BILL BROOKS: Flying pets, CBD oil and mysterious callers

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FLYING PETS: There has been much about the deaths of pets on board commercial airline flights. United Airlines has been involved in a number of these unfortunate incidents. United has just come out with a total ban on transporting certain types of pets. It turns out, after much study, that dogs (and cats), with short noses — brachycephalic animals — are unusually susceptible to death while being transported on commercial air carriers.

United’s new policy, starting July 9, is as follows:

Banning brachycephalic animals. This means a total of 47 breeds and sub-breeds of cats and dogs will no longer be allowed.

No animals at all, outside of pet dogs and cats.

No service for animals going to India or Australia, and no service to or from Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix, and Tucson between May 1 and Sept. 30 each year, due to high temperatures.

Better documentation of pets on the parts of owners/passengers, and reservations will now be accepted only between five and 30 days before departure. Also, no compliant pet crate? No passage.

Honestly, I love animals but it seems that the new policy is based on scientific evidence, research and recent tragic experience. I hate it when one of my fur babies “crosses the rainbow bridge.” A dog’s love is unconditional; let’s return the favor.

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TO CBD OR NOT TO CBD — THAT IS THE QUESTION: During the past week I have received seven calls from consumers asking about CBD oil. In the past couple of years, CBD oil has been touted as a cure or treatment for a variety of ills, both external and internal. There has been a lot in the news lately about the legality and efficacy of CBD oil — as referenced in Wikipedia, “one of at least 113 cannabinoids identified in cannabis” — marijuana. The laws, within the state of Idaho are, at this time, in flux. CBD oil is, at this time, in a kinda gray area of efficacy and legality. Unfortunately, this is also where those who are trying to make a buck operate. I have advised my readers, as usual, to be cautious. If this substance is as powerful as the proponents say it is, I would only use it under the care of my regular physician. In my personal opinion, it looks like it may be a needed addition to mainstream medical care. Until it is regulated, it will be hard to know if you’re getting real CBD oil or oregano infused cooking oil. It may treat your medical condition, or it may be better used browning up some great meatballs for a memorable Italian dinner. Another warning: in addition to the authenticity, strength and purity of “street” CBD oil, the prices seem to vary widely. Be careful. Call me if you have any questions.

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WHO’S CALLING — IT’S YOU. Be careful. I’ve received a number of calls that begin like this: “My phone starts ringing in the middle of the night. I look at the phone, and according to the caller ID — it’s me. How am I calling myself? I ask “who’s there,” no one answers and it hangs up.” A variation on the theme is: “I picked it up, there was a recorded voice on the other end, and it said my account had been compromised through AT&T. Your account has been flagged for security purposes. After the tone, please enter the last four digits of the primary account holder’s Social Security number.” Bottom line: if you follow the instructions of the caller, you’ve just handed over your full Social Security number to the crooks and scammers, opening yourself to identity theft. An irate consumer called me this week complaining that I had called her six times that morning. Truth is, I had not called her, even once, but someone had highjacked both my name and my number, bought VOIP service online, and entered both my name and number in the section that asked for the telephone number and name that would be displayed to all caller ID enabled equipment. It took the bad guys about five minutes and $5 to set this up.

QUICK TIP: Stop trusting your caller ID. Just because it says your doctor’s office or bank, complete with name and number, don’t assume you’re talking with who it says they are. Tell them “you’re busy” and that you will call them right back. Hang up, and call the number from the phone book or your banking information. It will take a couple of extra minutes, but you’ll be safe.

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YOUR MEDICAL CARE IS THEIR GOLDMINE: Given the magnitude of the medical scam epidemic, consumers need intelligent ways of coping with the various attacks, email, snail mail and phone calls that they are bombarded with on a daily basis. Here’s an example: if you get a call from someone purporting to be a medical office or professional, including your doctor or your insurance carrier — be polite and ask for their name and specifically on whose behalf they are calling. DON’T give or “confirm” any personal or medical information during the initial call. Go to your records and return the call, asking to be connected with the person who supposedly called you. If the first call was on the up-and-up, you can then, with fair assurance resume your conversation. On the other hand, if they start asking information that they should already have, terminate the call immediately. If you have any questions — call me. The other important half of this equation, is that the legitimate medical professionals must realize that it may take a little longer for them to make contact with you — two calls instead of one.

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“LOANING” YOUR DEBIT OR CREDIT CARD: Never do this under any circumstance. First of all, it can actually place you and the user in violation of the law and your agreement with the financial institution that issued the card. Secondly, it will absolutely negate any protections you might have against fraud or unauthorized use of your card. In some instances, YOU could be charged with fraud. Just think, you innocently loan your debit card to Aunt Ginny for her upcoming short trip to Seattle. She attempts to check into the hotel, the front desk clerk asks for ID — dear sweet Aunt Ginny is immediately arrested, handcuffed and carted off to the hoosegow. Not a pretty picture. The card could also be lost, or Aunt Ginny might totally lose it and run amok with the card at various questionable nightspots! In any event, instead of loaning your card, get a Visa cash card for a friend or relative instead of your credit or debit card.

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REMEMBER BILL BROOKS: “He’s On Your Side”

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I have many more tips and interesting cases that I’m working on. Call me at 208-699-0506, or email me at BillBrooksAdvocate@gmail.com (#GoGetEmBillBrooks) You can follow me at www.billbrooksconsumer advocate.com. I am available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups. Bill Brooks is a consumer advocate and the broker and owner of Bill Brooks Real Estate in Coeur d’Alene.

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