Beware first responder charity scams

via Firefighter charity scams use emotional appeal to encourage donations,

PDF: Beware first responder charity scams

Every day, people in nearly every community put their lives on the line to protect our lives and property. First responders often work with low pay, in dangerous situations and with little or no recognition despite performing daily heroic acts facing criminals, running into danger and keeping our communities safe. Without police, firefighters, paramedics and others to do this work, our communities wouldn’t be places in which we’d want to live.

Many first-responder units are supported by charities that raise funds to help those injured in the line of duty, as well as helping family members who are left behind when a first responder dies in the line of duty. Over the past decades, charity organizations have also helped finance the purchase of needed equipment, funded counseling services and helped support first responders’ kids’ education.

But we are increasingly hearing about “charities” calling people to request donations but are really scams designed to appeal to donors’ emotions and appreciation for the work of first responders. Recently, Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, who is also the state fire marshal, warned Mississippians about a phone scam in which callers requested donations for members of the fire service.

The state fire marshal’s office reported receiving numerous reports that someone has been calling to solicit funds for the Fallen Firefighters Association and the Mississippi Firefighters Association, as well as someone calling fire stations to seek donations for the Mississippi State Fire Academy. But, Chaney warned, it’s all a ruse.

“These organizations and the State Fire Academy do not raise funds in this manner; these calls are most often scams operating in our state,” Chaney said.

Scammers often use an emotional appeal to encourage donations and may use the name of a real organization to solicit funds. In some cases, they’ll use names that are very similar to more well-known organizations to trick you into thinking you’re supporting the better-known organization.

If you get a call like this, remember that just because someone says they’re calling on behalf of a particular organization doesn’t mean it’s true. And, Chaney added, “Do not give out any personal information via phone or email to anyone who calls you about a donation like this.”

Although a particular fund-raising organization may be legitimately soliciting funds for a local department, they often take a major part of donated funds to pay for the fund-raising, so ask how much of your donated dollar will go directly to help first responders.

And even if the solicitation sounds legitimate, you don’t have to make a decision over the phone. Ask for them to send you something in the mail and follow up with a call to your local police or fire department to verify the caller’s information and ask whether that’s the best way to help.

If you believe you’ve gotten a suspicious fund-raising call, you can report the number to the Consumer Division of the attorney general’s office at 601-359-4230 or 1-800-281-4418.


We’re not saving enough

via Are you putting money away in savings?,

PDF: Not Saving for the Future

If you were to ask the people around you to tell you honestly whether they are putting money away in savings, some would proudly nod their heads and reply that, yes, they are trying to put something aside for the future. Others would probably sheepishly look at you and reply that they would like to but can’t put aside as much as they would like. Still others would give you a blank stare, as if they didn’t understand the question and wonder why anyone would ask such a thing.

In this credit-fueled age, saving has become an antiquated concept for some people. But it wasn’t always so; saving money was something many of us were taught to do from childhood, and many children grew up in families that required them to save for things they wanted, instead of buying on credit.

Having money in savings is just as much a path to financial independence as it was 50 years ago; savings is a bulwark against many things that can ruin your financial future: job loss, unexpected expenses, medical problems and many others. On a larger scale, individual savings have traditionally been an indicator of a nation’s financial health.

I was reading through a recent study by about Americans’ savings habits, and it doesn’t provide a lot of good news. According to the report, one in five workers say they aren’t saving anything, and a substantial percentage of those aren’t saving enough. All this is despite positive economic indicators.

“With a steady, significant share of the working population saving nothing or relatively little, it’s virtually guaranteed that they’ll be unable to afford a modest emergency expense or finance retirement. That amounts to a financial fail,” stated Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at

Apparently, many employed people who would like to be saving aren’t doing it because they’re living beyond their means. Nearly 40 percent of those responding to the survey listed other expenses as the roadblock to putting money away. Others (16 percent) said their jobs just don’t pay enough or they just “haven’t gotten around to it.” Thirteen percent blamed debt, while about 6 percent said they don’t need to save money, either because they think they have enough or don’t see it as important.

The study did reveal a couple of bright spots, though: Millennials report saving at higher rates than their parents and are second only to their grandparents. “Among age groups, younger Millennials (aged 18-27) were second only to seniors between the ages of 64 and 72 years old,” the report noted.

There are many great ways to start putting money away. Most financial websites have some great ideas for developing ways to become a better manager of your money, and making it work for you (instead of the other way around). Here are three:

  • Create a spending plan and follow it. A good budget that includes setting aside money for the future will not only help you be a better master of your money, it will help you develop your long-term financial security.
  • Take advantage of employee matching. Many employers offer to match money you put into a retirement fund. This will effectively double your contribution, and many people are leaving money on the table if they don’t take advantage of this common benefit.
  • Encourage your kids to save. There are many great ways to teach children good savings habits. One common approach is the Moonjar or similar approaches, in which kids take their allowance, birthday money or other income and divide into three containers for saving, spending and giving. As the amount of money in the jars grows, they will develop solid habits that can last their entire lives.

And if you’re interested in teaching financial literacy to your kids, there are many great resources out there. My personal favorite is, which is run by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Saving can be hard to learn, but just like nearly everything else that requires us to change our habits, it takes time, commitment and dedication. Arming yourself with the right tools is the first step towards taking control of your money.

Fraud: Medicare seeks to thwart ID thieves with new card numbers

via Fraud: Medicare seeks to thwart ID thieves with new card numbers,

PDF: New Medicare Cards

Mississippians should start getting their new Medicare cards this summer, the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced recently. The agency is sending a new Medicare card to all 60 million or so Medicare beneficiaries (including more than 560,000 in Mississippi), as part of a long-awaited shift away from using the Social Security number as the card’s identifier.

However, don’t get in a rush in anticipation; Mississippi residents will be among the last set of states to get their new cards. Although the CMS will start mailing cards in April to residents in some states, the agency is using a seven-phase roll-out of the card distribution, and the agency states that Magnolia State beneficiaries will start getting their cards “after June 2018.” Don’t feel slighted, though; residents of Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Tennessee and the U.S. Virgin Islands are all scheduled to get their cards in Phase 7 as well.

CMS has been under pressure the past several years to replace the Medicare Beneficiary Identifier, which has traditionally been the same as the beneficiary’s Social Security number. In 2015, Congress passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, which requires Medicare to replace the old identifiers with a new, 11-character Medicare Beneficiary Identifier by April 2019.

Identity theft has become such a big problem in recent years that most agencies and businesses have stopped using the Social Security number as a primary identifier. While it was once convenient, the Social Security number became widely used by identity thieves. The bad news is that scammers are still trying to get consumers to give up their Social Security numbers by using a variety of tactics.

A 71-year-old man in Austin, Texas, told a local TV station recently that he’d gotten five calls in a single day from scammers who promised to pick up the card in exchange for money. Others have reported getting calls claiming they have to send in their old cards before the new ones can be mailed, being threatened with loss of benefits, or told their cards are expiring. Don’t believe any of it.

CMS notes that no one will call you about the new card, and you don’t have to do anything. It will come in the mail to you at the address Medicare has on file for you. And if you talk to somebody in another state who has already gotten their card but yours hasn’t yet arrived, don’t fret; remember that the cards are being sent out gradually, state-by-state. Once you get your new card, destroy the old one immediately (but keep your Medicare Advantage card) and put the new one in your wallet or purse. It’s important to protect it as you would any other sensitive information. Physicians and other providers who bill Medicare are already getting instructions about the new cards, and how to implement them in their systems so they should have no trouble with your new card.

For more information, visit

Debt collection tops national complaints list

via Debt collection tops national complaints list,

In November, the consumer website Nerdwalletreported that the average American is carrying $15,654 in credit card debt, amounting to about $905 billion. Those staggering numbers mean a substantial portion of the U.S. population is in hock to a degree unmatched in history. It also means a lot of those debtors are going to miss some payments and let their debts lapse, leading to calls from collection agencies.

Some of those calls during 2017 led to complaints to various public and private agencies in the U.S. and Canada, which in turn reported them to Consumer Sentinel, a government-owned database. Consumer Sentinel issues an annual list of the most common complaints reported by consumers. While collection agency complaints topped the list this year and accounted for about 23 percent of all the 2.7 million complaints filed, there was actually some good news for the industry: Collection-agency complaints were down from the previous year.

The Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2017 Snapshot provides a good look at some of the things about which consumers are angry. Fraud is a rising concern, with consumers reporting that they lost $905 million this year. Two types of fraud rounded out the Top 3 this year: identity theft and imposter scams.

Mississippi was about the middle of the pack (27th) when compared with per-capita rates in other states for the number of reports filed. Of the more than 15,000 reports filed by Mississippians in 2017, the percentage tracked national numbers for debt-collection reports (23 percent), which topped the list.

In all, 2,064 Mississippians reported being victimized by identity thieves, with the numbers being evenly split among tax- or employment-related identity theft and credit-card fraud (the actual number is probably much higher, because many consumers don’t report being victimized. And some of those are probably attributable to the “W-2 Scam,” in which businesses and organizations get an email pretending to be from the IRS and asking for information on their employees. Many organizations have taken the bait, providing sensitive information to scammers.

Nationwide, nearly 14 percent of consumers who complained did so after being hit by identity thieves, who stole their credit card information then used it to steal. Tax fraud was also a big category of identity theft, primarily caused by thieves who filed fraudulent tax returns, then made off with the refund that should have gone to the taxpayer.

“While we received fewer overall complaints in 2017, consumers reported losing more money to fraud than they did the year before, “said Tom Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “This underscores the importance of the FTC’s work in educating consumers and cracking down on the scammers who try to take their money.”

For the first time, the 2017 data book includes details on fraud losses broken out by age groups, noted the FTC in a news release. Millennials were the most common fraud victims, with about 40 percent reporting losing money to fraudsters. While people over age 70 were frequently victimized as well, the percentage was lower — about 18 percent of them saying they lost money. But when they were hit, the older consumers lost more on average.

In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a big increase in imposter scams, in which a scammer pretends to be a government official, tech support representative, a loved one in trouble or someone else so they can get victims to send money. “Consumers reported losing substantially more money to imposter scams — a total of $328 million — than any other type of fraud,” said the agency. Nearly one in five consumers who reported an imposter scam indicated they lost money to the fraud.

Here are a few more highlights of the report:

  • The average victim lost $429, but consumers who reported travel, vacation and timeshare fraud reported losing a median amount of $1,710 — the highest individual loss amount compared with other scams.
  • Military consumers reported losing the most money to imposter scams ($26 million in total). The median fraud losses reported by members of the military were more than 44 percent higher than the general population, with military consumers reporting a median fraud loss of $619.
  • Wire transfer was the most widely used form of payment, with 70 percent of consumers reported being solicited over the phone.

To see the entire report, visit

What will you do with your tax refund?

via What will you do with your tax refund?,

PDF: More Americans planning to save tax refunds

Back in April, the Internal Revenue Service estimated that it had refunded more than $268 billion in taxes to taxpayers during the 2016 filing season and had processed 135.6 million returns to date. That’s a lot of money going back into taxpayers’ pockets, and recent tax legislation will likely mean a little more cash for most people. While getting a big refund actually means you’re letting Uncle Sam use your money interest-free until it’s returned to you, many people have come to depend on it for a little extra cash.

With this year’s filing season in full swing and the average refund adding up to about $2,700, many Americans are going to find that cash quickly burns a hole in their pocket, instead of going to savings or paying down debt. While that’s a windfall for retailers and puts some short-term cash into the economy, it’s not too good for Americans dealing with sky-high personal debt.

But there is encouraging news this year: More Americans are planning to hold on to that money or put it to work to reduce debt. Each year, the National Retail Federation surveys consumers to find out what they plan to do with their tax refunds, and this year’s survey found that nearly half (49 percent) plan to put their refund into savings. That’s up a full percentage point from last year and the highest number in the survey’s 12-year history.

“Tax return season is a time when consumers plan and prioritize financially, whether it is paying down debt or saving for a rainy day,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “With the passage of tax reform and the expectation of more disposable income, we expect to see consumers prioritizing how and when they spend their hard-earned dollars, especially during the back-to-school and holiday seasons.”

While a lot of retailers hope to cash in on extra cash that will be rolling into bank accounts, only 22 percent say they’ll use their refunds on everyday expenses. Twelve percent will use the money for vacations, while only about 8 percent will use that money to make major purchases, such as appliances or vehicles.

In the meantime, as you wait for your refund, the Internal Revenue Service recently took to its website to bust some common myths that crop up around filing time each year. Here are a few things that are commonly believed about taxes, but which are patently false or misunderstood:

All refunds are delayed. This persistent myth comes up every year, and with refund fraud increasing in recent years, is making the rounds on social media again. But, the IRS notes, it issues nine out of 10 refunds in less than three weeks. Signing up for direct deposit makes it happen even faster. In fact, by law the IRS can’t even begin issuing refunds before Jan. 29, and if the return includes Earned Income Tax Credits or Additional Child Tax Credits, they can’t be issued before mid-February.

Ordering a tax transcript is a “secret way” to get a refund date. No, ordering a tax transcript will not enable you to find out exactly when your refund will be deposited. Using the “Where’s My Refund” feature on the IRS’ website (see below) can help you get an idea, though.

The IRS will call or email taxpayers about their refund. Ignore this one at your peril. Scammers know that people might be intimidated to get a threatening call or email from the IRS, so they’re using this tactic to convince people they’re about to be arrested, or to get them to give up sensitive information. Don’t fall for it; the IRS will never call you about your refund.

To use the secure “Where’s My Refund” link (you’ll need your Social Security number, your filing status and the expected amount of your refund from your tax return), visit

Citigroup to refund $335M to customers

via Citigroup to refund $335M to customers,

PDF: Citigroup to refund 335

If you have a Citigroup credit card account and had missed a payment but got your payment history back on track, you could be getting a check in the mail later this year. The financial services giant announced last week that it had failed to properly reduce interest charges on about 1.75 million card accounts since 2011, and will be refunding the money to customers later this year.

Under a federal law known as the CARD Act, credit card companies are required to regularly review credit card accounts to determine whether they should receive a rate decrease in certain cases. But the company admitted on Feb. 23 that it had failed to perform this duty properly for about 10 percent of its cardholders since 2011, and issued a statement on its website announcing the refunds.

“While we believed our methodology was sound, a periodic internal review identified potential flaws in the methodology being used to reevaluate interest rates that affected some cardholder accounts,” noted the company in a statement attributed to Liz Fogarty, head of global consumer banking public affairs. “We informed our regulators and revised our methodology going forward. We also conducted a comprehensive review to identify any customers who were impacted to determine how this happened to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Of course, we are deeply disappointed and sincerely apologize to those affected,” noted Citi’s statement. “While we did identify the issue, it should have been identified sooner.”

The company went on to say that the average customer will get about $190 in refunds, in the form of a check, later this year. The CARD Act requires lenders to review the accounts of customers who made late payments and got hit with a penalty rate, but have resumed good payment histories for six consecutive months.

“This refund won’t have much of an impact on Citi, but for millions of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck, $190 matters,” said Ryan Feldman of “It may not change their lives, but they will certainly welcome it, especially since they shouldn’t have had to part with it in the first place.”

This provision of the CARD Act is a very important one,” Feldman added. “Before the CARD Act, someone who was hit with a penalty rate could be stuck with that super-high rate indefinitely. That shouldn’t happen anymore. That’s great news for people who hit a rough patch financially and then get their feet back under them shortly thereafter.”

Late payments on credit accounts are one of the things that can profoundly affect your credit score. Making your payments on time and establishing a track record tells future lenders you are a good risk, while missing payments repeatedly can ding your credit score and keep you from getting the best interest rates on future credit.

While there are consumers for whom a late or missed payment is very rare or nonexistent, many cardholders slip up occasionally. If it happens once in a blue moon, it’s probably not a big deal. But repeated missed or late payments can seriously hurt your credit in the future. If you have to miss a payment for whatever reason, the worst thing you can do is not communicate with the credit card company. Most creditors will be glad to work with you, and if it’s your first time to be late, many will waive late fees.

And if you have been missing payments but have gotten back on track with timely payments, the good news is your credit score will improve over time.


Anti-aging products: Study claims closely

via Anti-aging products: Study claims closely,

PDF: Anti-aging products cannot halt Father Time

Since ancient times, people have been searching for the proverbial Fountain of Youth. Despite thousands of years of trying, though, no one has found the magical spring that will reverse the aging process. Although science has discovered some potentially promising avenues that might in the future allow us to slow down the natural degradation of our bodies, for now we must all still face the ravages of age.

But it hasn’t stopped people from trying to convince us otherwise, and people throughout history have peddled various creams, elixirs and various types of products that claim to erase the marks of time and restore our lost youth. In today’s infomercial-saturated world, there is no shortage of pitches for various products making these claims. Many companies have made millions, despite the lack of any scientific evidence they actually work.

This week, the Federal Trade Commission announced it had settled charges with Telomerase Activation Sciences Inc. and its founder, Noel Patton, (collectively known as TA Sciences) that some of the company’s products “lacked the scientific evidence to support claims that their capsules, powders, and creams could provide a broad range of anti-aging and other health benefits.” According to the FTC, TA-6MD was sold in capsule and powder forms, while TA-65 for Skin was sold as a topical cream.

Specifically, the FTC charged that TA Sciences “falsely advertised that both TA-65MD and TA-65 Skin reverse aging and that TA-65MD prevents and repairs DNA damage, restores aging immune systems, increases bone density, reverses the effects of aging skin and eyes, and prevents or reduces the risk of cancer.” In addition, the FTC alleged, TA Sciences had misrepresented that TA-65 Skin decreases the time needed for skin to recover after medical procedures.

If these products seem familiar to you, it may be because of their celebrity spokeswoman, actress Suzanne Somers (of “Three’s Company” fame). Somers often pitched the products in TV shows, videos and a 2012 book. A 2012 segment on Somers’ “The Suzanne Show” was the subject of a specific FTC charge that the company misrepresented itself by not disclosing that it had paid nearly $90,000 to Somers for talking about the products on the air and that on-air users had been supplied with free products worth up to $4,000 in exchange for their appearances.

The settlement prohibits the company from making any representation about the health benefits, performance, efficacy, safety or side effects of any of its products unless the representation is not misleading and is supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. It also prohibits TA Sciences from “misrepresenting that any covered product is clinically proven to reverse human aging, prevent or repair DNA damage, restore aging immune systems, or increase bone density, or misrepresenting that such evidence or studies exists.”

TA is just one of many companies selling such products, taking in billions each year, primarily from women. Before investing your money in a product that promises miraculous results, most experts caution that high prices don’t always mean better results, thousands of products promising to fix sun damage, erase crow’s feet and wrinkles and restore your skin’s youthful elasticity. If you’re considering one of these products, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor.

And remember that many products sold in infomercials, over the web and via social media are subscription-based. Unscrupulous companies will lure you in with a “30-day trial” or similar promise, but hook you into receiving pricey products on a regular subscription that’s difficult to stop. Before agreeing to a trial, be careful to read the fine print — especially the part about canceling your subscription, and watch for unexpected charges on your bank or credit card statement.

Euthanasia drugs in dog food, FDA confirms

via Euthanasia drugs in dog food, FDA confirms,

PDF:Euthanasia drug

When you open a bag of dog food and give it to your four-legged friend, you would probably never expect that the food might contain substances expressly designed to kill animals. But that’s just what happened to a dog owner on New Year’s Eve 2016.

Washington D.C. TV station WJLA recently aired a story about Nikki Mael, the owner of five dogs who found herself at the vet’s office with her dogs, all of which were acting erratically after ingesting Evanger’s canned dog food. One of the dogs (named Talula) died, and testing revealed that the food contained pentobarbital, a drug used to euthanize dogs, cats and some horses.

After investigating for several months, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 16 issued a warning to pet owners that lab tests had detected pentobarbital in cans of Gravy Train canned dog food. Gravy Train’s manufacturer, J.M. Smucker Co., in response initiated a “withdrawal of various canned dog food products from its Gravy Train, Kibbles ‘N Bits, Ol’ Roy, and Skippy brands.”

The FDA did mention that, although the levels of the drug were low and “unlikely to pose a health risk to pets,” their presence in any concentration is not considered acceptable, and “any detection of pentobarbital in pet food is a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act — simply put, pentobarbital should not be in pet food.”

The FDA is still trying to learn the potential source and route of the contamination. As to how the drug got into the dog food in the first place, news reports suggest that during the process of manufacturing pet food, renderings including euthanized animals are sometimes included.

While a return process has not yet been publicized, the FDA advised if you suspect your pet may have ingested pentobarbital or any unexpected drug, see your vet immediately. According to the FDA, the drug can cause drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance, nausea, nystagmus (eyes moving back and forth in a jerky manner) and inability to stand. Consuming high levels of pentobarbital can cause coma and death.

For its part, J.M. Smucker issued a statement to WebMD about the issue. “Veterinarians and animal nutrition specialists, as well as the FDA, have confirmed that extremely low levels of pentobarbital, like the levels reported to be in select shipments, do not pose a threat to pet safety,” company spokesman Ray Hancart noted. “However, the presence of this substance at any level is not acceptable to us and not up to our quality standards. We sincerely apologize for the concern this has caused.”

Retailers ask Congress for data breach notification law

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PDF: Retailers ask for data breach law

Hardly a week goes by without some major data breach hitting the news. By now, we’ve become accustomed to hearing about these incursions in which hackers gain access to sensitive consumer records. And each time, the number of affected consumers gets bigger and bigger, and often we learn about the event weeks or even months after the damage has been done.

In the case of the Equifax breach last summer, it took several weeks for the news to break that hackers had been raiding the credit-reporting giant’s files, compromising the data of nearly 150 million consumers. Since that breach, business groups and consumer watchdogs have been turning up the heat on Congress to do something about the time it takes to notify those affected by breaches.

The financial and retail industries have long sparred over proposed laws regulating when and how a company should notify the government and the public about when a data breach has occurred. At the heart of the matter is a growing need — recognized by both industry groups and both parties in Congress — that better federal laws are needed to replace a varied patchwork of different state laws governing breaches across the nation.

On Valentine’s Day, 11 major retail groups petitioned Congress to pass uniform national legislation that “leaves no holes” and makes all types of businesses responsible for notifying consumers in a timely manner.

In a letter sent to the Financial Services Committee, the National Retail Federation and other trade associations representing “convenience stores, restaurants, truck stops, gasoline stations, grocers, real estate agents, franchises, hotels and the travel industry” said they support a uniform federal law governing what business must do when credit card or other data is breached, but said it should apply to all businesses that handle sensitive consumer data. The NRF announced the action in a news release.

NRF was part of a group comprising the retail sector that was protesting a repeat of failed legislation in 2015 that would have made notification “mandatory for retailers but voluntary for financial institutions.” The group argued that the financial sector, including banks, credit-card companies and others comprised nearly a quarter of all data breaches, while the retail sector accounted for less than 5 percent.

“Every industry sector — whether consumer-facing or business-to-business — suffers data security breaches that may put consumer data at risk,” the letter said. “To protect consumers comprehensively wherever breaches occur, Congress should ensure that any federal breach notification law applies to all affected industry sectors and leave no holes.”

In early January, a broad coalition representing the financial services industry urged Congress to pass “flexible, scalable standards” for data protection that is “tailored to the size and complexity of the organization as well as the sensitivity of the data the organization holds.”

While large-scale breaches happen to retailers, financial-services companies find themselves increasingly targeted by thieves who are often funded and equipped by organized crime. An October report by Thales Security noted that 42 percent of financial institutions had experienced at least one breach in the past, with many reporting multiple events. For its part, the financial industry has been aggressively working to target fraud attempts. In January, the American Bankers Association announced that banks had stopped $17 billion worth of fraud attempts during 2016.

The sheer size and scale of the Equifax breach is likely to lead to changes in when and how companies of all types must notify the public when a breach occurs, and the pressure is now on Congress to act. But ultimately, what’s at stake is the sensitive information from millions of customers. The protection of that information should be the highest priority for all concerned.

Want to lower your car insurance? Here’s how

via Want to lower your car insurance? Here’s how. But there are some ways to lower the costs,

PDF: Lowering car insurance

It was another sad statistic in which the Magnolia State didn’t fare well: In November, the Insurance Research Council released statistics showing Mississippi’s rate of insured drivers in 2015 was the second-lowest in the nation, with nearly a quarter of its drivers (23.7 percent) failing to carry required auto insurance.

Only in Florida was there a higher percentage of drivers without insurance; Maine had the lowest rate of uninsured drivers, with less than 5 percent of Pine Tree State drivers uninsured.

The statistics (gleaned from reports from the nation’s largest 14 insurers) illustrated a widespread problem nationwide that appeared to be getting better, but in the past few years has started growing again. Uninsured motorists are a major threat to the financial health and well-being of other drivers on the road, with accidents resulting in higher costs for motorists who do comply with the law. Here in Mississippi, drivers have been required by law to have auto insurance since 2001, and failure to have insurance can cost you steep fines.

As to why people don’t comply with the law, there are probably lots of reasons. Some probably just don’t care, or don’t think they’ll get caught. Others may be unaware of the law, but that would be a hard sell in court. Some may find it difficult to pay the cost of the insurance, perhaps weighing the cost against the possible risks of not having insurance and the likelihood they will get caught.

But there are some ways to lower the costs of auto insurance to make sure you comply with the law while keeping costs more affordable. In a recent article, “Nine ways to lower your auto insurance costs,” the Insurance Industry Institute suggests some ways to decrease the cost of car insurance, and to keep it affordable while at the same time keeping you out of legal trouble. Here are a few of their suggestions:

  • Shop around. Many insurance companies offer coverage to Mississippi drivers, and most will give you a price quote online so you can compare. But don’t just take the first offer, or the offer from the largest company (or the one with the cutest mascot or catchiest ad). Get three quotes, and make sure you’re getting quotes on the same levels of coverage. To provide insurance coverage in Mississippi, companies need to be registered with the Mississippi Insurance Department. Check the financial health of insurance companies with rating companies such as A.M. Best( and Standard & Poor’s ( and consult consumer magazines and websites.
  • Shop for insurance before you buy a new or used car. Since car insurance costs are affected by several factors, including the car’s price, its repair costs, overall safety record and likelihood of theft, the price you pay for premiums may vary widely by the type of vehicle you get. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety( has information about current vehicles.
  • Consider higher deductibles. A deductible is your portion of the cost for getting your vehicle repaired or replaced. In general, having a low deductible is a great thing when your vehicle has to be repaired, but it will cost you more in premiums. The Institute notes that increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 could reduce your collision and comprehensive coverage cost by 15 to 30 percent. Going to a $1,000 deductible can save you 40 percent or more. “Before choosing a higher deductible, be sure you have enough money set aside to pay it if you have a claim,” advises the article.
  • Reduce coverage on older cars. Dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverage on older cars is widely recommended because it will likely lower your premium. As a vehicle gets older and its value drops, it becomes less likely that an insurance payout will cover much (if anything) toward the repair or replacement anyway.

Look for discounts. Insurers want your business in a competitive environment, so many companies offer discounts to lure you. Many insurers offer multi-policy discounts for customers who carry multiple lines of insurance, for example homeowner’s and auto insurance. Also, ask your agent about discounts, including for safe driving records, students with good grades, and others. But in the end, be sure you are actually getting a good, competitive rate by comparing prices.

There are several other good suggestions in the article, at