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Tips for Avoiding Common Holiday Cyberscams

For many of us, the holiday season is a wonderful time of year. Unfortunately, it can be especially profitable for cybercriminals. Because of the prevalence of online shopping, we almost always see a significant increase in cyberscams during November and December. To help you avoid becoming a victim of holiday cybercrime, here are some of the top scams to watch out for—and tips for avoiding them.

Shady Shipping Notices
During the holiday season, it’s very likely that you will ship at least a couple of packages directly to your loved ones or have online purchases sent to your home. This makes the shipping notice scam a popular one for cyberscrooges. Here’s how it works: The scammer crafts an email, purportedly coming from UPS or FedEx, notifying you of a problem delivering your package. To resolve the issue, you need only click on a link in the email message or open an attached invoice. Of course, doing so will install malware or ransomware on your computer or device.

Don’t fall for it. Be particularly wary of emails claiming to come from any courier service. If you do receive a message like the one described above—whether you believe it to be legitimate or not—go to the website of the company you may have ordered from. You should be able to track your package from the retailer’s site. Use the tracking number for the courier service that the retailer provides. You can also go directly to UPS.com or FedEx.com and obtain the delivery status there. Whatever you do, don’t click on any links or download any attachments in the original message.

Eyebrow-Raising Refunds
This phishing scam is designed to steal your personal and financial information. Typically, an email claiming to be from an e-commerce company like Amazon, eBay, or Overstock will say that something has gone wrong with your recent order. You will be prompted to click on a link in the message to obtain your refund. Unfortunately, if you do, you will be taken to a dummy website set up to look like a legitimate sender. There, you will be asked to fill out a form with your financial information to let the sender know where it can issue your refund.

Don’t fall for it. Again, to check the status of any order you may have placed, go to the company’s website directly (e.g., Amazon.com, eBay.com). If the company doesn’t offer the ability to check an order’s status, verify the transaction by calling the firm at a phone number that you know is legitimate.

Giveaways Galore
The gift card scam is seen year-round but more often during the holidays. These bogus offers are most commonly delivered by cybercriminals through social media, usually through a friend’s hacked account or a fake company page set up to look as if it’s legitimate. Appearing to originate from an entity like Best Buy, Ikea, or Whole Foods, the offer claims that the company is giving away hundreds or thousands of dollars in gift cards. But if you follow the instructions provided to obtain your gift card, you will likely be led to a phishing form that asks for your personal information.

Don’t fall for it. Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is! If the post appears to come from a friend, call or text him or her to ask if it’s legitimate. In addition, be wary if the “official company page” looks a little off. Check how many followers the website has. The retailer’s authentic website may have hundreds of thousands or millions of followers. Further, a huge promotion such as the one described in the offer you received would also be listed on the retailer’s website, so check there directly or call the company’s customer service number.

Website Vendors That Don’t Deliver
Many popular and novelty items may be sold out and on backorder until after the holidays. Or they may be hard to find from mainstream merchants altogether. So it’s not uncommon for consumers to search online for a less well-known vendor that may have the items. But beware! Another favorite holiday scam is staged through sketchy websites claiming to have hard-to-find items in stock. These sites trick you into paying for the items with no intention of delivering them. Often, these entities are based overseas.

Don’t fall for it. Search the Better Business Bureau website for customer reviews and the accreditations of merchants that are unfamiliar to you. In addition, because not all businesses are listed with the BBB, you might want to hunt elsewhere on the web for reviews posted by other consumers. If you can’t find much information on the vendor, stay away!

Still nervous? Below are additional tips to protect yourself from holiday scams:

• If possible, use credit cards for online transactions. If you fall for one of these scams and unknowingly hand over your debit card information, it’s easy for the cybercriminal to drain your bank account quickly. Purchases made with credit cards typically offer more consumer protections.
• If you’re uncertain about the legitimacy of a website, check its safety rating on Scamadviser.com or URLVoid.com.
• If searching for an item on a lesser-known merchant’s website, check for spelling and grammatical errors. If found, these mistakes are a red flag that the site is most likely based overseas—indicating a possible scam.
• Avoid online shopping or conducting any financial transactions over an unsecure Wi-Fi network.

‘Tis the Season
With all the merriment and shopping during the holidays, the risk of inadvertently exposing your credit card or bank account details is very real. It’s important to take a step back and pay attention to the emails you’re receiving and the websites you’re using. By following the suggestions discussed here, you can help protect yourself against cyberscams so you can fully enjoy the holiday season.

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2020 Medicare Parts A & B Premiums and Deductibles

On November 8, 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the 2020 premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance amounts for the Medicare Part A and Part B programs.

Medicare Part B Premiums/Deductibles

Medicare Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment, and certain other medical and health services not covered by Medicare Part A.

Each year the Medicare premiums, deductibles, and copayment rates are adjusted according to the Social Security Act. For 2020, the Medicare Part B monthly premiums and the annual deductible are higher than the 2019 amounts. The standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B enrollees will be $144.60 for 2020, an increase of $9.10 from $135.50 in 2019. The annual deductible for all Medicare Part B beneficiaries is $198 in 2020, an increase of $13 from the annual deductible of $185 in 2019.

The increase in the Part B premiums and deductible is largely due to rising spending on physician-administered drugs. These higher costs have a ripple effect and result in higher Part B premiums and deductible.

From day one, President Trump has made it a top priority to lower drug prices. Currently, for Part B, the law requires CMS to pay the average sales price for a drug and also pays physicians a percentage of a drug’s sale price. This incentivizes drug companies to set prices higher and for physicians to prescribe more expensive drugs – because that leads to a higher Medicare payment. Through the President’s drug pricing blueprint, the Trump Administration is working to lower drug prices in Medicare Part B drugs.

CMS is committed to empowering beneficiaries with the information they need to make informed decisions about their Medicare coverage options, including providing new tools to help them make those decisions through the eMedicare initiative. In addition to the recently released premiums and cost sharing information for 2020 Medicare Advantage and Part D plans, we are releasing the premiums and cost sharing information for Fee-for-Service Medicare, so beneficiaries understand their options for receiving Medicare benefits. As previously announced, as a result of CMS actions to drive competition, on average for 2020, Medicare Advantage premiums are expected to decline by 23 percent from 2018, and will be the lowest in the last thirteen years while plan choices, benefits and enrollment continue to increase. Premiums and deductibles for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plans are already finalized and are unaffected by this announcement.

Medicare Part B Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts

Since 2007, a beneficiary’s Part B monthly premium is based on his or her income. These income-related monthly adjustment amounts (IRMAA) affect roughly 7 percent of people with Medicare Part B. The 2020 Part B total premiums for high income beneficiaries are shown in the following table:

Beneficiaries who file

individual tax returns with income:

Beneficiaries who file

joint tax returns with income:

Income-related monthly adjustment amount Total monthly premium amount
Less than or equal to $87,000 Less than or equal to $174,000 $0.00 $144.60
Greater than $87,000 and less than or equal to $109,000 Greater than $174,000 and less than or equal to $218,000 57.80 202.40
Greater than $109,000 and less than or equal to $136,000 Greater than $218,000 and less than or equal to $272,000 144.60 289.20
Greater than  $136,000 and less than or equal to $163,000 Greater than $272,000 and less than or equal to $326,000 231.40 376.00
Greater than $163,000 and less than $500,000 Greater than $326,000 and less than $750,000 318.10 462.70
Greater than or equal to $500,000 Greater than or equal to $750,000 347.00 491.60

Premiums for high-income beneficiaries who are married and lived with their spouse at any time during the taxable year, but file a separate return, are as follows:

Beneficiaries who are married and lived with their spouses at any time during the year, but who file separate tax returns from their spouses: Income-related monthly adjustment amount Total monthly premium amount
Less than or equal to $87,000 $0.00 $144.60
Greater than $87,000 and less than $413,000 318.10 462.70
Greater than or equal to $413,000 347.00 491.60

 Medicare Part A Premiums/Deductibles

Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital, skilled nursing facility, and some home health care services. About 99 percent of Medicare beneficiaries do not have a Part A premium since they have at least 40 quarters of Medicare-covered employment.

The Medicare Part A inpatient hospital deductible that beneficiaries will pay when admitted to the hospital will be $1,408 in 2020, an increase of $44 from $1,364 in 2019. The Part A inpatient hospital deductible covers beneficiaries’ share of costs for the first 60 days of Medicare-covered inpatient hospital care in a benefit period. In 2020, beneficiaries must pay a coinsurance amount of $352 per day for the 61st through 90th day of a hospitalization ($341 in 2019) in a benefit period and $704 per day for lifetime reserve days ($682 in 2019). For beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities, the daily coinsurance for days 21 through 100 of extended care services in a benefit period will be $176.00 in 2020 ($170.50 in 2019).

Part A Deductible and Coinsurance Amounts for Calendar Years 2019 and 2020 by Type of Cost Sharing
2019 2020
Inpatient hospital deductible $1,364 $1,408
Daily coinsurance for 61st-90th Day $341 $352
Daily coinsurance for lifetime reserve days $682 $704
Skilled Nursing Facility coinsurance $170.50 $176

Enrollees age 65 and over who have fewer than 40 quarters of coverage and certain persons with disabilities pay a monthly premium in order to voluntarily enroll in Medicare Part A. Individuals who had at least 30 quarters of coverage or were married to someone with at least 30 quarters of coverage may buy into Part A at a reduced monthly premium rate, which will be $252 in 2020, a $12 increase from 2019. Certain uninsured aged individuals who have less than 30 quarters of coverage and certain individuals with disabilities who have exhausted other entitlement will pay the full premium, which will be $458 a month in 2020, a $21 increase from 2019.

For more information on the 2020 Medicare Parts A and B premiums and deductibles (CMS-8071-N, CMS-8072-N, CMS-8073-N), please visit:

CMS-8071-N: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/11/13/2019-24441/medicare-program-cy-2020-inpatient-hospital-deductible-and-hospital-and-extended-care-services

CMS-8072-N: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/11/13/2019-24439/medicare-program-cy-2020-part-a-premiums-for-the-uninsured-aged-and-for-certain-disabled-individuals

CMS-8073-N: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/11/13/2019-24440/medicare-program-medicare-part-b-monthly-actuarial-rates-premium-rates-and-annual-deductible

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2020 Open Enrollment Checklist

2020 Open Enrollment Checklist cover page Employers invest in their benefit plans as an asset to recruitment of new employees and retention of valued staff. We want to be sure you are being provided with the most current information on legal and compliance requirements of these plans.

For detailed information and questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your Allen Insurance and Financial benefits team. 2020 Checklist (PDF)

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Rates for Individual Health Insurance Plans via ACA May Drop for 2020

Maine’s three providers of individual health insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace have revised their rate requests for 2020, significantly lowering their projected rates.

This is good news for anyone who plans to enroll or to renew their coverage in health insurance via the Affordable Care Act for 2020. Reminder: Open Enrollment for 2020 health plans starts Nov. 1 and ends Dec. 15.

Click here to read more from the Lewiston Sun Journal.

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MOFGA Receives Grant from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Allen Insurance and Financial

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) recently received a $5,000 grant from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation and Allen Insurance and Financial to increase access to and affordability of healthy, nutritious food for low income families. MOGFA has a longstanding commitment to help all Maine people acquire local, organic foods regardless of geography or income. Pictured in the photo, left to right, are: Bill Whitmore, Maine Market Vice President, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care; Sarah Alexander, Executive Director, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; and Dan Wyman, JD, Insured Benefits Manager, Allen Insurance and Financial.Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Allen Insurance and Financial donation to MOFGA

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Maine Workers Compensation Board Defines ‘Independent Contractor’

There are some new rules in Maine around Workers Compensation Insurance and Independent Contractors. The Maine Workers Compensation Board has issued a newsletter with some important information.

Independent contractors are workers who perform services for remuneration under a verbal or written contract, but who are not under the essential control or superintendence of another person, both under the person’s contract of service and in fact. The worker must also meet specific criteria.

In order for a person to be an independent contractor they must meet the test in §102(13-A) of the Workers’ Compensation Act.  An independent contractor is not required to have workers’ compensation insurance; however an independent contractor is required to have workers’ compensation insurance for any employees hired by the independent contractor.

Newsletter from Maine Workers Compensation Board – June 2019

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ATV Info – Is there an age limit for operating an ATV in Maine?

Whenever you own and operate a motor vehicle, regardless if it is for recreation or normal transportation, it is critical to follow all of Maine’s legal requirements, both for insurance coverage and for who rides (and operates) the vehicle.

With regards to ATVs, there are unique requirements specific to Maine, so if you’ve moved from out of state, or if you recently purchased such a vehicle, it is necessary to stay up to date on the latest regulations.

Age Requirements for Operating ATVs

In Maine, no person under the age of 10 may operate an ATV. Anyone younger than 16 must first successfully complete a training course approved by the state. They must also be accompanied by an adult.

Anyone under the age of 16 is not allowed to cross any public way outside of the purpose of crossing as directly as possible while ensuring it does not interfere with traffic approaching from either direction.

Insurance

It is important to have ATV insurance coverage. With potential roll overs, damaged fenders or vehicles submerged in water during operation, you do not want to be forced to pay for costly repairs on your own. ATV insurance may also cover theft, whether on your property or if you are towing it to a recreational location.

Registration

Just like with your automobile, you need to have an active registration on any ATV you own and operate.

Some costs to consider include:
• Resident registration is $33 annually
• Nonresident registration is $68
• Nonresidents may apply for a 7-day $53 ATV registration

There is also a free ATV weekend currently scheduled for Aug. 16-18, 2019.
To make sure you and your vehicle are properly protected, make sure to contact Allen Insurance and Financial for insurance quotes on your ATV.

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Is Snowmobile Insurance Required in Maine?

Like a car, you must register your snowmobile if you own it in Maine. When it comes to insurance, however, the law is much more flexible. In fact, there are no real Maine snowmobile insurance requirements or licensing requirements – only laws determining who can ride, as well as how and where they can ride.

That does not mean you should be without insurance coverage, though. Snowmobiles are not only fun and practical, but they can also be dangerous. Having the right insurance can protect you against major losses and financially devastating liability.

Third-Party Snowmobile Insurance Requirements
Even though the state does not require snowmobile insurance, you may still be required to purchase coverage from a third party.


For example, if you financed the purchase of your snowmobile, your lender will probably want you to purchase insurance that protects your sled against physical damages until your note is paid in full. If you store your snowmobile somewhere other than your home, the property manager may also require proof of coverage.

Types of Snowmobile Coverage
Snowmobile insurance is usually no more than a few hundred dollars per year, but it can save you tens of thousands of dollars in injury, property, and liability damages. Even the safest of drivers can fall through ice on their sled or run into a fence in poor visibility.

Depending on the terms of your coverage, your policy may protect you against a wide range of snowmobile-related claims, including:

• Collision damages
• Non-collision damages, such as fire or theft
• Injury to you and your passengers
• Victim medical expenses
• Property damage liability
• Legal fees if you are sued
• Judgments and settlements if you lose your defense

At Allen Insurance and Financial, we can help you assess your risks and examine various options to minimize your exposure to loss. For more information or to request your snowmobile insurance quote, contact our office today.