Treasurer Fitch, Attorney General Hood, the Mississippi Council on Economic Education (MCEE), and the Mississippi State University Extension Service Announce New Financial Education Initiative
Today, at the Mississippi Council for Economic Education (MCEE) Forum on American Enterprise, Treasurer Lynn Fitch and Attorney General Jim Hood announced a new two-year partnership including the Mississippi Council on Economic Education (MCEE) and Mississippi State University Extension Service to advance financial education in Mississippi schools and communities, Making Sense of Your Dollars and ₵ents.
“MCEE has been a tremendous partner in my financial education initiative, TEAM, from the very beginning,” said Treasurer Lynn Fitch, who launched the public-private partnership Treasurer’s Education About Money (TEAM) into high schools and middle schools across the State three years ago. “Together, we have trained more than 1,200 teachers in just 3 years, who can not only teach financial education curriculum, but also incorporate these lessons into classes of all types and for all ages. This exciting new initiative with the Attorney General will help expand on these efforts to bring this important life skill into even more classrooms across Mississippi.”
“Our office’s Consumer Protection Division interacts with people daily who have been taken advantage of or scammed out of their hard-earned money, and we hope this new financial literacy program will prevent those types of problems on the front end,” said General Hood. “In fact, this program is funded by settlements from banks and credit rating agencies who have caused extreme financial burden to Mississippians through their deceptive practices. We are proud to be teaming up with Treasurer Fitch, MCEE, and Mississippi State Extension Services to be a part of the solution to our state’s financial literacy problem.”
“MCEE is so thankful for the opportunity to work with both Treasurer Fitch and General Hood on the mission of creating Mississippi citizens that are financially literate,” said Selena Swartzfager, president of MCEE. “Every teacher in Mississippi wanting professional development related to how they can teach their students financial literacy will have access to this training at no cost over the next two years. In addition to providing the educator training, we will provide the curriculum for use in the classroom and continuing education units for the teachers. Educators simply need to connect with us by going to our website (www.mscee.org) and sign up for the weekly newsletter where we announce opportunities for teachers and students.”
“There is a great need across our state for bringing financial coaching into our communities,” said Dr. Becky Smith, Director of MSU Extension Center for Economic Education and Financial Literacy. “Our portion of this project will look at financial literacy from the lens of community and economic development, where we will train community leaders to take into account the individual’s financial needs by implementing this education into services they already deliver.”
Making Sense of Your Dollars and ₵ents is funded through a legal settlement with three credit rating agencies and two financial institutions for violations of consumer protection laws, for a total of $2.5 million over two years. The program will focus on (1) expanding teacher training at all K-12 levels, (2) providing incentives to teachers and schools to incorporate financial education into their students’ studies, (3) supporting teachers with innovative in-classroom and out-of-classroom learning experiences for their students, and (4) building a financial wellness network and implementing financial coaching through community leaders to meet individual needs.
Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of 31-year-old Donald D. Adams on felony charges of insurance fraud, wire fraud, and attempted false pretense.
Adams, of Lexington, attempted to defraud Progressive Insurance Company by submitting a false medical bill to the company in an effort to be paid for medical treatment he did not receive. He communicated these false statements by phone or other communications across county and jurisdictional lines; however, he did not profit from his scheme due to Progressive Insurance discovering the false bill before an unlawful payment could be made to Adams.
A Holmes County grand jury indicted Adams in June. He was arrested Tuesday by deputies at the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office on a three-count indictment and booked into the Holmes/Humphreys Regional Correctional Facility.
If convicted on all counts, Adams faces up to 18 years in prison and $25,000 in fines. A charge is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. His arraignment was scheduled for October 13 at 9 a.m.
This case was investigated by Michael Stevens and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Steven Waldrup, both with the Attorney General’s Insurance Integrity Enforcement Bureau.
Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the sentencing of 39-year-old Donald Turner, of Clinton.
Also known as Darnell “Slick” Turner, he was sentenced to 45 years out of the maximum of 55 in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Turner was sentenced on charges of aggravated assault with a firearm (10 years), aggravated domestic violence (20 years), and shooting into an occupied vehicle (five years). He also received five years for using a gun during the aggravated assault and another five years for using a gun when he shot into the victim’s car. Additionally, a protective order by Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Weill, Sr. requires Turner to stay away from the victim, who is his child’s mother whom he beat up, hung over a bridge while strangling her, then returned to assault her more.
“I’m glad to see a person who has no respect for his own child’s mother put away not only from her, but others who could be in his path of violence,” said General Hood. “Domestic violence is a very serious offense, and to have Judge Weill recognize that through this sentencing should let other offenders know this violence will absolutely not be tolerated, and our office will prosecute it to the largest extent.”
Turner was found guilty by a Hinds County trial jury earlier this month on one count of each charge. He was arrested in April 2016 after being indicted for beating the then-22-year-old mother of one of his children, shooting into the car she was in, and dragging her to a bridge where he strangled her before suspending her over the railing. After Turner left the scene in the Washington Addition neighborhood in Jackson, he returned and assaulted a person who was trying to assist the initial victim. He then drove the mother of his child home while continuing to beat her.
The Attorney General’s Office received this case after Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith recused himself due to an admission in open court that he previously represented Turner and that Turner visited him in his home.
This case was investigated by the Jackson Police Department with assistance from Attorney General Investigators Larry Ware, Christopher Watkins and Jerry Spell. The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stan Alexander and Special Assistant Attorney General Patrick Beasley.
Today, Attorney General Jim Hood joined 37 attorneys general in urging health insurance companies to find ways to make non-opioid pain management more accessible for people who are currently treating their pain with addictive opioids.
“Right now, many insurance companies cover opioids, which, under those plans, are not as expensive as less addictive pain medicines,” said General Hood. “People shouldn’t be forced to buy opioids that will get them addicted just because it’s cheaper. The way the system is set up is literally killing people.”
General Hood, along with a bipartisan coalition of states and territories, sent a letter this week to America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a national association representing the nation’s insurance companies, encouraging the use of non-opioid alternatives for
treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain. The letter urges insurers to review their coverage and payment policies as the starting point in a coalition-initiated dialogue focused on incentive structures across the insurance industry. The group contends incentives that promote use of non-opioid techniques will increase the practicality of medical providers considering such treatments, including physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care and non-opioid medications. The letter also encourages doctors to prescribe non-opioid medicines that can be purchased over the counter, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen.
“Health insurers are in a position where they can help relieve this epidemic in our country,” said General Hood. “It’s going to take compassion over profits—from the insurers to the drug manufacturers—to change the way we deal with patients’ pain.”
A recent New York Times article reports that a study conducted by NYT and ProPublica analyzing Medicare prescription drug plans covering 35.7 million people found nearly all of those plans covered common opioids; whereas, only one-third of the people covered had access to a less-risky painkilling patch. Another example: where non-addictive lidocaine patches were covered, they cost more than opioids and required prior approval from the insurance companies
According to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, the number of opioid prescriptions in the state makes Mississippi the fifth highest prescriber per capita in the nation, with 1.07 prescriptions per person. The letter notes the number of opioid prescriptions has quadrupled since 1999, despite Americans reporting a steady amount of pain. A copy of the letter is available at agjimhood.com.
General Hood led the nation in filing the first lawsuit on behalf of a state against multiple drug manufacturing companies for falsely marketing opioids as rarely addictive. The suit was filed in December 2015 in Hinds County Chancery Court against 17 companies. General Hood charges that the companies deceived Mississippi Medicaid, doctors, and consumers in order to boost profits at the expense of innocent victims
Additional attorneys general signing the letter are Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin.
Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced his office’s participation in a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general seeking documents and information from distributors of prescription opioids as part of a multistate investigation into the nationwide opioid epidemic. This information will enable the attorneys general to evaluate whether distributors engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing, sale, and distribution of opioids.
Nationwide, opioids—prescription and illicit—are the main driver of drug overdose deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths in 2015, including 351 in Mississippi, and opioid overdoses have quadrupled nationally since 1999.
General Hood led the nation in filing the first lawsuit on behalf of a state against multiple drug manufacturing companies for falsely marketing opioids as rarely addictive. The suit was filed in December 2015 in Hinds County Chancery Court against 17 companies. General Hood charges that the companies deceived Mississippi Medicaid, doctors, and consumers in order to boost profits at the expense of innocent victims.
“In 2015, we filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers of these drugs for their role in this national crisis,” said General Hood. “Now, we need to determine if the distributors also contributed to this growing epidemic.”
The attorneys general sent information demand letters to opioid distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson requesting documents about their opioid distribution business. This investigative tool is being used to determine what role the opioid distributors may have played in prolonging this epidemic and the appropriate course of action to help resolve this crisis.
Earlier this year, Attorney General Hood partnered with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and other government agencies and non-profit organizations to host a three-day summit to educate Mississippians and train officials on the opioid epidemic the state is facing.
General Hood wants to assure the residents of Mississippi that he is continuing to actively work towards addressing this growing crisis.
“We will not stop fighting this epidemic until it has been resolved,” said General Hood. “We continue to hold drug companies accountable, and this newly launched investigation is another step in that fight to protect Mississippians.”
Attorney General Jim Hood is warning consumers to use extra caution when accessing information telling them if they have been impacted by the recent Equifax data breach.
“Consumers should make sure that they are accessing the correct website through the correct Equifax link,” said General Hood. “We have seen links that are extremely similar to the legitimate Equifax link—some that are off by just one number—so we want to prevent consumers from having more damage done to their personal information.”
The correct link to use to check on potential impact through this breach is www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. It is a properly registered site; however, scammers are producing hundreds of websites very similar to this link that are not legitimate, with new ones continually popping up. Shortly after Equifax established its legitimate website, other domains were registered, tricking consumers into using fraudulent websites and putting their personal information at additional risk. In this instance, websites can be verified by accessing it directly from the Equifax site and by not clicking embedded links in emails or other websites.
“People need to go online and check if they’ve been affected,” said General Hood. “When you click on the link, it asks you to enter the last six numbers of your Social Security Number, then it tells you whether you were potentially impacted. In our office, we found that two out of three people were possibly impacted by this breach.”
Equifax has reported the incident potentially impacted the personal information of 143 million U.S. consumers, including 1,299,254 Mississippians. The information that was stolen primarily includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. In addition, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers, and certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 U.S. consumers, were accessed. Equifax also identified unauthorized access to limited personal information for certain U.K. and Canadian residents and is working with regulators in those countries.
Equifax is offering a free service to consumers called TrustedID Premier through the website previously listed, which will provide complimentary services such as credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. Consumers should also take steps to place security freezes on their accounts.
To place a security freeze, contact each of the nationwide credit reporting companies and supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and other personal information. There may be a fee with companies other than Equifax; however, General Hood has asked that Equifax reimburse consumers for these fees, which range from $5 to $10. After receiving your freeze request, each credit reporting company will send you a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place. You will need it if you choose to lift the freeze.
The following information is from Equifax for those who enact a security freeze:
- If consumers request a security freeze online: Consumers may place, temporarily lift, or remove a security freeze to an Equifax Credit File by going to http://www.equifax.com/CreditReportAssistance/?/CreditReportAssistance.
Equifax does not currently email or mail the individual 10-digit PIN to consumers. It is available on the screen, and the consumer is asked to print the PIN from the screen. The Equifax technology team is aware of some limited situations in which consumers are unable to view their PINs. It has been determined that this is caused by users’ browser settings. Equifax is working on a fix for this issue. In the meantime, Equifax is displaying a phone number that consumers may call to receive a PIN.
- If consumers request a security freeze over the phone or via U.S. Mail: Equifax will mail consumers their individual, 10-digit PIN at the address on file.
- Refunds for recently placed credit freezes: Equifax intends to automatically refund consumers who used credit cards to place a security freeze on their Equifax credit file starting at 5:00 PM EST on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. Equifax is also planning to refund consumers who paid by check or money order, but the company is still finalizing the details of executing those refunds.
- Requesting a new PIN: Consumers who have older PINs and wish to receive a new one can call (866) 349-5191 to speak to a live agent; provide identity verification information; and receive a replacement PIN.
To place a security freeze with each of the other nationwide credit reporting companies, consumers should contact:
Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of 30-year-old Natasha Lesha Stephens for fraudulently acting as a highway patrolman recruit to raise money online.
Stephens, of Tupelo, was arrested at her home Friday by Investigator Lee McDivitt with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, with assistance from detectives with the Tupelo Police Department. Stephens set up a GoFundMe page online to raise $1,000 for what she listed as required items for Mississippi Highway Patrol Cadet Class 62, to which she claimed on the page that she had been accepted.
In describing the fake campaign, Stephens wrote: “I have been blessed with the opportunity to become a part of something much higher than myself. I have been accepted in the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol Cadet Class 62 that begins this October. A list of required items has been given. Unfortunately I am unable to financially obtain those items. I am asking for help in order to be able to be apart of this opportunity. The cost is $1000. Any donations will be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Help spread the word!”
Stephens is charged with one felony count of wire and mail fraud. She faces up to five years in prison. A charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
“Our office has gotten this fraudulent page shut down,” said General Hood. “Do not give money to this person, and if you already have, contact our office immediately.”
To contact the Consumer Protection Division, call (800) 281-4418 or visit agjimhood.com.
This case was investigated by McDivitt, with assistance from detectives in the Tupelo Police Department, and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Patrick Beasley.
Today, Attorney General Jim Hood joined 31 attorneys general in requesting credit reporting firm Equifax disable links for enrollment in fee-based credit monitoring services in the wake of the firm’s massive data breach impacting 143 million people.
Mississippi is part of a multistate investigation into Equifax, which was launched when Equifax publicly disclosed the breach last week. Equifax is offering free credit monitoring services in response to the breach, and a letter sent to Equifax by this group of attorneys general objects to the inclusion of terms of service that required consumers to waive their rights, the offer of competing fee-based and free credit monitoring services by Equifax, and Equifax’s charge for a security freeze with other credit monitoring companies like Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis.
“We believe continuing to offer consumers a fee-based service in addition to Equifax’s free monitoring services will serve to only confuse consumers who are already struggling to make decisions on how to best protect themselves in the wake of this massive breach,” the attorneys general wrote. “Selling a fee-based product that competes with Equifax’s own free offer of credit monitoring services to victims of Equifax’s own data breach is unfair, particularly if consumers are not sure if their information was compromised.
The attorneys general also said that, although Equifax has agreed to waive credit freeze fees for those who would otherwise be subject to them, the other two credit bureaus, Experian and Transunion, continue to charge fees for security freezes. The attorneys general said that Equifax should be taking steps to reimburse consumers who incur these fees to completely freeze their credit.
In an additional letter sent to Equifax last week, the attorneys general requested information about the circumstances that led to the breach, the reasons for the months-long delay between the breach and the company’s public disclosure, what protections the company had in place at the time of the breach and how the company intends to protect consumers affected by the breach.
To see if your data was comprised, visit this secure link: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/
General Hood reminds consumers to be diligent by watching their bank accounts and credit card statements.
“It’s important to not just watch your accounts now, while this breach is in the news, but to continue to monitor them months from now for potential impact down the road,” said General Hood. “We cannot assume things are safe anymore. We must do our part as consumers to be sure our personal information is secure.”
General Hood urges consumers to:
- Report any suspicious activity to your bank or credit card company right away. Any delay in reporting the fraudulent activity could make it harder for you to get that money back.
- Check your credit report periodically and be sure to dispute any information that is not accurate.
- Put a credit freeze on your credit report. A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report, which makes it much more difficult for criminals to open false accounts in your name. However, placing such a freeze should be considered carefully since the lead time needed to unfreeze it may be significant.
- Consider two-factor authentication when using financial services online. For most two-factor authentication, also known as two-step verification, users receive a security code via their phone or mobile device that must be entered in addition to a password.
- Avoid unsolicited emails that seek even more personal information or financial data. Following a large-scale data breach, scammers may attempt to steal a consumer’s identity or access bank accounts by sending out fake notices.
For more information about data breaches, identity theft or other consumer issues, call (800) 281-4418.
Click here to download a copy of the letter sent to Equifax by the group of attorneys general.