Be Mindful with your Vaccination Card

As more and more people are getting vaccinated, many are excited to share the news with everyone. Others want to protect the document like a precious commodity. But once you have that bright white card in your hand, several sources are warning against doing many of the things that may be your first impulse. Find out what you shouldn’t be doing, and why, below.

Don’t post pictures of your vaccination card on social media.

In the era of social media and social distancing, it is hard to resist sharing any news with your social networks on sites like Facebook. However, government organizations have warned against sharing pictures of your vaccination card online. While it may seem harmless, your vaccination card does have sensitive information. In addition to your name and birthday, it may also include medically sensitive information that could be used to track down even more details about you. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that “identity theft works like a puzzle, made up of pieces of personal information” – the more small details about you that scammers have access to, the more likely they are to have the information they need to fraudulently claim your tax refund, open new accounts in your name, or commit other forms of identity theft.

Don’t laminate your card right away.

Many of us are anticipating that having proof of vaccination will be almost as important as ID in the near future, so it makes sense that you may want to laminate yours to help keep it safe. Though some companies are offering free lamination, you should probably hold off and consider a few things beforehand. First, double check your information on the card – is all of your personal information correct? If you received a 2-dose vaccine, have both does been documented? Second, make sure you have a backup. Just in case your card is lost or damaged, it is good practice to keep a copy – like a photocopy or a picture on your phone.

Money Saving Tip: Use Your Age to Your Advantage

If you’re a senior, there are many discounts and services available exclusively to you. Look for senior discounts when shopping, dining, and for services and entertainment. Check to see if your city or county offers senior programs and resources. Many jurisdictions offer assistance specific to the needs of the area. Finally, consider joining a senior discount club. Depending on your current spending habits, it may be worthwhile to join a membership service such as AARP, The Seniors Coalition, or The American Seniors Association (ASA).

Happy 4th of July! Be Sure to Celebrate Safely!

Photo by Lucas Sankey on Unsplash

For many, the 4th of July is the ultimate summer celebration: hot weather, outdoor gatherings, grilled foods, and, of course, fireworks. Beautiful though they are, fireworks cause thousands of wildfires on an annual basis, leading to millions in property damage. With California in drought conditions and fire season worsening each year, we wanted to take a moment to address fireworks and safety for this holiday.

Consider skipping the fireworks altogether. Tempting though it is to use fireworks at your own celebration, they can be very dangerous. In a study published last year regarding fires in the U.S., the authors found that from 1992 to 2015, humans ignited more wildfires on July 4th than any other day of the year.

This year, many fire experts are urging people to just skip the pretty combustibles altogether. A small spark in the wrong place can be enough to turn into a full, raging fire. According to AccuWeather, 2020 saw record-breaking fires. In California alone, the 2020 wildfire season burned over 4.3 million acres, more than double the previous state record. This year, drought conditions are making many think that the 2021 wildfire season will be just as, if not more, dangerous.

Any fire in California right now could spell big trouble, but you should take extra care around your mobile home. Older mobile homes especially are vulnerable to fire, and can go from a small flame to fully engulfed in mere minutes.

What could you do instead of at-home fireworks? Maybe this is the year to stick to seeing fireworks shows at a local event manned by professionals. You could watch recordings of fireworks on TV. Or, maybe this can be the year that you use those pretty Christmas lights in the summer, since we never really want to take them down anyway. Just string up some pretty lights and use your imagination – it could be all the lovely light of fireworks without the noise and danger!

Whatever you choose to do, we wish you a safe and happy holiday!

Spotting Scams: Robocalls

Robocalls are phone calls that play a recorded message when you answer. They can be easy to identify when they use an automated, robot-like voice, but some use a recording of a real person timed with breaks in the audio to make it sound like you’re talking to a real person.

There are some legal reasons for robocalls, but if you are getting a lot of these calls trying to sell you something, they are likely illegal or even a scam. Even from real companies, robocalls trying to sell you something are illegal unless they have your express written permission to contact you with robocalls. However, if someone is already willing to break the law to illegally contact you, it’s likely to also be a scam.

If you get an illegal robocall, just hang up. Do not press any numbers, even if the recording claims that you can do so to stop the calls. You can help fight robocalls by reporting those you receive to the Federal Trade Commission at DoNotCall.gov. The FTC will want to know your phone number, the number that called you (even if you think it’s fake), and any phone numbers the robocall may have told you to call back. They will also want the exact date and time of the call if you know it.

For more information about robocalls, visit the FTC’s website.

Money Saving Tip: Keep an Eye out for Coupons

Many businesses send out coupon mailers for products and services you may already be using. Some stores also print coupons on receipts that can be applied to future purchases and many businesses offer price matching with competitor stores. You can also go for the good, old-fashioned Sunday edition of the newspaper, which usually features lots of coupons for brand name household items like groceries and hygiene products. Finally, if you have a smartphone or a computer, there are many apps and online resources to help locate discounts and coupons, such as Retail Me Not and Honey, or that pay you back for shopping, like Rakuten, Drop, and Checkout 51. And many stores have individual rewards programs or additional savings through their website or mobile app.

Governor Newsom: Aim to fully reopen California by June 15

On April 6, following the administration of over 20 million does of COVID-19 vaccinations, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the state’s next step in pandemic recovery: the state will fully open the economy on June 15, 2021 if two criteria are met.

The requirements are as follows: first, vaccine supply must be sufficient for Californians 16 years and older who wish to be inoculated and second, hospitalization rates must be stable and low.

Since this announcement, California has remained on track to reach this milestone, meaning that most everyday places will be open without capacity limits or social distancing requirements. Masks may still be required indoors or at large events, depending on current state and local guidelines.

Stay up to date with California’s reopening plan by checking out Beyond the Blueprint. See the flyer about the June 15th reopening here.

You Could Be a Millionaire Just by Getting Vaccinated!

As part of California’s initiative to get as many people vaccinated as possible, the state has announced an incentive program called Vax for the Win. The program includes a lottery for California residents who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Vaccinated Californians are eligible to win up to $1.5 million!

What are the prizes?

Ten winners will be selected to receive $1,500,000 each. Thirty winners will receive $50,000 each.

When are the winners selected?

The drawings will occur on two days – June 4 and June 11. Fifteen winners for the $50,000 prize will be selected on June 4, 2021. On June 11, fifteen more winners will be chosen for $50,000 and ten winners will be selected for the $1,500,000 prize!

How do I enter?

Vaccination is your entry! Just by getting your vaccine, you are automatically entered into the lottery. If you’ve only gotten your first dose, you are still eligible.

Still need a vaccine?

There’s still time! Vaccines are free to everyone and beginning May 27, the first two million Californians to start and complete their vaccination will receive a $50 gift card!

For more information and full terms and conditions, visit the Vax for the Win website.

After You’ve Been Vaccinated

So you’ve gotten your vaccine. Congratulations! You’re probably tempted to immediately have large meetups with friends and family you haven’t seen in months, get out of the house as much as possible, and ditch that uncomfortable mask forever. But before switching back to the same behaviors from pre-COVID days, remember that we are still learning about COVID-19 and how the vaccines work in real world conditions. For you this means that while some things have changed, other aspects of our “new normal” remain the same.

Even after being vaccinated, you should continue practicing health and safety guidelines when in public or around people from multiple households, including social distancing and, yes, wearing those darn masks. While we are still learning about how vaccines impact the spread of COVID-19, think of them like an extra layer of armor against the virus – you are more protected, but not completely invincible. No one enjoys the all of the extra safety precautions that have been imposed during the pandemic. But the fastest way out is through, so it is imperative that we all continue doing what we can to slow and prevent the spread of the virus, including maintaining safety precautions after being vaccinated.

Recipients are not considered fully vaccinated until 2 weeks after receiving the full dosage – 2 weeks after your second shot for Pfizer and Moderna, or 2 weeks after your single shot for Johnson & Johnson.

Things you should continue to do:
– Take safety precautions like before, including wearing a mask, socially distancing, and avoiding crowds while in public, gathering with people from multiple households, visiting with those at increased risk.

– Avoid domestic and international travel.

– Follow safety guidance at work.

– Watch for COVID-19 symptoms

There are some new things you CAN do. While the vaccine isn’t a free-for-all pass to go back to how things were, you can make some changes that feel closer to “normal”. If you’ve been fully vaccinated, you can:

– Gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without masks.

– Gather indoors with unvaccinated people from 1 other household without masks, unless any of them have and increased risk, or are in contact with those who do.

– If you have been exposed to COVID-19 and do not have symptoms, you do not need to quarantine or get tested, unless you live in a group setting.

What we’re still learning:
While we know that the vaccines are effective in preventing COVID-19, we’re still learning about different applications in real life, like how effective they are against variants of the virus, how well it keeps people from spreading the disease, and how long the vaccine actually protects people. With these things in mind, please remember that keeping you and everyone around you safe is the top priority.

Information about COVID-19 and the vaccines are constantly evolving. To monitor updates and learn more about the vaccines, visit cdc.gov. To make an appointment visit myturn.ca.gov. You can also make appointments directly through some vaccination sites. To find vaccination sites near you, check out vaccinefinder.org.

Spotting Scams – What is spoofing?

Spoofing is a technique where scammers “spoof” or falsify their identifying information to make you think it is coming from a trusted source. More advanced scammers can even make their caller ID show up on your phone as a known contact, like a family member. Other common techniques involve sending emails with official-looking logos for valid businesses, but the user’s email address will be from a personal account (ex. user@hotmail.com) instead of from an official business account for the organization they claim to represent.

Tax Day Extended to May 17, 2021

Did April 15th pass by without you filing your 2020 income taxes? You still have time! Both the IRS and California Franchise Tax Board have extended the tax deadline for 2020 federal and state income tax returns. The deadline, previously April 15th, has been extended to May 17, 2021 to allow additional time for those who may need it due to COVID-19. This extension applies only to individual income taxes. For more information, visit irs.gov or ftb.ca.gov.