Consumer advice: Don’t let the bird ruin Thanksgiving

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We aren’t just talking about the hangover from eating too much turkey. You should know there have been reports of a salmonella outbreak tied to the Jennie-O brand of turkeys. The source of the outbreak has not been determined. But there have been at least 164 illnesses reported in 35 states and half of those people have required hospitalization.

This contamination is caused by improper handling of raw turkey (including ground turkey) and with live turkeys, since the bacteria lives in the intestinal tract of the bird. Make sure to handle raw turkey properly and wash your hands frequently. Cook turkey to at least 165 degrees to kill the bacteria. This goes for leftover turkey as well.

Watch for the following signs of salmonella poisoning 12 to 72 hours after coming into contact with the bacteria; diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever. Many recover in four to seven days without treatment, but young children and older adults are particularly at risk for more serious effects and may need medical treatment.

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FLU SHOT STING: In this case, the flu shot stung a few seniors’ wallets. Around the middle of October, seniors were offered flu shots at local senior centers by Panhandle Health District. The shots were offered to seniors in previous years without incident but this year was different.

Some seniors received a bill for their out-of-pocket portion, about $35, due to billing changes by a third-party administrator of Medicare and the fact that Panhandle Health District was not a preferred provider for Pacific Source. This triggered the additional charge, leaving some seniors wondering why.

Calls to Medicare and the insurance company have left many frustrated because they were being told they should know whether or not a provider is in-network or out-of-network. The reality is the insured ends up feeling stuck in the middle.

Even Panhandle Health informed me that there are changes to plans often making it difficult for them to know ahead of time what the effect will be to patients. When I discussed this particular issue with a representative at Panhandle Health District, he said they were aware of the situation and have filled out their application to be a preferred provider for Pacific Source next year.

For this year, they have offered a 50 percent discount off the $35 charge to help partially reimburse seniors caught with this bill. If you are one of these seniors, give Panhandle Health District a call at 208-415-5163 so they can process your partial refund.

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DISH NETWORK SCAM: A local resident warned us of a DISH network scam he recently encountered. He received a call from a “DISH network representative” who informed the customer that they needed to put up a new satellite dish. The customer would be charged for a new receiver that would be compatible with the new system.

The rep even made an appointment to come out to the customer’s house to switch out the receiver. Then he informed the customer there would be an installation cost of $169, payable upon installation. The rep went on to explain that DISH would reduce his monthly bill by $15 per month for two years, which would more than pay for the cost of the new receiver.

This was a bit of a red flag, since that meant a possible reimbursement of $360, far more than the $169 being charged. So this suspicious customer called the local DISH office to check out the story and was informed by a real company rep that this was a scam.

She informed the customer that the scammers would not replace the receiver but would instead call the customer, claiming that they had, and ask for his credit card information to charge for the bogus installation. The DISH rep verified that the customer’s receiver was compatible with the existing system so no changes were necessary.

If you get one of these calls, call JD Installations at 208-457-2704. They are our local DISH Network Installer and would be able to look up your account and let you know what’s going on.

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UNCREDIBLE COLLECTORS: A reader called to warn us about Midland Credit Management Company. She got a call from a representative informing her that her credit card was in default and as a result she owed more than $900. The reader had no idea why her credit card company would have reported her since she had no late payments.

The “company rep” started using strong-arm tactics, telling her that to clear the debt, she would need to pay $100 immediately and then make monthly payments for the next 18 months. He then asked her to verify her credit card number. She wanted to hang up and call her credit card company, but he informed her that if she did that this offer would no longer be valid, resulting in her owing even more money.

She gave in to the demands but once she hung up she immediately called her credit card company. Turns out it was all a scam and the $100 charge had already showed up on her account. The credit card company was able to reverse the charge for the customer, close the account and issue her a brand new card.

The point here is if a collection agency is calling you and it’s valid, they should already have your information as provided by the company turning you into collections. If you have any doubts about what you are being told or if the rep is using pressure tactics to get you to pay immediately and then asking you to verify your information, it’s a scam. Hang up and don’t give them any information.

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CONSUMER TIP: Small Business Saturday is this Saturday. It’s a good way to support our local businesses and keep our lovely downtown thriving.

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REMEMBER: I’m on your side.

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If you’ve encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email or give me a call. As The Cd’A Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. You can either email me at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. Please include your name and a phone number or email. I’m available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups. I’m a copywriter and consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.

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