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					volume seven | edition two           summer 2011

consumer connection

is it happening to
someone you love?
Also in this issue
small claims court: basics
is your older home safe?
Controlling your digital afterlife
                                                 consumer connection
                                         contents | summer 2011

2         On the cOver
          Elder financial abuse
          Is it happening to someone you love?

1       Acting Director’s message          10 Is your pre-1978 home safe? 18 Roundup of current scams
                                                 It could have lead or asbestos                         • Osama Bin Laden e-mails
6       Bank on California                                                                              • Windshield bullies
        A chance for a better future       12 The Internet never forgets                                • Text scams
                                                 Preserving your digital afterlife
8       Spy cam crime                                                                           20 Small claims court
        Does your computer have            14 Update on service animals                                 New version of handbook
        eyes?                                    Miniature horses allowed
                                                                                                21 Money Smarts
                                                                                                        Student financial aid

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             consumer connection
     Consumer ConneCtion | summer 2011      is produced by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Office of Publications, Design & Editing.
                                            If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail us at
                                                From the
                                              Acting DirectOr

It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy, so    problem of elder financial abuse. Esti­       We tell you how to find these individuals
the song goes. But with gas prices rising,    mates say seniors are being bilked to the     and provide access to publications you
home values falling, and incomes staying      tune of $2.6 billion every year. California   can download that explain how to protect
stagnant, it may seem to you like getting     is home to more than 4 million people         yourself and others when tackling home
by is growing more difficult. Equally chal­   over age 65, a number that continues to       maintenance and remodel projects.
lenging is protecting what’s already yours.   grow. These seniors often have accumu­
Fraudsters and con artists never take a       lated assets such as home equity, savings,    In addition, one of our most popular
holiday, and that’s why DCA is never          and pensions that make them targets for       booklets has been updated for 2011 –
complacent about helping you become a         abuse. We tell you what to look for and       The Small Claims Court: A Guide to its
savvy consumer.                               actions to take if you suspect shady deal­    Practical Use. See the article for high­
                                              ings by a caregiver or family member.         lights, and call (866) 320-8652 to have a
Part of being a smart consumer is manag­                                                    free copy mailed to you.
ing your money wisely. For most people,       Another disturbing scam that’s come to
the first step toward financial security is   our attention is the “spy cam” case that      Finally, you don’t have to wait for
opening a bank account. That’s where the      made headlines this summer. Fuller­           Consumer Connection to keep abreast of
State’s Bank on California program can        ton police recently arrested a computer       consumer issues. Visit California Con­
help. Through this program, you can get       technician suspected of installing spyware    sumer Connection on Facebook for daily
access to free and low-cost accounts with     on victims’ laptops that allowed him          tips and news at
participating credit unions and banks.        to remotely take photographs of the           CAConsumerConnection. We’re also on
You need a valid ID, but many forms are       unsuspecting users through the machines’      Twitter:
accepted, including passports, California     Web cameras. We tell you how to protect
IDs, Mexican Matricula cards, and oth­        yourself.
ers. Without a bank account, the average
person will spend 5 percent of his or her     Here’s another topic sure to affect many
income at check cashers each year. Hav­       of you: New Federal regulations were
ing a bank account has a lot of benefits.     enacted last year covering renovations of     Brian J. Stiger, Acting Director
Read about them on page 6.                    houses built in or before 1978. Contrac­      California Department of Consumer Affairs
                                              tors who work on these homes must have
In other money matters, actor Mickey          special training and equipment to handle
Rooney’s recent testimony before              lead and asbestos – materials commonly
Congress gave renewed attention to the        used in construction during that time.

                                                                                                 Department of Consumer affairs         1
                                        abuse oF
                                        It’s devastating — 

                                        and growing

2   Consumer ConneCtion | summer 2011
I  t was March 2, 2011, in Wash­
ington, D.C. The setting was a U.S.
                                       In its report to the Committee, the Gov­
                                       ernment Accountability Office (GAO)
Senate hearing room. An elderly        cited a study that estimated 14.1 per­
man sat at a table facing the panel    cent of noninstitutionalized older adults
of committee members. He started       had experienced physical, psychologi­
to speak:                              cal, or sexual abuse; neglect; or financial
                                       exploitation. However, current studies
My name is Mickey                      “likely underestimate the full extent of
Rooney and I want to                   elder abuse,” according to the report,
                                       Stronger Federal Leadership Could
thank you for the
                                       Enhance National Response to Elder
opportunity to testify                 Abuse. “Most [studies] did not ask
today. We are here today               about all types of abuse or include all
on a very critical issue               types of older adults living in the com­
– preventing the abuse,                munity, such as those with cognitive
neglect, and financial                 impairments.”
exploitation of seniors.
                                       Elders who watched the hearing may
Unfortunately, I am
                                       have wondered: “Can it happen to me?”
testifying before the                  Firm statistics are hard to come by, but
Committee today not just               experts say as many as 1 million elders
as a concerned citizen,                are exploited each year and lose a total
but also as a victim                   of $2.6 billion dollars. Some estimates
myself.                                put the number of reported cases in
                                       California at 200,000 a year. The Elder
With that introduction, the former     Financial Protection Network (www.
actor, now age 90, choked up as estimates that only
he described to the Senate Special     one in 100 incidents is reported to
Committee on Aging how he was          authorities. In 60 to 90 percent of
financially exploited by someone       cases, perpetrators are adult children
close.                                 or other family members of the victim.

“I was eventually and completely       What exactly is
stripped of the ability to make even
                                       financial abuse
the most basic decisions about my
life,” Rooney said. “I felt trapped,   and who does it
scared, used, and frustrated. But      happen to?
above all, I felt helpless.”
                                       State law defines financial abuse as
                                       occurring when a person who has care
In opening the hearing, Chairman
                                       or custody of or who stands in a posi­
Herb Kohl of Wisconsin said that
                                       tion of trust of an elder or dependent
“the physical, mental, and financial
                                       adult takes or appropriates that person’s
abuse of our nation’s seniors is all
                                       money or property “to any wrongful use
too common. These crimes are
                                       or with the intent to defraud.” It can
being committed by people
                                       also include “undue influence,” such as
because their victims are often
                                       persuading an elder to turn over assets,
fragile and their chance of getting
                                       even bank accounts and deeds to prop­
caught is slim.”
                                       erty, to someone else.
The problem is not new, but it has      troubled adult child or grandchild,   trustees, and agents under durable
been gaining more attention as the      who may be addicted to drugs or       power of attorney. The Bureau
number of elders (defined as age 65     alcohol. (The report is available     currently licenses approximately
and up) grows. According to 2008        online at           500 professional fiduciaries. More
Census Bureau data, California                                                information is available from the
                                        One type of elder financial abuse
is home to more than 4.1 million                                              Professional Fiduciaries Bureau at
                                        that men fall victim to is the
people over age 65 (nearly two-                                     
                                        “Sweetheart Scam.” In this scam,
thirds are women). That number is
                                        a younger woman “befriends” an        There have also been reports that
expected to jump to more than
                                        elderly widower, and soon he is       money paid by seniors to a preneed
9 million by 2030.
                                        giving her money, expensive gifts,    funeral trust were misused. The
In addition to their growing            the keys to his car, and maybe even   Cemetery and Funeral Bureau,
numbers, elders often have              the deed to his house.                another entity of the Department
accumulated assets. Home equity,                                              of Consumer Affairs, has sued
                                        Family members and caregivers
investments, savings, and even                                                one trust company for $14 million.
                                        are not the only ones who are
military or civilian pensions may                                             Consumers who opt for a preneed
                                        exploiting vulnerable elders. In
make elders targets for financial                                             trust should weigh the decision
                                        some cases, the person stealing the
exploitation or abuse.                                                        carefully. More information is
                                        elder’s money is the same person
                                                                              available from the Cemetery and
The people committing these             who was appointed by a judge to
                                                                              Funeral Bureau,
crimes against the elderly are          oversee it.
typically not strangers, experts say.                                         What is being done
                                        A few years ago, several cases
They are often family members,
caregivers, or someone else who
                                        of court-appointed conservators       about the problem?
                                        stealing from their clients came
has gained the victim’s trust.                                                Studies show that most victims of
                                        to light. Experts urged greater
A 2009 Met Life Mature Market In­       oversight. The result was a State     elderly financial abuse do not report
stitute study, Broken Trust: Elders,    law which created the Professional    it. The reasons vary, but in many
Family, and Finances, includes this     Fiduciaries Bureau to license and     cases, the victims don’t report the
description of the typical victim:      regulate professional fiduciaries     crime because they don’t want the
Between 70 and 89 years old,            (also called conservators). The       guilty adult child or grandchild to go
female, frail, and mentally impaired.   Bureau, part of the Department        to jail, they feel responsible for what
She is trusting of others and may       of Consumer Affairs, oversees         happened, they don’t think anyone
be lonely or isolated. She may be       nonfamily professional fiduciaries,   will believe them, or they think
someone financially supporting a        including conservators, guardians,    they will be placed in an institution
                                                                              because they can’t handle their
                                                                              own financial affairs. In some cases,
                                                                              the elder does not believe financial
                                                                              abuse has occurred.

                                                                              Whether reported or not, financial
                                                                              abuse of the elderly has a lasting
                                                                              effect on the victims, their families,
                                                                              and society at large. The crime
                                                                              puts enormous emotional stress on
                                                                              the elders, according to the Met
                                                                              Life study, increasing their risk of
                                                                              depression. The loss of money may
                                                                              impact the elder’s ability to afford
                                                                              basic necessities such as food and
                                                                              medications and may rob them of
                                                                              their independence, and maybe
                                                                              even their home.

4   Consumer ConneCtion | summer 2011
                                                                                  •	 A	caregiver	expresses	exces­
                                                                                     sive interest in the amount of
                                                                                     money being spent on the older
                                                                                  •	 Belongings	or	property	are	
                                                                                  •	 Suspicious	signatures	on	
                                                                                     checks or other documents.
                                                                                  •	 Absence	of	documentation	
                                                                                     about financial arrangements.
                                                                                  •	 Implausible	explanations	
                                                                                     given about the elderly person’s
State and Federal laws require           What are the                                finances by the elder or the
certain professionals to report          warning signs of                            caregiver.
suspicions of financial and other
                                         financial abuse?                         •	 The	elder	is	unaware	of	or	
types of elderly abuse. Mandatory                                                    does not understand financial
reporters in California include          No single indicator can be consid­          arrangements that have been
physicians, home health care             ered proof that a senior is being           made for him or her.
providers, mental health service         financially abused or manipulated.
                                                                                  Source: National Committee for the
providers, law enforcement authori­      Concerned family and friends
                                                                                  Prevention of Elder Abuse
ties, and representatives of financial   should look for patterns or clusters
institutions. Concerned relatives,       of indicators that suggest a
                                                                                  What should you do if
neighbors, or others can also report     problem. For example:
suspicions of elder abuse.
                                                                                  you suspect financial
                                         •	 Unpaid	bills,	eviction	notices,	or	
                                            notices to discontinue utilities.
                                                                                  abuse of an elder?
As Mickey Rooney told the Senate
Committee, “If we all stand strong       •	 Withdrawals	from	bank	ac­             Contact one of the following:
and speak up, we can begin the              counts or transfers between           •	 Adult	Protective	Services.
necessary steps to end the cycle of         accounts that the older person           Check your phone directory or
elder abuse.”                               cannot explain.                          go online to
                                         •	 Bank	statements	and	canceled	            agedblinddisabled/PG2300.htm
How can seniors                             checks no longer mailed to the           for a list of addresses and phone
prevent problems?                           elder’s home.                            numbers. Each county has a
                                                                                     24-hour abuse hotline.
•	 Stay	organized.	Keep	track	of	        •	 New	“best	friends”	who	never	
   your possessions; handle your            leave the elder’s side.               •	 Law	enforcement.	If	the	person	
   own mail; complete and sign                                                       is in immediate danger,
                                         •	 Legal	documents,	such	as	
   your own checks.                                                                  call 9-1-1.
                                            power of attorney, which the
•	 Stay	informed.	Consult	with	             older person didn’t understand        •	 Long-term	care	ombudsman.	If	
   an attorney about your future            at the time he or she signed             the elder resides in a long-term
   plans including power of                 them.                                    care facility, call (800) 231-4024
   attorney; review your will.                                                       to find a long-term care om­
                                         •	 Unusual	activity	in	the	older	
                                                                                     budsman in your area.
•	 Stay	alert.	Do	not	sign	any	             person’s bank accounts
   document unless someone you              including large, unexplained          •	 District	attorney	or	city	
   rust reviews it.                         withdrawals, frequent transfers          attorney; check your phone
                                            between accounts, or ATM                 directory for the office near you
Source: Met Life Mature Market
                                            withdrawals.                             or go online to
Institute, A Study on Elder
                                                                                     for a roster of district attorneys
Financial Abuse Protection,              •	 The	care	of	the	elder	is	not	in	
                                                                                     and city attorneys in each
March 2009                                  line with the amount of money
                                            in of his/her estate.
                                                                                      Department of Consumer affairs      5
Bank on California:
A chance for a   As part of its mission to empower
                 California’s consumers, the Department
better future	   of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is helping
                 make it easier for low- and middle-
                 income people to open checking and
                 savings accounts at financial
                 institutions statewide.
DCA is now administering the Bank on                      Banks and credit unions are also expanding the types
California campaign, which in the past                    of acceptable identification needed to open an
two years has helped more than 200,000                    account. In addition to driver licenses, acceptable
                                                          primary identification may include California State ID,
people open low-cost savings and checking
                                                          passport, military ID, Mexican or Guatemalan
accounts. Bank accounts build credit,                     Consular ID, or permanent resident (green) card.
save money, and create access to loans,                   Some banks or credit unions ask for secondary ID,
credit cards, and other financial services.               too. You should check with the bank or credit union
                                                          ahead of time about specific ID requirements.
“We are pleased to join Bank on California in reaching
those who have been especially marginalized by the        Under the Bank on California model, government
economy,” said DCA’s Acting Director Brian J. Stiger.     entities, financial institutions, and community-based
                                                          organizations collaborate to promote the benefit of
Roughly 11 percent of California’s households do not      bank accounts. Many community organizations also
have a checking account; nearly half have no savings      offer financial education classes to help people learn
account, according to a Brookings Institution report.     how to manage checking accounts, set up household
That’s 5.7 million people with no savings account,        budgets, and build credit.
and 1.2 million with no checking account. Most of
them are young, minority, and low income.                 The campaign is operating in seven major California
                                                          cities (Fresno, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento,
People without bank accounts are more likely to use       Santa Ana, San Francisco, and San Jose) with more
check cashers and payday lenders, and to pay high         to come. Financial institutions participating include
interest charges and high fees for those services. In     Bank of America, Bank of the West, Chase, Citibank,
fact, without a bank account, a consumer will spend       Redwood Credit Union, Safe Credit Union, Visa, Wells
an average of $800 a year to cash checks and pay          Fargo, and others.
bills. In addition, consumers without bank accounts
are not building credit histories that could help them    For more information on participating banks and
secure car loans, credit cards, and even home             credit unions in your area, or for help opening an
mortgages.                                                account, call 2-1-1 from your home or mobile phone.
                                                          For a list of participating partners, educational
Overall, about a third of the households considered       classes, savings calculators and more, visit the Web
“unbanked,” say they don’t have bank accounts be­         site of the participating city near you:
cause they don’t have enough money. Nearly half of
those with household incomes under $50,000 a year          •	 Fresno:
give that reason. That’s why the financial institutions   	•	 Los	Angeles:
participating in Bank on California offer free or low-     •	 Oakland:
cost accounts, some of which can be opened with as        	•	 Sacramento: http://www.bankonsacramento.
little as $1. Many of the accounts have no minimum  
balance and limit overdraft and other fees. These are     	•	 San	Francisco:
called “starter” accounts. “Second-chance” accounts        •	 San	Jose:
may be available for people who’ve had problems in            on_San_Jose
the past with overdrafts and bounced checks. The          	•	 Santa	Ana: http://www.bankonsantaana.
accounts vary by financial institutions.            

                                                          Bank	on	California.	Everyone	is	welcome.

                                                                                  Department of Consumer affairs   7
Spy Cam
                                        Do you ever get the feeling
                                        someone’s watching you?
                                        unfortunately, it can happen

                                        in places you least expect it –
                                        and don’t want it.

Does your computer have eyes?
8   Consumer ConneCtion | summer 2011
Case in point: Recently, Fullerton police arrested a         Other steps to protect yourself include:
man accused of planting a type of “spyware” on
numerous laptop computers which allowed him to               • Password protect any sensitive information. Use
remotely activate each machine’s Web camera and              strong passwords with at least eight characters in a
take photographs of the users.                               combination of letters, numbers, and symbols that’s
                                                             easy for you to remember, but hard for others to guess.
In a news release dated June 8, 2011, police said the        If your computer will be out of your possession, transfer
man worked for a computer service company –                  personal data to an external drive that remains in your
Rezitech, Inc. – that provided residential computer          control and remove it all from the computer’s internal
service to users with Macintosh computers. He also           drive, if possible.
worked on friends’ computers. Shortly after users
picked up their “repaired” computers, they received an       • Regularly run an anti-virus program from a reputable
on-screen message that stated, “You should fix your in­      security software company to reduce the chance of
ternal sensor soon. If unsure what to do, try putting your   having unwanted programs installed or activated. Keep
laptop near hot steam to clean the sensor.” In response      the anti-virus program running at all times and perform
to the message, many of the victims took their laptops       frequent scans to look for and isolate suspicious pro­
into the bathroom while showering. Still images, videos,     grams.
and cell phone videos of women taken surreptitiously
were all seized from the man’s computer.                     • Perform frequent backups of your hard drive.

The Orange County District Attorney said there were          • Use a firewall to help protect your system from
six victims of this scam, all of them adult females. The     potential hackers.
case came to light in the summer of 2010 when a Ful­
lerton resident contacted police about suspicious mes­       • Check with the computer manufacturer if you are
sages that were appearing on his daughter’s computer.        given any direction (such as from a pop-up message)
Authorities said the suspect – a computer science            on what to do with your computer. Representatives can
student – was charged with 12 felony counts of com­          tell you whether or not it is a standard system message
puter access and fraud with sentencing enhancement           or if you should be concerned. They should be able to
allegations for committing a crime for sexual gratifi­       provide advice on what to do in many situations.
cation. Fullerton police said potential victims should
search the “Library/WebServer/Documents” directory           • Be wary of downloading any types of programs
on their laptop for “CamCapture,” which is the program       online – there are spyware, malware, and tracking
they said the suspect used.                                  software programs that are marketed as protection for
                                                             your computer, when in fact their purpose is to gather
So, how do you prevent this from happening                   personal information, induce you to buy more products,
to you?                                                      or potentially cause harm to your hardware or data.
                                                             Research outside of the software vendor’s Web site to
First, businesses that provide computer repair service       check the credibility of the company and its products.
must be registered with the Bureau of Electronic and         There are many independent computer publications
Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insu­         that rate and recommend software.
lation. To check registration status, go to www.bearhfti. and click on the tab “License Verification.”          Still worried about who’s watching you from your com­
                                                             puter’s camera? Consider blocking it with a piece of
Don’t respond to any type of message on your com­            painter’s tape or similar screening object until you’re
puter that cannot be validated or makes what seems to        ready to use it.
be a strange request. Also, if the computer is equipped
with a video camera, make sure it is not on (usually         For more information, visit the Web sites for the Cali­
there is an indicator light), unless you’ve intentionally    fornia Office of Privacy Protection
turned it on.                                                and the Federal Trade Commission www.ftc.go.

                                                                                     Department of Consumer affairs    9
                      Is your

                      home safe?

                     Was your home built in or before 1978? if so, it might contain lead-
                     based paint and asbestos. these materials were used extensively
                     in construction until the u.s. environmental protection agency (epa)
                     restricted their use, so many buildings have them. When they are
                     disturbed during remodeling or demolition, they can create dust and
                     expose workers and building occupants to potential health hazards.

10   Consumer ConneCtion | summer 2011
Lead-based paint was used in more       demolition will still disturb the lead    aSbeStOS
than 38 million homes until it was      paint underneath, potentially harm-       Another concern in many older
banned for residential use in 1978,     ing workers and consumers. For            structures is asbestos. This
according to the epa. Laws are in       example, the amount of lead dust          naturally occurring mineral fiber
place to help prevent exposure to       that can cover a three-by-five-inch       was commonly used in construction
these dangerous substances. Here        card can poison a 1,500-square-           and many other industries because
are some basics you should know.        foot house or apartment, and cause        of its durability and resistance to
                                        it to fail a lead safety inspection,      heat and chemicals. It can be
Lead                                    says the EPA.                             found in wall insulation; paint;
As of April 22, 2010, contractors                                                 sprayed- or troweled-on surfacing
remodeling or demolishing more          That’s why it’s critical to contain the   materials; ceiling and flooring
than six square feet indoors or         work area, use work practices that        materials; pipe, boiler, and duct
20 square feet outdoors must be         minimize dust, and clean up               insulations; cement filler; and a
trained and certified for lead safety   thoroughly.                               variety of other products.
by the EPA to work in homes, child
care facilities, or schools built in    The EPA says lead paint poisoning         By law, any project 100 square feet
or before 1978. They must also          affects more than 1 million children      or more that involves asbestos-
follow specific work practices to       today. Scientific studies show chil-      containing construction materials
prevent lead contamination. To find     dren with high levels of lead in their    must be performed by a
a database of contractors who are       bodies can potentially suffer from:       contractor registered with the
licensed by the Contractors State                                                 California Department of Occupa-
License Board and lead-certified,       •   Damage to the brain and               tional Safety and Health (DOSH).
visit            nervous system                        To find an appropriate contractor,
searchrrp_firm.htm.                     •   Behavior and learning                 visit DOSH’s Asbestos Registrants
                                            problems                              Database at
If you plan to do your own reno-        •   Slowed growth                         bases/doshacru/acrusearch.html.
vation work, you’re exempt from         •   Hearing problems
certification requirements but you      •   Headaches                             For more information, including
should educate yourself about safe                                                general guidelines for handling
practices. The EPA recommends           A blood test is the only way to           products containing asbestos,
that you call your local health de-     determine if an individual has lead       see A Consumer Guide to As-
partment for advice on reducing or      poisoning. Call your doctor or local      bestos from the Contractors State
eliminating exposure to lead-based      health department to arrange for a        License Board. Visit www.cslb.
paint dust. You may also want to        blood test.                      or, or call
consider having a lead inspection.                                                (866) 320-8652 for a copy.
Visit the EPA Web site www.ePa.         Contractors could face fines of up
gov or call (800) 424-LEAD (5323)       to $37,500 for not complying with         Exposure to asbestos can cause
to locate a certified inspector. More   Federal regulations aimed at pro-         several types of serious diseases,
information is available in the EPA’s   tecting them and consumers from           including asbestosis, lung cancer,
booklet, Renovate Right at              exposure to dust from lead-based          and mesothelioma. The likelihood           paints. If you see a worker who you       of developing asbestos-related
terightbrochure.pdf. (Contractors       think is not following procedure or       disease depends on the amount of
are required to provide homeown-        doing something unsafe, the EPA           asbestos you are exposed to, the
ers and tenants with a copy before      recommends that you:                      length of time, and the number of
work begins.)                                                                     times you are exposed. The greater
                                        •   Direct the contractor to              the total exposure, the greater the
The main conduit for lead poison-           comply with regulatory and            chance you will become ill. The
ing is dust. Lead dust comes from           contract requirements.                best way to protect your health and
deteriorating lead-based paint and      •   Call your local health or             the health of your family is to limit
lead-contaminated soil that gets            building department; or               exposure as much as possible.
tracked into the structure. Although    •   Call the EPA’s hotline at
the lead-based paint may have               (800) 424-LEAD (5323).
been covered by nontoxic paints in
subsequent years, remodeling or

                                                                                     Department of Consumer affairs   11
                     The Internet
                                         never forgets
                                         You’ll have to look elsewhere for

                                         evidence of a spiritual afterlife, but

                                         we can say this about the digital

                                         afterlife: It exists, and it remains

                                         long after you’ve joined the ranks

                                         of the dearly departed.

12   Consumer ConneCtion | summer 2011
What should happen to all those      musicians, photographers, and            network sites, for example, will
e-mails, photos, videos, online      others who store their work              allow families to create a memo­
dating profiles, blogs, social       online, there are legal issues sur­      rial page for their loved one. Each
media pages, domain names,           rounding intellectual property or        site will also have instructions on
and other elements of your online    personal brand. For the rest of us,      how family members can access
identity when you’re no longer       the digital evidence of who we           your account. It can be difficult,
around?                              are and what we said or liked or         requiring death certificates and
                                     took pictures of is something to         other documentation. An easier
It became an issue recently          pass to friends or relatives or be       way to handle the matter is to
among the young and the techie       deleted. In the absence of spe­          leave a list of your accounts and
after the untimely deaths of a       cific instructions and passwords,        the login and password informa­
couple of popular bloggers. But,     family members may be unwilling          tion. Include instructions on how
as older folks become more           – or unable – to act. If that hap­       you want the material handled.
computer savvy and younger           pens, part of your identity, your
folks grow older, the topic gains    digital footprint, floats out there in   If that seems like too much to do,
urgency. In fact, a diverse and      cyberspace, maybe forever.               there are businesses that can
loose-knit group of professionals                                             help. Several companies have
in information technology and the    Another factor is family history.        recently sprung up that handle
death care industry held an online   Grandma saved letters, scrap­            personal digital archiving. For a
Digital Death Day “unconference”     books, and pictures in her hope          fee, these companies can provide
recently in the Bay Area to call     chest, Mom kept shoeboxes of             an automated system to store
attention to the issue. More         family photos in her closet. Your        passwords and instructions on
events are planned. Find details     photos, letters, and other materi­       handling your digital accounts.
at       als probably exist only online.          Some online accounts are simply
                                     You may even have hundreds of            permission to use a particular
Another resource is a blog written   digital photos that were never           Web site and will expire after
by Evan Carroll and John Romano      printed. If you don’t make               your death. Other accounts may
called The Digital Beyond            arrangements for someone to              be considered assets. You may
(           handle them after you’re gone,           want to consult an estate planning
which has been featured in sev­      the images of little Lucy’s first        attorney about including digital
eral publications including the      steps may never be seen by her           assets in your will.
New York Times. It is described      grandchildren.
as a “think tank for digital death                                            If you’re considering backing
and legacy issues.” The pair have    Digital material can have histori­       up your online material onto a
also written a book, Your Digital    cal significance, too. Experts who       storage device, think about the
Afterlife: When Facebook, Flickr,    study popular culture use                technology you’ll use. Today’s
and Twitter Are Your Estate,         pictures, letters, journals, and         technology may not be relevant
What’s Your Legacy? (www.your­       other documents to connect               or even usable in a generation’s In an         everyday people to their times.          time. Today’s flash drives or CDs
interview on National Public         We could be the generation that          may become as obsolete as
Radio, the authors suggested         loses those tools.                       yesterday’s floppy disks or
naming a “digital executor” to                                                Super 8 movies. Storing your data
handle your digital belongings.      So, what should you do? First,           online (and sharing the password)
                                     review the policy of the social          could be the safest approach for
The issue is important on two        network or other sites where             keeping your life-affirming digital
levels. For professional authors,    you have accounts. Some social           collection. After all, the Internet
                                                                              never forgets.

                                                                                 Department of Consumer affairs   13
What qualifies as 

a service AnimAl?

     ADA updates its definition

We’ve all seen guide dogs, but           people who are blind or have
guide horses? That’s right. On           low vision use dogs to guide and
March 15, a number of changes            assist them with orientation. Many
to the Federal Americans with            individuals who are deaf use dogs
Disabilities Act (ADA) went into ef­     to alert them to sounds. People
fect, including a new definition of      with mobility disabilities often use
what qualifies as a service animal.      dogs to pull their wheelchairs or
New language also allows for the         retrieve items. People with epilep­
use of miniature horses.                 sy may use a dog to warn them of
                                         an imminent seizure, and individu­
The ADA is a civil rights law that       als with psychiatric disabilities
prohibits discrimination against         may use a dog to remind them to
people with disabilities and opens       take medication.
doors for their full participation in
all aspects of everyday life. The        The revised service animal defini­
new rules not only affect users          tion excludes animals used for
of service animals, but also the         emotional support, well-being,
hospitality industry, retailers, and     comfort, companionship, or crime
other businesses that accommo­           deterrent. Guide dog advocates
date the public. Service animals         hope the new regulations will
are allowed anywhere the public          help eliminate the fraudulent use
is allowed to go.                        of service animals.

The updated regulations now de­          The final rule does not actually
fine a service animal as a dog that      include miniature horses in the
is individually trained to do work       definition of “service animal.”
or perform tasks for the benefit         Instead, it requires public places
of an individual with a disability,      like restaurants, hospitals, and
including a physical, sensory, psy­      government buildings to make
chiatric, intellectual, or other men­    “reasonable modifications” in their
tal disability. For example, many        operations to permit the use of

14   Consumer ConneCtion | summer 2011
Department of Consumer affairs   15
                                                                                clear whether the dog (or minia­
                                                                                ture horse) is not actually a ser­
                                                                                vice animal, the business owner
                                                                                can ask only two questions:

                                                                                •	   Is	the	animal	required	
                                                                                     because of a disability?

                                                                                •	   What	task	has	it	been	trained		
                                                                                     to perform?

                                                                                That’s it. Businesses cannot ask
                                                                                about the disability itself, or
                                                                                require proof or medical
                                                                                documentation as a condition
                                                                                for entry. The Federal law is the
                                                                                baseline – if a local or State law
                                                                                gives more protection for indi­
                                                                                viduals with disabilities, it takes
                                                                                precedence, and vice-versa.

                                                                                These changes were the focus of
trained miniature horses, subject        ADA advocates say you’re not           a comprehensive panel discus­
to certain limitations. This allows      likely to see many guide horses        sion in February hosted by the
flexibility in situations where using    and they are not for everyone.         State Board of Guide Dogs for
a horse would not be appropriate.        But according to the Guide Horse       the Blind in Sacramento. Attor­
                                         Foundation, a nonprofit founded        neys from the U.S. Department of
To consider whether reasonable           in 1999 that trains and provides       Justice and Disability Rights Cali­
modifications in policies, prac­         guide horses, there is a strong        fornia addressed these revisions
tices, or procedures can be made         demand for them among blind            and what they mean to members
to allow a miniature horse into          horse lovers, those who are            of the public, law enforcement,
a specific facility, a public entity     allergic to dogs, and those who        and the business community in
must consider:                           want a guide animal with a longer      California. They provided clar­
                                         lifespan.                              ity on what fits the definition of a
•	   The	type,	size,	and	weight	of                                              service animal and fielded ques­
     the miniature horse and             Under the ADA, service animals         tions from the audience. View the
     whether the facility can            must be harnessed, leashed, or         archived webcast of the gathering
     accommodate those features.         tethered, unless doing this would      at
                                         interfere with the service animal’s    multimedia/webcast_archive.
•	   If	having	the	horse	there	          work or the person’s disability        shtml.
     compromises legitimate              prevents it. In that case, the
     safety requirements                 animal must be controlled through      For more information, visit the
     necessary for safe operation.       voice, signal, or other effective      ADA Web site at,
                                         means.                                 or call (800) 514-0301 (voice) or
Just like a service dog, the horse                                              (800) 514-0383 (TTY).
must be housebroken and under            Public entities may exclude a
the control of its handler. The care     legitimate service animal only if it
or supervision of a service animal       is out of control or is not house­
is solely the responsibility of his or   broken. In cases where it’s not
her owner.

16   Consumer ConneCtion | summer 2011
The State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind licenses and regulates guide dog programs
in California, making sure that instructors are qualified, training is standardized, and
schools are well-managed. California is the only state in the nation to require licensing
of guide dog instructors and schools.

       Guide doG facts:
 •	      Nearly	2,000	Californians	use	guide	dogs.	

 •	      Almost	20	percent	of	all	guide	dog	handlers		
 	       live	in	California.

 •	      The	handler	uses	about	20	different	
 	       commands	to	direct	the	dog.	The	dog,	
 	       trained	through	repetition	and	praise,	will			
 	       disobey	a	command	and	signal	through	its		
 	       rigid	harness	when	it’s	unsafe	to	proceed.	

 •	      You	should	never	pet	a	working	guide	dog		
 	       without	asking	the	handler’s	permission.

 •	      Puppy	raisers	are	volunteers	who	care	for,
 	       train,	and	socialize	guide	dog	puppies.	A			
 	       puppy	lives	with	a	puppy	raiser	for	15	to	
 	       18	months.	

 •	      Guide	dogs	spend	six	months	in	training	
 	       before	meeting	their	human	partners.	Blind	
 	       handlers	spend	about	one	month	training	
 	       with	their	dogs.	

 •	      Like	all	dogs,	guide	dogs	enjoy	playing	
 	       when	they’re	not	working.

 •	      Guide	dogs	work	for	about	six	to	ten	years.		
 	       They	usually	start	working	at	the	age	of	

 •	      Dogs	that	don’t	succeed	as	guide	dogs	are	
 	       “career	change”	dogs.	They	become	family		
 	       pets,	service	or	therapy	dogs,	or	search	and		
 	       rescue	dogs.

                                                                                   Department of Consumer affairs   17
rOunDup Of


                                                         Windshield bullies
                                                         If you have a small crack or chip in your windshield,
                                                         be on the lookout for this scam. Windshield “bullies”
                                                         hang out at gas stations, car washes, office build­
                                                         ing complexes, and even go door-to-door looking for
                                                         customers. They tell you they can fix that windshield
                                                         crack or chip onsite and cheaper than going through
                                                         your insurance company. Their sales tactics are very
                                                         aggressive but there is no guarantee the work will
                                                         be done correctly. If the repair fails, you could end up
                                                         spending more getting it fixed right.

                                                         If you have a cracked or chipped windshield, con­
Osama Bin Laden e-mails                                  tact your insurance company first. An adjuster will
                                                         estimate your out-of-pocket costs to repair or replace
The FBI is warning computer users not to open any
                                                         the windshield. Ask yourself, “Is it better to get the job
e-mail claiming to have photos or video of Osama
                                                         done cheaply or get it done right?” Before you choose
Bin Laden’s death. It’s likely to contain malicious      to do business with a windshield bully, consider both
software known as “malware.”                             the financial and safety consequences of inferior work
                                                         he or she may perform.
If you open one of these e-mails, it will embed itself
into your computer and corrupt your hard drive.
From there, it could take control of your computer to
steal information such as bank account and Social
Security numbers, tax records, and other personal
information. Not only is there risk to your computer
and personal information, it could also spread to all
individuals on your e-mail contact list.

18   Consumer ConneCtion | summer 2011
                                            Airport travel: Keep an eye on your valuables
                                            Recently, a few security agents confessed to stealing money and
                                            valuables from airline passenger bags as the bags passed through
                                            security. To avoid becoming a victim, follow these suggestions:

                                            •	   Whenever	possible,	carry	cash	or	valuables	on	you.	
                                            •	   Never	allow	luggage	or	personal	items	out	of	your	sight	while	they		
                                                 get inspected and scanned.
                                            •	   Take	equal	precaution	with	the	bin	in	which	you	place	your	shoes,		
                                                 keys, wallet, and purse as it’s going through the scanning device.

                                            Individuals most likely to become victims aren’t aware about this type
                                            of crime. Awareness is the first line of defense; taking proper action to
                                            avoid becoming a victim is the second.

Scammers using text messaging
Scammers first began by calling your land line, then moved to send­
ing e-mail messages, and now they’re sending text messages to your
phone. The scams remains the same. The message may look official
and seem like it’s coming from your bank or credit card company,
asking you to verify account numbers or passwords. In reality, these
are scammers trying to catch you. Once you reply it’s too late – they
now they have your personal information.

If you get a telephone call, e-mail, or text message indicating your
credit card has been deactivated, be careful. Most likely, it’s a scam
and there is nothing wrong with your card. It’s just an attempt to get
your credit card number. Scammers do this by asking you to verify
your credit card number so it can be “reactivated.” Don’t fall for it.
Call the toll-free number on the back of your credit card to confirm
the card is active.

                                                                                     Department of Consumer affairs   19

                                                            If you’re a         How do I prove my case?
                                                            consumer with a     You can prove your claim by almost any kind of evidence:
                                                                                a written contract, warranty, receipt, canceled check, letter,
                                                            dispute to solve,
                                                                                professional estimate of damages, photographs, drawings, your
                                                            and other means     own statements, and through witnesses who come to court.
                                                            haven’t worked,
                                                                                How do I know what to do in court?
                                                            small claims        Before the hearing, the courtroom procedures will be
                                                            court is another    explained by the judge, another court officer, or via
                Small Claims Court
                a g u i d e t o i t s p ra cti ca l u s e   option for you.     videotape.
                                                            It’s easier than    How do I collect if I win?
                                                            you might think     The judge will base the decision on evidence, the law and
                                                            – you just have     common sense. The judge may rule for either the plaintiff
                                                                                or the defendant, or may award something to both parties.
                                                            to be organized
                                                                                Sometimes all it takes is a note to the judgment debtor (the
                                                            and use your        person who the judge said owes you money). If that doesn’t
                                                            resources.          work, there are many other methods. Most require a special
                                                                                form from the court, a fee, and assistance from the sheriff.
That’s where our latest publication can help: You can find
                                                                                They include:
nearly everything you need to know about suing and being
                                                                                •	 Wage	garnishment.
sued in the newly updated booklet, The Small Claims Court:
                                                                                •	 Bank	levies	–	money	will	be	taken	from	the	debtor’s	
A Guide to its Practical Use, from the California Department
                                                                                   checking or savings account to pay the judgment.
of Consumer Affairs. Updated for 2011, it includes a list
                                                                                •	 Abstract	of	judgment	–	involves	putting	a	lien	on	any	
of situations in which small claims court might help; tips
                                                                                   land, house, or other building the debtor owns in the
on how to prepare your case, what to do if you’re named
                                                                                   county of the judgment.
a defendant, and how to collect if you win; a checklist,
                                                                                •	 Sheriff	“till-tap”	–	if	the	debtor	is	a	business	with	a	cash	
glossary, and much more. Find it online at
                                                                                   register, the sheriff can go to the place of business and
                                                                                   take enough money out of the till to cover the debt.
                                                                                •	 Sheriff	“keeper”	–	the	sheriff	will	remain	in	the	debtor’s	
Here are some basics from the booklet:                                             business and collect funds that come in until the debt
What should I consider before I file?                                              is paid.
Most claims must be filed within a time limit, called a
                                                                                You can also have the debtor’s driver license suspended for
statute of limitations. You’ll want to establish how much
                                                                                90 days if the judgment is $750 or less, or indefinitely for
you think is owed to you by the other party, and be able
                                                                                higher amounts, simply by completing and submitting forms
to prove it. You can get the necessary forms for filing by
                                                                                Dl 17 and Dl 30, respectively, found at
visiting or writing any small claims court or by accessing the
                                                                                Call DMV’s civil judgment unit at (916) 657-7573 for more
Judicial Council’s self-help Web site at
There are fees associated with filing, but it is possible to
request a waiver using Form FW-001. You should be able to                       What if I’m the one being sued?
name the defendants correctly when you file your claim. If                      Never ignore a court summons. If you don’t come to court,
you don’t, the judgment could be difficult to enforce. You                      the judge may hear and decide the case without you. If a court
can, however, ask the judge to amend it at the hearing, or                      judgment is issued against you, your wages could be garnished
later after the judgment. If you’re not sure which of several                   or your property forcibly taken. Your credit record will also
possible defendants is responsible for your claim, name                         reflect the judgment. Show up in court with any proof that
each one you believe is liable. Get the correct addresses                       works in your favor, such as receipts, contracts, documented
using telephone directories, U.S. Postal Service records,                       conversations (such as e-mails) or canceled checks.
Secretary of State records (for business addresses), city and                   For a free copy of The Small Claims Court: A Guide to
county business records, Internet databases, and, in limited                    its Practical Use, call the publications hotline at
circumstances, Department of Motor Vehicle records.                             (866) 320-8652.

20   Consumer ConneCtion | summer 2011
This edition:

Money SMartS
Everyday financial facts to educate, empower, and amuse

 the road to college is so much more than just grades, extracurricular activities, and test scores. it’s also about who’s paying
 the bill and what the student and parents can afford – to borrow.

 in these tough economic times, the choices can be difficult. as with all decisions, however, advance knowledge is helpful.
 school counselors are key, but parents and students are better prepared if they educate themselves on college financial
 matters, too. Here are some terms commonly used when talking about college financial aid. test your knowledge, then use
 our resources at the end to find out more.

 1.	   What is loan forgiveness?             4.	 What is FaFSa?                           by private lenders. Instead, all new
 a)	    A Federal program that               a)	 A type of sandwich on pita bread.        Federal student loans come directly
       rewards college graduates             b)	 The only time you’ll see “free”          from the U.S. Department of Education.
       for public service                        and “student aid” in the same            Consumer experts say private loans
       employment by forgiving a                 phrase.                                  often have high or variable interest
       portion of their loan.                c)	 Free Application for Federal             rates; government loans are fixed at a
 b)	    Waiving the fee for a late               Student Aid, used by virtually           low rate.
       payment on your student                   all two- and four-year colleges,
       loan.                                     universities, and career schools to      Federal resources
 c)	    A rich uncle stepping up and             determine financial aid.       
       picking up the bill.                                                     
                                             5.	 What is capitalized interest?  
 2.	   What is eFC?                          a) Interest with a capital letter. 
 a)    Extra financial compensation.         b) Interest added to the loan      
 b)    Every family’s crisis.                    balance.                       
 c)    Expected family contribution.         c) Interest that grows over time.
                                                                                          Federal Student aid Information
 3.    What is free tuition?                 Answers: 1, a; 2, c; 3, b; 4, c; 5, b.       Center
 a)    A pipe dream.                                                                      (800)-4-FED-AID or (800) 433-3243
 b)    A program at a handful of             the real deal
       schools that offer no-loan            Everyone knows college costs are go­         Resources from the California
       packages to students from             ing up, but there is some good news.         Student aid Commission
       low-income families.                  The Free Application for Federal Fi­
 c)	    See rich uncle in question 1.        nancial Aid (FAFSA) has gotten simpler
                                             to fill out. Submitting the form online
                                             is even easier. In addition, Federal
                                             student loans are no longer handled

                                                                                             Department of Consumer affairs   21
Department of consumer Affairs
Office of publications, Design & editing
1625 north market Boulevard, suite n-112
sacramento, cA 95834

pDe 11-068 | 6.2011

                               office of publications, design & editing                                        Edmund G. Brown Jr.
         credit                HAzEl AlIG                 AllEN GRIGG                                          AnnA CABAllEro
                               ARIS BAJAR                 lISA KINETz                                          Secretary, State and
                                                                                                               Consumer Services Agency
                               JEAN BRICAREllo            JIM PYERS
                               lAUREl GoDDARD             CARol SToVER                                         BriAn J. stiGEr
                                                                                                               Acting Director, Department of
                               RAMoNA GoDoY               JUNE VARGAS                                          Consumer Affairs

                                                                        nAtiOnAL ASSOciAtiOn
                                                                        Of cOnSumer Agency                                StAte infOrmAtiOn
                                                                          AdminiStrAtOrS                                   OfficerS cOunciL

                                            2009 Winner               Ace Award 2009           2008 Award              2011 silver Award
                       2009 Winner          2008 Winner               Ace Award 2008           of excellence           2010 silver Award
                                                                                                                       2009 silver Award
                                                                                                                       2007 gold Award

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