Sun Protection Products and UV Exposure Risk

Enjoy the Sun, not the burnWe’ve had some nice days here in Vermont.  Though most people may not greet a sunshiny day with concern about ultraviolet (UV) protection, it is something we must be mindful about.  UV radiation comes from the sun and man-made sources like tanning beds.  The most common cancer in the United States, skin cancer, is primarily caused by too much UV exposure.  The most obvious way to avoid UV exposure is to seek shade, or cover up, but for the times that you must be in the sun, a good sunscreen is recommended.  There is no one sunscreen that will prohibit exposure to all types of UV rays.  Even sunscreen labeled with 100% SPF only protects against 99% of UV rays.

What to look for in a sunscreen:   Sunscreen

  • Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more
  • “Broad Spectrum” on the label
  • No waterproof claims (water resistant is okay)
  • Unexpired and ideally good for at least 2 years

The sun emits many kinds of UV rays.  SPF helps to protect against UVB, which primarily causes sunburn.  But, just because you don’t get a burn, doesn’t mean your skin hasn’t encountered risky sun exposure.  The Broad Spectrum label informs that the sunscreen has been shown to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.  Sunscreen waterproof claims have been debunked by science, so, products can no longer make that claim.  They can still say “water resistant,” and must state for how long the product would continue to work after swimming or sweating.

Sunglasses can provide great protection too.  UV radiation from the sun can damage the cornea, lens, and other parts of the eye.  Cataracts can also develop from too much sun exposure.

What to look for in sunglasses:

  • Full coverage of the entire eye, wraparound, or close-fitting frames to screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light.  Choosing larger frames can help.
  • Glasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays (may be
    labeled with UV protection of UV400 or more)

Parent and ChildWhether it’s under a tree, tarp, or behind some awesome shades and a hat, we hope you can get outside and enjoy the sunshine as much as possible this summer!

Sources: The American Cancer Society, Mayo Clinic

Travel Tips

If it’s time for you to escape on a getaway, keep in mind that scammers love to target those with travel plans. Vacations should be relaxing. Don’t let unexpected scams and travel pitfalls stress you out! There are countless ways one can be scammed while planning travel. With all the R & R you have scheduled, don’t get bogged down worrying about scams. This mindset is what scammers rely on to bilk you of your money.

Before travel:

  • Ask details about what is included in prices and look for hidden fees
  • If booking online, verify that you are using a credible website and double-check that you are on the correct site, rather than a copycat
  • Always do your own research before accepting the word of the person engaged in selling

While on your trip:

  • If you are notified about unauthorized credit card charges, contact your credit card issuer directly by calling the number on the back of your card. You might not be checking your statement history, but your credit card company generally understands your purchasing trends and may have fraud protection in place to alert you if they suspect an issue.
  • If you are renting a vehicle, know the ins and outs of your own auto insurance coverage. The rental agency will typically offer to sell you their insurance, so be prepared for this when you step up to the reservation desk. Protect yourself further from rental accident damage fraud by photographing the vehicle with on-site identifiers in the background (this is handy if you don’t have a date feature on your camera) both at the time of the initial rental and upon return. That way, if there is a damage dispute, you have photo proof of how the vehicle appeared while in your possession.
  • Free Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi that is not password protected could be problematic. Don’t sign into your accounts while using free or unsecure Wi-Fi. Why? You don’t know who is watching your online activity. Keying your password into an account may seem harmless, but scammers tracing your steps can log into your account later and access everything. Sure, it’s nice to have free Wi-Fi, but use it to check the news or browse tourist attractions, not to do your online banking.
  • While in a foreign country, you may be asked if you would like the total to be displayed in US dollars. If you say yes, the exchange rate may not be based on the actual currency rate, but based on the rate in the retailer’s system. The retailer receives any amount you pay over the actual exchange rate and you could be charged a conversion fee as well. Credit cards convert the foreign exchange rate based on the actual currency exchange rate, which is more accurate and doesn’t favor either party. Credit cards may also charge a conversion fee, so check the card’s terms before you travel.

While traveling, you don’t have to stress every minute about the possibilities of what might happen, but it will help to keep the above scenarios in mind so that you don’t find yourself in a stressful situation.

Contributing Writer & Photo Credit: Crystal Baldwin

Vermonter of the Month: Luke Stafford

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.

Luke Stafford owns Mondo Mediaworks, Inc., a digital marketing agency specializing in content development for the web. He earned a BA in Journalism at Saint Michael’s College. After landing in Brattleboro with his wife, an artist, he worked in the marketing department at Mount Snow until 2009. He then founded Mondo, and in the eight years since it has grown into a 17-person shop. The company’s Values Statement is to build its surrounding community through economic development. It is proudly a certified B Corporation (“B-Corp”), which are for-profit companies that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

Luke also sits on the board of Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS).

How did you learn about becoming a B-corp, and why was it a fit for Mondo?

I’d been hearing about B-Corps for years, mainly from exposure to certified Vermont brands like King Arthur and Ben and Jerry’s. Because they are such large, product-based companies, I never thought seriously about our small marketing agency being eligible. One day I was explaining Mondo’s mission and values to our accountant, who operates an impact-driven business herself, and she recommended I speak to a local person who is knowledgeable on the certification process. Around the same time, a few of Mondo’s employees were learning about B-Corps. All of a sudden, it seemed doable.

Joining the B Corp movement is a fit for Mondo because, like a lot of companies, we’re run by people. And most people — or, I could argue, all people —  want to contribute  to something bigger than monetary profit in their jobs.

What prompted you to make economic growth in Brattleboro and Vermont as a whole part of Mondo’s mission?

Since I started Mondo in 2010, there was a broad values statement to “give back to the community.” We donated to local organizations and supported local events, but it didn’t go much further than that. Then, in 2015, I got my first glimpse at the data coming out of the Vermont Futures Project, which clearly projected that the Vermont economy would be in big trouble if we didn’t solve some serious problems around workforce and population. I resolved that I couldn’t sit idly by and let the projections become reality.

What impact have you had, with Mondo and independently, on your community?

Last year we paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries to Mondolians who live, shop and play in the Brattleboro area. Most of those jobs didn’t exist a few years earlier. Of course, we can’t attribute a thriving Main St. or a restaurant opening solely to new Mondo jobs, but it feels great to see new Mondolians investing in the community, whether it’s buying a house or just going to the movies in Brattleboro’s historic theatre. As for myself, I have the privilege of sitting on the boards of my local elementary school and Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies, where I advocate for programs and policies that make Vermont the best place to live for young families.

What inspires your work, both at Mondo and in the community?

You’re going to start thinking that I’m an overly obsessed fanboy, but really, it’s Vermont. Not just the lifestyle, but the landscape, the people, the… everything. I knew I was going to be a Vermonter immediately after my first snowboarding trip to Stratton when I was 14, and I can’t imagine myself living anywhere else. Specifically, my inspiration comes from my weekend hobbies: snowboarding, logging and processing firewood from our property, maple syrup making. Lately, my best ideas are surfacing during  pop-up camper trips with my family to Vermont State Parks. The four of us are working to join the “251 Club,” whereby we visit all 251 towns in the state. We’re only about 10% of the way through, but it’s been a great way to explore the state and make memories with our 2 daughters. Check with me in 10 years to see if we’ve hit all 251.

What have you learned from this community work?

Democracy is alive and well in Vermont. I was blown away when I attended my first Town Meeting Day. It’s a very beautiful thing that everyone in this state truly has a voice. But it’s also the frustrating thing, right? Because for everyone who wants to see change, there is someone who likes things the way they are, thank you very much. When I moved to Brattleboro 13 years ago, I got involved with a committee to build a skatepark in town, thinking we’d be able to accomplish the goal within a few years. But some townspeople did not want a skatepark in the downtown area. Their voices were heard loud and clear, which I very much respect. But it means that getting things done can take a long time. In the end, though, I trust the process.

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

I understand that big time commitments to boards or volunteerism is not always possible. But I would argue that little gestures, added up, have a much bigger impact. Picking up a piece of litter on the street makes for a cleaner downtown. And that clean, inviting sidewalk may be the small detail that reminds residents, “Hey, this really is a great town. I love it here.” That person will speak highly of the town to others, and the message continues to spread. Our everyday actions, and how we choose to speak about our communities, have huge consequences.

What advice do you have for businesses considering a B-corp certification?

First, it’s not easy to be certified. At least it wasn’t for us as a young company. But it spurred us to make a lot of “grown up company” decisions about our policies and standards. It took us about 9 months and we hired a consultant/project manager to get everything we needed in place. Today, we have an employee who maintains our B-Corp status as part of her job, which involves everything from monitoring our electricity usage to organizing our volunteer days. But it’s 100% worth it. Some of our best job applicants come through the B-Corp job board, and it’s a helpful distinction during the recruiting process. We regularly attend B-Corp-sponsored events, where we’ve met other B-Corps and shared ideas about sustainable ways to grow our companies. But the biggest piece of advice I could give is that your values at the company come first; if it aligns with B-Corp requirements, awesome. But stay true to your values, always.

Avoid Scams & Identity Theft this Tax Season

April showers bring May flowers…and tax season.

Tax season is stressful enough without being worried about getting scammed. Yet threatening scammers pretending to be from the IRS make up almost half of the 5,000+ scam call reports that the Consumer Assistance Program received last year!

Attorney General T.J. Donovan and Tax Comissioner Kaj Samsom recently held a joint event to warn consumers and raise awareness about tax and identity theft scams. They informed the public that the IRS will never call you directly if you owe money.

Many Vermonters are also concerned about tax identity theft.

The first way to prevent this type of theft is to protect your Social Security number. Never give out sensitive personal information to an unknown entity. Make sure your passwords are secure and not easily guessed. If your Social Security number has been stolen, file your tax returns early so that no one else with stolen information has time to file a return on your behalf.

You can also register to monitor your information, so you know if there’s an issue such as a fraudulent tax return.  You can visit: https://www.irs.gov/payments/view-your-tax-account.

If a fraudulent tax return is indeed filed—your return is rejected because it is a duplicate file, or you are instructed to do so—complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. The IRS requests that you fill out this form online then mail it according to instructions.

You may also contact the Identity Protection Specialized Unit of the IRS at 1-800-908-4490. The Attorney General’s office urges Vermonters to:

  • Beware of unsolicited calls or emails
  • Don’t give out personal information
  • Be alert to scare tactics: Scammers demand immediate action or threaten arrest or court action. Don’t talk to them: hang up!
  • Don’t open attachments: hit delete!

Vermonter of the Month: Bonnie Evans

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.

Bonnie Evans, a native of St. Albans, has been quietly but tirelessly supporting her community in ways big and small. We are thrilled to honor her as Vermonter of the Month, and her friends and neighbors were eager to express their support. CAP spoke with several folks in Franklin County that described Bonnie as thoughtful and reliable, who warms the area – literally and figuratively – with her beautiful quilts!

Bonnie was born and raised in St. Albans. She has lived in Swanton since she and her husband Mike, her high school sweetheart, built a house there 40 years ago. They have two terrific daughters and seven wonderful grandchildren.

Bonnie graduated from college in New York with an Associates degree in dental hygiene. Before she retired six years ago, she worked at the same dental practice for nearly 43 years, taking care of three generations of Vermonters.

Bonnie primarily supports her community through quilting! She volunteers at Northwestern Medical Center (NMC), donates quilts to myriad local organizations, and is part of the Franklin County Quilters Guild. Read more about Bonnie below.

Which community effort makes you the proudest?

My biggest contribution personally and the one I am most proud of is the work I do making about 100 quilts per year for the Northwestern Medical Center (NMC). I make quilts for Palliative Care patients and their families, Breast Cancer Comfort Quilts for patients undergoing surgery, as well as quilts to be given out to little ones coming through the Emergency Department.  You would only need to read a few of the thank you notes I get that would melt your heart…at least it sure does mine.

How did you get started with this effort?

It was ten years ago that I was approached by one of the nurses whose family member had won one of the quilts I had donated to a local charity raffle; and she asked if I had any interest in making quilts for the hospital. It blossomed from about 12 quilts the first year to 101 last year.  The Palliative Care/Comfort Care program at NMC is phenomenal and I only play a small part with the quilts that the patients and their families receive. I am only a small part of the great things in this community and our hospital.

What other members of the community do you support with your quilts?

Several years ago I got a group of friends together, and we made Veterans Quilts for the local Veterans, and even sent some to the White River Junction VA Hospital.  My husband is a Vietnam Veteran.  I most recently made a quilt that my husband and I presented in a ceremony honoring William Busier from Essex, a WWII POW who just turned 100 years old.  It has been my goal to get as many quilts to those veterans as I can.

I have over the years made quilts for the Fletcher Allen Children’s Clinic (now UVM), the Ronald McDonald House, Make-A-Wish Foundation, our local veterinarian’s “Needy Pet Fund,” Chester’s Promise Horse Rescue, local schools for playground equipment, and just last week made a quilt for the St. Albans Rotary Expo fundraiser.

We heard a rumor that you do additional volunteer work!

Right now I volunteer at the Northwestern Medical Center one day a week, helping patients navigate our new wonderful surroundings.  I am also the Hospitality Chair for the Hospital Auxiliary and coordinate our meetings throughout the year.

I have also been actively involved with the Franklin County Quilters Guild (a local non-profit) for 20 years. I think I was president 4 times and have held every office!! Our guild supports many local charities throughout the year and I am involved in pretty much all facets of that. As a group we provide quilts to Home Health, Laurie’s House, local disaster victims (to mention a few) and support our local food shelves. Quilters are a very generous group of people.

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

I think if you don’t get involved in something in your community, you never know what you can achieve. I get such satisfaction from volunteering and making and donating these quilts, I can’t imagine not doing it. I often wonder how I had time to work!