Prevent and Identify “Mystery Fees” on Your Phone Bill
An estimated twenty million Americans are unaware of illegal and unauthorized mystery fees - called “cramming” - that show up on their monthly phone bill. The charges range from $1.99 to $19.99 and can appear on bills for your local and wireless telephone, long distance, beeper or pager services.
Were you “crammed”?
Ask yourself the following questions as you review your telephone bill:
Do I recognize the names of all the companies listed on my bill?
What services were provided by the listed companies?
Does my bill include charges for calls I did not place or services I did not authorize?
Are the rates and line items consistent with the information that the company quoted to me?
Getting your money back:
Immediately call the company that charged you for calls you did not place, or services you did not authorize or use. Ask the company to explain the charges. Request an adjustment to your bill for any incorrect charges.
If the company refuses to remove the charges you can file a complaint:
Some cards have hidden fees that cost consumers minutes
When it comes to prepaid telephone cards, every minute counts.
That’s why the federal government is always taking steps to ensure that the companies that sell them provide the minutes promised and clearly disclose any hidden fees that might decrease the number of minutes available for calls.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently took legal action against Millennium Telecard Inc., a New Jersey-based company that sold prepaid telephone cards with such names as “Africa Magic,” “Viva Ecuador,” and “Hola Amigo.”
The FTC analyzed the cards and found that, on average, they delivered less than half of the minutes promised. At the request of the FTC, a court order was issued that temporarily halted the company’s deceptive advertising claims.
If you frequently purchase or use prepaid telephone cards, be aware of common fees that may decrease the value of a card. If you believe you’ve been mislead by a card provider you can also file a claim against that company.
Fees That Decrease the Value of the Card
Prepaid telephone cards are a practical way to make calls if you don’t have a long-distance calling plan with your mobile or home telephone provider. They also work well if you prefer to pay for these services in advance. Prices for the cards can vary from $2 to $20, and the number of minutes available depends on the rate for the place you’re calling.
The best way to use of these cards is by knowing exactly what you’re buying. That’s why you should always read the fine print and be aware of some of the most common types of fees, including:
Charges for ending a telephone call
Maintenance charges that kick in after activating the card
Charges for making calls from a public telephone
Charges for making calls to a mobile telephone
Not all cards have these fees. If you don’t want to pay these types of charges, the best thing to do is look for a card that does not have them.
Tips on How to Choose a Telephone Card
There are many different types of prepaid phone cards. Although some of them are well-established, others might be new to the market. The following tips will help you pick wisely:
Ask family members or friends about their experiences using prepaid telephone cards to find out which ones are the most reliable
If you are going to buy a new card, start with one with little value, say $2. Then try it out and see if it delivered on the minutes promised and whether it charged excessive fees
Make sure the card has a free customer service line that works
Look for cards with no expiration date
How to File a Complaint
Retailers are not liable for the services offered by the cards. Stores are responsible, however, for not promoting cards they know don’t deliver as advertised.
If you have been a victim of calling card fraud, you can always file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The easiest and fastest way to do it is by filling out an electronic form online. However, you can also file a complaint by calling (877) 382-4357.
By the Specialized Information Services Division of the National Library of Medicine
Have you ever wondered what chemical ingredients are in some of the common household products that you buy? The Household Products Database can tell you about the product’s ingredients, any possible health concerns and give you tips on proper handling.
The database links several thousand consumer brands to health effects from Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) provided by product manufacturers. The products in the database run the gamut from air fresheners to flea and tick control to mascara. The database lets you research products by chemical ingredients, manufacturer, or health effects, and can help you answer questions such as:
What are the chemical ingredients in specific brands?
Which products contain specific chemical ingredients?
Who manufactures a specific brand? How do I contact this manufacturer?
What are the acute and chronic effects of chemical ingredients in a specific brand?
What other information is available about chemicals in other National Library of Medicine databases?
Information in the Household Products Database comes from a variety of publicly available sources including brand labels and Material Safety Data Sheets when the MSDS are available from manufacturers and manufacturers’ web sites.
You can search the database by brand names, ingredients, and manufacturers.
Assistance Program Helps Human Trafficking Victims
By U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents investigate. Akin to modern-day slavery, victims are often forced into prostitution, involuntary labor and other forms of servitude. They are often hidden in plain sight, voiceless and scared.
ICE not only targets and apprehends human traffickers, but it also provides assistance to human trafficking victims through its Victim Assistance Program. That assistance comes in various forms like temporary immigration benefits, counseling, and more.
Recent cases include:
Three juveniles were part of a sex-trafficking ring and subjected to severe psychological distress. ICE’s Victim Assistance Program helped those victims navigate the social services system, access needed therapy and receive assistance with ongoing medical expenses.
A pimp physically abused an adult female. ICE’s Victim Assistance Program helped the victim access housing, medical care and therapy and secure a protective order against the pimp.
Individuals are encouraged to report suspicious activity in their communities by calling the ICE HSI Tip Line at 866-DHS-2-ICE.
The U.S. Department of Education launched their annual summer campaign, Let’s Read, Let’s Move. The campaign encourages children to participate in summer reading programs and parents to read to their children more often.
Through summer reading, kids may discover a favorite author that sparks a lifelong love of reading. Summer reading can also prevent learning loss and help prepare a child for the next academic year.
By the Specialized Information Services Division of the National Library of Medicine
If you’ve ever wondered what’s in a certain dietary supplement, like over-the-counter vitamins and minerals, or if a certain product is safe for you to take, the Dietary Supplements Labels Database can help you find the answers.
The database has information about the ingredients in several thousand selected brands of dietary supplements. Those ingredients might be vitamins, minerals, herbs/plants, amino acids, or enzymes. Information is also given on any product claims made by a supplement’s manufacturer. The database can help you find answers to questions such as:
What are the ingredients shown on the label of a supplement?
How much of the daily recommended allowance for a nutrient is in a specific product?
Can I compare the amount of a specific nutrient between products?
What are the inactive ingredients in a product?
Which products do not contain animal products?
Can I find studies that indicate the proven medical benefits of specific ingredients?
Can I find information on the toxicity of specific ingredients?
Who manufactures a specific product? How do I contact this manufacturer?
Ingredients in the Dietary Supplements Labels Database are linked to other National Library of Medicine databases such as MedlinePlus and PubMed that provide more information about the ingredients, such as the results of research studies on possible health effects of the ingredients.
How the ingredients are used in humans
Any adverse effects
Mechanisms of action
You can search the database by brand names, uses noted on product labels, specific active ingredients, and manufacturers.
Keep Track of Your Preventative Care with this Checklist
These days we have checklists for just about everything. Have you considered one for preventive care services to help you and your family stay healthy?
Take this checklist to your doctor to find out what preventive services are right for you. It spells out the Medicare covered preventive services and helps you keep track of when you received a particular test, screening, or service, as well as when you are due for your next one.
These services ranging from smoking cessation counseling and flu shots to a yearly “wellness” visit, are offered free of charge to patients covered by Medicare.
The summer months are fraught with risk for power outages, with air conditioning gorging on electricity and hurricanes brewing in the Atlantic. So how do you keep it from spoiling when the power dies, know what foods you can safely eat, and which you must throw out?
Hard cheeses, such as Cheddar and Swiss, can be eaten well after the refrigerator loses its cold; but low-fat and shredded cheeses, as well as eggs, meat, poultry and fish, should be thrown out if the interior rises above 40°F for more than two hours.
To get ready for when the power goes out, stock up on some non-perishables that can be eaten straight from the can or box, and print out this detailed reference of which refrigerated foods are safe.
Caller ID has been around for years, and now with cell phones, everyone can see who is calling before they pick up.
Recently, a new type of scamming has developed – caller ID spoofing - allowing telemarketers and scammers to mask their number as a number you trust, such as the police department. The person on the line will ask you for a donation or tell you that you have an overdue bill you must pay, all just to get your credit card information and any other personal information they can.
The FCC suggests that you do not give out any personal information over the phone but instead look up the correct phone number on a bank statement or the phonebook and call to verify if you actually owe money. Last year, Congress passed the “Truth in Caller ID Act” which aims to cut down on caller ID spoofing.
The Unites States Postal Service now offers new ways to access its tools while on the go. With a new mobile friendly website and apps for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Andriod devices, you can find the nearest post office, look up zip codes and track your packages.
Search “USPS Mobile” in your app store to easily find the application for your device.
First Lady Michelle Obama works with chefs and students in the White House Kitchen Garden during the “Let’s Move!” chefs event.
According to statistics, approximately 1/3 of American children are overweight or obese. First Lady Michelle Obama started the Let’s Move campaign to solve the challenge of childhood obesity and encourage healthy and active lifestyles. Let’s Move is not just for children; it rallies children, families, schools, chefs, and entire communities to explore ways to keep children healthy.
“Let’s Move Outside”, offers suggestions about outdoor activities that are perfect for summertime, with links to places to play, bike, swim. You can also find action plans to help you join the effort. Some tips include:
Keep fresh fruit within a child’s reach
Try new fruits and vegetables
Reduce the number of snacks served each day
Plan meals for the week and encourage children to help make dinner
Get active during TV commercial breaks
To stay up to date on the latest ways to keep your family healthy from Let’s Move, sign up for email updates, take the pledge, or attend a Lets Move meet up in your city to connect with others that are committed to the health of America’s children.
You can also use CareerOneStop to learn about different careers, typical salaries, and get resume help.
And, don’t forget, the Government is hiring! There are more than 5,000 federal government job openings right now. Use our Work for the Government page to help you begin the process of applying for federal, state, or local government jobs.
The Anniversary of the First Women's Rights Convention
Elizabeth Cady Stanton presented the Declaration of Sentiments, a document modeled after the Declaration of Independence that called for moral, economic, and political equality for women, at the Seneca Falls Convention on July 19 and 20, 1848. An estimated three hundred women and men attended the Convention, including Lucretia Mott and Frederick Douglass.
All of the resolutions within the Declaration passed easily, except for the one demanding that women be allowed to vote. Although that resolution narrowly passed, it wasn’t until 1920 that women were given the right to vote with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. Only one signer of the Declaration of Sentiments would live long enough to cast a vote in a U.S. election.
The federal government can borrow money to pay its bills, just like taking out a loan. The debt limit is the maximum amount that Congress allows the government to borrow, similar to the credit limit on a credit card. The government will exceed the current debt limit of $14.3 trillion dollars on August 2 unless Congress votes to raise the limit before that date.
Raising the debt limit would let the government borrow enough money to pay bills that it already owes, such as Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, and tax refunds. It does not mean that the government has decided to spend more money.
According to the U.S. Treasury, “Failing to increase the debt limit would have catastrophic economic consequences. It would cause the government to default on its legal obligations – an unprecedented event in American history. That would precipitate another financial crisis and threaten the jobs and savings of everyday Americans.”
This isn’t the first time that the government has reached its debt limit. The limit has been raised, extended, or revised 78 times since 1960.
What's a Lumen? Understanding New Light Bulb Labels
By the Federal Trade Commission
What’s a lumen?
What’s the Lighting Facts label?
Why will either of them matter when I shop for light bulbs?
Not sure? Watch a new video from the Federal Trade Commission to be illuminated. You’ll learn how lumens and the FTC’s Lighting Facts label can help you compare different bulbs when you shop.
Newer light bulbs — like halogen incandescents, CFLs and LEDs — use less energy by design. But that means you can’t use watts, which measure energy use, to tell how bright they’ll be. That’s where lumens come in: Lumens = brightness. The more lumens, the brighter the light.
You’ll also get a sneak peek of the Lighting Facts label, due on packages for everyday bulbs by the end of the year. The label helps you compare bulbs by telling you a bulb’s brightness (in lumens), yearly estimated energy cost, expected bulb life, and how warm or cool the light will look.
Image description: This Census map shows the new center of the U.S. population, based on 2010 census data.
The new center of the U.S. population is Plato, Missouri, according to 2010 census data. With each new census, a new center of the U.S. population emerges. Over the years, it has continually moved west, as the population moved off the east coast. For the first census, in 1790, the center of population was Chestertown, Maryland.
“On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate Nelson Mandela and join the world in celebrating his 93rd birthday this Sunday. I am honored and humbled to call President Mandela my friend. Like millions of his admirers around the world, I am deeply moved by his generosity of spirit and unfailing courage in the face of overwhelming obstacles. After 26 years locked in an apartheid prison, he emerged to lead South Africa’s transition from the division of apartheid to an integrated, multi-racial democracy. He embraced his jailers without bitterness or hatred and provided an example to his own people and people everywhere.”—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on celebrating the first Nelson Mandela International Day.
From the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control
Reduce your children’s risk of getting many types of cancer later in life. Start by helping them adopt a healthy lifestyle with good eating habits and plenty of exercise to keep a healthy weight. Then follow the tips below to help prevent specific types of cancer.
A few serious sunburns can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life. To protect yourself and your family, seek shade, wear a hat, sunglasses, and sun-protective clothing, use sunscreen, and avoid tanning beds.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines can protect women against the types of HPV that cause most cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. They’re recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls, and for females 13–26 years old who didn’t get all of the shots when they were younger.
The best way to prevent lung cancer is not to start smoking, or quit if you smoke. It’s important to prevent adolescents from starting to smoke. Talk to your children about why you don’t want them to smoke, and don’t expose them to secondhand smoke.
Rather than booking a hotel room, some vacationers plan their destination based on the location of their timeshare. A timeshare is a unit in a vacation property that you purchase the right to use each year.
Each year, you pay for the right to use the timeshare, regardless of whether or not you take a vacation.
Depending on your contract, you may own the timeshare for a specified number of years or for the rest of your life. Some contracts allow you to trade your timeshare so you can visit a variety of destinations.
The Federal Trade Commission offers these tips before you buy a timeshare:
Be careful of high pressure sales tactics and incentives. Some resorts give you a free night’s stay at their resort or other special offers if you agree to listen to a presentation. Sales personnel at the vacation property may create a sense of urgency or tell you the deal is temporary.
Take time to consider the costs and do some research. Remember this is buying real property, like your home.
Ask questions about the property. Talk to current timeshare owners, and investigate complaints with the state’s attorney general and Better Business Bureau.
Review the contract away from the property, and have the contracts reviewed by someone who is familiar with contracts and real estate law.
Make sure the written contract includes any verbal promises and benefits.
Consider the total cost of the timeshare, including the mortgage, interest, property taxes, and maintenance fees, which typically increase every year.
Ask about your ability to cancel the contract. Most states allow you to cancel the contract within a certain time period. This may be spelled out in the contract. If you decide to cancel the contract, do it in writing, via certified mail and return receipt.