condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which requires hospitalization for kidney issues. On Friday, Kroger issued a recall of some of its frozen berries over a possible Hepatitis A contamination. The items included Kroger’s Private Selection Frozen Triple Berry Medley (16 oz) and Private Selection Frozen Triple Berry Medley (48 oz). The Private Selection Frozen Blackberries (16 oz) were also subject to the recall.

 

Analysis: Trump order could cut your cost of health care and drugs

President Trump is expected to issue an executive order soon that could require insurers and hospitals to disclose the prices they’ve negotiated for various services. He hopes such transparency will increase competition and drive down health spending. The health care industry is less supportive. The nation’s top health insurance lobby, for instance, claims the president’s plan is “bad transparency” that could actually cause prices to go up. Government mandates are problematic. Transparency as a concept is beneficial. When private-sector organizations have been able to pull back the curtain on insurers’ and providers’ prices, they’ve unleashed competitive forces that have yielded significant savings for them — and for the rest of the health care system. Hospitals are often reluctant to make their prices public because they don’t want to — or can’t — compete against lower-cost providers, like retail health or urgent care clinics. Such clinics aren’t perfect substitutes for emergency rooms. But the clinics, which typically publish their prices on something akin to a restaurant menu, can deliver care for many common illnesses at significantly lower cost. A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that the average “low-severity emergency room visit” cost more than $400 out-of-pocket. That same visit was just $37 at a retail clinic. A paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research looked at all emergency room visits in New Jersey between 2006 and 2014 — and discovered that people living close to a retail clinic were up to 12.3 percent less likely to visit the ER. The authors concluded that the state’s health care system would realize $70 million in savings a year from reduced ER usage if retail clinics were more readily available. Price transparency also helps employers — who provide health coverage to half the country — rein in health spending. Take what the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which covers 1.3 million current and retired state employees and their families, has done to try to strike a harder bargain with health care providers. CalPERS identified 41 hospitals across the state that were able to provide quality knee and hip replacement procedures for $30,000. Patients could opt to get care at facilities that charged more than that price, but they’d have to pay the difference out of pocket. Previously, prices for knee and hip replacements had varied widely. Some hospitals charged as much as $100,000. The CalPERS program prompted beneficiaries to flock to lower-cost hospitals, increasing their market share by 28 percent. Other hospitals began lowering their prices in response, to try to attract more business. Prices for knee and hip replacements fell by more than 20 percent over two years, saving CalPERS around $6 million. Grocer Safeway has implemented a similar program for lab services that’s yielded savings of between 10 percent and 32 percent, depending on the test. Price transparency can also save patients themselves a great deal of money. Patients tend to choose the most affordable option for care when they’re given relevant information. Consider prescription drugs. According to the Association for Accessible Medicines, when patients have a choice between branded and generic medicines, they choose the cheaper generic 97 percent of the time. Or take diagnostics. In 2007, the state of New Hampshire launched a website where patients could compare cost and quality for various procedures. The ability to access price information saved patients around $8 million on X-rays, CT scans and MRI scans over five years, according to a University of Michigan study. Transparency could even save patients money indirectly. A study published by the journal Health Affairs found that yearly health spending was about $700 lower for patients who chose a “low-price” physician, compared to those who chose high-price physicians. The savings were due to the fact that low-price physicians tended to order less expensive tests and scans. Americans are smart shoppers. But in the health care market, they typically don’t have access to the pricing information they’d need to be savvy consumers. It shouldn’t take a presidential directive to get them that information, which would do wonders to reduce health costs in this country.

Agreed..  But, glad President Trump (hopefully) will issue such a directive soon.  Thanks to Sally C. Pipes for that outstanding op/ed.  Sally is president, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is “The False Promise of Single-Payer Health Care” (Encounter 2018). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.