West Hartford Police Seek Help Identifying Suspect in Alleged Credit Card Fraud

Officer Allen of the West Hartford Police Department is investigating a credit card fraud case in which credit cards were used after being stolen from a purse. He is looking for help in putting the attached photos on the air in hopes of identifying the woman pictured.

Below is a brief summary of the circumstances of the case:

“On 8-27-10 a wallet was stolen from a purse at the West Farms Mall in West Hartford, CT. Within two hours of the wallet being stolen, a credit card in the wallet was used three times, once at Best Buy in West Hartford, once at the CVS on South Main Street in West Hartford, and once at PakMail on Farmington Avenue in West Hartford. The suspect is the older female in the pictures and she may also be a heavy Newport cigarette smoker as she was trying to buy 15 cartons of them with the stolen card. This older white female is a possible suspect in similar incidents in Enfield, CT, and Burlington, MA. Anyone with any information to help identify this woman is asked to call Off. Jeremy Allen of the West Hartford Police at 860-523-2002, xtn. 8333.”

More photos are below:

West Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s “Ellis Island: The Dream of America” Concert October 24th

From a press release:

The West Hartford Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of maestro Richard Chiarappa, begins its 2010-2011 season inaugural concert on Sunday October 24, 3:00 pm, at the Roberts Theater on the campus of Kingswood-Oxford School, 170 Kingswood Road, West Hartford.

The featured work, composed by Hartt graduate Peter Boyer, is the GRAMMY®-nominated “Ellis Island: The Dream of America,” is a multi-media production featuring live actors and a slide show of images collected from the Ellis Island archives. The work was originally commissioned by the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts and premiered by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra in 2002, later broadcast on National Public Radio. For more information about Peter Boyle and “Ellis Island: Dream of America” see http://www.propulsivemusic.com/ellisisland/.

Rounding out the program’s timely and patriotic immigration theme the WHSO will also present the popular Antonin Dvorak Symphony #9 “From the New World.”

Tickets are $15 per person. To order call 860-521-4362 or mail checks to: WHSO, P.O. Box 370036, West Hartford, CT 06137. Tickets can also be purchased securely on-line at www.whso.org, and at the door beginning at 2:15 p.m. the day of the concert.

For directions to the Roberts Theater see http://www.kingswood-oxford.org/. Handicap parking is available via Outlook Avenue off of Farmington Avenue, inside the Kingswood-Oxford main gate. Regular parking may be accessed through the Trout Brook Drive entrance.

Health District Announces 2010 Seasonal Flu Vaccine CLinics

From a press release:

West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District announced the schedule of its 2010 Seasonal Flu Vaccine Clinics for adults age 18 and older. The following is a list of locations and dates:

Thursday, October 7, from 9:30 AM to Noon at the Bloomfield Senior Center 330 Park Avenue, Bloomfield

Thursday, October 21 from 9:30 AM to Noon at the St. Mark’s Parish Center, 467 South Quaker Lane, West Hartford

Thursday, November 4 from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM at the Bloomfield Senior Center 330 Park Avenue, Bloomfield

Tuesday, November 9 from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM at West Hartford Town Hall 50 South Main Street, West Hartford

Medicare Part B is accepted. Information regarding additional insurances that we can bill will be available as it gets closer to the flu season.

CT Watchdog: Companies Earn Praise for Addressing Customer Concerns

By George Gombossy, CTwatchdog.com

When I judge a company’s customer service, I look not only at the number and kinds of complaints, but at how the firms respond.

All companies make mistakes, employees have bad days, and there can be communication problems.

But once someone at the top is made aware of a problem, it needs to be resolved real soon to get an A from me.

The following are two examples of companies that deserve praise for the way they have handled complaints:

Mike Bennett of Windsor Locks wrote to me about a beef he had with Puritan Furniture of West Hartford.

Bennett paid $2,000 for what the saleswoman promised was a large, well-built reclining sofa with a matching loveseat two years ago. A month later, a clip that had held a spring failed. Puritan sent a repairman out and fixed it. Sixteen months later the stitching began to unravel on one of the footrests, and then the recliner mechanism wouldn’t work.

“Unfortunately, the sofas have only a one-year warranty on labor. Puritan does not fix sofas, nor do they involve themselves in the process, instead they give you the phone number for someone that does,” Bennett wrote me in his complaint. “I called the repairman and I was told that it was going to cost us $40 just to have someone come look at it, we would then have to pay even more on top of that to have them fix it. I realize that this is not the repairman’s problem and that he surely deserves to be paid for his time, but we do not have hundreds of dollars to spend on fixing our new couch.”

“The people at Puritan were completely unbending when it came to offering any help. They are your best friend when selling you the furniture, but boy are things different when there is a problem! You’re on your own then,” he wrote asking for my advice.

I looked up Puritan on the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) site and saw that the company, which has been in business for more than 70 years, had only a few complaints filed against it and had the highest possible rating.

I suggested to Bennett that he write to the president of the company, Bruce Singer, and to give him a chance to make amends.

“Well, as I expected, your advice was spot-on! I got a phone call from Mr. Singer and he was very pleasant with me. He apologized for my troubles and offered to replace the mechanisms on both sides of the couch, plus fix the stitching in the footrest, all at no charge,” Bennett wrote me.

Town Fair Tire stores have an excellent reputation for customer service. My friend Denis Horgan recently had a relative visiting at his West Hartford home. The relative’s car had flat tire and Horgan, our travel blogger on CtWatchdog.com, took him to the West Hartford store. For $4.95, they fixed the flat; no charge for the two coffees Horgan had.

But that is not the experience that Kevin and Melanie Logan of Colchester had at the Norwich store. The Logans, longtime customers, say they had a terrible encounter on July 30th when the two complained about wear on their tires. They said they got into an argument with the staff and were treated rudely by an employee when they asked for a partial refund, which was denied.

The couple wrote a letter to the company president:

“You need to seriously consider sending in someone qualified to re-train your staff, because this behavior is unacceptable and we simply cannot be the only ones to have been abused by him or others in this location before. I would not be able to rest if I did not bring this to your attention as I not only felt like I was being verbally abused, but his physical demeanor was threatening as well. If I were there alone, without my husband, I would have been not only shocked, but also scared for my own well being. He was menacing, simple as that. He would not provide us with his last name… however he did wear a ring with skulls on it if that helps,” the couple wrote.

No one responded so the couple asked me for my advice. I contacted Rich Allen, customer service coordinator in East Haven, who conceded that the letter did not reach the president. But he quickly reacted, apologized to the Logans for their experience, and offered them a refund much larger than is provided by the firm’s warranty.

Frankly, I think the Logans are still so furious that they won’t be back to Town Fair, but I would recommend the company to anyone that asked.

You can reach The Watchdog at George@connecticutwatchdog.com and he will answer as many emails as he can. Please check out his site, www.ctwatchdog.com for comprehensive consumer, health, finance, media, internet, computer, travel and education tips.

George Gombossy can be reached at george@connecticutwatchdog.com or you can send him a letter at Connecticut Watchdog, PO Box 23, East Longmeadow, Ma., 01028.

He will respond to as many inquiries and complaints as time permits. Please check out ctWatchdog.com for other consumer, health and finance tips.

West Hartford Trash and Recyclables Pickup Delayed One Day

From a press release:

The collection of trash and recyclables will be delayed one day during the week of September 6th due to the Labor Day holiday. Monday’s collection route will be picked up on Tuesday, Tuesday route will be picked up on Wednesday, and so on. Be sure to put your automated containers at the curb by 6 AM.

Personal Finance: The Need for Power of Attorney

By: Marc Sack, Northstar Wealth Partners

With more Americans living into fragility, POAs and other advanced directives are becoming more important.

The point of the POA. A Power of Attorney is a legal instrument that delegates an individual’s legal authority to another person. If an individual is incapacitated or mentally incompetent, the POA assigns a trusted party to make decisions on his or her behalf.

There are nondurable, springing and durable Powers of Attorney. A nondurable Power of Attorney often comes into play in real estate transactions, or when someone elects to delegate their financial affairs to an assignee during an extended absence. A springing Power of Attorney “springs” into effect when a specific event occurs (usually an illness or disability affecting an individual).1

A “durable” Power of Attorney allows an assignee, or Agent, to act on behalf of a second party, or Principal, even after the Principal is not mentally competent or physically able to make decisions. Once a Principal signs (executes) a durable Power of Attorney, it may be used immediately, until it is either revoked by the Principal or the Principal dies.1

Of course, even after a POA goes into effect, the Principal can still make financial and legal decisions on his or her own. The Principal can also elect to have the POA take effect immediately, not just at a point in the future when they lose the ability to make these decisions. You can also appoint multiple Agents. 2

What the POA allows in financial terms. Financially, a Power of Attorney is a tremendously useful instrument. An Agent can pay bills, write checks, make investment decisions, buy or sell real estate or other hard assets, sign contracts, file taxes, even arrange the distribution of retirement benefits.3

Of course, a POA can stipulate what an Agent can and can’t do financially. There are some things that are expressly forbidden, no matter what you stipulate. For example, your Agent can’t use your assets on his or her behalf (which often constitutes elder abuse) or change or write a will. But he or she can establish a trust.3

Advanced healthcare directives: HCPOAs and Living Wills. Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS and other maladies can eventually rob people of the ability to articulate their wishes, and this is a major reason why people opt for a Health Care Power of Attorney or a Living Will. There are differences between the two.

A Health Care Power of Attorney (also called a “healthcare proxy”) allows an Agent to make medical decisions for a Principal, should that loved one become incapacitated or mentally incompetent. A person does not have to be facing death for a HCPOA to be put into effect.

A Living Will gives an assignee similar powers of decision, but this advanced directive only applies when someone faces certain death. It may articulate whether the loved one wants to be hospitalized at the end of life, or have surgery, blood transfusions, resuscitation, or other medical procedures administered. The assignee has the authority to carry out the wishes of the incapacitated party.

It is a wise move to draft these documents and have them in place before a diagnosis of some degenerative or crippling disease, or at least immediately after one. A HCPOA or Living Will must comply with state laws.

Who should have copies of these healthcare directives? You, your attorney, any doctors treating your loved one, and any hospital, assisted living facility, or nursing home involved in his or her care. Assuming you are the assignee, another copy should be in the hands of a family member or friend you trust in case anything debilitating happens to you.

A hitch: the HIPAA Privacy Rule. In 2003, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) became law, and it stated that an employee’s confidential health records must be protected from unauthorized dissemination. So today, a Health Care Power of Attorney should include an “Authorization for Disclosure of Protected Health Information”. This permits a health care provider to transmit PHI to doctors and hospitals under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Without it, you could have a problem in a medical emergency, because most health care providers won’t provide PHI without the express written authorization of the patient (a HIPAA medical release form). In fact, doctors and hospitals can face fines and sanctions for violating the HIPAA Privacy Rule.4

No power without a signature. Please remember: no Power of Attorney, HCPOA, or Living Will is valid unless it is signed and notarized and/or properly witnessed. It seems unthinkable that some people would draft these documents and never sign them … but to borrow an analogy, some smoke detectors are bought but never installed.

Would you like to learn more? Then meet with an eldercare or estate planning attorney. You can find one with the help of an insurance advisor knowledgeable about long term care and eldercare issues, or with the help of a financial consultant who has assisted families with legacy planning. Now is the best time to understand these options.

1 oag.state.ny.us/seniors/pwrat.html
2 scselfservice.org/probate/finan/powersatty.htm
3 scselfservice.org/probate/finan/powersatty.htm
4 hawaiielderlaw.com/estate-planning/hipaa-critical-new-law.html

Marc Sack is a Representative with NorthStar Wealth Partners/LPL Financial and may be reached at www.NSTARWP.com, 860-665-7737 or msack@nstarwp.com.

Last Call for Participants to Sign up to be in the Park Road Parade

From a press release:

Last call to sign-up your group up to participate in the upcoming Park Road Parade on Saturday, October 2, 2010 at 10:30 AM. This zany and wildly popular parade draws over 10,000 people each year from West Hartford and beyond. You should be a part of it!

The Park Road Parade comprises over 100 contingents that include clubs, organizations, schools, churches, bands, sport leagues, clowns, businesses, antique cars, and public officials. Anything goes in this parade, from simple banners with marchers sporting the same T-shirt, to elaborate costumes, dance numbers and floats. Come join us!

The parade begins at South Highland and Park Road and ends at South Quaker Lane and lasts about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

The genesis of the parade started in 1998 as a celebration to a two-year road reconstruction and beautification project which bonded both businesses and residents of the area. Since then the parade has grown bigger and better.

Sign up today by filling out the form found on the parade website:

www.westhartford.org/ParkRoadParade. If you have any questions, call Renée McCue at 561-7521 or email her at renee@westhartford.org.

Becker Wins Primary for 19th District Seat

West Hartford Attorney Brian Becker won yesterday’s Democratic primary for the 19th District House seat. The West Hartford News reports unofficial results have Becker, the party endorsed candidate, leading Board of Education member Terry Schmitt 1,320 to 1029. A number of absentee ballots had yet to be counted, although Schmitt conceded the race late last evening.

Becker will now face West Hartford Town Council Minority Leader Denise Berard Hall to fill the seat being vacated by Beth Bye.

Watch our prior coverage on the race to learn more about the candidates:

Profile of Becker and Schmitt
Denise Hall Profile

CT Watchdog: Credit Errors Can Impact Loan Eligibility

By George Gombossy, CTwatchdog.com

In these days of tight mortgage lending standards, getting your home refinanced can be a real challenge, even if you have equity and good credit.

Tim McCarroll of Cromwell faces an additional hurdle: Connecticut Natural Gas damaged his outstanding credit rating by incorrectly telling credit rating agencies that McCarroll was a deadbeat.

And when McCarroll contacted CNG and the state attorney general’s office for help, no one appeared to get overly worked up about the problem until McCarroll asked for my help, and a public relations mess was in the offing.

It was only after I sent McCarroll’s email to CNG spokesman John Dobos Jr. and to the PR staff at the attorney general’s office that CNG apologized and promised to work quickly to clean up the mess it created.

It was only after McCarroll tried to refinance his home through Webster Bank that he learned a collections agency was trying to locate him for allegedly failing to pay a CNG bill. The mortgage officer told a stunned McCarroll that because of that black mark, his $200,000 mortgage would end up costing an extra $4,000 to refinance. No one had tried to contact him about the bill, McCarroll said.

He immediately called CNG, where the service representative checked a database and quickly established that McCarroll was never a CNG customer and that someone with a similar name had the account and had apparently used McCarroll’s social security number.

He was also told that is a frequent problem because CNG has so many new customers it doesn’t have the time to check everyone’s social security number to make sure it belongs to the new customer, since state regulators require quick hookups.

The customer service representative refused to provide McCarroll with free credit monitoring to make sure the problem doesn’t crop up again, but did agree to start the process of clearing his credit report.

“I would love to prevent this for future people or myself,” he wrote me. “There is no way to prevent this unless the companies opening these accounts are held responsible. I have no idea now if someone has utilities on using my SS Number and wouldn’t find this out until they stop payment and some company puts it to collections, then it hits my credit report – it’s not like a credit card or line of credit, which hits right away.”

After I notified Dobos that I was pursuing this case, McCarroll’s issue got the attention it should have had in the first place. He was given an apology, free credit report checks and CNG promised to move quickly to mitigate the damage to his credit rating.

Dobos did not challenge McCarroll’s version of events and said the customer representative would receive retraining.

“CNG has policies and procedures in place designed to detect the warning signs — or ‘red flags’ — of identity theft in our day-to-day operations,” Dobos wrote me. “Our procedures have changed and developed over the years and our vigilance in protecting customers has improved. We have incorporated new available technology and internet products that now allow us to conduct identity checks on every new account.”

But he said “identity issues still occur on accounts, particularly if they were opened in prior years when identity theft was not as prevalent. When a customer brings to our attention a potential identify theft, we work with the customer to verify errors, issue them a letter acknowledging any error, and submit corrected information to the credit bureaus.”

A good way to avoid this problem is to check your credit reports at least once a year – it’s free.

George Gombossy can be reached at george@connecticutwatchdog.com or you can send him a letter at Connecticut Watchdog, PO Box 23, East Longmeadow, Ma., 01028.

He will respond to as many inquiries and complaints as time permits. Please check out ctWatchdog.com for other consumer, health and finance tips.

How Long Term Care Insurance can Help Protect Your Assets

By: Marc Sack, Northstar Wealth Partners

How will you pay for long term care? The sad fact is that most people don’t know the answer to that question. But a solution is available.

As baby boomers leave their careers behind, long term care insurance will become very important in their financial strategies. The reasons to get an LTC policy after age 50 are very compelling.

Your premium payments buy you access to a large pool of money which can be used to pay for long term care costs. By paying for LTC out of that pool of money, you can preserve your retirement savings and income.

The cost of assisted living or nursing home care alone could motivate you to pay the premiums. Genworth Financial conducts a respected annual Cost of Care Survey to gauge the price of long term care in the U.S. The 2010 report found that in 2010, the median annual cost of a private room in a nursing home is $75,190 or $206 per day – $14,965 more than it was in 2005.

A private one-bedroom unit in an assisted living facility has a median cost of $3,185 a month – which is 12% higher than it was in 2009.

The median payment to a non-Medicare certified, state-licensed home health aide is $19 in 2010, up 2.7% from 2009.[1]

Can you imagine spending an extra $30-80K out of your retirement savings in a year? What if you had to do it for more than one year?

AARP notes that approximately 60% of people over age 65 will require some kind of long term care during their lifetimes.[2]

Why procrastinate? The earlier you opt for LTC coverage, the cheaper the premiums. This is why many people purchase it before they retire. Those in poor health or over the age of 80 are frequently ineligible for coverage.

What it pays for. Some people think LTC coverage just pays for nursing home care. That’s inaccurate. It can pay for a wide variety of nursing, social, and rehabilitative services at home and away from home, for people with a chronic illness or disability or people who just need assistance bathing, eating or dressing.[3]

Choosing a DBA. That stands for Daily Benefit Amount – the maximum amount that your LTC plan will pay per day for care in a nursing home facility. You can choose a Daily Benefit Amount when you pay for your LTC coverage, and you can also choose the length of time that you may receive the full DBA on a daily basis. The DBA typically ranges from a few dozen dollars to hundreds of dollars. Some of these plans offer you “inflation protection” at enrollment, meaning that every few years, you will have the chance to buy additional coverage and get compounding – so your pool of money can grow.

The Medicare misconception. Too many people think Medicare will pick up the cost of long term care. Medicare is not long term care insurance. Medicare will only pay for the first 100 days of nursing home care, and only if 1) you are getting skilled care and 2) you go into the nursing home right after a hospital stay of at least 3 days. Medicare also covers limited home visits for skilled care, and some hospice services for the terminally ill. That’s all.[2]

Now, Medicaid can actually pay for long term care – if you are destitute. Are you willing to wait until you are broke for a way to fund long term care? Of course not. LTC insurance provides a way to do it.

Why not look into this? You may have heard that LTC insurance is expensive compared with some other forms of policies. But the annual premiums (about as much as you’d spend on a used car from the late 1990s) are nothing compared to real-world LTC costs.[4]

Ask your insurance advisor or financial advisor about some of the LTC choices you can explore – while many Americans have life, health and disability insurance, that’s not the same thing as long term care coverage.

genworth.com/content/etc/medialib/genworth_v2/pdf/ltc_cost_of_care.Par.85518.File.dat/Executive%20Summary_gnw.pdf [4/10]

2 – aarp.org/families/caregiving/caring_help/what_does_long_term_care_cost.html [11/11/08]

3 – pbs.org/nbr/site/features/special/article/long-term-care-insurance_SP/ [11/11/08]

4 – longtermcare.gov/LTC/Main_Site/Paying_LTC/Private_Programs/LTC_Insurance/index.aspx [6/25/09]

Marc Sack is a Representative with NorthStar Wealth Partners/LPL Financial and may be reached at www.NSTARWP.com, 860-665-7737 or msack@nstarwp.com.