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3 tips to avoid travel scams

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(Family Features) The internet brings vacations and getaways to travelers’ fingertips, but instant access also means vulnerability to fraudsters looking to steal data. Scams such as fake phone numbers on popular search engine results can lead to stolen money or sensitive personal information like credit card details.

Next time you search the web to book that long-awaited vacation, consider these tips from the experts at Expedia to spot, avoid and report scams.

Identify Common Scams

  • Search engine and gift card scams: Fraudsters will buy fake ads with illegitimate contact information for well-known companies to pose as agents and ensnare people searching for online support numbers. These imposters often request gift cards in exchange for services such as a trip refund or flight change, wire transfers or sensitive personal information. They may even use personal data obtained from unaware customers to use an itinerary look-up tool and view real trip details in order to gain additional trust.
  • Phone call scams: Scammers will sometimes use “spoofing” technology to make telephone numbers appear legitimate then claim a customer won a prize such as cash, a trip or credit for future travel from a trusted travel company. In exchange, these convincing scammers may ask for personal information including a name, address, payment information and social security number.
  • Email scams: Phishing is a scam criminals use to ask for personal information via email by tricking recipients into clicking a link, opening an attachment or directly providing the information. When they appear to come from established businesses or organizations, the emails can be quite convincing, as they sometimes even link to legitimate-looking websites.

When In Doubt, End the Conversation
If you think you’ve received a fraudulent phone call or are in contact with an imposter, hang up or end the conversation immediately.

Do not click any suspicious links or engage further. Double check the sender’s address and delete any suspicious emails. Take note of how you came into contact, such as the phone number you dialed, the contact information displayed and any other identifying information provided by the scammer.

Contact representatives of the company the scammer claimed to represent along with the Federal Trade Commission and state attorney general.

Trust the Experts
With a trusted travel group like Expedia, your experience and safety are the top priorities, meaning representatives won’t request a gift card in exchange for services, call or send an email asking for account passwords, request personal information unrelated to a previous service issue or request wire transfers or payment information through text messages.

If you need help with your trip, visit Expedia.com or use the mobile app for self-service tools like a 24/7 virtual agent so you can easily change or cancel trips, redeem credits and check on the status of a refund, all without having to call in to speak with an agent.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


SOURCE:
Expedia

 

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Supporting your pet’s health during summer

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(Family Features) As a pet parent, you know your pet’s needs are continually evolving. That’s true during different stages of growth and even as the seasons change.

Part of supporting your pet throughout the year is understanding the specific risks that come with changing weather and special seasonal events. Supporting pets this summer can be easier with these tips:

Summer Health Concerns
It may be an exciting time of year for humans with all the extra activities, seasonal celebrations and travel, but those summer pastimes can add up to a whole lot of stress for pets. In addition, environmental factors like allergens and heat can affect them more than you realize.

  • Allergies: Pets can be affected by many of the same allergens as humans, including grass, pollen and other vegetation that is more prevalent during warmer months. Watch for signs of trouble such as scratching, chewing, watery eyes and general discomfort. Veterinarians can offer advice on allergy support and supplements appropriate for your pet’s age, breed and size.
  • Fireworks: Summer tends to bring more loud noise and commotion in general, but this is especially true around the Fourth of July when explosions become the norm. If pets are fearful, it’s especially important to ensure they stay in well-secured areas since fireworks are a common cause of pets running away. If possible, find a safe spot within your house where outside noises are muffled. Provide some comfort items and check on them regularly. If they seem extremely distressed, vet-recommended anxiety treatments and supplements can help promote relaxation and soothe their nerves.
  • Travel: If your pet suffers from separation anxiety, summer trips can be especially problematic. One solution is to take your pet with you, but that’s not always practical or even possible. When pets with separation anxiety stay behind, it’s a good idea to leave them with someone they know, and even better if that person can stay in your home so pets are in familiar surroundings. If that’s not an option, introducing pets to their caretaker or doing a trial run at the kennel can help ease their nerves. In extreme cases, you may need to consult with a vet about supplements that can help soothe pets in your absence.
  • Dehydration: Just like humans, hotter temperatures make it easier to get dehydrated, which can lead to myriad health concerns. Ensure pets have access to fresh, clean and cool water at all times and be sure to alert your veterinarian if you notice any changes in their interest in drinking, as that can signal an issue. Also watch for signs of dehydration, such as weakness, less energy, changes in appetite and panting.

Managing Activity Levels
During the summer months, pets may be tempted to take it easy in the heat, or you may have the opposite problem: a pet that’s a little too active for the elements. Monitoring their activity level is important to ensure they don’t get overheated but also get adequate exercise to maintain a healthy weight and keep muscle tone strong. This may require getting creative about bringing playtime indoors or shifting your routine to accommodate walks early or late in the day when temperatures tend to be more forgiving.

Introducing Health Supplements
Monitoring pets’ health isn’t a one-size-fits-all effort. In fact, different breeds have distinct needs when it comes to exercise, behavioral training and even nutrition. Supplements, from multifunctional solutions to those targeting specific issues, can help complement regular food to ensure pets are getting all of the nutrients and preventative support they need to thrive. One comprehensive option is NaturVet’s Breed Specific Soft Chews supplement line, which is made up of five products that provide proactive support for distinct dog breed categories, including toy/small, bully, sport/working, doodle and giant.

The vet-formulated soft chew line was designed to offer a streamlined and personalized supplement approach for breeds with particular health needs. To support pets precisely as they are, each product offering is formulated for pure and mixed breed dogs alike, delivering tailored, wholesome ingredients to address joint, allergy, immune, heart, gut, anxiety and dental issues.  

Find more advice for supporting your pet’s health this summer and beyond at naturvet.com.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock (woman hugging dog)


SOURCE:
NaturVet

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7 ways to reduce energy bills during summer heat

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 (Family Features) With temperatures forecasted to run at least 2 degrees higher than historical averages across more than half the country, according to projections from AccuWeather, heat waves may lead to soaring air-conditioning bills this summer.

“The summer is when we see homeowners strategizing about how to keep their homes cool and comfortable while sticking to their household budgets,” said Michael Williford, HVAC service manager at Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical. “We work with customers to keep their current HVAC systems running smoothly or upgrade to more efficient systems, which can make a huge difference in their utility bills. In addition, there are many other ways homeowners can keep their energy costs down during the hot summer months.”

Consider these smart, practical, cost-cutting tips for dialing down your energy bills.

Service HVAC Systems Regularly
To ensure the best cooling performance and efficiency possible, find a licensed contractor to keep your heating and cooling system well-maintained and serviced throughout the year. There are some tasks many homeowners can handle on their own, like keeping outdoor units free of debris and changing air filters. However, bringing in a professional 1-2 times a year for maintenance and to ensure proper function of ductwork and electrical components is also essential.

Use Appliances During Non-Peak Hours
Rather than using stoves, ovens and clothing dryers in the afternoon hours, consider doing so early in the morning or late in the evening. Peak time for many electricity providers is noon-6 p.m., meaning using appliances that heat up your home outside of this timeframe when conventional heating and cooling systems are likely running full throttle can help lower energy costs.

Upgrade Your Systems to an Energy-Saving Heat Pump
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) incentivizes homeowners who opt for energy-efficient HVAC upgrades, including qualified heat pumps, which can boost seasonal energy efficiency ratios and increase efficiencies. For example, Mitsubishi Electric heat pumps provide more energy-efficient cooling that may equal cost and energy savings as well as a reduced carbon footprint for homeowners. These systems are equipped with inverter or variable-speed technology that allows systems to automatically ramp up or down the required amount of energy depending on the room’s capacity. Although annual savings vary, some homeowners can save as much as $1,000 per year by switching to an all-electric heat pump.

Fire Up the Grill
When temperatures soar, use the grill for cooking to help lower energy usage and save on air-conditioning costs. Alternatively, toaster ovens, air fryers and slow cookers use less energy than larger conventional stoves or ovens. Get creative by cooking a pizza in a chiminea or smoking favorite meats as alternatives to using your oven.

Stop Cooling Empty Rooms
One mistake many homeowners make is forgetting to adjust their temperature settings when leaving the house. Whether you’re headed to the beach for the weekend or just headed to work for the day, blasting the air conditioner in an empty house can result in unnecessarily high utility bills. Multi-zone, all-electric heat pumps like those from Mitsubishi Electric allow homeowners to set the comfort level and adjust the temperature in each room, so you don’t have to waste energy cooling unoccupied rooms. With a smartphone app, you can even adjust the settings remotely.

Install a Smart Electric Panel
Installing a smart electrical panel alongside an all-electric heat pump enables homeowners to monitor and control energy consumption on-site or remotely using a smartphone for better overall efficiency and utility cost savings.

Harness the Sun’s Energy with Solar Panels
According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, the amount of sunlight that strikes the Earth’s surface in 90 minutes could power the world’s total energy usage for a full year. Investing in solar panels can help decrease energy bills and increase your home’s sustainability. Additionally, some utility providers and government entities, including the IRA, offer incentives to help reduce installation costs. Plus, solar-sourced power pairs well with all-climate heat pumps, which require minimal electricity to operate.

Find more ideas to dial down energy usage (and bills) this summer at MitsubishiComfort.com.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock


SOURCE:
Mitsubishi Electric

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Practical presents: Father’s Day gift ideas for hard-to-buy-for dads

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(Family Features) Shopping for your dad on Father’s Day each year can be a challenge, especially when he says he doesn’t want anything or claims he already has everything he needs. However, focusing on the things he enjoys such as music, exercising or hobbies like woodworking or metalworking can send you down the right path toward finding a gift to say “thank you” for all he’s done and show him how much he means to you.

To help make the experience of shopping for your father less complicated, consider these practical options, and find more gift ideas to make his day at eLivingtoday.com.

Help Dad Transform His Workspace

When home projects abound, the right tools can help dad work smarter, solve problems and get more done easier and faster. With unprecedented adaptability and flexibility, the IQ Vise System by Work IQ Tools features a ball and socket design that allows articulation and 360-degree rotation at any angle for optimal work positioning while complementing task-specific jaws create the perfect grip for an extensive range of shapes and materials. Plus, IQ Connect plug-and-play accessories provide hands-free assistance on the vise and around your work area via three additional mounting options. Find more Father’s Day gift ideas to help dad work smarter at workiqtools.com.

Give Dad the Gift of a Great Workout

If your dad is looking to get (or stay) in shape, skip the gym membership and give him the equipment he needs to complete his workouts at home. From strength training equipment like dumbbells to cardio equipment such as running shoes, a jump rope and more, plus essentials like a yoga mat and resistance bands, there are plenty of options available to help your dad create a fitness center in the comforts of home.

Let Dad Listen to His Favorite Tunes in Peace

The right set of wireless, noise-canceling headphones can be a gamechanger when it comes to listening to music or podcasts. Replacing those old, wired headphones with a pair of in-ear or over-ear Bluetooth-connected ones – whichever style he typically prefers – with an extended battery life can serve as an upgrade whether your dad is hitting the gym, walking the dog, taking a phone call on the go or just watching his favorite show on his phone while lounging at home.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock (father and daughter)

Photos courtesy of Unsplash (headphones and workout equipment)


SOURCE:
Work IQ Tools

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