Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Read Behind The Buzz About Mosquito Repellents

The idea of a perfume-like insect repellent that safeguards against dangerous mosquito-borne illnesses may sound great. But before making a rash decision, take a moment to consider whether the claims a company makes about its products are truly accurate.
For instance, the makers of Aromaflage sprays and candles said the products protect users from mosquito bites that can lead to diseases like the Zika virus and yellow fever…oh, and that it smells good. Adding credibility to these claims, customer reviews on Amazon.com sang Aromaflage’s praises.
But the FTC says the company did not base its claims on solid scientific evidence. What’s more, some of the so-called “customers” turned out to be one of the company’s owners and several members of her family.
The best guide for protecting yourself from mosquito-borne illnesses is following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
The CDC recommends using skin-applied insect repellents registered with the EPA and containing certain active ingredients. Check out additional tips from the CDC on protecting yourself and your family from mosquito bites, and things to know before traveling to areas with Zika.
The EPA has registered products to treat clothing and gear. The EPA has evaluated these products for safety and effectiveness. You can also search the EPA’s registry for skin-applied repellents based on the type of insect, product ingredients, and other factors. Here’s more from the EPA on using repellents safely and effectively.
If you’re considering an all-natural repellent not registered with the EPA, know that neither the EPA nor the CDC can vouch for its effectiveness. Also, certain ingredients aren’t safe for children under three — even if they’re advertised as all-natural.
And if a product’s ads and spokespersons turn out to be less than honest, report it to the FTC.

Monday, June 11, 2018

A Scam Story: Secret Shopping and Fake Checks

Scammers need a good story to get to your wallet. Once they find one that works, they use it again and again. One of their old favorites brings together fake checks and secret shopping, and we’ve been hearing a lot about it lately.
Here’s how it starts. You get a check in the mail with a job offer as a secret shopper. You deposit the check and see the funds in your account a few days later, and the bank even tells you the check has cleared.
Now you’re off to the store you’ve been asked to shop at and report back on, often a Walmart. Your first assignment is to test the in-store money transfer service, like Western Union or MoneyGram, by sending some of the money you deposited. Or you might be told to use the money to buy reloadable cards or gift cards, such as iTunes cards. You’re instructed to send pictures of the cards or to give the numbers on the cards.
Fast forward days or weeks to the unhappy ending. The bank finds out the check you deposited is a fake, which means you’re on the hook for all that money. How does that even happen? Well, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. By the time you try to get the money back from the money transfer service, the scammers are long gone, and they’ve taken all the money off the gift cards, too. (By the way, money orders and cashier’s checks can be faked, too.)
The moral of the story? If anyone ever asks you to deposit a check and then wire or send money in any way, you can bet it’s a scam. No matter what they tell you.
Want to avoid the latest rip-offs? Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at FTC.gov/Scams

Friday, June 8, 2018

Timeshare Retail Scheme Preyed on Older Adults

If you’re thinking about selling your timeshare through a resale company, research the company first. Read about this recent FTC case against Pro Timeshare Resales, and you’ll know why.
Timeshare Resales is a Florida-based company that called people – many of whom were older adults – and promised to sell their timeshare properties. The company often said it had a buyer in mind and that the sale would occur quickly. Once the timeshare owner agreed, the company would charge an up-front fee, usually of $500 to $2,500.
But, according to the FTC, the company did not sell the property quickly – or even at all. Often, it would ask for additional fees and refuse to grant refunds.
As result of its FTC settlement, Pro Timeshare Resales is now banned from timeshare resale services and telemarketing. It’s not allowed to make misrepresentations or collect any more payments for their timeshare services. Plus, it agreed to surrender more than $3 million.
How can you avoid timeshare resale scams? Here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Check out the reseller. Contact the State Attorney General and local consumer protection agencies in the state where the reseller is located. Ask if they have any complaints on file. You can also search online for complaints.
  • Ask about fees. It’s better to do business with a reseller that takes fees after the timeshare is sold. If you must pay a fee in advance, get refund policies in writing.
  • Get everything in writing. Read the contract carefully to make sure it matches promises you’ve been given verbally. It should include the services the reseller will perform, plus any fees you must pay and when. If the deal isn’t what you expected or wanted, don’t sign the contract.
For more information, check out Timeshares and Vacation Plans. And, if you’ve been a victim of a scam, report it to the FTC.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

8 Tips for Freezing Your Garden's Bounty

For Freezer Success, Follow These 8 Steps:
  1. Freeze ripe, high-quality fruits and vegetables. Freezing won't magically fix any rot, lack of ripeness, or mold -- it will just preserve those pesky problems.
  2. Only freeze fruits and vegetables that you want to cook or which you can use while still frozen. Things that you pretty much only eat fresh (like lettuce or cucumbers, for example) don't freeze or reheat well.
  3. Before you freeze, make your vegetables "ready-to-eat" by peeling and/or chopping them before they go into a freezer.
    1. Think about how you want your fruits and vegetables to appear when you reach for them in the freezer. For example, it might be easy to just toss a banana into the freezer with the skin still intact, but when you take it out of the freezer, the fruit will be mushier and the skin will be more difficult to remove. This difficulty means that the bananas could sit in the freezer for a long time without actually being used. The same rule applies to the stems of strawberries -- it is tedious to remove them from frozen fruits. Instead, remove these fussy pieces before freezing your food.
    2. Consider the serving size. Freeze in "ready-to-eat" sizes that you and your family regularly consume. A huge block of frozen casserole is only a good idea if you want to reheat the whole thing and serve it all at once. Consider slicing large casseroles etc. into single-serving portions that can be reheated on the go.
    3. Grated items can often be frozen without being cooked first. Consider using a food processor to make grating faster. Carrots lend themselves well to this because it is easy to add them to tomato sauces, soups, etc.
  4. Most fruits can be frozen raw.
  5. Many vegetables need to be "blanched" or partially cooked before they are frozen. This will ensure good quality, color, and texture. It is best to steam them quickly on the stove or give them a speedy zap in the microwave. 1-2 minutes is all that is needed (in most cases). You'll want the items to still be crisp before you freeze them -- this will help keep them from being overcooked when they're heated before serving.
  6. Freeze your produce in sealed bags or containers. Bags are the preferred method because you can see what is in them and they take up less space. It is important to fold or roll items in the bags so that you reduce the amount of air in the bags. The less air, the better!
  7. Cook all vegetables straight from their frozen state. Vegetables can go from the freezer to the microwave or steamer directly. Fruits can be thawed or they can go directly from the freezer to a baking/pancake mix or blender. (PS There's an exception for corn -- check it out below...).
  8. Consider making frozen veggies into soups, stews, and chilis -- it's not much more effort than blanching and then you have a ready-made dish to eat on a busy day.
Want to start stocking your freezer? Here's a guide to freezing common fruits and vegetables...
  1. Apples - Remove the core and cut it into wedges, slices, or diced squares. Consider making extra apples into apple sauce or apple butter.
  2. Apricots - Bake or steam the apricots for best results in long-term storage
  3. Asparagus - Blanch for 1-2 minutes and flash-freeze on a baking tray in the freezer for a few minutes before bagging and storing. This will keep the stalks from freezing into a single solid mass.
  4. Bananas - Peel the bananas and then freeze them in bags or containers. They are great for baking into muffins or quick breads, or for blending into smoothies. Tip: if your favorite banana muffin recipe calls for 2 cups of bananas, consider freezing them in 2 cup batches. That way they are ready to bake when you are ready to whip up a masterpiece. Consider cutting under-ripe bananas into bite-sized chunks and dipping them in chocolate or nuts for a healthful, frozen treat.
  5. Beans - Green beans, wax beans, and yellow beans should have their stems removed before freezing. They can be steamed for 2 minutes and then frozen in single serving sized packages for the best results.
  6. Berries - Freeze berries in bags or containers. Use them in smoothies, muffins, quick breads, or pies. It is best to remove all stems from strawberries first.
  7. Broccoli - Blanch for 1-2 minutes and then flash-freeze in a single layer on a baking tray in the freezer. Transfer to sealed bags or containers.
  8. Carrots - Slice, blanch, freeze. You can also grate and freeze.
  9. Cauliflower - Trim into florets and steam for 2 minutes. Freeze in small serving sizes in sealed bags or containers. Cooked cauliflower can be mashed just like potatoes, and you can do this before or after freezing.
  10. Corn - Boil the corn on the cob for several minutes, then freeze immediately. Allow to thaw before cooking. You can also remove kernels from the cob after it is cooked, then freeze those in bags or containers. Corn is also great to make it into soup -- then you can freeze the soup!
  11. Grapes - Freeze grapes in small bags. They can be eaten like frozen fruit treats.
  12. Mushrooms - For best results, rinse, slice, saute in oil, and freeze in sealed bags or containers.
  13. Peaches - Freeze wedges for short term use. They go great in pies, cobblers, and compotes.
  14. Pears - Cut into wedges or cubes. Freeze in bags. Consider making pear butter or pear sauce first and then freezing that for the long term.
  15. Peas - Blanch and freeze in bags
  16. Peppers - Roast under the broiler and freeze in bags. (Removing the skin is optional and up to you - we leave it on for more color and flavor).
  17. Potatoes - Cut into cubes or slices. Bake or boil until almost fully cooked, (15 minutes) then freeze in bags or containers.
  18. Rhubarb - Cut into chunks, freeze in bags. Rhubarb goes great in pie or cooked rhubarb compote.
  19. Winter squash - Bake for an hour. Remove the skins and mash lightly. Freeze in bags or containers. Add to pies, soups, or chilis.
  20. Tomatoes - Bake or sauté, then freeze in bags. You can also make a wonderful tomato sauce first and then freeze it in single dinner-sized bags.
The "Don't Freeze" List:
We do not recommend freezing melon, cucumbers, lettuce or other items that have a very high water content because the end result is mush.
However, you could make a melon or cucumber soup/puree first and freeze that -- texture doesn't suffer nearly as much in that situation.
You Can Freeze Fresh Herbs:
For best results, chop the herbs and mix them with a little oil. Freeze on plastic wrap and then place frozen cubes or chunks in sealed plastic bags. Ice cube trays also make great freezing vehicles for these herbs. Consider making pesto with your frozen herbs.
Cook your homemade frozen veggies just like you would cook frozen vegetables from the store...
  • In a steamer on top of the stove
  • On a grill
  • Bake/Roast in the oven
  • Microwave
It is best to take the items (except for corn) directly from the freezer and into the microwave or steamer.

Source: freezer magic

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Google is Not Calling

Have you gotten a robocall at work, telling you that you have to take action or your Google business listing will be removed? Or maybe even marked as permanently closed? That kind of thing could be tough for a business — if the threat was real. But those calls are not legit—and not from Google.
The FTC just filed a lawsuit against Point Break Media and others, saying they made just those kinds of calls. According to the complaint, people who believed the calls and then spoke to a live telemarketer were told that they could avoid the problem by paying a fee (up to $700). When people paid this fee, the scammers then allegedly targeted them with offers for even more expensive services that would supposedly improve Google search results.  Of course, nobody making those calls is affiliated with Google. And businesses can — for free — manage their own Google business listing.
In this case, the scammers targeted music instructors, house painting companies, car dealerships, and other small businesses. They knew that appearing in online searches is crucial for those businesses, and threatening that connection with customers might make people act before stopping to think.
If you get a call like this, don’t press any buttons. Don’t call the number back, and don’t engage. That just encourages the scammers. The best thing to do? Immediately hang up the phone, and then talk about it with your colleagues or employees. Let them know that:
  • Scammers pretend to be someone you trust. They pretend to be connected with a company you know or a government agency
  • Scammers create a sense of urgency. They want you to rush and make a quick decision without considering options.
  • Scammers use intimidation and fear. It’s okay to hang up the phone and confirm what’s really going on before taking any action.
Then, sign up for the FTC’s Business Blog (FTC.gov/Subscribe), which will keep you up to date on what’s happening at the FTC, and how it affects your business. Also, check out FTC.gov/SmallBusiness. Knowing about scams that target small businesses will help you protect yours.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Seven Quick Tips for Managing Stress

  1. Let go of the need to control. Don’t aim for unachievable perfection, be clear about your limits, and learn to say no to opportunities that you do not have time for. Try to keep the source of your stress in perspective with your overall life.
  2. Understand your stress triggers. Keeping a daily journal can be an effective way to help identify your stressors. If you can identify your sources of your stress you may be better prepared to find ways to cope.
  3. Eat well. Feed your brain with healthy snacks and regular meals. Eating a well-balanced diet ensures that your body and mind have the nutrients they need for proper function.
  4. Get enough sleep. Aim for at least 8 hours each night. Missing out on a good night’s rest can have a detrimental effect on your mood and appetite.
  5. Stay physically active. Regular exercise can help improve your mental health in addition to your physical health.
  6. Take time to be still and quiet. You may find calm in listening to music, reading, meditating or doing breathing exercises. Find a practice that gives you an opportunity to achieve mental clarity and calm, and then make time for it – no excuses.
  7. Talk it out. Sharing your struggles with friends or family can give them an opportunity to assist you, and provide a sounding board for your thoughts and feelings. You may also choose to talk to your primary care doctor or a mental health practitioner if you feel you need professional help or guidance.
Information from:  https://www.geha.com/about-us/news-and-alerts/health-ereport/march-2018-health-ereport/seven-tips-for-managing-stress

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Is This Frozen Food Safe To Eat?

A lot of the questions I receive about food safety is about the safety of food that has been stored in a freezer.  The recommendations often don't seem realistic when we are putting up a large amount of produce or have a beef butchered.  The recommended storage length, is not based on food safety but on food quality.

 Over a period of time the quality of food deteriorates in a freezer.  Think about that carton of ice cream that you forgot about in the back of the freezer.  The texture changes and it becomes a sticky rubbery mess. A freezer, especially a frost free one, removes the moisture from food over time.

The safety of food in a freezer is always based on the fact that the food and the freezer has been at zero degrees or below. If there has been a power outage and/or the food has reached a temperature over 40 degrees at any time while in the freezer, the safety of the food may be in question.

Freezer burn is an example of quality deterioration.  Freezer burn is the result of air coming into contact with the food while it’s in the freezer.  Usually there is a color change and dry spots develop on the food. Freezer burn may just be dehydration or the food may also have an “off flavor”.  While it may not look  or taste appetizing the food is completely safe to eat.  If the damaged area is small, it can be cut off before or after cooking.  If the damage is extensive the food may need to be pitched.

To help keep frozen food from getting freezer burn, there are some fundamental tips:

Re-wrap meats when you come from the store. That thin film found on grocery store meat is not thick enough to keep air from getting in. For best quality rewrap meats with moisture and vapor–proof wraps or bags.  This is also a good time to separate the food into serving-size pieces and remove foam containers to ease defrosting and cooking in the future.

Not all bags are created equal.  Don’t use “storage” bags when you should be using “freezer” bags.  Bread bags and plastic bags from grocery stores are not moisture or vapor proof and will not protect food in the freezer no matter how tight they are wrapped or how many layers have been used.

Air is not your friend. Since air is the real problem, make sure to squeeze as much air out of freezer bags and other container as possible before putting the food into the freezer.  Those vacuum sealers do a good job of getting the air out when freezing foods.

Use freezer quality containers.  Leftover margarine, cottage cheese or sour cream containers are not designed for this purpose and won’t do a good job of keeping that air out. Also, it is not recommended that you reuse the plastic containers and trays that come with microwaveable entrees. Use plastic containers or wide-mouth glass jars specifically designed for the freezer.

Prevent FISH food. Make sure everything that goes into the freezer gets labeled with its name and the date it was frozen.  Often food get stuffed into the back of the freezer and forgotten. Develop a frozen food inventory and practice FIFO—First In-First Out. This will help prevent what food safety experts call FISH food—First In-Still Here.


If care is taken, the quality of frozen fresh foods like meat, poultry, fresh fruits and vegetables will be good for a year.  Precooked foods and leftovers are best if eaten within three to four months.


Information for this article came from Is This Safe to Eat?