Beware of COVID-19 Scams: Utility Scammers

With COVID-19 comes a lot of new problems. Some we adjust to, some are temporary. I’ll never understand how scammers can do what they do to innocent people. Which is why I wanted to pass on this information I received from The National Consumer League (NCL).

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League (NCL) has issued a warning today for consumers about a reported increase in scams by con artists posing as utility company representatives who are threatening to shut off subscribers’ power service if they don’t make an immediate payment.

The anatomy of the scam is highly consistent: a consumer receives a call from someone claiming to be with the electric utility company. The caller warns the consumer that their power is about to be shut off over an unpaid bill. The only way to avoid this is to pay up immediately, typically via wire transfer, gift card, or some other difficult-to-stop payment method. So what can we, as consumers do?

Such a call can be very scary—particularly for those who may need electricity to power medical devices or run their small business. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers are having trouble keeping up with their bills, which may make them even more vulnerable to this scam. And even for consumers who are confident they’ve paid their bill, the impending threat of a shut-off at the height of summer heat can cause a panic. 

To avoid becoming a victim, consumers should:

  • Not panic. According to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, electric utilities in all 50 states have placed moratoriums on disconnections during the COVID-19 crisis, either voluntarily or in response to government orders. If someone contacts you claiming that they’re about to shut-off your electricity, it’s a scam. 
  • Contact the power company. A utility will never initiate a disconnection without contacting you via the mail first. If you received a call from someone claiming they’re about to turn off your power, hang up and contact your electric company. Their toll-free phone number and website address is typically listed on your electric bill. 
  • Beware of unusual payment methods. Anyone who asks you to pay an overdue electric or other utility bill via wire transfer, gift card, bank-to-bank transfer, bitcoin, or any other unusual payment method is almost certainly trying to scam you. 
  • Not give out personal information. Utility imposters may offer to connect their victims to federal assistance programs or payment plans to help pay their overdue bills. They just need to “verify” the victim’s information. In reality, these scammers are trying to gather the information they need to steal your identity. If you suspect something is amiss, hang up and call your utility company directly. 

NCL asks consumers to share their stories by filing a complaint at Fraud.org via its secure online complaint form. Complaints are shared with NCL’s network of nearly 200 law enforcement and consumer protection agency partners who can and do put fraudsters behind bars.

Scammers like these are everywhere. Knowledge is power. Please share this information with friends and family.

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneering consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

Ideas For Finding Staples During the Pandemic (And Maybe Save Money)

People from all walks of life and across the board like to save money on things they needs or want. Why pay full price if you don’t have to right? With this pandemic it was almost impossible to find some things for a while. Things like: cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer, disposable masks, and even common grocery items like chicken, hamburger, and toilet paper were scarce.

More recently while heading to the store it’s been a little relief to see toilet paper, chicken, hamburger, and occasionally cleaning wipes on the shelf. It’s not the selection it used to be and the shelves aren’t full like they used to be though. If I see cleaning wipes I’ll grab a container while I’m out.

Watching numbers rise all over the country and seeing some states back track on opening phases and starting schools online makes me wonder if another shutdown and possibly scarcity is in our future again in the next few months. But how do you save money on these things and get what you need without being greedy?

Here are some ways I’ve found to make sure my family of 6 is taken care of without financial hardship.

Chicken: Going directly to the source and/or buy in bulk. We have a little country store near us that offers bulk meat deals near us. Also a small family owned grocery store that periodically offers bulk meat deals. I just ordered a 40 lb case of boneless skinless chicken breast for $48! That’s only $1.20/lb The last time I ordered it was $39.99 for a 40 lb case! When I get it home I break it up into freezer bags with about 2 breast in each bag. That case will last my family of 6 for 2 month or more. More recently I read an article where chicken ownership has become more popular among homeowners. I know my sister got chickens. You get gets and chicken in that deal!

Hamburger: Again the bulk deals are great. Some of the same places offering bulk chicken deals will periodically offer bulk hamburger deals. Another idea: My husband and I went in with my in-laws on a 1/2 a cow from a local farm. We ended up with about 35 lbs of ground beef, tons of steaks, soup bones, and roasts for $400. That was about 2 months ago and I haven’t even gone through half the meat yet. I figure if it lasts us 6 months then it will have cost $60/mo for all that meat. But I have a feeling it will last longer than that. I’ll have to let you know.

Milk: Milk delivery has picked up. In fact, we now have a milkman and we don’t have to leave our house for milk, butter, ice cream, sour cream, and lots of other products. They are even selling frozen pizzas now for a small business. The prices are very reasonable and you get a bigger discount the more you order. Milk can also be frozen. You just have to take a cup of milk out of the container to allow for expansion.

Not everyone is on-board with this option but I honestly love coconut milk and almond milk. It lasts a lot longer in the fridge too. I’ve been buying Silk unsweetened coconut milk and it doesn’t expire for 2 months! Plus you can find sales on it as well as coupons from time to time.

Fruits/Veggies: It’s summer so it’s certainly easier to get your hands on items. With roadside stands, farmer’s markets, and home gardens. Growing your own fruits/veggies is a great way to save money though. Land isn’t even a necessity anymore with container gardening and so many in-home options. Things like Aerogarden and Click and Grow Smart Garden have been becoming more popular because you can grow fruits and veggies all year long in a compact space. My husband is all into gardening right now and is talking about setting lights up and stuff in the basement. This might have to be a Christmas idea for him.

Another thing to consider with veggies/fruits is trading with neighbors. One year I had a huge crop of zucchini. I was trying every zucchini recipe I had. I even shredded some to freezer for later. But still too many. I gave some to neighbors and coworkers. In return I got things like rhubarb, tomatoes, and green peppers. It worked out nicely.

Currently, with things becoming available, it seems almost every company is putting out some type of hand sanitizer. My suggestion is to buy an extra bottle now for safe keeping (please be considerate and don’t buy out stores!). I also buy one extra pack of toilet paper than I would normally buy just to keep stock or buy in bulk when I can.

If you’re looking for ways to save money on groceries check out the article I linked to or search the term “save on groceries” in my search bar! I’ve done a few articles 🙂

Guys I’ve even recently started seeing deals on disposable face masks from reputable sites. Office Depot right now has a 50 ct box of disposable masks for $14.99 and free shipping. I ordered it myself and received it within 3 days!

The bottom line an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Take advantage of the deals now. Stock up with what you NEED for your family but be considerate.

Extended Stay America: An Off-Campus Living Option? Yes

So I’m signed up for the Extended Stay America newsletter ok. They have good deals, it’s been an option for us with vacations, who knows when we’ll need them. I get info about deals and coupon codes. I don’t hate getting the newsletters. In fact, sometimes they’re even enlightening.

The latest email I got from them blew my mind. It was one of those things that made me thing “Wow, that’s true! Why didn’t I think of that”

Extended Stay America offers short term and long term stay options. Even offering bigger discounts for stays of 30+ days or more. The rooms have kitchenettes complete with microwave refrigerator, coffee maker, and counter space. I’m thinking, most the time parents have to buy mini fridges, microwaves, coffee makers, linens, etc. You wouldn’t have to buy any of that stuff.

Most of the complaints about dorms are things like: community showers, small living space, noisy, cleanliness,or being stuck with a roommate you just don’t get along with. This alleviates all those.

Another bonus, Extended Stay America has laundry facilities and offers free breakfasts. Some Extended Stay America sites even offer amenities like gyms, swimming pools, and business areas that would be great for typing up reports.

Extended Stay America also offers free wi-fi (uber important for college) and include all utilities! Be sure to check Extended Plus Program for 60+ days or longer for lowest rates.

This could be a great temporary option too for those colleges with limited dorm availability or for those that just like their personal space. Go together with a friend and get a room at Extended Stay America and split the cost.

Oh and one more thing, Extended Stay America offers pet friendly rooms. So if your college bound student just can’t part with Fido, he may be able to take him along! Some Extended Stay America sites offer shuttle services to local restaurants and stores. A ride to the grocery store? Awesome!

I understand this option may not be appealing to everyone but I thought it would be a great idea in several circumstances. If you deduct the price you’d pay for furnishing a dorm room, paying for laundry, paying for breakfasts, paying for any utilities the price could even out.

This post does contain affiliate links. I will get a small commission from bookings made through this post.

Having a 2020 High School Graduate: The Highs, Lows, and Expectation

At the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year there was no reason to believe that it wouldn’t end just as any other school year did. With the exception of my oldest son who would be graduating. We sat through the FAFSA education meetings, I asked a million questions to family and friends about preparing my child, financial resources, scholarships, wading through paperwork, etc. It was a learning experience for us and we’re still making sure we check off steps to get things done. But, my son was accepted to his first college choice which is the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. He intends to major in Environmental Science but can’t decide if he wants to minor in Geology as well.

When the COVID-19 Pandemic hit there were so many questions. Will there be a graduation and if so, how will we do it? I guess there’s no senior prom then huh? Will the kids get to finish out their sport as a senior? Will any of the events be rescheduled? Will anything change with the college process? Will there even be college in the fall? So many questions.

This was my son’s last year of archery club. He had made it to States again and had hoped for one more try to make it to nationals. States was canceled and we’ve heard nothing about rescheduling. This was probably the most disappointing thing to my son. One of the lows for him. But he was grateful he got to experience his senior year of football in its entirety including receiving several football awards at his banquet. One of the highs of his senior year.

We did have a graduation. Socially distanced. I really didn’t know what to expect but it turned out beautifully. It was amazing to see the community support for our seniors. People lined the streets with signs including local businesses. You could tell how much time and effort was put into this graduation. Almost everyone I talked to said they think they enjoyed it more than the traditional graduation. I told him, I don’t remember a think about my graduation but you will remember at least some of this forever. Definitely a high in all this. I think our seniors felt recognized and validated in a time when they could have missed out on a lot.

Now that things have moved to the “green phase” here in Pennsylvania our school has decided to hold a traditional graduation and prom as well. My son is excited about prom but we feel nothing could top the first graduation they had.

Still some anxiety about if he will actually be able to physically attend college in the fall or if it will be virtual. Thankfully he had already decided he wanted to be a commuter (we don’t live far from the college) so no worries about dorm situations. And if it’s virtual will there be a change in fees? We really don’t know what to expect.

I’ve been seeking out scholarships for some time now. Nagging my son about applying for school scholarship, college offered scholarships, and any other ones I find lol We were blessed that he received one scholarship. I love finding scholarships online too. Especially the ones that aren’t so prominently advertised. I just found the Nancy Etz Scholarship which I will definitely have him apply for. Every bit helps! As I told my son, for every grand and scholarship dollar you received that’s one less dollar you have to pay back later!

This post is sponsored by Diamond Links. Any opinions expressed are my own.

HealthSapiens Offers Telemed Services For Counseling and Medical Advice

COVID-19 has made businesses get creative with how they can keep going in these trying times. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders are making people ask themselves “Do I really need to go out? Do I really need this right now?” Unfortunately, it can also make people hesitate on getting evaluated by a medical professional.

Social distancing and the temporary closing of some facilities has also been in the news for people with depression, anxiety, and loneliness having trouble coping with everything going on. I’m a part of a group for the gym I’m a member of. Many people used the gym as a way to help with depression, anxiety, addiction behavior, and more. I see frequently in the group, people that just don’t know how to cope and are losing motivation.

So what can you do? Many health facilities are offering by appointment only and only if it’s medically necessary. My daughter’s well check up and my son’s wisdom teeth removal were canceled with rescheduling when able. Some facilities have telemed services set up but not all. If you’re really struggling mentally, it can be hard to leave the house anyway.

HealthSapiens is a solution. HealthSapiens offering Telemed services for both medical advice and counseling.

HealthSapiens offers an affordable subscription plan for individuals and families. The family plan will cover unlimited visits for up to 7 people! There are no copays, available 24/7, and they can even send any prescriptions to your pharmacy of choice.

There is no waiting in lines, no sitting in a waiting room with sick people, no sitting in an exam room for 30 minutes until a doctor can get to you. Honestly this sounds amazing to me. I have ulcerative colitis and IBS so sitting for 45 minutes in a waiting room then another 30 minutes in an exam room can mean several bathroom trips for me. I’d feel much more comfortable at home.

I’ve also considered getting counseling for my anxiety and depression. My insurance doesn’t cover it and it’s something like $100+ per hour so I never did. This is a much more affordable solution. I don’t have to let my bank account decide if I can get help or not.

Health Sapiens: Sign-up for Affordable & Easily Accessible Counseling Today!

Don’t let current events or copay worries hold you back from getting the care you and your family need. Sign up today and start feeling better.

Health Sapiens: Affordable & Easily Accessible Healthcare starting at $19.95/Month. Sign-up Today!

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