Sandals Resorts will add carbon monoxide detectors after 3 Americans died in Bahamas


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Sandals Resorts said that it has installed carbon monoxide detectors in all guest rooms at Sandals Emerald Bay in the Bahamas, where three American visitors died earlier this month and a fourth became ill.

The company, which operates 16 all-inclusive resorts across the Caribbean, said in a statement that it would also place the devices in rooms at the rest of its properties. Sandals also said it had brought in environmental safety experts to do a “comprehensive review of all systems across the resort.”

“Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our guests and team members is and will always be paramount,” the statement said.

The company’s announcement Wednesday came after local news outlets, including the Nassau Guardian and the Tribune, reported that carbon monoxide had killed the tourists at the Exuma resort. The publications did not identify their sources, and police have not yet revealed a cause of death. Sandals directed questions about the autopsy results to authorities in the Bahamas.

“The information didn’t come from the police,” said Audley Peters, an assistant superintendent of police and spokesman with the Royal Bahamas Police Force. “Our investigations are ongoing.”

Officials identified the people who died May 6 as husband and wife Michael Phillips, 68, and Robbie Phillips, 65 from Tennessee; and Vincent Chiarella, a 64-year-old man from Florida. His wife, 65-year-old Donnis Chiarella, was taken to a Miami-area hospital. Michael and Robbie Phillips owned a travel agency that specialized in Sandals Resorts.

Three Americans die mysteriously at five-star Bahamas resort

“We remain devastated by the unimaginable event that occurred at Sandals Emerald Bay Resort earlier this month that resulted in the loss of three lives, including two members of our beloved travel advisor community, and the recovery of a fourth guest,” Sandals Resorts said in a statement.

The four guests visited a clinic complaining of nausea and vomiting the day before they died, The Washington Post previously reported. The three visitors who died were found unresponsive in their villas, which Sandals said were part of the same structure.

“Despite initial speculation, Bahamian authorities have concluded the cause was an isolated incident in one standalone structure that housed two individual guest rooms and was in no way linked to the resort’s air conditioning system, food and beverage service, landscaping services or foul play,” the company said.

The State Department said in a statement that it was “closely monitoring” the local investigation.

Brittany Shammas contributed to this report.



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Most Americans Want People to Mask Up While Traveling


  • A majority of Americans in May said travelers should still be required to wear a face mask on airplanes and other public transit.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week that people in communities at high risk should go back to wearing masks in indoor public spaces, including on public transportation.
  • Support for a mask mandate while traveling is largely split along political lines in the U.S.

As Americans head into the summer travel season, coronavirus cases — and hospitalizations somewhat — are rising in many parts of the country, especially in the Northeast.

This shift prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week to advise people in communities at high risk to go back to wearing masks in indoor public spaces, including on public transportation.

Face masks, though, are still optional in most places, even those with rising case numbers.

That leaves travelers to decide for themselves whether to don a mask while riding in an airplane, train, subway, or taxi.

While some Americans will welcome a mask-free summer, a Pew Research Center survey this month found that a majority of Americans think masks should still be required on airplanes and other forms of public transportation, where physical distancing is all but impossible.

In April, a federal judge in Florida struck down the CDC’s mask mandate for public transportation, which had been in place since January 2021.

The Department of Justice is appealing that decision after the CDC said the mask rule is “well within [its] legal authority to protect public health.”

Even after the federal mask mandate was dropped, 57 percent of Americans say travelers should wear a face mask while traveling on airplanes and other public transportation, according to Pew.

However, Americans’ support of face masks is split largely along party and similar lines.

Eighty percent of Democrats and independents who lean toward the Democratic party say passengers on airplanes, and other public transportation should be required to masks.

In contrast, only 29 percent of Republicans and independents who lean Republican say masks should be required.

Support for mandatory masks on public transportation is higher among those who had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine (66 percent) compared to the unvaccinated (25 percent)

In addition, people who are “very” or “somewhat” concerned that they will get the coronavirus and require hospitalization are more likely to be in favor of mask policies for public transportation.

Overall, mask use in the United States has declined since earlier in the pandemic.

Thirty percent of Americans say they have worn a mask “all or most of the time” over the past month when in stores or other businesses, according to the survey.

This is down from higher than 80 percent before the vaccines were available.

More Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents report frequent mask use in businesses (42 percent), compared to Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (14 percent).

Despite the decline in overall mask use, travel experts say many travelers are still wearing masks on flights.

“We see a fairly even distribution amongst clients who still prefer to mask, particularly those who do so in crowded or confined spaces such as airplanes and airports,” said McLean Robbins, a luxury travel advisor and owner of Lily Pond Luxury in Vienna, Virginia.

“Many clientele are still opting to mask, while others enjoy the flexibility to do so at their personal choice, given the specific situation or their own health conditions,” she added.

However, mask use on some flights has been lower.

Keri Baugh, a blogger at Bon Voyage With Kids, said that there were very few passengers wearing a mask on a recent flight from Boston to Memphis.

“I was actually surprised,” she said.

“That said, as the [COVID] numbers have started to go back up, I have personally heard of some [travelers] being more cautious,” she added.

Baugh said families with kids too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or who have a family member who is at risk of severe illness might be more likely to wear a mask on a flight.

As of May 18, over 32 percent of Americans live in a county with a medium or high COVID-19 community risk level, CDC director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said Wednesday at a White House COVID-19 press briefing.

The CDC recommends that everyone in high-risk areas wear a mask in indoor public settings; those in medium-risk areas should consider wearing a mask based on their risk level.

However, “in [areas with] any COVID-19 community [risk] levels, individuals may always choose to wear a mask to protect themselves from infection,” said Walensky.

Throughout the pandemic, though, mask use has veered beyond just being a personal decision, with people from both sides weighing in on the choices of others.

The Pew survey shows that Americans are more tolerant of others who choose not to wear a mask in public.

Sixty-three percent of Americans say it bothers them “not too much” or “not at all” when people around them in public places don’t wear masks.

In contrast, 72 percent of Americans in November 2020 said they were bothered “some” or “a lot” by people not wearing masks. This was before the COVID-19 vaccines had been rolled out to the public.

Airlines have seen their fair share of disagreements over face masks, with some disputes descending reportedly into mid-flight brawls.

Baugh has been fortunate enough not to experience that kind of tension about masks while on a flight.

“On my most recent flight, the pilot asked everyone to respect everyone’s mask choice, regardless if that choice differed from their own,” she said, “And, from where I was sitting, that seemed to be the case.”

As more Americans take to the skies, rails, and roads this summer — with some masked and some unmasked — heeding this pilot’s advice could help make this a less stressful travel season.



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Pandemic-weary Americans plan for summer despite COVID surge


HONOLULU (AP) — A high school prom in Hawaii where masked dancers weren’t allowed to touch. A return to virtual city council meetings in one Colorado town after the mayor and others tested positive following an in-person session. A reinstated mask mandate at skilled nursing facilities in Los Angeles County after 22 new outbreaks in a single week.

A COVID-19 surge is underway that is starting to cause disruptions as the school year wraps up and Americans prepare for summer vacations. Many people, though, have returned to their pre-pandemic routines and plans, which often involve travel.

Case counts are as high as they’ve been since mid-February and those figures are likely a major undercount because of unreported positive home test results and asymptomatic infections. Earlier this month, an influential modeling group at the University of Washington in Seattle estimated that only 13% of cases were being reported to U.S. health authorities.

Hospitalizations are also up and more than one-third of the U.S. population lives in areas that are considered at high risk by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Northeast has been hit the hardest.

Yet vaccinations have stagnated and elected officials nationwide seem loath to impose new restrictions on a public that’s ready to move on even as the U.S. death toll surpassed 1 million people less than 2 1/2 years into the outbreak.

“People probably are underestimating the prevalence of COVID,” said Crystal Watson, public health lead in the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security’s Coronavirus Resource Center. “I think there’s a lot more virus out there than we recognize, and so people are much, much more likely than they anticipate to be exposed and infected.”

A major metric for the pandemic — the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. — skyrocketed over the last two weeks, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The figure was about 76,000 on May 9 and jumped to nearly 109,000 on Monday. That was the highest it had been since mid-February, when the omicron-fueled surge was winding down.

Deaths are still on the decline and hospital intensive care units aren’t swamped like they were at other times during the pandemic, likely because vaccinations and immunity from people who have already had the disease are keeping many cases less severe.

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“The nature of the disease has changed. Two years ago I was seeing a steady flow of bad pneumonia cases. Now we are in a situation where people should be able to avoid that outcome by taking advantage of vaccines, pre-exposure prophylaxis (for high risk), and early anti-viral therapy,” Dr. Jonathan Dworkin, a clinical infectious diseases physician in Hawaii, said by email.

In Hawaii, which once had one of the nation’s lowest rates of infection, hospitalization and death, new cases are surging among the state’s 1.4 million residents. The University of Hawaii will again require masks indoors across its 10-campus system beginning Wednesday.

With cases climbing for eight straight weeks, Hawaii has the second highest infection rate of any state, trailing only Rhode Island. But because positive home test results aren’t counted in official data, Hawaii’s health department estimates that the case count is actually five or six times higher.

Despite its surge, visitors have been flocking to Hawaii’s beaches, especially in recent months.

Yaling Fisher, owner of Hawaii Aloha Travel, said bookings to the islands haven’t slowed during the surge. On the contrary, they’ve increased.

“Even now we are still busy,” she said. “We don’t see any cancellations.”

Samantha Hanberg, who was in Hawaii this week with her newlywed husband, said the couple left their masks at home in California when they left for vacation. She said she contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic and subsequently got fully vaccinated, so she too feels safe.

“Nobody wants to get sick, but it’s definitely not at the forefront of my thought process anymore,” she said, snacking on shave ice on Waikiki Beach. “I’m to the point now where I just I want to go back to living and enjoying life, and not being so worried.”

Officials initially shut down Hawaii’s tourism industry by requiring all incoming passengers to quarantine. They shifted to a testing requirement and then a vaccination exemption before dropping all restrictions in March.

Hawaii was the last state in the nation to drop its mask mandate, though it remains the only state to require all public school students to wear masks while indoors — a rule that will remain in effect throughout the summer and possibly into the next school year.

Nearly two years after California Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed the nation’s first statewide stay-home order, the state formally shifted to an “endemic” approach in February. Like Hawaii and many other states, its weekly infection rate has risen dramatically of late.

The new surge led the school districts in Pacific Grove and Berkeley to reinstate their indoor mask mandates, while an outbreak at a Northern California long-term healthcare facility had sickened at least 12 people by Friday.

Some Northeastern school districts have also revived their mask mandates, including those in Philadelphia and Providence, Rhode Island.

However New York, which was once the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, doesn’t seem likely to follow suit. The city is dealing with another surge in cases, but Mayor Eric Adams has all but ruled out bringing back a citywide mask mandate unless hospitals get inundated again.

The city’s school district jettisoned its practice of closing classrooms if multiple students test positive, merely recommends that masks be worn and even abandoned its requirement that students need to be vaccinated to attend prom.

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Dazio reported from Los Angeles.

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Find more of the AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic



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39 million Americans expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend


(CNN) – If you are heading out of town for the Memorial Day weekend, you are going to have lots of company.

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and AAA estimates that 39.2 million people will be traveling this weekend. That is up 8.3% over 2021.

It is especially good news for the airline industry with estimates that air travel will be up by 25% over last year, which is pretty close to what it was in 2019.

Copyright 2022 CNN Newsource. All rights reserved.



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Russia bans Biden but not Trump, on list of Americans travel-barred


President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, July 16, 2018. 

Grigory Dukor | Reuters

President Joe Biden made Russia’s “blacklist” but former President Donald Trump didn’t.

Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry on Saturday released an updated list of nearly 1,000 Americans permanently barred from entering the country, a largely symbolic slap in response to harsh sanctions imposed by Western countries for its brutal invasion of Ukraine in February.

Biden since mid-March had already been banned from visiting Russia, as were Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But the updated list now includes Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as Biden’s scandal-plagued son Hunter Biden, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and first lady.

The actor Morgan Freeman and billionaire investor George Soros also made the list. Soros’ philanthropic support of liberal causes, and groups in the former Soviet bloc, have made him a boogeyman for both Russia and right-wing conspiracy theorists.

Jen Psaki, who until this month served as Biden’s White House press secretary, posted a sarcastic tweet about the list Saturday evening: “I guess we will have to cancel our August family trip to Moscow…”

Trump was not on the list of 963 banned Americans.

Over the years, Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and criticized investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election that ended with Trump’s victory over Democratic rival Clinton.

Trump was impeached in 2019 for withholding congressionally appropriated military aid to Ukraine while pressuring that country’s then-newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to announce investigations into Joe Biden, who at the time was the leading Democratic candidate for the White House.

Trump was acquitted after a trial in the Senate.

On Saturday morning, in an interview with Fox News, Trump griped about the Russia probe again.

“This is one of the greatest political scandals in history,” Trump said. “Where do I get my reputation back?”

A spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his omission from Russia’s travel-ban list.

Former President Barack Obama and Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, also are not on the list, but Pence’s brother, Rep. Greg Pence, R-Ind., is banned.

So are 211 of Greg Pence’s fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives and Senate — along with 224 Democratic members of both congressional chambers.

The GOP House members on the banned list included two hard-core, Republican Trump supporters, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Arizona’s Paul Gosar.

Also making the list are two Democratic House members whose strongly progressive policy stances are anathema to Trump World: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Minnesota’s Rep. Ilhan Omar.

So is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who this week also was banned from receiving communion by the archbishop of the San Francisco Roman Catholic Archdiocese because of her support for abortion rights.

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Read more of CNBC’s politics coverage:

In a statement published by Russia’s state news agency RIA, the Foreign Ministry said, “Russian counter-sanctions are of a forced nature and are aimed at forcing the ruling American regime to change its behavior” and recognize “new geopolitical realities.”

The ministry also accused the U.S. of trying to impose a neo-colonial “rules-based world order” on the rest of the world.

The ministry said “hostile actions” taken by the U.S. government “boomerang back to hit the United States itself” and “will continue to receive proper rebuffs.”

Russia also has barred entry to the country to hundreds of Canadians, among them Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, and hundreds of members of the United Kingdom’s Parliament.



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AAA predicts 39.2M Americans will travel for Memorial Day


LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 19: Passengers make their way through American Airlines Terminal Four at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday, April 19, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. Airports and airlines dropped their mask requirements after a Florida fe

AAA predicts 39.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home over the Memorial Day weekend, otherwise known as the unofficial start of summer.

The agency said its estimate is an 8.3% increase compared to 2021, with the latest numbers closely aligning with those from 2017. 

Air travel continues to rebound, increasing 25% over the last year, according to the agency. Three million people are expected to fly over the holiday, a number just shy of the 2019 data. 

RELATED: Travel expert warns pilot shortage crisis will get ‘bigger and bigger’

“Memorial Day is always a good predictor of what’s to come for summer travel,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel said in a news release. “Based on our projections, summer travel isn’t just heating up, it will be on fire. People are overdue for a vacation and they are looking to catch up on some much-needed R&R in the coming months.”

“Air travel has faced several challenges since the beginning of the year,” continued Twidale. “With the type of volume we anticipate, we continue to recommend the safety net of a travel agent and travel insurance. Both are a lifesaver if something unexpectedly derails your travel plans.”

While air travel demand continues to soar, a growing pilot shortage will force airlines to ground flights during one of the busiest travel seasons of the year.

Since 2019, airlines have seen a 4% decline in pilot numbers. Major airlines like JetBlue and Spirit have already cut 5% to 10% of their summer schedules to focus on recruiting as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 14,500 pilots need to be hired every year for the next decade in order to keep up with the shortage.

RELATED: Planning a summer trip? Book your rental car now, experts say

AAA offers tips for travelers to reduce their stress such as being flexible with dates and plan early, including booking your rental car as quickly as possible. Experts warn Americans could see the same rental car challenges as last year— high prices and a short supply.

“It was expected that there would be relief this year, however, acquiring new vehicles has proven challenging which has translated to rates that are far above average for a typical spring/summer season,” Jonathan Weinberg, founder and CEO of AutoSlash.com told FOX Television Stations. 

RELATED: California gas prices hit $6 a gallon average; new record high

Rising gas prices may also make some traveling difficult. Nationally, average prices for a gallon of gas fell to as low as $4.10 in April, according to AAA, after having spiked to $4.32 in March. But since then, gas prices have surged to a record $4.40 a gallon.

FOX 5 DC contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles. 
 



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What Americans Can Expect During Memorial Day Holiday Travel Period


Officials from AAA Travel expect 39.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend, running between May 26-30.

The estimates would indicate an increase of 8.3 percent over 2021, with air travel up 25 percent over last year. With totals expected to be slightly lower than pre-pandemic levels, AAA urges travelers to book now and remember flexibility is key for the holiday period.

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“Memorial Day is always a good predictor of what’s to come for summer travel,” AAA Travel senior vice president Paula Twidale said. “Based on our projections, summer travel isn’t just heating up, it will be on fire. People are overdue for a vacation and they are looking to catch up on some much-needed R&R in the coming months.”


Memorial Day weekend travel data.
Memorial Day weekend travel data. (photo via AAA Travel Media)

Preliminary data shows the percentage of people traveling by air should surpass 2019 levels, with 7.7 percent of travelers choosing air travel as their preferred mode, up from 7.5 percent before the pandemic shut down travel.

Despite gas prices reaching historical totals, AAA Travel revealed 34.9 million Americans plan to travel by car, a jump of 4.6 percent over 2021. The share of car travel is expected to fall from 92.1 percent last year to 88.9 percent this year, indicating that higher gas prices are impacting how people choose to travel for the unofficial start of summer.

“Air travel has faced several challenges since the beginning of the year,” Twidale continued. “With the type of volume we anticipate, we continue to recommend the safety net of a travel agent and travel insurance. Both are a lifesaver if something unexpectedly derails your travel plans.”

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Demand is also surging, causing prices to climb for flights, car rentals, accommodations, tours, cruises and other activities. AAA’s study found average airfare is up six percent, mid-range hotel rates have climbed 43 percent and daily car rental prices have increased 170 percent.

The Vacationer also released its Memorial Day 2022 Travel Survey, which found that nearly 57 percent of American adults said they would take a road trip during the holiday weekend, totaling more than 146 million people.

The study also found that almost 54 percent of respondents said high gas prices are impacting travel plans, with 13.11 percent revealing rising fuel costs and airfares have influenced their decision to fly commercially.

May 26 and 27 are shaping up to be the busiest days for traveling via car during the Memorial Day period, while the Thursday before the holiday will be the busiest for commercial air travelers.

As for the top domestic destinations, AAA Travel compiled a Top10 list, which includes (in order) Orlando, Seattle, Miami, Las Vegas, Anaheim, New York, Denver, Anchorage, Boston and Honolulu.

Americans are also heading overseas, with the top international destinations including Vancouver, Dublin, Paris, Rome, London, Cancun, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Nassau and Calgary.

Data from Arrivalist also showed the nature of road trips has changed over the past year, with travelers booking more overnight stays and fewer day trips, a decline in road trips over 250 miles away and a higher volume of midweek travel.





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Commissioner Nikki Fried Shares Tips for Avoiding Scams During Older Americans Month / 2022 Press Releases / Press Releases / News & Events / Home


Tallahassee, Fla. — With May marking Older Americans Month, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumers Services Nikki Fried is sharing tips to recognize and avoid consumer fraud scams, specifically those that target seniors.

“With $3 billion in annual losses from scammers among older Americans, it is critical to educate our seniors and caretakers of elderly loved ones on how to recognize the signs of fraudulent activity to protect against fraud,” said Commissioner Fried. “Together, we can help raise awareness of the warning signs to protect against becoming a victim of fraud and crack down on those criminals targeting seniors – not just during Older Americans Month but year-round.”

General Rules to Avoid Scams:

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommend the following tips to help avoid fraud:

  • Resist pressure to take immediate action. Scammers will try to isolate you and will use scare tactics to create a sense of urgency. Don’t be rushed, and don’t believe anyone who says you don’t have time to talk to a friend or family member. Take the time to do your own research and talk with someone you trust.
  • Do not send money. If you are contacted by someone asking you to transfer money for them, it is most likely a scam. Wiring money is like sending cash. Once you send it, it’s gone. It is also never a good idea to deposit a check from someone you don’t know, especially if the stranger is asking you to wire money back to them.
  • Be wary of gift cards and cryptocurrency. Scammers utilize these forms of payment because they are hard to trace. Once the information from your gift card is obtained, it can be used by anyone. No legitimate business or government agency will insist that you pay with a gift card. For this same reason, anyone asking you to pay with cryptocurrency is likely a scammer. Cryptocurrency payments do not come with legal protections and once sent, are almost impossible to recover. 
  • Report fraud. If you are contacted by anyone using the previous listed methods to pay or send money, please report the incident to FDACS online or by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-FL-AYUDA).  Additionally, please report to the FTC at ftc.gov.

Most Common Financial Scams Targeting Seniors

According to the National Council on Aging, seniors are more susceptible to the following scams:

Government Imposter Scams: An imposter scammer pretends to be someone you trust, oftentimes a government agency like the Social Security Administration, or the Internal Revenue Service. The scammer can have a fake name or number show up on your caller ID to convince you. Often, they will inform you your Social Security or Medicare benefits are in danger if you do not pay a fee or provide identifying information.

  • Do not trust the phone number: Often scammers will spoof the phone number from a relevant agency.
  • How to proceed. If you or a family member divulged personal identifying information or initiated a payment, follow these steps to protect yourself from further harm.

Grandparent or Emergency Scams: Emergency scams usually target parents, grandparents, or other family members. In these instances, someone calls or sends a message claiming to be a child or grandchild in trouble or the friend of a family member who is in trouble and urges the targeted victim to wire money immediately to help with an emergency.

  • Validate before you send money. Confirm the person’s identity before taking any steps to help. Ask the person questions that only your loved ones would know and be able to answer.
  • Verify with others. Before you send any money, verify the story with someone else in your family or circle of friends.

Computer Tech Support Scams: Tech support scams rely on convincing you of a serious problem with your computer. In doing so, the scammers will sell you services to “repair” your computer or will request remote access allowing them to find personal information on your device. 

  • Consider who is calling. If you receive an unexpected phone call about your computer, hang up. Legitimate tech companies will not contact you by phone about a computer problem.
  • Do not call. If you see a pop-up window on your computer screen about potential threats, do not call the number. Real security warnings will never ask you to call a phone number.

Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams: There are many legitimate sweepstakes offered in Florida. Prizes in legitimate contests are awarded solely by chance, and contestants don’t have to pay a fee or buy something to enter or increase their odds of winning. In fraudulent schemes, “winners” almost always have to pay to enter a contest or collect their “prize.”

  • Verify the sweepstakes. Any sweepstakes offering prizes totaling more than $5,000 must file with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This also applies to sweepstakes based in other states if they are conducted in Florida. Call 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-FL-AYUDA) to verify.  
  • Never pay money to receive money. No purchase or entry fee is required in legitimate sweepstakes. Legitimate sweepstakes also don’t require you to pay shipping or handling fees, insurance, or taxes to collect your prize.
  • Don’t be deceived by official looking mail. It is unlawful for a promoter to lie about an affiliation with or endorsement by a government agency or any other well-known organization.

Romance Scams. A romance scam occurs when a criminal creates a fake online identity and uses it to gain the affection and trust of a victim. In romance scams, also called confidence scams, the criminal deceives a victim into believing they have a trusted relationship and then uses the relationship to persuade the victim to give money, personal and financial information, or items of value to the scammer.

  • Consider what you post. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
  • Research the person. Look at photos and profiles using online searches to see if the image, name, or details have been used elsewhere.
  • Look for suspicious behavior. Actions such as promising to meet in person, yet always having an excuse why he or she can’t, or trying to isolate you from family and friends can be signs that you are communicating with a scammer.

What should consumers do?

  • File a consumer complaint: To file a complaint, complete FDACS’ online form or call 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) en Español.
  • Share your story: Share your story with friends and family or on social media to help others avoid falling victim to similar scams.
  • Review our consumer resources: Consumers can find helpful tips and recourse on our website: FloridaConsumerHelp.com.

Background: FDACS Division of Consumer Services is Florida’s state consumer protection agency, responsible for regulating charities, handling consumer complaints, and protecting against unfair and unsafe business practices. The Division regulates businesses including motor vehicle repair shops, pawnbrokers, health studios, travel sellers, intrastate movers, professional surveyors and mappers, sweepstakes/game promotions, and telemarketers.

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