-Sometimes scam artists try to pressure their victims by claiming power will be shut off if immediate payment is not received. For customers who may have a problem paying their bills, Dominion will work with them to determine a reasonable payment plan, we do not threaten them.
The same kind of precaution applies to face-to-face situations. Customers should never allow anyone into their house or apartment who claims to be a Dominion representative unless they have scheduled an appointment or reported a problem. And, even in those cases, they should ask for proper identification. All Dominion employees carry a company photo ID.
UNION CITY, Ga. May 23 2013 — Whether it is precious metals or gasoline, thieves are coming up with deviously creative ways to steal them. They have figured out how to get inside pumps to get the gas out for free.
It is a relatively new crime but a Union City gas station is finding out about it the hard way. In the past two months, thieves have stolen gas from the Mobil gas station on Flat Shoals Road four times.
The convenience store has surveillance video showing how the suspects broke into gas pumps and disconnected the meters inside. The video shows one of the suspects using a tool to pry open a door on the pump. Once inside he cuts wires to the meter that logs the purchase. Then with a swipe of a credit card, he can pump unlimited gas for free.
In the latest incident on May 15, 11 cars pulled up to the pump and filled up for free. Over 180 gallons of gas were stolen. The same thing happened on three other occasions in March and April.
Surveillance video inside the store also shows three suspects involved in the theft. It shows a female distracting the clerk and acting as a lookout while the gas pump is broken into outside.
“You know when the other guys are taking the gas she’s looking whether I’m talking to the cops or calling the cops so that she can alert them,” said store manager Moses Daniel.
More than 750 gallons of gas were stolen in the four incidents. That doesn’t include the cost to fix the damage that was done to the pumps.
Union City Police are investigating the four thefts. They’re asking anyone who has information about the thefts to call Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-TIPS (8477).
Phoenix AZ May 16 2013 One man spent 21 years in prison for a murderous rampage in Phoenix that left two people dead. The other spent nine years inside for kidnapping.
Now, these two felons are partners in a network of Arizona telemarketing businesses that authorities say ripped off hundreds of people across the country.
The Oregon Department of Justice last week hit Leary Darling of Glendale and Lance Himes of Phoenix with a $400,000 fine as part of a settlement that requires them to stop doing business in Oregon.
The settlement does not prohibit Darling and Himes from continuing to operate in other states, nor does it require them to shut down their Phoenix base of operations.
Darling, 57, and Himes, 39, pitch investments in an Internet credit-card processing service that they say will earn thousands of dollars a month in return. But investors said once they made their down payments — up to $50,000 — websites didn’t activate, dividend checks never arrived and customer-service calls were not returned.
“I would like to slap them up,” said Jackie Gassner, 67, a part-time purchasing agent in Mayville, Wis. “I gave them $10,000. They guaranteed I’d make it back in a year.”
Gassner said she bought into a program that was supposed to pay her a percentage from credit-card readers stationed in retail locations of her choosing. She was supposed to be able to monitor credit activity from a Web page set up in her name. “I got one check back for $465,” Gassner said. “That was it.”
Records show Darling and Himes have more than 19 businesses, with names such as U.S. Doc Assist, Magnetic Money, Direct Merchant Network and U.S. Job Assist.
The Better Business Bureau, which has been tracking complaints against the companies, said it has received dozens about them from consumers in 18 states from Hawaii to Massachusetts. None is from Arizona.
Several of the companies have “F” ratings from the BBB.
Oregon authorities said the companies targeted senior citizens because of their need for additional income and their lack of technological skill.
“Dozens of customers signed up, lured by the promise of steady passive income for little if any hands-on work,” the Oregon Department of Justice said in a statement last week.
Telemarketers pitched a variety of work-from-home business schemes, persuading them to pay up to $519 for their own businesses in Arizona. Authorities said consumers were told their companies would advertise merchant-processing services or credit-card swiping equipment, debt-reduction services, business loans and other merchant services.
“Other companies, also controlled by Himes and Darling, would then follow up, offering to put up a website, selling lists of potential customers, marketing campaigns, business plans and other assistance,” the Oregon statement said. “Consumers generally paid between $2,000 and $50,000 for the additional services.”
Oregon named 12 of the companies owned by Darling and Himes in their case. They said it was impossible to know how many people had been taken in by the scheme. “U.S. Doc Assist by itself signed up 112 customers in the state in just six months,” the Oregon statement said.
The Oregon Department of Justice said Darling and Himes were notified in April that they were going to be sued for violations of Oregon’s Unfair Trade Practices Act. The department launched its investigation in August after three customers who invested $219, $5,419 and $22,719, respectively, filed complaints.
Three others who worked for the companies, Maria Sabastianna Hobbs, 46, of Phoenix; Vanessa Hobbs, 26, of Buckeye; and William Stogner, 57, of Glendale, also agreed to cease doing business in Oregon.
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office said last week that it had not received any complaints about the businesses. Officials said they were unaware of the Oregon action. Stephanie Grisham, a spokesperson for Attorney General Tom Horne, said the office would be looking into the companies and would review the Oregon case.
Neither Darling nor Himes could be reached for comment. Their associates did not respond to interview requests.
In 1988, Darling was arrested after stabbing five people in a Phoenix housing project on East McKinley Street. Police said there was no known motive for the attack, which left a 53-year-old mother and her son dead and three others injured.
Police said Darling burst into an apartment and began attacking residents. He was sentenced to prison on charges of first- and second-degree murder in 1990 and was released in 2011.
Arizona Department of Corrections records show Himes served nine years in prison for a 1997 kidnapping in Maricopa County. He was released in 2008. Prison records show Himes had a lengthy history of disciplines for offenses such as disobeying orders, unauthorized contact, lying to officials, possessing contraband, conspiracy and threats.
Gassner said Himes often spoke to her by phone in Wisconsin. She said he was cordial and polite as he touted the benefits of investing in the company.
“He told me how much he was going to help me,” she said. “He kept saying, ‘You’ll know me better than my wife does.’ ”
Gassner said she almost backed out of the deal, and at one point even stopped payment on the credit card she used to pay the $10,000. But she said Himes and another woman convinced her she had nothing to lose and that her investment was guaranteed.
“Then nothing happened,” she said.
ROSWELL, Ga. May 15 2013– Last Friday night, Bill Cooper of Roswell got a phone call from a man claiming to be a lieutenant with the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office.
The caller said he had a photo of Cooper’s car speeding through the Georgia 400 toll booth.
“He persisted in his claim that they were going to send somebody out to arrest me unless I gave him a credit card number so he could put a $242 fine down,” Cooper told 11Alive News on Monday.
But Cooper smelled a rat. He knew the Georgia 400 toll booths have cameras to see if people have paid to go through, but they do NOT photograph speeders. What’s more, he wasn’t even driving on the road when the caller claimed the photo was taken.
“The more I kept him on the line, the more I realized that he was feeding me a line of bull,” Cooper said.
He didn’t fall for it, but Roswell Police reports show 17 people complained about similar speeding ticket phone calls over the weekend, and some did give out credit card or bank account information.
Investigators believe there could be many more victims who didn’t realize it was a scam.
“The police never will call people up and demand payment over the phone for anything,” Roswell Police Officer Lisa Holland told 11Alive.
She urged anyone getting a similar call to contact Roswell Police at 770-640-4100.
Even though he didn’t fall for it, Cooper said the scammers were persistent.
“The Friday night call targeted me; the call we got last night about 7:15 targeted my wife,” he added.
He and his wife didn’t fall for that one either.
Cooper gave the same warning police always give out to avoid such scams.
“Never, never, never give out personal information over the telephone or online unless you know exactly who you’re talking to,” he added.
That’s never, never, NEVER.
Officer Holland advised anyone getting such a call to get as much information from the caller, including a name and a possible call back number, and then contact the police.
She also pointed out that any questions about tickets, fines or traffic court can be obtained directly from those agencies.
By: Rick McCann
Private Officer International
Another stew of explosive chemicals could be cooking in the apartment or hotel room next door, your office or in your neighborhood and police say that the dangers could be more than that of a meth lab.
The street name for the drug is “honey oil”, BHO, alternatively known as “Butane Honey Oil and police say that it is the latest fad in street drugs. Drug enforcement agents say that on the street the drug is also sometimes called “shatter” and “earwax.
The drug, manufactured from the cannabinoids extracted from Cannabis using a cook down method involving numerous chemicals and butane lighter fluid causes the process to be highly flammable and volatile concoction. Fumes from the cooking process can linger for days making the cooking area a time bomb.
In February, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a bulletin to first responders, fire marshals, bomb squads and drug task force personnel alerting them to the dangers and advising them to receive immediate training on identifying the drug as well as the handling and clean-up of a BHO cooking site.
A Rock Hill South Carolina man and his roommate were arrested in March after drug agents raided their home. One of the men said that just a little dab can you pretty high.
“One little drop of this THC is like smoking two marijuana cigarettes,” the man told a local TV station reporter.
The user extracts the potent ingredient THC from a marijuana plant and inhales it, giving them a very strong high.
The materials are cheap and easy to get said a North Carolina user and cooker in a police interview just last week.
Marvin Brown leads York County South Carolina’s drug enforcement unit. Two months ago, he’d never seen BHO.
“Up to that point, I didn’t know anything about it,” Brown said.
Now suddenly, it’s here, and the biggest danger is how it’s made. Highly flammable butane, found in cigarette lighters, and aerosol spray cans, are used to extract the THC leaving behind brown or yellow goo that looks like honey.
We checked with several west coast law enforcement agencies and they told us that the BHO is not something new to them but that have seen an increase in its use and that many of the manufacturers of the illegal drug have also been involved in the cooking of meth.
A quick check on the Internet and YouTube found dozens of websites selling the kits to make the drug and more than 40 how-to videos.
A gram of BHO can sell for up 10 times the price of marijuana.
Michigan April 26 2013
Scam artists are preying on folks in Michiana who may already be struggling financially. The scammers are contacting people by mail to say there might be a problem with their credit.
The scam was brought to the attention of the area Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana by a man who received one of the letters. The letter say there is a problem with the receiver’s credit or possibly the cause could be that the receiver just has not used his or her credit in a while.
The letter directs the person to call a number to speak to a personal representative. When the representative comes on the phone, they tell the caller to have their social security and identification numbers ready.
“This is one of those that were probably after some personal information–what we call phishing for information–and the personal information they often want is the name of your bank, your bank account and your social security number,” said Dreama Jensen, area director of the BBB of Northern Indiana.
Jensen said the person who reported this scam refused to give the person on the phone his social security number, at which point he was put on hold and nobody ever came back on the line.
With this scam, the con artists actually slipped up, and this is how people can tell the letter is a fake. The “representatives” tell the caller to have their social security number and their identification number ready, but forgot to print an ID number on the letter that was sent out.
COLUMBIA, TN April 21 2013
Going to the dentist can already be a little scary for some people, but what if you found out your dentist wasn’t really a dentist at all?
One Middle Tennessee couple is facing serious charges after they were accused of performing dental procedures without a license – all to make a quick dollar.
The sign on the door at Columbia business Amazing Smiles said, “Prepare to be Amazed!”
When Helen Kelly showed up Thursday and found crime scene tape on the door, she was.
“They need to stay in jail where they’re at,” said Kelly.
Kelly recently shelled out her entire tax return for a new set of dentures.
“They charged me $1,590,” said Kelly.
But her false teeth might have come from false dentists.
“They’re too big. They’re horrible,” said Kelly.
Police said the people running the joint, Michael and Lana Richardson had phony licenses and were both operating under a fake name: Doctor Roberts.
Officers called them good old fashioned con-artists looking to make a quick buck.
“It was heartbreaking to see, people just breaking down into tears, just describing how they’ve saved for over a year to get their teeth fixed and now they’re left without any teeth of the teeth that were supposed to be of the right quality. Teeth they can’t wear,” said Lt. Joey Gideon of the Columbia police department.
Investigators said, while the Richardsons aren’t professional doctors, they are professional crooks.
Police caught the duo doing the same thing in Warren County back in 1994, and when officers in Glasgow Kentucky recently caught onto the scheme, they said the Richardson’s took off.
“We have reason to believe he’s doing this, if not all over the state, all over the country,” said Gideon.
“Amazing Smiles” opened in Columbia in August 2012. Kelly is just one of their victims.
“I work hard for the money I do get,” said Kelly
Police feared in that city alone, there are many more.
“Potentially there’s hundreds of victims. The only motivation I’ve been able to see, so far, is pure greed, pure money,” said Gideon.
Investigators said the duo specialized in false dentures but also performed procedures like extractions.
The Richardsons are being held in Maury County Jail on charges of Impersonation of a Licensed Professional and Unlawful Practice of Dentistry.
They are also being held as being fugitives from justice stemming from outstanding charges from Glasgow, KY.
Michael Richardson also has a criminal hold placed on him from Warren County, TN.
Cheeba Chews are touted as medicated chocolate taffy, only the medicine in the candy is marijuana.
Police say one Cheeba Chew is like smoking a joint. They say the candy, which is legal in some states and sold as medicinal marijuana, seems to have made to our area.
“Hey what’s this? Is this illegal? Is it not legal? How do we find out? This item in particular I wasn’t familiar with and the officers here I had spoke to weren’t familiar with it,” said Lt. Bill Cowen with the Gulf Shores Police Department.
Police on the beach had never seen the Cheeba Chews before the week of March 23.
The candy is bought and sold legally in states like Colorado, California and Oregon.
“The common denominator is the marijuana and there are tests we can use to determine if there’s marijuana there. In some cases it may create confusion but generally as long as we can test the item or have it tested its not too difficult,” said Cowen.
The charge may be a misdemeanor but the local Drug Education Council says showing off pictures of the Cheeba Chews is about awareness for police, parents and for anyone who thinks they can get away with breaking the law.
A 20-year-old college student who had the candy and was arrested was vacationing on Spring Break from Kansas State University.
New York NY April 7 2013 The speed and deadliness of recent high-profile shootings have prompted police departments to recommend fleeing, hiding or fighting in the event of a mass attack, instead of remaining passive and waiting for help.
The shift represents a “sea change,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which recently held a meeting in Washington to discuss shootings like those in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.
The traditional advice to the public has been “don’t get involved, call 911,” Mr. Wexler said, adding, “There’s a recognition in these ‘active shooter’ situations that there may be a need for citizens to act in a way that perhaps they haven’t been trained for or equipped to deal with.”
Mr. Wexler and others noted that the change echoes a transformation in police procedures that began after the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, when some departments began telling officers who arrived first on a scene to act immediately rather than waiting for backup. Since then, the approach has become widespread, as a succession of high-profile shootings across the country has made it clear that no city or town is immune and that police agencies must be prepared to take an active approach.
“We used to sit outside and set up a perimeter and wait for the SWAT team to get there,” said Michael Dirden, an executive assistant chief of the Houston Police Department. “Now it’s a recognition that time is of the essence and those initial responders have to go in,” he said, adding that since the Virginia Tech University shooting in 2007, the department has been training first responders to move in on their own when they encounter active gunfire.
Research on mass shootings over the last decade has bolstered the idea that people at the scene of an attack have a better chance of survival if they take an active stance rather than waiting to be rescued by the police, who in many cases cannot get there fast enough to prevent the loss of life.
In an analysis of 84 such shooting cases in the United States from 2000 to 2010, for example, researchers at Texas State University found that the average time it took for the police to respond was three minutes.
“But you see that about half the attacks are over before the police get there, even when they arrive quickly,” said J. Pete Blair, director for research of the university’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center and an author of the research, which is set to be published in a book this year.
In the absence of a police presence, how victims responded often made the difference between life and death, Dr. Blair said.
In 16 of the attacks studied by the researchers, civilians were able to stop the perpetrator, subduing him in 13 cases and shooting him in 3 cases. In other attacks, civilians have obstructed or delayed the gunman until the police arrived.
As part of the research, Dr. Blair and his colleagues looked at survival rates and the actions taken by people in classrooms under attack during the Virginia Tech massacre, in which Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 students and teachers before killing himself.
In two classrooms, the students and instructors tried to hide or play dead after Mr. Cho entered. Nearly all were shot, and most died. In a third classroom, Prof. Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, told his students to jump out the second-story window while he tried to hold the classroom door shut, delaying Mr. Cho from coming in. Professor Librescu was killed, but many of the students survived, and only three were injured by gunfire. In another classroom, where the students and teacher blocked the door with a heavy desk and held it in place, Mr. Cho could not get in, and everyone lived.
“The take-home message is that you’re not helpless and the actions you take matter,” Dr. Blair said. “You can help yourself and certainly buy time for the police to get there.”
Kristina Anderson, 26, who was shot three times during the Virginia Tech attack, said that every situation is different but that she thinks it can help for people to develop a plan for how they might act if a mass shooting occurred.
“Everywhere I go now, I think about exits and doorways and potential places to hide and things to barricade and fight back with,” Ms. Anderson said. “Some person has to take action and lead.”
Two instructional videos, one produced by Houston’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security and the other by the University of Wisconsin’s police department, recommend that civilians fight an attacker if options like escaping or hiding are not available.
Dennis Storemski, a former executive assistant chief in Houston’s police department and director of the public safety office that produced the video, called “Run. Hide. Fight.,” said the decision to produce it emerged from a realization that while first responders were “fairly well prepared” to deal with mass shootings, the public was not. The video has received over two million hits on YouTube, and the office gets requests every day from other police departments and government agencies that would like to use it, Mr. Storemski said.
He said initially, the suggestion that victims should fight back as a last resort stirred some controversy.
“We had a few people that thought that was not a wise idea,” Mr. Storemski said, but that in some cases fighting back might be the only option.
Susan Riseling, chief of police at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said the Virginia Tech episode changed her thinking about how to advise students because it was clear that Mr. Cho had “one goal, and that seemed to be to kill as many people as possible before ending his life.”
The department’s video, screened during training sessions around the state but not available online, tells students to escape or conceal themselves if possible, but if those options are not available, to fight. In the video, students are shown throwing a garbage can at an attacker and charging at him as a group.
“If you’re face to face and you know that this person is all about death, you’ve got to take some action to fight,” Chief Riseling said.
What she worries about most, she said, is that spree shootings are becoming so common that she suspects people have begun to accept them as a normal part of life.
“That’s the sad part of it,” Chief Riseling said. “This should never be normal.”
Source” New York Times
ATLANTA GA March 17 2013 – First it was copper, now thieves are after a much heavier target that they steal and sell to scrap yards. At least two metro area counties are reporting an increase in the theft of truck batteries.
The Ford Escape tops a new list of the most-stolen SUVs and crossovers, according to a study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The NICB — an insurance-supported nonprofit in Des Plaines, Ill. — combed through vehicle thefts from Jan. 1, 2008, to June 30, 2012, on 2009, 2010 and 2011 model-year cars.
Of nearly 20,000 reported thefts in those parameters, the Escape topped the list: 1,014 were stolen. Other hot SUVs included the Chevrolet Tahoe (856 thefts), the Toyota RAV4 (801), the Ford Edge (739) and the Dodge Journey (721). California, Texas and Florida experienced the most thefts, but New York City, Los Angeles and Detroit had the highest thefts for specific metropolitan areas.
The list suggests the Escape, Tahoe, RAV4, Edge and Journey may be the most-stolen vehicles in total. But like many stolen-vehicle lists, it gives little sense of how much theft risk you incur when buying a particular car.
Consider this: Car thieves purloined the 2009-to-2011 Escape 1,014 times in NICB’s sample. But from October 2008 to September 2011 — a 36-month period when new Escape sales would have mostly included 2009, 2010 or 2011 models — Ford sold 582,792 new Escapes, according to Automotive News. Presuming that’s a rough indication of 2009-to-2011 Escapes on the road, new owners incurred a risk of theft roughly equal to one in 575, using NICB’s figures.
The second-place Chevy Tahoe, by contrast, had a much higher theft risk — one in 257 cars — because fewer 2009, 2010 and 2011 Tahoes were in circulation, using the same sales math. And a Cadillac Escalade shopper would have been wise to invest in a good security system: Theft risk of an Escalade, using NICB figures and sales data, was one in just 175.
Per-car thefts would “be a more accurate gauge, but we don’t have those figures,” NICB spokesman Frank Scafidi told us. “This isn’t that kind of report. This is just raw numbers in a limited model-year run.”
There were some other interesting nuggets, however. NICB found that some 15% of SUV thefts are “unrecovered” — dismantled for parts, exported or VIN-switched and resold. Apparently that’s a regular occurrence for Toyota Highlander heists. Of the 10 most unrecovered vehicles (again, just raw numbers), Toyota’s family crossover went unrecovered 30% of the time.
Athens GA Jan 16 2013 A Georgia-based restaurant firm says suspicious computer files have been found at some of its locations, prompting it to warn customers about the potential for fraud.
Zaxby’s Franchising Inc. said in a statement that the suspicious files may have resulted in unauthorized access to credit and debit card information at more than 100 stores.
The Athens-based firm says the affected stores are in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi and Virginia.
Company officials say the issue involves malware files, which could have been used to export guest names and credit and debit card numbers. The company says it notified law enforcement of the potential criminal activity. Zaxby’s says a forensic investigation hasn’t determined whether credit or debit card data left the processing systems of any stores.
MYRTLE BEACH, SC Jan 11 2013- We’re only two weeks into 2013 and the Grand Strand has already experienced a large number of homicides, robberies and other serious crimes.
These unfavorable crimes have placed Myrtle Beach on the list of the “Top 100 Most Dangerous Cities in the U.S.” on Location Inc.’s neighborhoodscout.com.
“With a crime rate of 167 per one thousand residents, Myrtle Beach has one of the highest crime rates in America compared to all communities of all sizes- from the smallest towns to the very largest cities,” NeighborhoodScout explains.
Myrtle Beach comes in at number 21 on the list of the most dangerous cities. While Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Chicago and Paterson fall much higher on the list.
“When I drive up here in the mornings, I just hope I’m not going to be broken into,” said Deborah Watson. Watson owns Headz and Toez, a hair salon next to Pizza Shak, which was robbed early Wednesday morning.
“You cannot jurisdict the morals of what’s right or wrong!” she said.
Out of a crime index with 100 being the safest, Myrtle Beach holds a 0, making it safer than 0 percent of other U.S. cities. Even more alarming is NeighborhoodScout’s statistic that while living in Myrtle Beach there is a 1 in 7 chance that you will become a victim of a property crime such as burglary or motor vehicle theft.
“With a population of 27,820, Myrtle Beach has a combined rate of violent and property crime that is very high compared to other places similar in population size,” the location-based data site notes.
But some people suspect the crime statistics in Myrtle Beach are inflated because of the high number of tourists that visit during warmer months.
“That study doesn’t take into account all the motels and people that fill up Myrtle Beach,” said frequent visitor Phil Brown.
Before placing cities on the “Top 100 Most Dangerous Cities in the U.S.” list, NeighborhoodScout compiles crime reports from all agencies in the city, revealing which cities have the highest rates of violent crime. After determining the total number of crimes reported they divide them by the population of the city, divided by 1,000 to establish a violent crime rate per 1,000 population.
Since NeighborhoodScout looks at the number of crimes per 1,000 residents they divided Myrtle Beach’s population of 27,820 by 1,000 to get 27.82. The total number of crimes reported in the city, 4,633, is then divided by 27.82, revealing 166.54 annual crimes per 1,000 Myrtle Beach residents.
The crimes NeighborhoodScout looks for when compiling this data include forcible rape, murder and non-negligent manslaughter, armed robbery, aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, larceny over $50, motor vehicle theft and arson.
Myrtle Beach isn’t new to this top 100 list. In 2012, Myrtle Beach was ranked number 15 on the infamous list.
The website also outlines some of the safer areas of Myrtle Beach. Carolina Forest, Hwy. 17 in the Coventry area, Queensway Boulevard, Holmestown Road, Jaluco, Hwy. 17 and Glenns Bay Road, Route 814 and Hwy. 544, the area of Moorland Drive and Legends Road and Socastee as well as Hwy. 17 and Jason Boulevard are all listed as the safest neighborhoods in Myrtle Beach.
OLYMPIA WA Jan 2 2013 AP — With a bump in the minimum wage to $9.19 an hour Tuesday, high-school student Miranda Olson will edge closer to her goal of purchasing that black Volkswagen Beetle she’s been researching online.
Olson is only able to pick up part-time hours, working after classes and on weekends. But the extra pennies she’ll earn in 2013 will add up over the coming weeks and months.
“It’s not much, but it’s something,” said Olson, 16, who works at Wagner’s European Bakery and Cafe in Olympia. “Every bit helps.”
Many workers around the country won’t be as lucky as the ones in Washington, which is raising its salary minimum even though it already has the highest state baseline in the country. Workers one state over — in Idaho — will make nearly $2 per hour less in 2013.
Automatic minimum-wage increases designed to compensate for inflation have steadily pushed up salaries in some states, even through the recession, expanding the pay gap between areas that make annual adjustments and those that don’t. Of the 10 states that will increase the minimum wage Tuesday, nine did so automatically to adjust for inflation.
Rhode Island lawmakers approved that state’s wage increase in the past year.
Paul Sonn, legal co-director at the National Employment Law Project, said he hopes more states will start looking at automatic adjustments as the economy recovers. He said the model — which Washington first adopted in 1998 — helps avoid sudden jolts as states try to catch up to their peers.
“We think there’s a case that it’s better for everyone, including the business community, to have predictable, regular, small increases every year,” Sonn said.
The automatic adjustments aren’t much. Washington’s bump of 15 cents will mean those who work 40-hour weeks will earn an extra $6 per week — enough for a couple of lattes — or about $300 per year.
Hundreds of thousands of workers are expected to get a pay increase with the wage adjustments that begin New Year’s Day. Along with Washington and Rhode Island, the changes will also occur in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon and Vermont.
Among the nine states with automatic adjustments happening this year, the average minimum wage is $8.12 per hour, up from a little less than $8. States that do not have automatic changes operate with an average minimum wage of about $7.40 — a difference of about $1,500 per year for a full-time worker.
Many states, including Idaho, follow the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, either because they’ve tied their minimum wage to that threshold or because the state-enacted minimum is lower than that.
San Francisco has set the highest local minimum wage and will have workers paid at least $10.55 an hour in 2013.
Groups like the National Restaurant Association oppose further increases in federal or state minimum wages, arguing it’s an ineffective way to reduce poverty and forces business owners to cut hours, raise prices or lay off workers.
At Tom’s 1st Avenue Bento, a downtown Portland lunch spot, owner Tom Hume said he boosted pay for minimum-wage workers before the end of the year to get ahead of the game. He also raised prices on one-third of his menu items by 25 cents.
Natasha Baker, 22, who works at Hume’s restaurant, recently moved back in with her mother but hopes to move to another apartment in January. She said the extra $5 or $6 she’s earning every week with the salary boost is OK but won’t make a huge difference.
“I don’t usually look at what I get paid,” she said. “I’m more directed on what’s being taken out, which is more discouraging than anything.”
LAKEWOOD, CO Jan 1 2013- The gift that a 5-year-old boy received from Santa was made more for a 25-year-old man.
The boy found pornographic pictures on the refurbished game device he got for Christmas.
“He handed the [Nintendo] 3DS to Bryton,” said father Mark Giles. “Bryton said ‘Dad, I don’t think he should be looking at these pictures’.”
The young boy’s brother gave the game to his father. Giles discovered the video game had nine pornographic pictures on it.
Giles immediately called the retailer GameStop, where he made the purchase.
A father’s hard work to make Christmas special was ruined by the gross oversight.
“I lost it. I called just everybody,” said Giles.
So GameStop tried to make it right, the explanation being the images were from the previous owner, and weren’t caught before the refurbished device was sold.
“He’s 5-years-old,” said Giles. “Maybe when he’s 18 or 20 maybe he won’t know anything about it, but he’s not going to forget about it tomorrow.”
GameStop says it’s currently looking into the situation.
The GameStop location where the console was purchased has given the family an upgraded version of the Nintendo 3DS with several games.
Washington DC Jan 1 2013 As we say goodbye to 2012, we’re also saying goodbye to a fixture in America’s lighting fixtures: The 75-watt incandescent light bulb.
Under federal law, 75-watt bulbs can no longer be produced or imported as of January 1st, though retailers can still clear remaining stock.
There’s a green reason behind flipping the switch on incandescent bulbs.
“90 percent of the energy the bulb uses is wasted, so what they replaced them with are much more energy-efficient bulbs which as just as bright, just as good and will actually save you money over the long run,” explains Consumer Reports’ Celia Kuperzmid-Lehrman.
Most screw-in bulbs must use at least 27 percent less energy by 2014.
Two options for consumers are Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) and Light-Emitting Diode bulbs, or LEDs.
LED bulbs are expensive, but prices are dropping.
The future is dim for incandescent bulbs.
Traditional 60 and 40 watt bulbs will be phased out in 2014.
When replacing a bulb, the experts at Consumer Reports say to choose a new one that’s the same size or smaller to be sure it fits the fixture.
Dimmers require dimmable bulbs and lights used outdoors must be designed for exterior use.
Be sure to check the bulb package for specific details.
Charlotte NC Dec 29 2012 Stop complaining about store return policies. They are what they are: the stores’ policies. They can have any return policy they want, including none at all. There is no law requiring retailers to accept returns.
But if the store’s not accepting returns, something else might: your credit card.
BankRate.com (www.bankrate.com) reported several credit card companies offer return protections that will refund an item’s cost when when the retailer won’t.
MasterCard will refund up to $250 within 60 days of the purchase on many of its cards.
VISA will reimburse the cost of an item up to $250 within 90 days of its purchase, with a limit of $1,000 a year.
American Express will refund up to $300 on an item within 90 days, limit $1,000 a year.
Heads up, though. There are a few catches to credit card return protections:
* The items must be in either “like-new” or “good” condition, as determined by the credit card company. Yes, you will have to prove that. You will likely have to send the product to your credit card-issuer.
* The protections apply to items purchased with the card. You can’t whip out your credit card with its trusty return protections on an item you didn’t buy with the card.
* Sometimes, the protections are limited to specific purchases, like jewelry, books and DVD’s. Check your card-issuer’s agreement.
Some credit cards also offer purchase protections in case you spill coffee all over that laptop you just charged on your card. Some offer extended warranties on certain appliances and electronics purchased with them.
Again, for the details about what your card will cover, read your credit card-issuer’s agreement.
CLEVELAND, Ohio Dec 18 2012– Mark Johnson left the interview confident he had landed the job.
The interviewer’s parting words had assured the experienced truck driver: “Once the background check comes back, you’re good to go. We’ll put you on.”
The “you’re hired” call never came. But a letter from the business that did the background check for the trucking company did. The company reported Johnson as a convicted pedophile.
“I’m like whoa, whoa, whoa, pedophile?!” he said. “I’m a family man. I’ve been married for 24 years. I have three children. I’m a decorated military vet. I have no criminal record. I don’t even have moving violations. No accidents. And I have good credit.”
Stories like Johnson’s are increasing as companies do more background checks on computers, without anyone to verify the results. People with identical names often become vicitims of inaccurate information — whether they’re seeking a job, a place to live or a financial arrangement.
Consumer advocates want regulators to impose rules making background checkers more meticulous.
Sharon Dietrich, who co-authored a study this year by the nonprofit National Consumer Law Center in Boston, said inaccuracies increase when screeners rely on bulk record databases from courts and other sources. Screening companies often don’t double check or update this data, she said.
Dietrich, a managing attorney for the nonprofit Community Legal Services Inc. in Philadelphia, said background checks combined automation and human verification until about five years ago. Court runners routinely reviewed records, making it easier to flag errors and inconsistencies.
Today, it’s rare to see a runner at the courthouse. Increasingly, background checks are entirely computer-generated, sometimes matching records with the wrong person. These include inconsistencies in ages, addresses and even names.
Databases sometimes include sealed or expunged criminal records; omit crucial information, such as charges being dropped; or include misleading information, such as listing a single charge multiple times or reporting a misdemeanor as a felony.
“The human judgement element has been removed,” Dietrich said. “If there is a hit, there is a hit. Nobody looks at it. It is just sent out, and now you’ve got this record.”
Johnson think that may have happened to him. The criminal record of someone with the same or similar name got mismatched with his, he suspects.
Background checks are governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regulates. The consumer group’s report echoed the concerns of advocates and victims who say regulators could do a better job enforcing the law.
For their part, regulators say they have increasingly focused on enforcement, especially within the last year. FTC officials point to a $2.6 million settlement in August with HireRight Solutions, a major background checking company accused of failing to ensure “the maximum possible accuracy of information.” The penalty was the second-largest the commission has obtained under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
In February, the FTC issued warnings to six companies offering background screening apps, telling them they were subject to federal regulations governing background checks. And in June, the FTC fined data broker Spokeo $800,000 for not following regulations. “Background screening — in particular employment background screening — is one of our top priorities, so we are constantly investigating the agencies that provide these sorts of background screening reports,” said Robert Schoshinski, assistant director in the FTC’s division of privacy and identity protection.
He said he couldn’t say how common problems with background screening are or to what extent the commission has increased enforcement. Schoshinski said it is difficult to show increased enforcement because the commission makes an investigation public only after it files a case.
Fred Giles, board chairman of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners in Reston, VA, said errors are rare. A poll of the group’s members found accuracy rates of more than 99 percent, he said. The trade group has 700 members; 400 of the screeners are consumer reporting agencies.
Within the last two years, Giles said, the group came up with an accreditation process for screeners, which is audited by a third party. So far, about 30 companies have been accredited. The group also has started a certification program for individuals. More than 300 have received basic certification and more than 40 advanced certification.
Johnson said his year-long battle to correct an erroneous report has convinced him that many background checkers don’t fear regulators. The suburban Columbus truck driver said he has been trying to get IntelliCorp, the Beachwood company that did his background check, to remove the incorrect information. The Fair Credit Reporting Act says that after a person disputes a report, the credit reporting agency must conduct an investigation and, within 30 days, determine whether the information is inaccurate. If the information is wrong, it must be deleted.
IntelliCorp officials declined to discuss Johnson’s case. The company emailed a general statement about its process for handling disputed information.
“If the disputed information is in fact incorrect or incomplete, IntelliCorp will swiftly take appropriate steps to either remove or update that information,” the email said. “An updated report will then be provided to the consumer.”
Johnson said the only inkling he got of IntelliCorp’s position about removing the error came from a conversation he had with a company investigator soon after receiving the report.
“This is the way the conversation went: ‘This is you. You’re a pedophile. Bye,’ ” he said.
Schoshinski said Johnson, like others who believe a background screener is not following regulations, should report these companies to the FTC. They may file a complaint at ftc.gov or 1-877-382-4357.
“We wouldn’t be able to remove it,” he said of the erroneous criminal information on a report. “We are interested to hear if someone is disputing inaccurate information and the credit reporting agency is refusing to investigate, or just ignoring that request, because what we could do is take enforcement action against the company.”
In the meantime, Johnson’s Sheffield-based lawyers, Matthew Dooley and Anthony Pecora, said they are preparing to sue because IntelliCorp has been given long enough to remove the inaccuracy.
The lawyers said people with common names are more vulnerable to becoming a victim of mismatched records. (In fact, they have another client named Mark A. Johnson.) One would assume that Social Security numbers could settle the identity matter. But many records — including court records — don’t contain them, a protection against identity theft.
The lawyers said their client also may have been a victim of unsophisticated matching criteria. There are no specific standards for doing matches. Both Dietrich, who co-authored the consumer group’s report, and the lawyers said some companies match based on the first few letters of a person’s first name and the first few letters of a last name.
Dietrich said regulations need to define a minimum number of points of similarity that two records must share before a screener can say they pertain to the same person.
“In essence, the ones in this industry who prepare these reports are making their own rules,” he said.
Schoshinski said such regulations could prove problematic.
“If the requirements were very specific and said you had to match this, this and this, and if the credit reporting agency did match those three things, then they would be off the hook, even if they knew the report wasn’t for that person,” he said.
Johnson disagrees. This is the second time he has had criminal information mismatched on a report. In 2009, a background screener’s criteria included matching the first three letters of a person’s first and last names. As a result, erroneous information that Johnson had drug convictions appeared on his report.
He and the other person had different first names, different genders and different races. They never even lived in the same state. She was from Virginia.
Johnson reached an out-of-court settlement, prohibiting him from revealing the company or discussing the terms of the settlement.
When Johnson received the IntelliCorp letter about a year ago, he couldn’t believe this was happening to him again. He was not only distressed about losing out on a good job, but he felt unable to defend himself against a lie.
By law, the checker is supposed to give the job candidate and the employer the report at the same time. The employer is supposed to notify the candidate and give the person the opportunity to respond to the inaccuracy.
“That is suppose to happen prior to their declining employment,” Pecora said. “That didn’t happen. So you have Mark, with a distinguished background, apply for a job and being rejected out of hand — without being given notice — because the employer thinks he’s a pedophile.”
Johnson reached a settlement with the employer preventing him from identifying the company publicly or the terms of the agreement.
Is there anything a job seeker can do in advance to prevent being derailed by these surprised inaccuracies?
Probably not, Dietrich said. They can order a report in advance of a job search and try to correct inaccuracies. (By law, you can receive a free report every 12 months.) But even if your report comes back clean from a larger company, she said it doesn’t mean errors won’t still pop up. There is no central clearinghouse for correcting a screener’s errors.
“There are hundreds of these companies, ranging from corporations to mom-and-pop operations,” she said. “If you fix it with one, the others may still be getting it wrong.”
FAIRBANKS, Alaska Dec 17 2012— Heating oil thieves in Fairbanks have refined their tactics and are targeting empty houses that are for sale, a trend Alaska State Troopers say is new this winter.
“It’s the perfect crime,” Fairbanks trooper Ryan Mau said. “You’ve got an empty house with a full tank of oil. There’s very little risk going to a house that’s vacant. It’s like leaving a bowl of candy out on the front porch on Halloween and expecting a kid not to take any.”
Since Oct. 1, troopers have received 20 reports of heating oil thefts at homes and businesses around Fairbanks, most of which are empty and for sale, Mau said.
Troopers estimate about 5,300 gallons of heating oil has been stolen in those thefts.
“We have thefts as large as 900 gallons and as small as 80 gallons,” the trooper said.
At roughly $4 per gallon, that translates to more than $20,000,
“It’s getting out of control,” Mau said. “Last year, we thought we caught it and it died down, but this year, it’s going gangbusters again.”
In previous years, heating oil thieves focused on homes in remote areas with few neighbors, he said.”The trend this winter is the real estate business,” Mau said.
It makes sense, the trooper said. Thieves can go online and check real estate listings to get addresses of homes that are for sale. They then stake the homes out to see if they are occupied or vacant, checking to see if anyone is home at night, if the driveway has been used or if there are newspapers piling up in the driveway.
Once thieves figure out nobody is home, they return in a truck with a water tank in the back and pump the oil out of the tanks. In some cases, thieves are breaking into the homes, backing their trucks into the garage, punching a hole in the wall and running a hose out the back to drain the oil tank.
“Some of these pumps are pumping 15 to 50 gallons a minute, so it doesn’t take long to empty a tank,” Mau said.
If a neighbor happens by when the thieves are there, they use the excuse that they’re interested in buying the house, he said.
“That will satisfy most neighbors,” Mau said.
Realtor Wes Madden said four or five houses he has listed for sale have been victimized this winter, one of which froze up as a result and needs thousands of dollars of repair. Madden now offers to install locks on tanks of clients for an extra $150 to prevent heating oil thefts and frozen homes.
“If they’re not going to spend $150 to safeguard their house, I’m almost saying I can’t list your house,” Madden said. “What we advise our clients is if their house is vacant and they put a ‘For Sale’ sign out and they’re not plowing their driveway or taking precautions to keep thieves and vandals away, they’re pretty much easy pickings.”
Sellers are required to sign a vacant property addendum to protect the real estate company against insurance claims, he said.
Of the 100-plus listings Madden’s company has, he estimated about 30 are vacant. He has one employee that checks on vacant houses and he advises the owners of vacant houses to put locks on their fuel tanks and have a friend or neighbor keep an eye on it.
“It’s a big deal for us,” Madden said. “I’ve got a spread sheet with everything on it – is it vacant, does it have a fuel lock, who the fuel company is, who winterized the house, is somebody checking on it.”
Bert Perkins, a realtor with Stars and Stripes Realty, said he won’t list vacant homes because of the potential for heating oil and other thefts.
“It’s impossible when a house is vacant to make it look like it’s occupied,” Perkins said.
Madden advises sellers of vacant homes to put freeze alarms in the house. That way the owner can monitor the temperature inside the house and the alarm will notify the homeowner if the house is in danger of freezing.
“It’s a cheap insurance,” he said. “I’m in Texas and I can call home and it tells me what the temperature in my house is. If it drops below 45 degrees, it’s going to call me.”
Several fuel companies in town sell locks for heating oil tanks, but it’s hard to find one that is foolproof, said Bob Wilson, manager at Alaska Aerofuel. Both the fill and vent tubes need to be locked and even that won’t prevent a thief from using a hack saw to cut through them to get a siphon hose down into the tank. Likewise, on above-ground tanks thieves can access the fuel lines coming out of the tank.
“What I tell a lot of customers to do is drill a hole through the pipe, put a hardened bolt in there, put a nut on it and bugger the threads so they can’t get it out,” he said. “Something so they can’t get a hose down in there.”
Alaska Aerofuel sells locks for both pipes for about $50 apiece. The locks fit around the tops of the pipes and can’t be cut with bolt cutters, he said.
“I’ve sold a lot of them,” he said.
Thieves are not easily dissuaded and can sometimes take a lock to be a special challenge.
“We had one client, a church, that had 700 gallons of fuel stolen and he came in and got a lock and put it on the tank,” Wilson said. “A few days later, somebody came along with a hack saw, cut the pipe and left a note saying, ‘We’ll get it if we want it.’ They didn’t steal anything; they just wanted the church to know they can get it if they want it.”
Troopers are asking for the public’s help in thwarting heating oil thieves, Mau said. Anyone who sees something suspicious in their neighborhood should take note and notify troopers, he said.
“If you see a big dually truck with a water tank in the back going through your neighborhood at 3 o’clock in the morning or see headlights late at night at the house next door for sale and you know the owners are in Arizona, get license plate numbers and descriptions of drivers, he said. “Being a nosy neighbor right now is a good thing.”
Thieves most likely are selling the heating oil they steal to friends, using it themselves or trading it for drugs, Mau said.
“Even if they sell fuel for half the price it’s going on the market, they’re still making out pretty darn good,” the trooper said.
Some of the vacant homes that have been victimized have frozen up as a result of the thefts, forcing homeowners to claim thousands of dollars in damage for plumbing repairs and stolen oil. That inevitably results in higher insurance rates for everyone, Mau said. Source- Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Casper WY Dec 15 2012
Robert Harrington of the Casper-Natrona County Health Department said over 150 residents had been infected by the Norovirus; a form of food poisoning. Harrington said as of Thursday all signs pointed to the Golden Corral in Casper as the source of the outbreak.
The Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne disease in the United States and is easily spread through minimal contact with a host.
The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes headache and fever lasting for up to 48 hours.
Customers are ripping apart a Golden Corral after they say 167 fell ill with food poisoning.
The just-opened Casper, Wyoming branch of the buffet is shutting down for 24 hours to sanitize the restaurant after the health department reported record occurrences of food poisoning, K2 radio station reported.
Some of the diners wrote about the experience on the review website Yelp.
“The floors were so dirty,” one reviewer griped, while another complained of the “raw, undercooked meatloaf and chicken.”
One of the best reviews was by a local named David M.:
” This was the worst experience I’ve had in Casper. The Bourbon Chicken gave me traveler’s dysentery, and I willingly eat street vendor food in Peru, Mexico and Nicaragua and have never gotten this sick. The point is, I know world class bad food and this is in the top two or three in the world!
The steaks looked OK, but I never got there.
The Chinese was aged, the Italian looked Chef Boyardee-like, and getting ill on first dish was my only saving grace.
I can’t imagine the crew training they get there….maybe it was everyone’s first night.
So say grace and ask forgiveness before you go…”
The restaurant is scheduled to re-open tomorrow after it cleans things up a bit.
“We probably won’t learn a great deal, but that’s the way epidemiological investigations go,” explained Harrington.