Jul. 30, 2018

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

From data breaches to Facebook privacy to dumpster diving, many individuals are left wondering if certain facts about them and their lives are making their way around the world to be used fraudulently.

To help keep up with the latest scams and frauds, the Office of Attorney General’s website lists advisories for consumers, tips for keeping personal information safe and news about consumer investigations.

Specifically, the website offers guides for charitable giving, buying used cars, living trust scams, work-at-home schemes, telemarketing, fraudulent investment and tips for travelers. A special section – with links to brochures and in-person educational programs – is also designed for senior citizens to educate themselves about this fast-growing crime.

According to the Office of Attorney General, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has the third highest percentage of elderly residents in the United States with nearly 2 million residents over the age of 65. Scam artist of all types take advantage of this and target this generation.

To find out more, click here.
House Asks Attorney General to Investigate State Data Breaches

With news breaking last week of a security breach at the Pennsylvania Department of Health and a previous breach at the Department of Human Services, the House has asked the Office of Attorney General to investigate. Since then, it has come to light that personal information of nearly 13,000 personnel and inmates within the state Department of Corrections may have been compromised in recent weeks.

The House has asked the attorney general to investigate whether Pennsylvanians’ vital personal information was exposed during the Department of Health breach in late June. The attorney general has conducted several other investigations involving data breaches of Equifax, Uber, the TIO Networks, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., Facebook and the Target Corporation.

In addition to the call for an investigation, the House passed two bills this session dealing with data security and informing the public of possible breaches.

House Bill 1846 would require notice within 45 days to Pennsylvania residents when there is a breach of security in plain language and must include the date of the breach and the toll-free numbers to credit reporting agencies.

House Bill 1847 would amend the Credit Reporting Agency Act to waive the current $10 fee to freeze credit reports and would provide consumers with three months of free credit monitoring following a data breach and three free credit reports for one calendar year after the breach.
Credit Card Skimming Becomes a Crime

State law now includes criminal penalties for those who steal personal and financial data by skimming the information from credit cards that are used at such places as automatic teller machines (ATMs) or self-pay gas pumps.

Until Act 60 of 2018, possessing these devices was not illegal, even though they have no use other than for criminal, deceitful and deceptive purposes. Anyone convicted of using or possessing a scanning or skimming device now faces a third-degree felony for a first offense and a second-degree felony for a second or subsequent offense.

This new law brings Pennsylvania in line with 30 other states that have enacted similar legislation. It takes effect in late August.
Preventing Double Taxation on Mobile Devices

Legislation to prevent the state from collecting double taxes from mobile telecommunications consumers is now law.

Act 52 of 2018 excludes the sales of telephones, telephone handsets, modems, tablets and related accessories, including cases, chargers, holsters, clips, hands-free devices, screen protectors and batteries, from being subject to the Gross Receipts Tax. Those devices are already subject to the 6 percent Sales and Use Tax.

The change is needed because the Commonwealth had not updated its definition of mobile telecommunication since 2002. During the last 16 years, communications technology has advanced, causing uncertainty about which tax better fits.

The new law clarifies the definition of what is subject to the Gross Receipts Tax and is subject to the Sales and Use Tax. Updating these definitions further protects consumers from bureaucratic overreach.
Empowering Consumers with Prescription Pricing Info

To help give patients more information regarding the costs and prices for prescription drugs, the House approved legislation this spring to protect consumers and independent pharmacies from unfair drug prices and reimbursement rates.

Some pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) have been cutting reimbursements to community pharmacies for medications sold to patients on Medicaid. This practice has led to substantial financial difficulties for community pharmacies, which are typically locally owned family businesses. House Bill 2212 would remedy the problem by preventing PBMs from cutting reimbursements to community pharmacies for medications sold to patients on Medicaid.

Also, when PBMs contract with pharmacies, the documents may at times contain what is referred to as a “gag clause,” which prohibits pharmacists from disclosing information to a customer that could reduce their out-of-pocket costs for medications. House Bill 2211 addresses those situations by allowing pharmacists to disclose drug information, allowing consumers to get the best price for their medications.

Both bills are now in the state Senate for review.
Persian Gulf Veterans Bonus Deadline is Next Month

Veterans who served on active duty in the Persian Gulf Theater of Operations, including Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, are reminded they have until Aug. 31, 2018, to apply for the Persian Gulf Conflict Veterans’ Bonus.

The bonus pays $75 per month for qualifying, active-duty service members, up to a $525 maximum. For personnel whose death was related to illness or injury received in the line of duty in Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm, an additional $5,000 is available to the surviving family. Service members who were declared prisoners of war may also be eligible for an additional $5,000.

To qualify, the service member must have:
  • Served with the U.S. Armed Forces, a reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces or the Pennsylvania National Guard. 
  • Served on active duty in the Persian Gulf Theater of Operations during the period from Aug. 2, 1990, to Aug. 31, 1991, and received the Southwest Asia Service Medal.
  • Been a legal resident of Pennsylvania at the time of active duty service.
  • Been discharged from active duty under honorable conditions, if not currently on active duty. 
Since 2008, more than 9,000 Persian Gulf Conflict veterans have applied for and received a bonus for their war efforts. Individuals who received a bonus or similar compensation from any other state are not eligible for the Pennsylvania program.

For more information about how to apply, click here.