Vermonter of the Month: Jimmy Cochran

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.

Born in Burlington, Jimmy Cochran is the son of Bob Cochran, one of the “Skiing Cochrans” family of Richmond. Jimmy was on the U.S. Ski team from 2005-2009. He represented the U.S. in the Winter Olympics in 2006 and 2010, and in the World Championships in 2005, 2007, and 2009. Jimmy is now at the helm of Cochran’s, the nation’s first IRS 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt ski area, as general manager.

Cochran’s ski area was started by Mickey and Ginny Cochran in 1961 in the backyard of their property in Richmond. It hosts weekly races and training for eight local high schools, shares the hill with 800 kids from elementary school programs, facilitates races and training for the next generation of Olympic hopefuls in the Cochran Ski Club, and provides an approachable and accessible place for youngsters to learn to ski. As it says on their website, “No child will be denied the opportunity to ski or ride.”

What sets Cochran’s apart from other ski areas? What is the mission?

Cochran’s is unique as a non-profit ski area. Our mission is to provide affordable skiing and race training to local kids and families. This means that Cochran’s is directly supported by the community we serve. Pretty much everyone that skis or snowboards here has in some way given time or money. In this way we are really more of a co-op.

Many wonderful people have found little (and big) ways over the last 57 years to make this ski area go. My favorite thing about this place is how many different people are willing to get emotionally invested. Every day people show up look around, create and act on a vision that could be something like improving hiking and mountain bike trails, making snow, teaching kids to ski, fixing equipment, helping to run races, or making dinner for our Friday community ski night.

This support even comes from the bigger ski areas. They recognize that by helping Cochran’s introduce new folks to the sport, many of those families will graduate to a bigger mountain in a season or two. When we need a part for a broken snow-cat or a snowmaking pump dies (knock on wood), we have a huge network to call on.

The community impact primarily consists of kids and families being given the opportunity to be included in a predominantly exclusive sport.

What goes into a “Friday Community Ski Night”? 

“Friday Night Lights” is our community ski night. $5 ticket, $12 dinner (kids $6), a dual slalom course and laps on the famously fast rope-tow. Dinner is made by a volunteer family/s. I’m always amazed at the culinary alchemy that occurs in our little snack bar.

How many kids/families have skied at Cochran’s for low or no cost? 

Effectively everyone that skis at Cochran’s is skiing at low cost. 1/3rd of our yearly operating budget comes from donations and ALL capital improvements have been paid for with fundraising dollars. We also aim each year to provide at least 10% of passes, tickets, lessons, training fees to be free for deserving families.

What advice do you have for others looking to impact their community?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, recognize that there is a ton of background work required for a volunteer to be productive, let things develop, change, and be imperfect as the situation merits, and most importantly… say thank-you thank-you thank-you thank-you thank-you.

Buying and Selling on Online Listing Sites

Most Vermonters love a good deal.  So, we know how appealing it can be to search for discounted products through online listing sites.  And, when the deal of the century is finally located, we know how easy it is to want to act quickly, rather than question if the deal is too good to be true. But sometimes the most important thing you can do is stop and verify an online offer before you pay.

At CAP, we typically hear about the times people get scammed online, rather than the times they found a great deal.  Vermonters report scams to our office so we can assist them if there is a way to recoup their money and so that other consumers are made aware that there are scammers lurking online, looking to take your money without earning it.  A couple of weeks ago, we heard from a gentleman hoping to close a deal on purchasing an excavator.  He fulfilled his end of the deal by wiring more than $16,000.  After receiving the funds, the scammer went dark.  This Vermonter was lured into the scam through a blatant lie; from a Craigslist post, he was connected to a realistic-looking eBay site to fulfill his order.  The site however, was not eBay.  The money that was wired was gone within a few moments.

Last year (2016) 122 Vermont consumers reported online listing scams to our office. And, fourteen people reported monetary loss due to wire transferring funds in response to an online listing. The year before (2015) nineteen people reported loss by wire transfer.

Listing scams take on many forms.  Sometimes the scammer responds to a seller post, overpays with a check, and asks for the remainder to be wired back.  Sometimes the post is for a fictitious rental property and the scammer is looking for the deposit and first month’s rent to be sent.  Sometimes the item being sold is a used car, riding lawnmower, or construction equipment.

Scams even happen when you are looking for that perfect puppy or pet to expand your family, but the transport of the animal is held up at the airport or elsewhere.  People have reported trying to buy wedding dresses, only to be bilked of their wedding budget due to scam activity.  The point here is, listing scams can happen with any kind of product or service when you least expect it.  The key to prevention is knowing the signs, taking an extra moment to verify an online offer before you pay, and if you are the victim of a scam report it to our office.

The Attorney General will continue to alert Vermonters about new and ongoing scams.  In the meantime, here are some helpful tips to help you avoid online scams:

Tips to prevent Online Listing scams

VT Scam Alert System is Live

Last week our office sent out the first scam alert through the VT Alert System to warn Vermonters about an active utility disconnection phone scam (listen to the alert here).

This exciting program started three weeks ago when the Attorney General’s Office partnered with Vermont Emergency Management to use their existing “VT Alert” emergency notification system. The system lets you get instant alerts by email, text message, or a phone message. We’ll be using this system to alert Vermonters about scams going around the state. You must sign up to get these alerts.  So far, 677 people have signed up through our website and over 3100 signed up through the VT Alert portal!

We don’t want to send out too many alerts, so we’ll only use the system to let you know about scams that are new, have changed, or are happening most often. We also might send you alerts about scams that are happening in your town or county specifically.

Signing up is free and easy. Call us at 802-656-3183 or 1-800-649-2424 (toll-free from a VT phone). You can also visit our website consumer.vermont.gov and click on “Sign Up for Scam Alerts!”  You can choose to get alerts by text message, email, or a prerecorded telephone message from Attorney General Donovan.

We want to help you stay informed and stay ahead of scammers trying to defraud Vermonters.  Once you sign up for the Scam Alert System, we encourage you to spread the word by sharing the alert message with your friends, family, neighbors, and communities.  Together we can get informed, spread the word, and stop the scams.

Example of an email alert:

VT Alert Scam Alert Example

Our office would like to extend a special thank you to our partner at the Vermont Department of Pubic Safety, Emergency Management System–and in particular Director Erica Bornemann, Public Information Officer Mark Bosma, and Administrator Randy Bronson.

VT Alert Logo

Welcome to CAP Connection

Welcome to CAP Connection, the new blog for the Consumer Assistance Program of the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.  The Consumer Assistance Program has been connecting with local Vermont communities for more than 35 years.  Our hope in producing this blog is to make the information and experiences that we gain by connecting with Vermonters available to everyone.  When it comes to scams, the best form of prevention is awareness.  When problems arise, it’s helpful for consumers to know they have a place to go for help.  When it’s difficult to locate appropriate resources, we may be of assistance too.  Ultimately, through this blog we hope to connect Vermonters to resources and information that will be helpful and useful.

This blog replaces the previously produced Pure Vermont Newsletter, which was issued for four years.  This new communication format is intended to provide the public with up-to-date access to consumer and business news and information.  Check back often for scam alerts, general consumer and business information, business compliance assistance, and reports on consumer and business experiences in the marketplace.  Connect with the Vermont Attorney General’s Office on Facebook and/or Twitter to get the latest updates.  Links to this blog will also be posted on social networks when a new blog is updated.  Don’t hesitate to continue to contact our office to report your concerns.