According to the United
States Census Bureau, the
Census counts every resident in the United States. Mandated by the
Constitution, the Census takes place every 10 years. The data collected by the Census
determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of
Representatives and is used to distribute billions in federal funds to local
communities (U.S. Census Bureau).
“The Census asks questions of people in homes and group living situations, including how many people live or stay in each home, and the sex, age and race of each person. The goal is to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.” – U.S. Census Bureau
Why should I complete
Federal funds, grants and state support are based on
population totals collected by the census. The federal money is spent on
schools, infrastructure, hospitals, and many other programs. Businesses,
developers, and local governments also use census data (U.S. Census Bureau).
Know the facts.
According to the Federal
Trade Commission, the Census Bureau will start mailing out (and, in
some areas, hand delivering) invitations to participate in the 2020 Census in mid-March. You should receive your
invitation by April 1. You can
respond to the Census: online, by phone, or by mail (FTC).
The Census asks:
how many people are in the home at the time you complete the form; their sex,
age, race, ethnicity; their relationships to one another; phone number; and
whether you own or rent the home (FTC).
Scammers may pose as census workers
to steal your personal information, which can be used to commit identity theft.
you are visited by a census worker in-person, they must show a photo-ID. If you
would like, the census worker may also provide you with their supervisor’s
official contact information and the phone number to a regional office (FTC).
Census will never ask for: your
Social Security number, bank account or credit card numbers, passwords, money
or donations, or anything on behalf of a political party. Note: the 2020 Census
will not ask citizenship status (FTC).
Census Bureau may call you to follow up, or they might call if a census worker
visited your home while you were away. To verify the call, use the
Census Bureau website (FTC).
Credit can be a confusing concept. CAP wants to make it simple for
you! This post is a guide to credit, credit bureaus, credit reports and more.
What is credit?
Your “credit” refers to your ability to borrow money
and how much you can borrow. Your “credit score” is determined by your credit
history, and suggests how likely you are to repay your loans.
What is a credit bureau?
As noted in our September 2017 blog post,
credit bureaus receive regular reports about your credit history from banks,
financial institutions, landlords, utilities, and even employers. The
credit bureaus then put all of this information about your use of credit
together into a single file — your “credit report.”
What is a credit report?
A credit report provides you with a detailed overview of your credit history prepared by the credit bureau. A credit report includes sensitive information, such as your Social Security number and history of employment. It will also indicate whether or not your accounts are in good standing and when they were opened.
How can I get my free credit report?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each
of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and
TransUnion — to provide consumers with a free copy of their credit report once
every 12 months.
Did you notice something suspicious on your credit report?
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, both the credit
reporting company and the information provider are responsible for correcting
inaccurate or incomplete information in your report.
To dispute an error on your credit report, follow these steps provided
by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
What is a credit freeze?
This free tool lets you restrict access to your credit
report, which makes it more difficult for identity thieves to
open new accounts in your name. A credit freeze does not affect your credit
score, it just protects your credit. Under a freeze, you can still access your
free annual credit report, and it does not affect your ability to apply for a
job, rent an apartment, or buy insurance. However, if you are opening a new
account, you will need to lift the freeze temporarily. Lifting the freeze is
Want to learn more about credit freezes? Check out this
helpful FAQ page produced by
the Federal Trade Commission.
What is a credit fraud alert?
A credit fraud alert is a free tool that
makes it more difficult for identity theft and/or fraud to occur. According to
the FTC, when you have a
fraud alert in place, a business must verify your identity before it issues
credit. Once you place the alert, it will be active for one year.
To place a credit fraud alert, contact one credit
bureau and ask to place the alert. That credit bureau will then contact the
other two bureaus.
Are you suspicious that identity theft has occurred?
If you see items on your credit report that might signal fraud,
you can file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission.
Reporting identity theft to your local police is another important step in this
Signs of fraud on a credit report may include unfamiliar
accounts and charges. The FTC provides a helpful list of
other identity theft warning signs, including:
from your bank account
Merchants refuse your
The IRS warns you that
more than one tax return was filed in your name
You receive an official
notice concerning a data breach that may have affected you
Questions about checking your credit and/or identity theft? Call the Consumer Assistance Program! (800) 649-2424
Scammers are posing as Medicare saying they need your Medicare card number or Social Security Number to issue a new card or to verify medical information to keep your coverage active. The calls may also claim that coverage is expiring or in need of renewal. During Medicare Open Enrollment and all year, hang up on these unsolicited calls!
Why they are calling: This scam attempts to gain access to your Medicare card number or social security number to commit Medicare fraud and identity theft.
What to do: Never provide personal information or payment to unknown callers. Vermonters must be particularly cautious about this scam as the calls originate from a spoofed number, appearing as a local phone number on your caller ID, and the scammer is a live caller.
With open enrollment ending this Saturday, scammers may be trying to capitalize on consumers who are reevaluating or adjusting their Medicare coverage. Fortunately, consumers don’t have to navigate the Medicare process alone. In Vermont, representatives of the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) at 1-800-642-5119 through local Area Agencies on Aging can help. Other questions and concerns about Medicare coverage can be directed to Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE.
Please help us stop these scams by sharing the information with someone you know. If you have questions about this scam, or have provided personal information to the scammers, please call the Consumer Assistance Program at 1-800-649-2424.
Were you impacted by the 2017 Equifax Data Breach?
Don’t forget to file your claim and take advantage of free credit monitoring services! The deadline to file a claim is January 22, 2020. If you would like to exclude yourself from the settlement, comment, or object to the settlement, the deadline is November 19, 2019.
For more information about deadlines and filing a claim, visit the Equifax Data Breach website. If you were affected by the breach, you’re eligible for free credit monitoring or up to $125 cash payment.
Want to know if you were affected by the Equifax data breach?
“I was affected by the data breach. Should I worry about identity theft?”
A breach does not necessarily mean you are a victim of identity theft. A breach means you are now susceptible to identity theft.
Identity theft is the unauthorized use of another person’s personal information to obtain credit, goods, services, money or property (for more information on Vermont laws regarding privacy and data security, click here).
Identity theft may involve fraudulent use of credit card or bank account information. In some cases, your social security number and other personal information may be used to fraudulently obtain driver’s licenses, lines of credit, loans or other consumer accounts.
Additionally, you may want to consider placing a security freeze on your credit reports. This is the most effective step you can take to block unauthorized use of your personal information. However, it does carry some costs and can create some minor difficulty if you need get a loan, credit card or other credit account. A security freeze does not affect your ability to use accounts that you have now. Find out more about freezing your credit files below and from the Federal Trade Commission.
Concerned about protecting your minor children from identity theft?
This is a monthly series in which the Attorney General will feature a Vermonter doing exemplary work in their community. Have someone you think should be featured? Email AGO.CAP@vermont.gov.
reflecting on his 35+ year career in service to others, Gary De Carolis, Executive
Director of the Turning Point Center of Chittenden County, said, “I’ve had a
blessed career.” But the way we see it, Vermont has been blessed to have Gary serving
as an advocate and leader in the fields of mental health and substance abuse. That’s
why Gary De Carolis is our October Vermonter of the Month.
his career, Gary has served as a mental health counselor, children’s mental health
professional, the Deputy Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Mental
Health, the Chief of Children’s Mental Health at the Center for Mental Health Services
within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA),
and a consultant focusing on how best to serve children in custody in the
context of their family and community.
Today, Gary serves as the Executive
Director of the Turning Point Center of Chittenden County where he has
transformed the Center from a staff of three with a budget of $175,000 to its
current staff of 15 with an annual budget over $700,000. Under his leadership, the
Turning Point Center has expanded its footprint and broadened its scope of
services to better serve Vermonters seeking recovery. On average, the Turning Point
Center serves about 3,000 visiting guests each month.
Gary gave us a tour of the Turning
Point Center’s new location on South Winooski Avenue in Burlington and talked
with us about his work as an advocate and counselor:
inspires you, or drives your passion for your work with the Turning Point
I’m inspired by the people
who walk through our door every day. Talented, bright, courageous people. I’m
in awe of them. To know that you live with a disease that you must be perfect
with—one errant drink, one puff on a joint, or one pain killer for a broken
limb—can set you into a spiral that could last for years. Courage doesn’t begin
to speak to the incredible strength that I’ve witnessed for some 7 years now.
is the most rewarding aspect of your work with the Turning Point Center?
What I find most rewarding is
to see someone walk through our doors with a sense of little hope for a better
life and over the weeks and months watch as they grow in strength to the point
where the light of hope glows in them. It happens almost every day here.
Providing a safe space, filling it with people in recovery to support our
guests, and enriching it all with wonderful services are the ingredients for
miracles to happen.
is the most challenging aspect of your work with the Turning Point Center?
What is hard is when someone
is so overwhelmed with their life that it is hard, if not impossible, for them
to focus on their recovery. Lack of housing probably is the biggest determinate
in keeping someone in the cycle of active drug use. Also, trauma histories can
be so difficult to work though. We constantly recommend therapy as a part of
someone’s early recovery so that trauma doesn’t end up being the boulder in
their recovery path.
The other challenge, that is
a part of all non-profits, is raising enough funds to make all of this work!
Our staff works very hard and deserves a decent income with benefits. We have
come a long way from when I began 7 years ago but we still need to go
Turning Point Center of Chittenden County has grown under your leadership. What
are some of the changes?
placed recovery coaches in the emergency department at the University of
Vermont Medical Center, and created a New Moms in Recovery Program for women
seeking sobriety and maintaining custody of their children. We also have a
wonderful Employment Consulting Program to make sure that all our guests who
want to work get a job. All these efforts have had tremendous success. We have
a wonderful team of recovery support specialists that greet each guest when
they enter the Center to ask them how they are doing in their recovery, what we
can do to support them and make referrals to other agencies for services.
Finally, we have an elite team of 15 recovery coaches that are available for
anyone who wants a more intimate relationship with someone in recovery as they
go through their unique recovery journey.
do you want Vermonters to know about recovery? Do you feel there is stigma that
needs to be confronted?
I want all Vermonters to know
that recovery is not only possible, but that it happens every day. Please take
the time to get to know someone in recovery. Listen to their story. Ask
questions. I know you will come to see, as I have, that people in recovery are
amazing, insightful, and determined people who we are fortunate to have as
family, friends and neighbors. They are gentle, but tough souls and we are
better for them being in our lives.
advice do you have for other Vermonters looking to make an impact in their
This is always a tough
question for me. We are grateful for the many people who donate to our Center.
It is so helpful in allowing us to offer all the services we do. Also, recently
we finished a capital campaign to buy our first building and renovate our space
to work as a recovery center. I am so humbled by the community response to our
asking for financial assistance. When people walk through our door, they all
say this space is so respectful and dignifying. That is what we were aiming
For others, I recommend that you use your talent to help broaden people’s understanding of addiction and recovery. Some Vermonters are amazing writers, some our phenomenal artists. When I’ve seen those skills unleashed in this field it has transformed people who experience their gifts. I’m thinking of Bess O’Brien’s documentary Hungry Heart or Kate O’Neil’s articles in Seven Days and the obituary she wrote of her sister Maddie who was addicted to opioids. The group Twiddle who write songs about addiction. There are so many ways to help. Serving on our board or various committees of the recovery center is yet another way of helping. I always like Dante’s quote “In times of crisis may the hottest place in hell be reserved for those that declare their neutrality.” Get involved, and make a difference. It does matter.