Identity Theft

If you become a victim of identity theft, it's important to act quickly to keep the damage to a minimum and prevent the situation from becoming worse.  Here are the steps to take:

1.  Place a fraud alert on your credit file by contacting one of the three consumer reporting agencies listed below, and ask them to report it to the other two agencies.  This is a free service, and the fraud alert will remain active for 90 days and can be renewed if needed.  By doing this, it is more difficult for the criminal to open accounts in your name.  Any credit company will need to contact you in person before issuing credit.

  • Equifax 1-800-525-6285
  • Experian 1-888-397-3742
  • TransUnion 1-800-680-7289

2. Obtain and review your credit reports.  One of your rights as a fraud victim is a free credit report from each of these three companies.  Call each one and explain that you have placed a fraud report.  Request your free credit report, and ask that they only print the last four digits of your social security number on the report for security reasons.  Then review each credit report to be sure there are no accounts you don't recognize and no unauthorized charges to your existing accounts.  Call each of your affected creditors, notifying their fraud department, and follow up in writing.  Always be sure to send all correspondence by certified mail with a return receipt so that you have record of your communications.

3. Create an Identity Theft Report.  This will assist you in having fraudulent information removed from your credit report and to stop collection procedures on fraudulent debt, along with other tasks.  This Identity Theft Report involves three steps:

  • Complete the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit at ftccomplaintassistant.gov, giving as many details as possible.  Be sure to save or print the affidavit before exiting the screen.
  • File a local police report, taking your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit, photo ID, and proof of address.  Request a copy of the report or the report number.
  • Attach the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit to the police report;  this makes up your Identity Theft Report.

Recovering from identity theft is long and complex.  The FTC estimates that you'll spend approximately six months and 200 hours working to recover from identity theft.  Be sure to keep records of every step (when and to whom you make phone calls or send letters), and keep original copies of anything you mail, along with important dates such as when you need to file requests or expect a reply from a company.

Visit www.ftc.gov/idtheft to download free resources that will help you in this process, particularly their "Taking Charge" publication.

As a final note, check with your insurance agent to see if you have identity theft protection or if you're interested in adding the coverage to your homeowners policy.

 

 

 

Grilling Safety tips

Labor Day is almost here, and chances are you will be doing some grilling over the long weekend.  Here are some grilling safety tips to keep you and your family safe.

Before you start grilling:

  • Charcoal grills should be at least 15 feet from any building.  Never use gasoline, alcohol or kerosene to start coals, and don't put more lighter fluid on coals once they are on fire, glowing or smoldering.
  • Gas grills should be at least 3 feet from any building.  Make sure all hose connections are tight and in good condition
  • Grill only on a flat surface that can't catch fire

When done cooking:

  • Soak coals with water.  Close grill lid and any vents tightly.
  • don't move grill or remove coals for 48 hours, unless you can safely move coals into a stainless steel pail.
  • For gas grills, close the valve on the gas cylinder.

If your grill catches fire:

  • Close the lid or shut off gas if you can get close enough without getting burned.
  • Get completely away from the grill.
  • Call the fire department.

Don't invite tragedy or financial ruin from legal liability.  Follow these steps, and be sure you have Homeowners or Renters insurance to protect your home and neighbors.

 

 

Homemade chicken strips for your pets

If you're sick of all the recalls on pet treats, these homemade chicken strips might be just what you're looking for.  They take a little bit of work, but it's mainly just slicing the chicken, and you'll be sure the treats you're giving your dogs (or cats) are safe.

These chicken strips can be dried either in a food dehydrator or your oven on low heat.  They will remain fresh in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer indefinitely.  I keep a small bag of them in the refrigerator and the rest in the freezer.

Start out with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, removing as much fat as possible.  Slice the chicken with the grain into 1/8 to 1/4 inch strips (the thinner they are, the faster they will dry). 

In a food dehydrator:  lay the strips on the trays, and try to keep them from touching.  Run the dehydrator for about 6 to 8 hours.  They are done when they are dry and hard to the touch.

In the oven:  Lightly spray a baking sheet and lay the chicken pieces out flat, keeping them from touching.  Cook for approximately 2 hours at 200 degrees, or until they are dry and hard, with no soft spots.

I hope your dogs (or cats) love these chicken strips as much as our Rosie and Lucy.  I don't dare run out of them, or we have 2 very sad and disappointed dogs at treat time.  Your cats may or may not like them. Over the years,  I've had 2 cats that do, and 2 that do not.  Cat lovers know how finicky they can be!

Natural remedies for mosquito bites

With our wetter than normal weather, we seem to have an even bigger crop of mosquitos than usual this year.  They seem to hang at the door just waiting to get into the house and feast on us.  If you're like me and looking for natural remedies to soothe those bites, here are some home remedies to try:

  • inside of a banana peel
  • heated spoon placed on bite
  • apple cider vinegar
  • aloe vera
  • ice cubes
  • tea bags, moistened
  • tea-tree essential oil
  • baking soda and water or witch hazel paste
  • peppermint poultice or peppermint toothpaste
  • amonia
  • lime or lemon juice
  • slice of onion
  • salt and water paste
  • deodorant

I haven't tried all of these, but personally the heated spoon works the longest of all I have used.  Vinegar and aloe vera also work well for awhile, and after doing this research, I'm going to try the banana peel as it's based on old chinese medicine and said to work well on  the itch, swelling and redness and keeps the itch from coming back while speeding healing.  Good luck in your search for the best remedy.

 

The Dirty Dozen Fruits and Vegetables

According to the USDA, there is a growing trend by consumers towards eating organic fruits and vegetable .

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), nearly two thirds of the produce tested by the US Department of Agriculture in 2013 contained pesticide residues.   In these tests, pesticides persisted on fruits and vegetables tested, even after they were washed, and in some instances, peeled.  Key findings from these tests include:

  • 99% of apples, 98% of peaches, and 97% of nectarines sampled tested positive for at least 1 pesticide residue.
  • A single grape and a sweet bell pepper contained 15 pesticides.
  • Single samples of cherry tomatoes, nectarines, peaches, imported snap peas, and strawberries showed 13 different pesticides  a piece.

If you can't find or afford an all-organic diet, you can lessen your exposure to these dangerous pesticides by choosing wisely when shopping for fruits and vegetables.  They also suggest that if you can't afford anything organic, cooking them first dimishes the pesticides levels.  The EWG publishes a Dirty Dozen list each year to help consumers in our choices of fruits and vegetables.  Here is the 2015 list:

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Snap Peas (imported)
  • Potatoes

Plus 2 more that don't fit all the EWG criteria, but are frequently found to be contaminated with insecticides, so they recommend limiting your consumption of these:

  • Hot Peppers
  • Kale, collard Greens and other leafy greens

The Clean 15 fruits and Vegetables which do not need to be organic:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwis
  • Mangoes
  • Onions
  • Papayas
  • Pineapples
  • Sweet Corn
  • Sweet Peas (frozen)
  • Sweet Potatoes

 

 

 

 

Tips for working outdoors in the heat

Strenuous work outdoors on a hot, humid day can quickly take its toll on the body.  In addition to the heat absorbed from the sun, muscles will generate heat as they flex.  This added heat will help raise the body's temperature even higher.  It takes about 15 days for the average person to become acclimated to the hot weather.  Start with smaller jobs for brief periods early in the season, then work up to larger tasks. 

It's also important to wear the right clothes.  Long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and especially a wide-brimmed hat will protect you from the sun's intense rays, as more than 50% of the body's heat is absorbed or dissipated through the head.  Cotton fabrics are cooler than synthetics as they allow more air circulation between the fibers.  Dark fabrics block the sun's rays better than light ones, but they absorb more heat, so it's better to wear light-colored fabrics. 

Drink about 16 ounces of fluids 2 hours before starting work, and continue drinking as you feel thirsty.  Avoid ice-cold fluids when you're hot;  they can shock the stomach muscles and cause heat cramps.

Listen to your body.  Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.  Heat exhaustion starts with extreme thirst, then progresses into nausea, dizziness, vomiting, headaches and heat cramps.  If left unchecked, it will lead to heatstroke.

Fun things to do with your kids

Summer is almost here, the kids are out of school or will be any day now, and they'll be looking for things to do.  Here are some fun things you can do with your kids to keep them from getting bored and away from the television and computer:

1.  Charting the Sun's movement - Place a piece of paper on a clipboard and put a mound of Play-Doh in the middle;  stand a pencil on end in the Play-Doh.  Mark the edges of the paper "North, South, East and West."  Then use a compass to line up the clipboard correctly in a sunny place.  Every hour, mark where the tip of the pencil's shadow hits the paper.  At the end of the day, you'll have a map of the Sun's movement.

2.  Homemade Chemistry Set - Chop a red cabbage into wedges and put it through a blender.  Strain the juice out using a sieve lined with a coffee filter and pour into the different segments of a styrofoam egg carton or cups.  Then add household substances such as vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda solution to test whether they're acids (pink) or bases (green).  After a few tests, ask the kids to turn solutions back and forth from pink to green by adding known acids or bases.

3.  Backyard Exploring - Tie paper onto a tree and use crayons to make bark rubbings.  Or take a "microhike" outdoors;  put a circle of string on the ground and see how many living things you can find inside.  Try to imagine how they live, how they move, what they eat.

4.  Horticulturists training - Choose fast-growing seeds, like radishes or beans, and plant them in a variety of soils that you collect in different places (sand, potting soil and dirt from the backyard etc.).  See where the seeds do well and where they don't grow at all, then ask why.  And add variables;  change the amount of water you add or add fertilizer.  If you have a lawn, put a brick on a patch of grass for a week;  how does that change its growth?

Don't be a target for burglars

Avoid being a target for burglars.  Did you know that most burglaries happen between the hours of 8 AM and 5 PM, and that 50% of thieves enter the home through unlocked doors and windows?  Most burglars spend less than 5 minutes trying to gain entry before they give up and choose an easier home to break into.  So simple actions on your part can slow them down or have them pass by your home altogether.  Here are some tips to deter burglars from choosing your home:

Secure all doors and windows, even when you are at home.

Consider a home security system, and prominently display the sign or stickers.

Close blinds or draperies at dusk.

Leave lights on if you'll be away after dark.

Don't call attention to expensive purchases by placing empty cartons out at the curb for trash pickup.  Better to cut the cartons up and place in a garbage bag.