“Selfish plays” late cost Tigers chance to end SEC losing streak

AUBURN, Ala. (EETV) – Auburn Women’s Basketball drops their fourth straight game in a heartbreaking, 68-63, loss to Florida in Gainesville, Florida on Thursday. With the loss, Auburn falls to 8-7 on the season and 0-4 in league play. 

“We’ve got to keep fighting, and we’ve got to get smarter. We’ve just got to keep getting smarter. Every possession matters, and you can’t make plays like (we did late) and expect to win,” Auburn head coach Johnnie Harris said. 

Sophomore forward Aicha Coulibaly was in the midst of one of her best games this season. Coulibaly just hit a free throw to put the Tigers up 58-56 with a little under four minutes to play. The free throw brought her scoring total for the night up to 24 points. 

The Tigers had just roared back from a 13-point deficit to take the lead. Coulibaly, with three fouls, picked up her fourth foul with just under 3 minutes to play after she turned the ball over. In frustration, the sophomore slammed the ball on the court and picked up a technical foul and fouled out of the game. 

 “It’s very disappointing. … We were able to stay in the game, but a game like this, every possession matters. Your best player can’t get a foul and then a technical,” said Harris

The Tigers and Gators traded baskets for the next few possessions until a minute left in the game. Honesty Scott-Grayson picked up her fourth foul and the ensuing free throws would give Florida the lead. 

20 seconds later Scott-Grayson picked up her fifth personal foul and fouled out of the game. The Tigers were now without their two highest scorers with the game on the line. 

 “I felt like we made some very selfish plays (late in the game),” said Harris.

Florida closed the game out on a 9-0 run to give them the separation they needed to win. Including their final six points that came from the charity stripe. 

In the loss, Coulibaly led all scorers in points with 24. The sophomore also tallied a career-high eight rebounds in the losing effort. Scott-Grayson finished second in scoring for Auburn with nine points.

In her first Auburn start, Precious Johnson picked up seven points , five rebounds and two blocks in her 29 minutes of action.

The Tigers have been without a SEC win since Feb. 5, 2020 and their SEC losing streak now sits at 20. Coach Harris and Auburn will look to end that streak when they travel to College Station, Texas to take on Texas A&M on Jan. 16. Tip off is set for 4 P.M. CST and will be aired on the SEC Network.

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Omicron upends tourism hopes after U.N. estimates pandemic will cost industry $1.6 trillion this year

For Le Meurice hotel in Paris, as well as others the Dorchester Collection oversees in Rome, London and Los Angeles, omicron has yet to hit holiday bookings beyond a “slight” uptick in cancellations. “So far, despite news of the new variant, the end of this year is still looking positive for us,” the hotel operator said in an email. “2021 has definitely been a better year than 2020 and should remain so.”

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Coronavirus, Coronavirus Travel, Coronavirus Travel News, Coronavirus Travel Curbs: Covid Pandemic To Cost Global Tourism $2 Trillion In 2021: UN Body

Covid Pandemic To Cost Global Tourism $2 Trillion In 2021: UN Body

Coronavirus: A total of 46 destinations currently have their borders completely closed. (File)


The coronavirus pandemic will cost the global tourism sector $2.0 trillion in lost revenue in 2021, the UN’s tourism body said Monday, calling the sector’s recovery “fragile” and “slow”.

The forecast from the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization comes as Europe is grappling with a surge in infections and as a new heavily mutated Covid-19 variant, dubbed Omicron, spreads across the globe.

International tourist arrivals will this year remain 70-75 percent below the 1.5 billion arrivals recorded in 2019 before the pandemic hit, a similar decline as in 2020, according to the body.

The global tourism sector already lost $2.0 trillion (1.78 trillion euros) in revenues last year due to the pandemic, according to the UNWTO, making it one of sectors hit hardest by the health crisis.

While the UN body charged with promoting tourism does not have an estimate for how the sector will perform next year, its medium-term outlook is not encouraging.

“Despite the recent improvements, uneven vaccination rates around the world and new Covid-19 strains” such as the Delta variant and Omicron “could impact the already slow and fragile recovery,” it said in a statement.

The introduction of fresh virus restrictions and lockdowns in several nations in recent weeks shows how “it’s a very unpredictable situation,” UNWTO head Zurab Pololikashvili told AFP.

“It’s a historical crisis in the tourism industry but again tourism has the power to recover quite fast,” he added ahead of the start of the WTO’s annual general assembly in Madrid on Tuesday.

“I really hope that 2022 will be much better than 2021.”

– ‘Confused’ –

While international tourism has taken a hit from the outbreak of disease in the past, the coronavirus is unprecedented in its geographical spread.

In addition to virus-related travel restrictions, the sector is also grappling with the economic strain caused by the pandemic, the spike in oils prices and the disruption of supply chains, the UNWTO said.

Pololikashvili urged nations to harmonise their virus protocols and restrictions because tourists “are confused and they don’t know how to travel”.

International tourist arrivals “rebounded” during the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere thanks to increased travel confidence, rapid vaccination and the easing of entry restrictions in many nations, the UNWTO said.

“Despite the improvement in the third quarter, the pace of recovery remains uneven across world regions due to varying degrees of mobility restrictions, vaccination rates and traveller confidence,” it added.

Arrivals in some islands in the Caribbean and South Asia, and well as some destinations in southern Europe, came close to, or sometimes exceeded pre-pandemic levels in the third quarter.

Other countries however hardly saw any tourists at all, particularly in Asia and the Pacific, where arrivals were down 95 percent compared to 2019 as many destinations remained closed to non-essential travel.

Closed borders

A total of 46 destinations — 21 percent of all destinations worldwide — currently have their borders completely closed to tourists, according to the UNWTO.

A further 55 have their borders partially closed to foreign visitors, while just four nations have lifted all virus-related restrictions — Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Mexico.

The future of the travel sector will be in focus at the WTO annual general assembly, which will run until Friday.

The event — which brings together representatives from 159 members states of the UN body — was original scheduled to be held in Marrakesh.

But Morocco in late October decided not to host the event due to the rise in Covid-19 cases in many countries.

Before the pandemic, the tourism sector accounted for about 10 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and jobs.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Comparing the travel cost to nearby cities for Thanksgiving

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — To fly or to drive this Thanksgiving…that is the question. If you’re planning to visit friends or family in a nearby southwest city, 13 Action News has got you covered!

13 Action News used Google Flights and Gas Buddy’s Gas Trip Calculator to break down the cost benefit of driving vs. flying to three nearby destinations: Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City.

Up first, Los Angeles, which is about an hour flight from Las Vegas each way. The cheapest flights we found were $117 per person round-trip.

You may not save all that much by driving. It should cost you between $50-$130 in gas to get from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and back, but you have to be willing to spend a total of eight or nine hours in the car on I-15, and maybe more with traffic. For some, that just means more quality time with the family.

“Sitting in the car with the whole family and driving, stopping in beautiful places like here, it kinda keeps you together,” said Nestor Martinez while filling up his gas tank.

AAA predicts Phoenix will be the fourth most popular travel destination this Thanksgiving. Flights from Las Vegas to Phoenix are significantly more expensive, averaging between $255-$400 dollars per person round-trip.

You could save hundreds of dollars by driving. The drive along US-93 should take you between nine and ten hours total. And again, gas should cost you $50-$130 to fill up the tank twice, which is more expensive than past years.

“We’d like the prices to be lower. We’d like the government to take some actions to lower the gas prices because we’re suffering. The people are suffering,” one driver told us while filling up at a Las Vegas gas station.

Finally, let’s compare prices to get to Salt Lake City and back. Thanksgiving flights from Las Vegas to Salt Lake are averaging between $300-$360 per person round-trip.

Once again, the road trip route is more affordable. The drive along I-15 to Salt Lake City takes about six hours each way without stopping, or 12 hours total, and gas should cost you $80-$180 dollars. The longer drive means you might have to fill up a third time, but drivers say it’s still more affordable.

“I didn’t really have a choice because my mom couldn’t afford to fly me and my girlfriend, because since COVID, everybody’s buying flights now,” a student named Garrett told us at a Las Vegas gas station.

If you’re wondering why the discrepancy in gas prices is so large, it’s because it’s based on a lot of factors, including the year of your vehicle, the make and model, its fuel efficiency, where you get your gas, and the type of gas. But Gas Buddy’s Gas Trip Calculator factors all that in and recommends the cheapest places to refuel along your route.

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Exactly When To Book A Flight for the Biggest Cost Savings

Even when you’ve set aside the time and mental energy required to plan a cost-efficient trip, scouting flights for the best deal can feel like playing a slot machine. Searching at a particular time and even in a certain browser window (hot tip: open an incognito window in Google Chrome to keep prices from ratcheting up in real time) can seemingly yield randomly lucky or unlucky results. But according to a new report from Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), figuring out when to book a flight for the maximum savings isn’t all left up to chance. And simply following a few timing guidelines could bring that dream trip within your budget (or at least not too far from it).

By analyzing data from ARC’s airline sales database for the past several months, researchers found that the best day to book a flight is actually Sunday—not Friday, as popular belief would have it—and doing so can save you, on average, 5 percent on domestic flights and 10 percent on international flights.

The most cost-effective day of the week to book any flight is Sunday.

From a mental-health perspective, that timing aligns well, too: For many, Sundays are often overshadowed by the Sunday scaries (aka that feeling of dread prompted by the weekend’s end), and planning a trip has been shown to boost your happiness levels in real time. So, plan and book a trip on a Sunday, and you could save money and your mental state in one fell swoop.

If you have some flexibility in your potential travel plans, it’s also worth considering the report’s intel on when to actually take a flight (beyond when to book one). The researchers found that the best day to leave for a domestic trip is, conveniently enough, Friday (and not Monday, as popular conception goes), while the best day to leave for an international flight is Thursday; the former can save you, on average, 15 percent, while the latter can spare you 5 percent. The bottom line? It’s almost always more cost-effective to start your trip toward the end of the week, rather than at the beginning.

Zooming out further to consider flight-price fluctuations on a grander scale can also lend insight into when to book a flight within the scope of the year (if your potential trip doesn’t shoehorn you into a certain timeframe, that is). For example, the month of January is typically the cheapest time of the year to book travel and to actually take that travel domestically, as flight demand tends to be the lowest: Many folks in the U.S. often spend January recharging after the holiday season, upping the number of available seats on flights across the country—which, in turn, decreases their prices.

According to the Expedia report, taking a domestic flight in January can save you up to 10 percent, on average, in comparison to flying in June, though the numbers shake out differently for international flights; if you’re leaving the U.S., it’ll be most cost-savvy to take that trip in August, which can save you up to 20 percent in comparison to traveling in December (the most expensive month for travel abroad).

And if the trip you’re booking is a vacation or any trip that’s solely for pleasure, it’s worth dedicating some extra thought not only to when you’ll book and leave, but also to when you’ll return. According to findings from a 2012 study analyzing the effects of employee vacation on well-being, happiness levels tend to peak on the eighth day of a trip, making it well worth extending just past the weeklong mark, if you can.

Should that seem overly lengthy at first glance, consider the very real health benefits to be reaped from the stress-melting effects of time off. A 2018 study tracking the cardiovascular health of more than 1,200 people for 40 years found that those who took three or more weeks of vacation each year had a 37 percent lower chance of dying in the follow-up period of the study than those who took fewer than three weeks annually, on average. So, if you have the option to take paid time off, consider this your sign to do so more often—doctor’s orders. And, hey, since you now know exactly when to book a flight and travel in order to save the most money, what are you waiting for?

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Y-H Spissue: Harvard students navigate new travel, lodging, and cost challenges to attend Yale-Harvard Game

Since learning that Yalies cannot host Harvard students the night before the Yale-Harvard game, students are navigating a host of considerations to travel to New Haven and take in the sporting event.

For the 2021 Yale-Harvard football game on Nov. 20, the first since the pandemic, Harvard students will not be permitted to stay in Yale dorms due to COVID-19 restrictions. Harvard students have been encouraged to leave Cambridge for Yale on Saturday morning. For this reason, Harvard’s shuttles that are usually offered on both the Friday and Saturday of the weekend of the game are only being offered on Saturday, and at minimal capacity. Previously, Harvard students would often come to Yale on the Friday before the game and stay in Yale dorms. With restrictions in place, many Harvard students told the News they are searching for alternate lodging. 

“I think this new plan disadvantages students who cannot afford rides [or] places to stay overnight and people who do not know individuals at Yale especially since students from Ivy League feeder schools have more friends at Yale,” Harvard junior Andrea Liu said.

Liu said she has friends who attend Yale, and has friends from Harvard who live in New Haven. She plans to come to Yale on Friday afternoon and stay at her Harvard friend’s New Haven house. Liu believes going on Friday is a “better plan” than taking one of the Harvard shuttles on Saturday; she was worried about not arriving at The Game on time. 

Liu says many other students at Harvard are also coming on the Friday before The Game. Some are planning to rent AirBnBs, and others are looking to stay with off-campus students, she said. 

“[We] are not sure about the consequences and are not worried about them, but rather our larger fear is, what if Yale doesn’t let us in [to dorms],” Liu said in regards to her decision to avoid staying with friends on campus at Yale. 

Kalyan Palepu, a Harvard junior, has a similar plan. He plans to come on Friday and stay with the family of a friend who lives in New Haven. 

“I have to believe that Yale won’t force Harvard students who come on Friday hoping to sleep at Yale to not have a place to sleep for the night,” Palepu wrote in an email to the News.

This is especially worrisome for students on financial aid, Harvard junior Diana Meza said. Meza is a student on financial aid and is planning to stay with friends at Yale. She said Harvard offered free round-trip transportation on Saturday to students eligible through the Harvard Student Events Fund––a program at Harvard that offers qualifying students free tickets to student events, according to Harvard’s website––but those tickets were sold out by the time Meza tried to purchase them. 

Tickets for the Yale-Harvard game were available for pickup at various athletic events throughout the past week and at Payne Whitney Gym.

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Only two in five support raising taxes to reduce Britain’s carbon emissions, but most in favour of hiking cost of air travel – Sky News poll | Climate News

Only two in five people would support increasing taxes as part of efforts to reduce Britain’s carbon emissions – but a majority are in favour of hiking the cost of air travel and banning petrol and diesel cars from city centres, new polling suggests.

In a YouGov poll for Sky News, more than three-quarters of respondents (76%) said they believed the world’s climate was changing as a result of human activity.

This compared to one in 10 (11%) who agreed the world’s climate was changing but disagreed it was because of human activity, while only 2% said the world’s climate was not changing.

More than half (52%) thought the cost of and upheaval caused by climate change, if Britain does not reduce carbon emissions, would be worse than the cost and upheaval required to reduce the country’s carbon emissions. This compared to 23% who thought the opposite and 25% who weren’t sure.

YouGov/Sky News poll 9-10 November 2021
YouGov/Sky News poll, 9-10 November 2021

However, despite an overwhelming majority accepting man-made climate change, those who responded to the survey were split over how the issue should be tackled.

Two in five (40%) said they would support taxes being increased to help pay the costs of reducing Britain’s carbon emissions, with a greater proportion (44%) opposed.

There was majority support for increasing the cost of air travel (59% in support compared to 32% opposed), as well for banning petrol and diesel cars from city centres from 2030 (54% in support, 37% opposed).

But most respondents did not support increasing the cost of gas and electricity (78% opposed, 14% in support), increasing the cost of petrol or diesel (60% opposed, 32% in support), or increasing the cost of meat and dairy products (61% opposed, 31% in support).

One in five (22%) said they were most likely to purchase an electric car when they next buy a car, compared to 17% who said they would buy a petrol car and 7% who said they would buy a diesel car.

Two-thirds (66%) who said they would buy a petrol or diesel car said this was, among other reasons, because an electric car would be too expensive.

YouGov/Sky News poll 9-10 November 2021
YouGov/Sky News poll, 9-10 November 2021

When asked how energy efficient their current home is, 62% said it was efficient while 28% said it was not.

Of those who believed their current home was not very energy efficient, 38% said improving its energy efficiency would be too expensive, among other reasons.

The YouGov poll of 1,729 British adults was conducted on 9 and 10 November and prior to the conclusion of the COP26 international climate change conference in Glasgow.

More than three in five (62%) said they had not been paying much attention, or no attention at all, to the Glasgow summit, while nearly two in five (39%) said they had been taking notice.

YouGov/Sky News poll 9-10 November 2021
YouGov/Sky News poll, 9-10 November 2021

More than two-thirds (68%) were pessimistic that the world would make the necessary changes to limit the impact of climate change, with less than one-fifth (17%) optimistic.

Boris Johnson used the COP26 conference to urge world leaders to commit to action on reducing global warming.

But more than half (55%) of those surveyed believed the prime minister had done badly on providing global leadership on climate change, with less than a quarter (22%) thinking Mr Johnson had done well.

Prior to the conclusion of the Glasgow summit, less than one in 10 (9%) thought COP26 had been a success with more than one-fifth (42%) thinking it had not been one, although nearly half (49%) said they did not know.

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Commenting on the findings of the poll, YouGov’s director of political research Anthony Wells said: “All in all, people believe in climate change and say we should address it, but are far less willing to pay for it.”

The full results of the YouGov survey can be found here.

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‘How long can you maintain it?’ Cost of Taiwan’s pursuit of Covid zero starts to show | Taiwan

At a beachside bar at the southern tip of Taiwan, a handful of visitors in swimwear and bare feet mill around the open air deck, enjoying the warm midweek night, cheap beer, lack of crowds, and zero Covid.

The bar’s owner, in between serving drinks, says domestic tourism to the surf village of South Bay, is booming, but the custom is concentrated on the weekends. There are no international visitors to fill tables during the week, let alone to make up for a difficult three months of forced shutdown during the summer outbreak of Covid.

She says the business has also been affected by supply chain issues – a knock-on effect of the pandemic – and has been unable to buy basics such as mayonnaise or tortillas. “It’s crazy – I haven’t found it in three months.”

The scene sums up the mixed fortunes of Taiwan, as the rest of the world opens up but the island remains firmly closed.

‘There is a price’

For the first 18 months of the coronavirus pandemic, life in Taiwan was blessed. As cities locked down across China, Europe and Asia, and death tolls climbed into the millions, Taiwan was safe, vibrant, almost normal.

Thanks to a strategy of case prevention and swift elimination, it recorded a relatively low 16,430 cases – mostly imported and detected in quarantine – and 847 deaths.

But now, as the world begins opening up, having accepted coexistence with the virus while mitigating it with high vaccination rates and other measures, Taiwan risks being left behind.

Almost two years after Covid first emerged, the island has held tight to the measures that made it an early success – closed borders, strict quarantine, intensive case tracing and widespread mandatory mask-wearing. And there is little sign of these requirements ending.

The island is now among a few holdouts – alongside China and Hong Kong – that are resisting rejoining the post-Covid world and wrestling with what that means for the economy and the public.

The restricted borders have crushed international tourism, hindered trade and exacerbated supply chain issues. Airmail services to and from several countries are suspended. Families have been separated, livelihoods hurt.

Throughout the pandemic tourists and other non-residents have been banned from entry, including the foreign partners and children of Taiwan residents. Authorities recently lifted the ban, but it only applied to the families of Taiwanese citizens, not foreign residents.

“Being unable to be with the one you love is really, really hard,” said French national, Clement Potier, whose partner is stuck overseas. The partial lift was even harder to swallow, he told local media, because “you see that it could be possible, but not for you”.

In 2019 there were more than 29 million international arrivals in Taiwan. In 2020, during the height of the pandemic and prior to vaccines, the figure dropped to 3.9 million. So far this year there have been just 335,000.

“How long can you maintain it? There’s a price for it,” says Prof Chunhuei Chi, the director of Oregon State University’s centre for global health. “Taiwan sacrificed international collaboration in commerce and exchange.”

A woman with a face mask passes National Chengchi University in Taipei
A woman with a face mask passes National Chengchi University in Taipei Photograph: Brennan O’Connor/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock

In July, the Economist Intelligence Unit said the Zero Covid approach used in Asian countries “has delivered both health and economic benefits, and has been popular where implemented”.

“If the rest of the world had adopted a similar approach, zero‑Covid might prove a sustainable strategy,” it said. But they hadn’t, and the policy “will become unviable as the global economy reopens”, the report found.

Some Taiwan-based businesses relying on the global market have begun looking at moving manufacturing on the island, given there is no indication when the problems will ease, because there is no clear roadmap being presented to residents.

Currently all entrants must quarantine in designated hotels or government facilities, and then spend another week “self managing” limited isolation. Home quarantine ended after it was linked to Taiwan’s only significant Delta outbreak in Pingtung county, and observers don’t see it returning soon.

‘We must wait until the virus becomes mild’

A primary factor in Taiwan’s continued closure is its struggle to match international vaccination rates, especially in second doses. A drive to deliver Moderna doses to some sector workers saw delivery of second shots, which are recommended at 28 days by the WHO, delayed to at least 12 weeks, with some recipients forced to cold-call hospitals around Taiwan looking for doses.

A combination of under-ordered supplies, global shortages, and foreign interference by China, means Taiwan’s vaccination program has been largely propped up by significant but inconsistent donations, and lately its own domestically developed vaccine.

About 73% of people in Taiwan had received at least one dose – with the highest proportions among the elderly – and just over one-third has received their second dose. The government says it’s on track to meet its 60% target by year’s end, when they will consider unspecified future changes.

Politics is also a factor, says Prof Chi. With local elections on the horizon, Chi predicts the DPP will wait to open borders because of the high chance any outbreak will be used by the opposition KMT to criticise the government.

“It cannot afford any new outbreak,” he says.

In September the central epidemic command centre (CECC) told the Guardian Covid Zero was not its target but they were heading in that direction. Asked in parliament last month if their plan was for Covid zero or coexistence, health minister Chen Shih-chung appeared to say both.

“The current goal is to achieve Covid-19 zero, but Taiwan must also be prepared to coexist with Covid-19,” he said, suggesting they were hoping the virus eventually lessened in severity.

In October, special adviser to the CECC, professor Lee Ping-ing, appeared to suggest that would take three years. “We must wait until the virus becomes mild and the human immune system can adjust before it can start coexisting with the virus,” he said.

Observers note readying the public is a key issue for the short term if Taiwan is to open up, in order to address strong fear and significant stigma attached to infections.

“Even if Taiwan had 70% of the population who received two doses, it is still worrying to think of opening up,” said one resident on Taiwan’s social media platform PTT, saying other countries have become accustomed to the pandemic.

“Taiwanese are afraid of death and opening after vaccination. They still hesitate.”

Prof Steve Tsang, of the SOAS Institute, said he understands why the government is going slow, “but it will have to accept that we will have to live with Covid now, and the Zero Covid policy is not sustainable”.

“It may well need more time to increase the rate of vaccination before it can relax substantially the travel restrictions, but it should provide clear guidelines on the criteria for doing so.”

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Dating scams in 2020 cost $300 million, targeted older Americans: FTC

Do you know the cost of love? OK, true love’s cost may be immeasurable, but the cost of romance scams totaled at least $304 million in 2020.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, says the Federal Trade Commission, because many victims of romance scams are embarrassed to come forward. 

One woman who did, Kate Kleinert, a widower in Pennsylvania, told the Senate Special Committee on Aging last month how she got caught up in a romance scam that cost her about $39,000 – and her pride.

After getting a friend request on Facebook in August 2020 from a man, Kleinert began corresponding with him on another app. “Tony” said he was working in Iraq on a contract with the United Nations and after he asked, she sent gift cards to him and his children.

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He planned to meet her in Philadelphia in December but didn’t show. Then someone purporting to be Tony’s lawyer called saying he needed $20,000 for Tony’s bail. “The lawyer told me to do whatever I could – put a mortgage on my house, borrow it from someone in my family,” she testified. “I couldn’t do it.”

Eventually, “I was living off my credit cards and he was getting what I took from Social Security and my pension,” she said.

Kleinert, who eventually learned the pictures sent by Tony were of a doctor in Spain, said she testified over frustration at an inability to get justice and “it’s so devastating and many people have been through this but not spoken about it.”

Romance scams continue to climb, and over the last three years people have reported losing more money on them than any other fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission. These scams, typically run on dating apps and over social media, increased among all age groups with losses of $304 million, up about 50% from 2019, the FTC says.

Age is just a number to romance scammers, who bilked older adults (aged 60-up) out of more than $139 million during 2020. That’s 65% more than in 2019, when reported losses were nearly $84 million, finds “Protecting Older Consumers, 2020-2021, A Report of the Federal Trade Commission,” released earlier this week.    

Among all scams the FTC tracks, romance scams made up the highest reported losses for those aged 60-79. And those aged 70 and older reported the highest median losses from romance scams: $9,475.80.

Opportunities for romance scammers have risen during the pandemic as older adults spent more time on social media. “It doesn’t always mean they’re looking for love, it’s that they just report that the scammer starts with an unexpected friend request or a message,” said Patti Poss, a senior attorney in the FTC’s consumer protection bureau.

“Scammers are very sophisticated. And no one should be embarrassed that this happened,” she said. “They know what they’re doing, to be able to tell these stories, develop a relationship and get people’s money. You may not think you’re sending something to a stranger because it is somebody that you think you know at that point.”

Romance scammers: How to spot them

Know where scammers lurk. Romance scammers typically create fake profiles on dating sites and apps such as Ashley Madison, Grindr, Match and Tinder. They also target users on Instagram and Facebook, the FTC says. AARP even chronicled a case where a 75-year-old woman was conned out of about $137,000 by a romance scammer she met on Words With Friends.

Scammers live where and do what? Some signs your online paramour isn’t all they propose to be include the claim that they reside outside the U.S. or are working on an oil rig, with the military, or are a doctor with an international organization.

They want to get personal – to a point. A scammer will want to connect with you off the dating site, perhaps by email, phone or text. But they don’t necessarily want to meet in person. 

Scammers eventually ask for money. After they build trust with their potential victims – to do so they may connect online several times a day, the FTC says – they may ask for money to help with an emergency such as travel, medical care or other expenses. In payment, they may ask for money to be sent by wire transfer using Western Union or MoneyGram. Bank transfers and payments accounted for nearly one-third of reported romance scam losses by older adults at $31 million, and romance scammers reportedly took another $12 million in cryptocurrency.

Credit card or gift card scams.

Many romance fraud victims said scammers used the coronavirus pandemic to explain requests for money or their inability to meet in person, the FTC says. Older adults reported losses of $10.5 million on romance scams related to COVID-19.

Cryptocurrency could come into play. The FBI has seen an increase in crimes where the romance scammer seeks to help you invest in or trade cryptocurrency. Once signed up, the victim may be able to withdraw some funds, as a sign of trust. But as bigger investments are urged – often you have to act fast, they say – all communication might break off. 

The Senate Aging Committee has a report on scams targeting seniors including romance scams on its website.

FTC tips on dealing with romance scammers 

Stop talking. If you think you may be dealing with a romance scammer stop communicating with them immediately.

Don’t give out personal information. Don’t discuss your financial status to those you don’t know or cannot trust. Do not give anyone your banking information, Social Security Number, copies of your ID or passport, or any other sensitive data.

Money changes everything. Never send funds to or trust investments suggested by someone you have solely met online.

Ask a friend or family member. Talk through the situation with someone you trust and listen to them.

Do some homework. Use Google or another search engine to see if other people have reported such scammers. For instance, type in “oil rig scammer.” You can also use the person’s photo on Google Image. Select search by image (click the little camera) and upload the person’s photo. If it appears under several names, they are likely a scammer.

Report them. You can report scammers to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Also notify the website or app where you connected with the scammer.

Gimme my money. If you paid a scammer with a gift card, contact the card issuer and tell them the situation and ask for a refund.

Prize, sweepstakes, and lottery scams were the top fraud reported by adults 80 and over, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Other scams: prizes and imposters  

Older adults also lost $69 million in 2020 from prize, sweepstakes and lottery scams (this was the top fraud reported by adults 80 and over), according to FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network, a database of fraud reports filed directly by consumers and to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Business imposter scams increased from $34 million in 2019 to $65 million in 2020. Government imposter scams amounted to $58 million.

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Is Travel Insurance Worth the Cost Right Now? – NBC 7 San Diego

Planning a vacation can be stressful. The pandemic showed how quickly plans can change and need to be adjusted or even canceled. With borders opening back up and cruise lines running once again, people are taking a closer look at travel insurance.

“About one-third of Americans are now wanting to purchase travel insurance,” said Doug Shupe of the Auto Club of Southern California. “They say that it’s directly because of the pandemic.”

Travel insurance protects customers who have unexpected issues arise that affect their vacation plans. Depending on the type of insurance, it can cover anything from cancelations beyond your control, to family emergencies.

“Travel insurance is relatively inexpensive when you consider how much you spend on vacation,” said Shupe. “But reach out to the travel insurance provider to get questions answered before you purchase that insurance.”

Make sure you know exactly what is covered. Many vacations canceled because of the pandemic were not covered by travel insurance.

“In the past travel insurance has not covered epidemics or pandemics, but that is changing,” said Shupe. “More and more travel insurance providers are starting to meet consumer demand and wishes, so there are more coverage options for certain kinds of covid situations.”

There are two major types of travel insurance. Basic trip cancellation protection covers small things that go wrong, such as losing your bags or getting sick before a trip. Comprehensive travel insurance covers major issues such as a medical emergency, or even the destination being hit by a disaster.

Check to see if the travel insurance you are looking to purchase includes a “cancel for any reason” clause and double-check what the policy’s pandemic coverage is.

Buying comprehensive travel insurance can get costly, so weigh the pros and cons. Depending on the plan, it might cost between 4 and 12% of the total price of your trip. It may work better for more expensive and international travel, instead of short trips.

Also be sure to check with your credit card company, auto, and medical insurance providers. Some companies will provide protections for travel booked using their cards or for their customers.

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