BBB’s 9 Tips on Being a Savvy Consumer in 2015
Thursday, January 01, 2015
The tips are as follows:
- Keep your computer safe. Just like you wouldn't trust an infomercial claiming you'll lose 40 lbs. in a week by drinking fruit punch, you can't trust every e-mail and attachment you receive in your inbox.
- Do your research. Much like scanning the nutritional facts on the back of a food product, it's important to do your research on companies as a consumer.
- Protect your identity. You wouldn't put your social security and family photos on your resume, so why give it away to perfect strangers?
- Get everything in writing. You wouldn't accept a new job without getting the salary and benefits in writing, and the same applies for all business transactions.
- Limit what you share on social media. You'd never walk around in public wearing a t-shirt with your address on it, but people use social media in this manner every day!
- Shop on trustworthy websites. Would you buy an extremely expensive piece of jewelry from a stranger on the street? Shopping online on unknown websites is no different.
- Never wire money to someone you don't know. You wouldn't give cash to a stranger at the mall and trust them to pay your utility bill, would you? Wiring money to strangers is no different.
- Beware of "job" offers to make easy money. This tip fits right in with New Year's job searchers. Beware of any job offer, work-at-home scheme or business opportunity that promises big money for little work and no experience. Look up companies at http://www.bbb.org before you apply for any job.
- Ask the BBB for help.
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The 9 Richest Families in New England
Forbes put out a list of the '185 Clans with Billion Dollar Fortunes,' and in September, GoLocal Worcester presented the Nine Richest Families in New England.
In Massachusetts, the richest familyis Boston's Edward-Johnson clan -the 5th overall in the country at $39 billion. Families that own supermarket chains and convenience stores are the next wealthiest in Masschusetts. In New England, construction and apparel companies are making the wealthiest of the list.
Health Insurance Subsidy Battle
In November, the U.S. Supreme Court said they would hear a challenge over the ACA tax credits filed in 36 states that subsidize health insurance purchased by people on federal exchanges.
The challenged was filed by four Virginia residents.
According to the GoLocal Worcester report, "a Supreme Court ruling against the administration would mean that more than half of the 7.3 million people who have bought Obamacare policies aren’t entitled to the subsidies they are receiving."
Double-Digit Premium Increases in Past?
In September, GoLocal Worcester reported that the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust released a new study on employer health benefits.
According to the study, the average annual premiums for employer-sponsored family coverage went up 3% from 2013.
IRS Regulates Small Business Tax Credit
On June 30, the IRS released its final regulations on tax credits for small businesses. The rule established eligibility requirements for the tax credit.
One change to the regulation included that employers must purchase coverage through the Small Business Health Options Program (“SHOP”) Exchange.
Telegram Sold to Halifax Media Corp
In May, the Telegram and Gazette was sold to the Halifax Media Corporation out of Dayton Beach, Florida. Halfiax purchased the paper from John Henry, who had bought it in 2013.
Halifax CEO Michael Redding said, "The T&G is an excellent local newspaper with a dedicated and talented staff. In 2012, we acquired the Regional Media Group newspapers of the New York Times, so the T&G will be aligned again with their former New York Times papers and will join the outstanding teams at Halifax. We look forward to the upcoming closing of the transaction."
HSAs Continue to Rise in Popularity
In August, GoLocal Worcester reported that a survey released by by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) revealed that Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) experienced double-digit growth over last year.
According to the report, "enrollment in HSA-eligible insurance plans now stands at nearly 17.4 million, up about 12 percent since 2013. On average, enrollment in HAS plans has grown 15 percent annually since 2011."
Remember to Provide SBCs at Enrollment
In September, GoLocal Worcester reminded employers to remember to provide to their employees a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) during the 2015 open enrollment period.
The SBC must be provide by group health plan sponsors to the covered employees each year by the first day of open enrollment.
Security Expert Speaks in Worcester
This fall, Aaron Portnoy, a world-renowned security expert spoke at the Worcester Economic Club (WEC) during the club's 2014-2015 Speaker Series.
The 534th annual meeting featuring Portnoy was held on November 19 at the College of the Holy Cross.
Dental and Vision Don't Count for PPAC
In October, GoLocal Worcester reported that the IRS, DOL, and HHS issued final regulations on 'excepted benefits' as vision and dental benefits. This means they are exempt from certain health care reform requirements.
Previously, vision and dental benefits were excepted if they were limited in scope and either provided under a separate policy, certification or insurance contract or not otherwise an integral part of a group health plan.
Hardship Exemptions from Mandate
Earlier this month, GoLocal Worcester reported that the IRS issued Notice 2014-76 that included information on getting a hardship exemption from the individual mandate for health insurance coverage.
According to the report, "The mandate, created by the Affordable Care Act, requires individuals to have minimum essential health coverage for themselves and their dependents or include an individual shared responsibility payment with their federal income tax return – unless they qualify for an exemption."
Are Skinny Plans Becoming a Big Draw?
Under the employer mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employers with 50 or more full-time employees must provide minimum value, affordable coverage – or face a penalty. To comply with this provision, one option that seems to be gaining traction among these employers is the “skinny” plan.
A skinny plan is a non-minimal value plan, meaning, it provides medical care but doesn’t meet the requirement that participants pay not more than 40% of covered medical expenses. That means employers can just offer employees preventative services or other non-catastrophic coverage.
Telegram Sold Third Time in 14 Months
In November, the Halifax Media Corporation sold the Telegram and Gazette after purchasing it only six months earlier. According to the report, "The new owners are GateHouse Media's acquisition parent company which purchased the Providence Journal this year."
This would be the third time the T&G was sold in fourteen months. It was previously purchased by John Henry in August of 2013. Henry sold it to Halifax this past May.
Regs. Issued on Contraceptive Coverage
In September, GoLocal Worcester reported that two regulations on contraceptive coverage were issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Treasury.
The first regulation is on how certain closely held for-profit organizations can exclude some or all contraceptive coverage. The second, is about eligible organizations’ communication for opting out of contraceptive coverage.
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