Caught on camera: Insurance fraud backfires on scammer


Insurance fraud is a multi-million dollar crime that costs all of us money. This video from the dash cam of a UK driver shows just how brazen insurance fraudsters can be – but fortunately, the woman had a record of the scam on her dashboard camera.

This type of scam is a global phenomenon – here’s a 2015 compilation of comically inept fraudsters caught on camera. They are comical because there is a record. Without the video, some could turn into costly claims.

These criminals are all pretty ridiculous, but don’t be fooled – there are many sophisticated fraud rings that conduct “swoop and squat” and other staged auto accidents. See our prior post Fraud Watch: Staged Auto Accidents for some video examples of four common types of staged accidents.

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud offers more information on some common staged auto crash scams, along with tips for prevention and what to do if you are involved an accident that seems suspicious.

Dash cams haven’t really taken hold here in the U.S. but if you are interested, here’s an article from Digital Trends that talks about the pros and cons: Take a hint from the Russians: It’s time to protect yourself with a dash cam,

Tips to protect yourself, your kids and your pets from lawn mower injuries


man mowing a lawn

Lawn mowers are powerful machines, with the power to injure and maim. While many adults suffer serious injuries, children are at particularly high risk. Every year, lawn mower injuries send 13,000 children to the emergency department, with more than more than 8% of all injuries being serious enough to require hospital admission. More than half of hospitalizations result in amputations, usually in lower extremities. Bystanders and passengers were almost four times more likely than operators to be admitted. The most common types of lawn mower injuries were cuts (39%) and burns (15%). The hand/finger was the most commonly injured body region, followed by the leg, feet and toes. Some of the most devastating lawn mower injuries result from backing up into/over young children while blades are engaged.

Most injuries result from human error rather than mechanical failure. It’s really important to take lawnmower safety very seriously. We’ve amassed safety tips from various sources – get more information from the source links after the tips.

  • Know your equipment – read and keep the operator’s manual and instructions.
  • Understand safety features. Never disengage them.
  • At the beginning of each season, inspect the mower to ensure it is operating well. Check that parts, nuts and bolts are all tight, clean, and in good working order. Never use a damaged mower without having it repaired/checked.
  • Before each mow, check to be sure your mower is in good condition and safety mechanisms are in place.
  • Don’t mow after dark or during electrical storms. Avoid mowing wet grass.
  • If your lawn mower is electric, use a ground fault circuit interrupter to prevent electric shock.
  • Always stop the engine and allow it to cool before refueling.
  • Before mowing, pick up any stones, branches, toys or other objects in the grass.
  • Don’t mow over gravel.
  • Dress for safety. Use safety glasses, hearing protection and wear sturdy shoes. No bare feet, exposed toes.
  • Always mow going forward. Do not mow in reverse unless necessary, and always check first. Avoid pulling lawn mowers to you.
  • Use extra caution when mowing a slope or a hill.
  • Never make any adjustments while the mower is running.
  • Shut it off when not in use. Do not allow motors to run unattended.
  • Keep pets inside while mowing.

Safety for kids

  • Keep young children (age 1 to 6) inside while mowing is going on.
  • Never let children be passengers on ride-able mowers.
  • Children should be at least 12 to use a push mower and at least 16 to operate a ride-able mower.
  • Teach teens how to operate the mower safely and run through a safety checklist.

Sources and more information

Insurance Information Institute: Lawnmower Safety

Consumer Reports: 5 ways to stay safe when mowing the lawn

Science Daily: Lawn mower injuries send 13 children to the emergency department every day

MedlinePlus: Lawn Mowers Are Risky Business for Kids

The Family Handyman: Top Ten Mower Safety Tips

Healthy Children: Lawn mower safety

How do you know if your drinking water is safe?


If you visit Rome, you’ll see people lined up at old public water fountains to drink the water and fill their water bottles. Visitors are at first a little leery, but soon learn that they can thank the ancient Romans for a legacy of clean, delicious ice-cold free water. More than 2,500 fountains, both free-standing columns and decorative spigots on the sides of buildings, pump out gallons to residents and visitors alike.

Here in the U.S., most of us would be reluctant to drink from a standing fountain in a city square. We’re often a little worried about the quality of our tap water, particularly after watching the horror show in Flint, Michigan, where residents have logged more than 1200 days with undrinkable lead-contaminated tap water. Some Flint water is so polluted it is visible to the naked eye, but it was not always so obvious – many people became ill before the danger of the water was recognized.

So how how do you know if your water is more like Rome’s or Flint’s?

The first step in learning more about your water quality is learning the source. The Centers for Disease Control answers that in an FAQ on drinking water.

The drinking water that is supplied to our homes comes from either surface water or ground water. Surface water collects in streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Ground water is water located below the ground where it collects in pores and spaces within rocks and in underground aquifers. We obtain ground water by drilling wells and pumping it to the surface.

Public water systems provide water from surface and ground water for public use. Water treatment systems are either government or privately-held facilities. Surface water systems withdraw water from the source, treat it, and deliver it to our homes. Ground water systems also withdraw and deliver water, but they do not always treat it.

The FAQ explains that some contaminants like lead, radon and arsenic are naturally occurring and need to be monitored, while others come from local land use processes, such as manufacturing or livestock waste, fertilizers, pesticides, etc. Contaminants can also occur from unplanned events, such as when a sewer overflows or a water treatment center malfunctions. After floods, the water supply can sometimes be compromised for a period of time.

The Environmental Protection Agency is the federal authority that safeguards our water supply. In 1974, the Safe Drinking Water Act became law to regulate contaminants found in drinking water. Public water systems are required to produce an annual report called a CCR or Consumer Confidence Report. The easiest way to obtain a report is your water supplier.

The EPA offers several resources about water supply quality. You can call or submit email questions to their Safe Drinking Water Hotline for any questions you may have (but be aware that the EPA may be facing substantial cuts and it’s unclear if such services will be continued).

The EPA’s Water FAQs post some very useful information to learn more about water topics such as how to find out more about local water quality, how to decontaminate water by boiling and general information about bottled water and if/how it is regulated.

They also regulate bottled water. If you think switching from tap to bottled is healthier, read what they have to say about It:

Bottled water is not necessarily safer than your tap water. EPA sets standards for the drinking water provided by public water systems; the Food and Drug Administration sets bottled water standards based on EPA?s tap water standards. Bottled water and tap water are both safe to drink if they meet these standards, although people with severely compromised immune systems and children may have special needs. Some bottled water is treated more than tap water, while some is treated less or not treated at all. Bottled water costs much more than tap water on a per gallon basis. Bottled water is valuable in emergency situations (such as floods and earthquakes), and high quality bottled water may be a desirable option for people with weakened immune systems. Consumers who choose to purchase bottled water should carefully read its label to understand what they are buying, whether it is a better taste, or a certain method of treatment.

Your local tap water should be fine and under ordinary circumstances. It is cheaper and more environmentally friendly to get your water from a public supply, but if you want to learn more detail about the quality of water you drink, check out this podcast from  Everyday Einstein, who explains what contaminates our water, how it gets there, and what we can do to test it.

Check your water supplier first. If you have no luck, try your state authority. In some states, this drinking water quality information can be found under the Board of Health, in others under Environmental divisions. Here are links for the five New England states.

CT Department of Public Health

MA Department of Energy & Environmental Affairs

ME Division of Environmental Health

NH Department of Environmental Services

RI Department of Health Drinking Water Quality

VT Department of Environmental Conservation

Tick season is here and expected to be an active one!


Now that the New England drought is under control, tick numbers are on the rise, with experts projecting that 2017 will be especially bad for Lyme-disease ticks. Great. And as if regular old ticks aren’t bad enough, the Lone Star tick can trigger a red meat allergy in humans. These ticks were primarily found in the southwest – named after the Lone Star state of Texas – but in recent years, they have been moving north. They are an aggressive species that targets humans and pets and a single bite can trigger a lifelong allergy to meat.

According to Popular Science, “Rising temperatures have turned previously inhospitable northern states like New Hampshire and Minnesota into tick-friendly zones. And now, folks in those regions have started reporting cases of alpha-gal syndrome.” They offer more information about the dread Lone Star tick, the allergy, and other nasty diseases that it  can carry.

The University of Rhode Island is your go-to source for all things tick related (they produced the video we used in this post). Check out the site called the TickEncounter Resource Center, with lots of great information on tick identification and removal, as well as tips for your protection, for treating your yard, and protecting your pets. It has a lot of information about the various types of ticks and diseases that they carry.

They suggest a springtime tick control to-do list:

  • Spray all outdoor shoes with Permethrin
  • Make sure pets are protected
  • Have yard treated with effective tick killers
  • Be especially vigilant about doing daily tick checks
  • Send off kids’ camp clothes to be treated

They also list higher risk TickEncounter activities as:

  • Golfing
  • Walking dog
  • Camping
  • Gardening
  • Hiking
  • Mountain biking
  • Playing outdoors near wooded edges
  • Nature walks

 

17 guides to help you make the most of summer in New England


New England has a relatively short summer season, but we manage to pack a lot of fun things into those few months … from lobster, clam & blueberry fests to concerts, historic events and cultural heritage celebrations … plus, we have wonderful beaches, parks, hiking trails and natural resources. We’ve compiled a guide of events and “best of” picks to help you plan out your summer.

New England Festivals 2017 – 2018 Calendar – from everfest, search by category – such as performing arts, cultural, food & beverage, seasonal or holiday, etc.

Best New England Summer Events in 2017  – from the annual Best of New England travel guide, Yankee’s editors share their picks for the best New England summer events … 10 “best of” picks for each state. You can also sign up for a free travel guide.

2017 Events Calendar from VisitNewEngland.com, search by category of event or by date.

Discover New England – List of events and suggestions for things to do, as well as information about each state and a free New England Travel Guide.

New England Summer Festivals A to Z – 26 of the Best Summer Events in New England from tripsavvy

How to celebrate July 4 in New England – this is our post from last year, but most links are updated with 2017 information,

Folk Festivals in New England 

Historic New England Events

Best Summer Seafood Festivals in New England

Best Boston Events – Best festivals, fun things to do, weekend street fairs, kids activities, and free entertainment in Boston by month

New England’s Best Beaches – Town & Country Magazine

The best beaches in New England – Conde Nast Traveler

New England National Parks and Sites

55 Amazing New England Hikes – an interactive guide features everything from mapped locations, to difficulty levels – compiled by Boston Magazine.

Hikes New England

Bike New England – cycling routes & trails – including charity rides

10 Best Summer Road Trips in New England – Ready for a New England road trip? From back roads and small towns to coastal spots, these are the best summer road trips in New England.