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New COVID-19 testing rules for travel to the U.S.

by TERRI DICKERSON/ CDA Press Consumer Gal
| January 28, 2021 1:00 AM

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an order that will affect all air passengers entering the United States. Effective Jan. 26, 2021, travelers must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before their flights.

Airlines will deny boarding to those failing to comply. And for those who provide false test information they could be subject to criminal fines and imprisonment. The new requirements will be for all airline travelers ages 2 and older including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. Even if you have been vaccinated, you will still need to provide a COVID-19 negative test result. One caveat is that travelers flying from U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are exempt from this order.

Some wonder how to get tested when they are heading out of the U.S. to popular destinations. Many tourism destinations around the globe are working with private labs to offer tests. In addition, many top hotels in international destinations such as Mexico, the Caribbean, Tahiti and Costa Rica will have testing facilities located inside the hotels, or they will partner with local companies to provide the tests. That said, be prepared for test prices to range from free to $250 per person.

Some destinations are already starting to require some type of COVID-19 insurance coverage or a health visa. For example, Aruba visitors insurance covers medical and non-medical expenses if you test positive for COVID-19 while you are in Aruba, with a maximum coverage of $75,000. The cost of this coverage is $30 per traveler ages 15 and older; 10 for ages 14 and under.

All these conditions will add more complexity to travel plans for travelers who will need to factor in not only these new insurance costs but also the coverage you or your family might need related to medical and non-medical expenses if you test positive and need to remain in place for an extended period of time.

Before you plan a trip abroad, it is best to make sure you understand the health insurance or health visa requirements to your destination. Many countries around the world are requiring foreign travelers to have medical travel insurance in order to gain entry due to an increase in unsettled medical bills from foreign travelers.

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Fraudulent unemployment claims on the rise

Another reason to protect your personal information is because there has been an explosion of unemployment fraud since the pandemic erupted last spring causing a flood of new claims.

People are starting to figure out that false unemployment claims have been filed in their names. If this has happened to you, the first thing you will want to do is notify the Idaho Department of Labor’s toll-free tip line at 877-540-8638 to terminate the claim. Leave your contact information or if you prefer email, provide your information to Fraud@labor.idaho.gov.

Officials have estimated that $36 billion in fraudulent unemployment payments across the country have been paid to scammers since the start of the pandemic. As a way to ramp up security, the Idaho Department of Labor has partnered with ID.me which provides an extra step in preventing fraud.

The unemployment insurance compliance bureau chief, Larry Ingram, believes this extra step in the claims process is a necessary one to help claims get processed faster and go to the rightful recipients. ID.me verifies an individual’s identity based upon credentials they upload, such as a driver’s license, along with some knowledge-based authentication questions. Ingram also acknowledged that imposter fraud during the pandemic has been extremely high and he would like to see benefits only get paid when benefits are due.

The point of the partnership with ID.me is to make sure scammers are not using someone else’s identity to file a fraudulent claim. If you suspect any foul play, contact the Idaho Department of Labor at the number or email listed above.

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Verizon COVID-19 payment scam

A Coeur d’Alene reader wanted to warn us of a scam he encountered. He received text messages where the sender identified himself by his first name only and indicated he was from Verizon Company. The text message said that Verizon is giving out $1,300 to all Verizon users for this period of COVID-19 pandemic. The message also directed the recipient to text his number to 323-648-2555 in order to receive a confirmation code number and payment. When the reader asked local Verizon employees if they had ever heard of this scam they said they had not.

First, if you look up this phone number on the internet, it is listed as being involved in this Verizon scam offering payments in exchange for your information. Next, when you consider the sheer numbers involved with such an offer think about this; Verizon has an estimated 120 million subscribers, so if they were truly giving subscribers $1,300 each, as alleged, that amounts to a giveaway of around $156 billion. Finally, Verizon’s revenues in 2019 (not profit) were estimated at $131.9 billion, while the company’s net worth was about $131 billion.

So it doesn’t make sense that Verizon would be offering $1,300 to each of their subscribers, pandemic or no pandemic. If you get a text message offering this deal just delete it.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. I’m a copywriter working with businesses on marketing strategy, a columnist, a veterans advocate and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.