Online shopping – Beware of fake websites

AARP’s website lists several scams we might encounter during the holiday season. Click here to read the full article and learn what you can do if you are affected. Here’s an excerpt:

Online ShoppingFake websites

Scammers launch a copycat website of a well-known retailer – or, create a website offering popular, sometimes previously “sold out” merchandise at crazy discounts.

Gift Cards

Thieves hit a store gift card rack, secretly write down or electronically scan the numbers off the cards, then check online or call the toll-free number to see if someone has bought the cards and activated them. As soon as a card is active, the scammers drain the funds. By the time you try to use the same card, the money is long gone.

Phony package delivery notifications

Usually the word arrives by e-mail, which should be your first clue it’s a con: Shipping forms used by the major carriers list the names and addresses of senders and recipients, but not their e-mail addresses. So it’s unlikely that delivery companies would e-mail you about an issue with a package.

Facebook Scams

This list is so long, we don’t have enough space to post in this blog. Read more here.

As for your e-mail, watch out for promotions that promise a “handwritten letter from Santa to your child.” Apparently, nothing is out of bounds for these scammers.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Be Safe Shopping this Season

Even though Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other shopping “holidays” are over, many of us still have shopping to complete.  Are your identity and credit cards protected against fraud and theft? Here are some tips from PR Newswire as to how you can better protect yourself:

  1. Debit cards are unsecure and can leave you unprotected.  It is better for you to use a credit card and pay it off to better protect yourself.
  1. Double check your browser when shopping online.  When typing in your credit card number, make sure that the webpage looks like this: https.  The “s” means that it is a secure connection and is the safest way for you to shop online.
  1. Make sure your account statements match your activity.  In other words, check to make sure that all transactions are yours! This is an easy way for you to spot an issue before it gets too far out of hand.

For more information and the complete article from Newswire, visit this website: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/prevent-credit-card-hacking-this-holiday-season-300001476.html

 

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ISIS Explored

The recent ISIS attacks in Paris have dominated our media and our thoughts.  Further tragedies continue to unfold around the world (Beirut and Bagdad, at the time of this writing).  As our awareness expands, the worldwide nature of these actions becomes apparent.  Earlier bloody attacks in Kenya are being revisited with greater American interest.  Reactions to the spread of ISIS are varied and confusing.  A useful response is to broaden one’s knowledge of the history and background of today’s terrorists.  In some ways, it may seem that ISIS (or ISL or DAESH) appeared suddenly.  This is far from the truth.

World War I is seemingly forgotten and ignored by most Americans.  The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East by Eugene Rogan reveals the influence of WWI on current geopolitics.  The expansive and long-enduring Ottoman Empire was ultimately carved up into smaller entities controlled by Western governments after the war.  Displacement of peoples and bloodshed by all parties laid groundwork for much Middle Eastern strife.  This well-written account supplies context for the current situation.

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 was published in response to 9/11.  Author Lawrence Wright illuminates the run up to that day as well as the failings of American intelligence to grasp the activities and motivations of these militants.  Historical information on the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, contributes to understanding of current groups rising from the same wellsprings.  The Muslim Brotherhood is still in existence.

Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick covers the origins of ISIS and its founder, Abu Musab al-Zarkawi.  Originally a follower of Al-Qaeda, Zarkawi soon took his own adherents in directions too radical even for Al-Qaeda.  Warrick also covers the depth and dedication of current US intelligence forces dedicated to making up lost ground post-9/11.

As the strife between Western culture and Islamic terrorist groups grows, a continued flood of related books may be reasonably expected and desired by a public seeking to understand.  Three well-reviewed and very recently released titles are:

ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan

Empire of Fear: Inside the Islamic State by Andrew Hosken

ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger

 

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Business Information from the Government

BusinessUSA was created to help business owners and exporters access vital programs and services they need to launch and grow their businesses. While we’ve always provided the best in business resources from across the federal government, we are now also able to provide exceptional state-specific tools and resources for all 50 states and U.S. territories.

They recently expanded the State Resources Portal to add information on hundreds of new, hand-selected state business services and financial incentives to help you start, expand, relocate, or fund your business as well as find exporting assistance and state government contracting opportunities.

So whether you’re already doing business in a particular state or territory or are thinking of starting or expanding to another one, we encourage you to visit this newly improved state content. The comprehensive state resources link will assist you with finding programs, events and local business assistance centers in your area.

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GeoBattle – and the winner is…

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Let’s Grow Akron is the winner of the library’s first GeoBattle, in which three local non-profit organizations went head-to-head in a test of their knowledge of state, national, and global geography on Saturday, November 7 in Main Library’s Auditorium. Out of 150 points possible, Let’s Grow Akron scored 95 points, and was the victor in a 5-point tie breaker with Project Learn of Summit County. The third contender was the International Institute of Akron.

Let’s Grow Akron’s team members were Pete Bach, Dave Daly, and Kevin Nunn. Congratulations!

The library thanks our emcee, Greg Dee, meteorologist at WKYC Channel 3, judges Jim Switzer and Steve Rhinesmith, all contenders and their supporters who turned out to make GeoBattle a fun and fascinating competition.

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Ohio Legal Forms Database

The Akron-Summit County Public Library provides a free database that is specially designed to help you locate specific Ohio legal forms.  It is searchable by title, category, and has a section for the most popular forms.  This database also has a section that provides legal definitions.  Here’s how to find the database:

 

  1. Go to our homepage, www.akronlibrary.org.
  2. From the left side of the screen, click on “Databases.”
  3. When searching by title, look for Legal Forms.
  4. When searching by Subject or Category, look for Legal Information.
  5. To access from home, enter your library card.

Once inside the database, simply type in the name of the form you need, open up the attached files and make sure that it suits your needs.  If you need help accessing the database, feel free to call us at 330-643-9020, but please remember that librarians are not attorneys. We cannot advise you as to which form should be used for your particular needs.

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Gentrification, Poverty, and Beyond

Gentrification is a controversial issue.  On one hand, it can be seen as the revitalization of decaying urban areas by the influx of more affluent new residents.  It stabilizes the neighborhood and lowers the crime rate. On the contrary, it produces such ills as displacing the original, usually minority, residents who cannot afford the skyrocketing housing costs, as well as eliminating the culture and character of historic neighborhoods.  For example, there are those who miss and romanticize “Old New York.”  Up until around the 1990’s, New York City was known for it’s culture and fascinating urban experience that had to be seen to be believed. For instance, “the Deuce,” the area of West 42nd Street between 6th and 8th Avenues in Manhattan. Unfortunately, it was also obscenely crime and drug ridden and dangerous.   Many complain of the loss of this historic period in NYC history and of it’s “Disneyfication” which is a draw for extremely large numbers of tourists.  There are also those who hold the opinion that gentrification is not bad for, and perhaps even helps, the poor.  For example it creates jobs in neighborhoods which need them, as well as improves public services like law enforcement and schools.  Others hold that gentrification is not as wide spread as reported; that the real problem is that most urban areas that were poor decades ago are even more so today.  Given this fact, gentrification is not the problem, it’s widespread poverty, and that’s what needs the focus instead.

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ArtsNow

ArtsNow is a new non-profit that has emerged out of the Arts and Culture Assessment for Summit County. On Thursday, October 15 from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. ArtsNow will host an event at the John S. Knight Center to celebrate the launch of this free resource. Join the celebration for food, fun and entertainment. Visit their facebook page for more information https://www.facebook.com/SummitArtsNow

Akron-Summit County Public Library's photo.
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Reading Habits of the Rich And Powerful

Book recommendations are a great way of gaining or sharing insight about personality and character.  People are often interested in what famous and successful people are doing, including what they are reading.  At the beginning of this year, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced a challenge to himself and to his Facebook followers to read a new book every other week.  He says, “I’ve found reading books very intellectually fulfilling. Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today. I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books.”  How encouraging to hear this scion of social media praising the benefits of books and recognizing their ability to take the reader deeper into topics than the internet generally can.

Business Insider often shares lists of recommended books, many from prominent business figures. Recent articles include 12 Books That Bill Gates Thinks Everyone Should Read and 14 Books That Mark Zuckerberg Thinks Everyone Should Read.  The Zuckerberg list is based on the previously mentioned reading challenge.  Both lists are broad in their subject matter and reflect minds which are curious about many things.  Following are a few titles which can be found on the 3rd floor of Main Library in the Business & Government Division.

The End of Power– Mark Zuckerberg recommends The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches To States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What it Used To Be by Moises Naim.  Mr. Naim’s credentials include acting as Venezuela’s trade and industry minister and being editor in chief at Foreign Policy magazine.  The author often uses the phrase “decay of power” and points to the three m’s involved.  The m’s are “more” of everyone and everything, “mobility” of people and ideas, and “mentality”- changing aspirations, expectations, and values.  Certainly Mr. Zuckerberg’s Facebook and other social media sites operating on an international basis are driving forces in these changes.

How Asia Works– Bill Gates recommends and has written his own review of How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region by journalist Joe Studwell.  The author has written extensively about Asian economics for over twenty years.  The book takes a careful look at the most successful countries in the region- Japan, South Korea, Philippines- as well as some up and comers including Malaysia and Thailand.  Gates’ essay considers what insights Asia’s experience may provide for the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, especially in their development work in Africa.

The Better Angels of Our Nature-Recommended by both Zuckerberg and Gates is Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.  Despite the despair felt in the face of what seems to be overwhelming violence reported in the media, author Pinker demonstrates through an abundance of statistics that the reality for most people in most places is a safer and less violent culture.  The very fact that we are so often disturbed by reports of violence against people and animals supports the book’s thesis.  Such things were in the past too commonplace and mundane to merit much notice.

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You May be Receiving Mail from the Government. Please Do Not Panic.

The next Census Survey won’t take place until 2020. But, the Census Bureau recently sent out a letter to 1.2 million households asking them to fill out the 2015 National Contest Test.

The goal of the test is to improve questions and participation by testing out Internet options. If you received this letter, it’s not a scam and you are required by law to fill it out. By responding, you are helping to improve the survey and test out some cost saving measures for the Census.

For more information, read the 2015 National Contest announcement and the section on frequently asked questions concerning the test.

The Health Care Law and You: Nine Facts about Letters Sent by the IRS

The IRS sent letters to taxpayers this summer who were issued a Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, showing that advance payments of the premium tax credit were paid on the taxpayer’s behalf in 2014. At the time, the IRS had no record that the taxpayer filed a 2014 tax return.

Here are nine facts about these letters and the actions you should take:

  • IRS letters 5591, 5591A, or 5596 remind you of the importance of filing your 2014 federal tax return along with Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit.
  • You must file a tax return to reconcile any advance credit payments you received in 2014 and to maintain your eligibility for future premium assistance.
  • If you do not file, you will not be eligible for advance payments of the premium tax credit in 2016.
  • Even if you don’t usually file or if you requested an extension to Oct. 15, you should file your 2014 tax return as soon as possible.
  • Until you file a 2014 tax return to resolve the issue with your Marketplace, you will not be eligible to get advance payments of the premium tax credit to help pay your health coverage premiums in 2016 from the Marketplace.
  • You should have received a Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, earlier this year if you or a family member purchased health insurance coverage through the Marketplace in 2014.  This form provides the information you need to complete Form 8962. You must attach Form 8962 to the income tax return you file.
  • Contact your Marketplace if you have questions about your Form 1095-A.
  • If you have recently filed your 2014 tax return with Form 8962, you do not need to file another tax return or call the IRS about these letters.   In general, if you filed your tax return electronically, it takes three weeks before it is processed and your information is available. If you mailed your tax return, it takes about six weeks. However, processing times can vary based on other circumstances.
  • You should follow the instructions on any additional IRS correspondence that you receive to help the IRS verify information to process your tax return.

In addition to these letters from the IRS, your health insurance company may contact you to remind you to file your 2014 federal tax return along with Form 8962. In some cases, they may contact you even if you did not receive advance credit payments in 2014. If you are not otherwise required to file a tax return, you do not have to file a return if you or anyone on your return did not receive advance credit payments in 2014.

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