Sierra Survey Boosts Drought Outlook

KG_4th_snow_survey_2016_8109

California Council on Science and Technology Fellow John Thompson, right, joins Frank Gehrke, Chief Snow Surveyor for the Department of Water Resources, at the fourth media snow survey for the 2015/2016 season on March 30th.

What a difference a year makes.

Twelve months ago, on April 1, 2015, Governor Brown stood at the site of the State Department of Water Resources (DWR) annual early spring snow survey in the Sierra Nevada—Phillips Station, 90 miles east of Sacramento—but there was no snow to survey.

The Governor stood on dirt that day and issued his mandate to cut urban water use in California by 25 percent due to dire drought conditions. The Statewide snowpack’s water content was only 5 percent of the historical April 1 average, the lowest amount ever recorded.

Fast forward to March 30 this year, and the DWR snow survey told a much improved—if not totally rosy—story. Several feet of snow covered the Phillips Station site and, according to DWR, the snowpack water content on March 30 was 97 percent of the historical average for that day. Statewide, the snowpack—which accounts for nearly one-third of California’s water—was at 87 percent of normal.

However, while rainfall so far this year is significantly improved over last year for the critical Northern California watershed (29 percent above average), DWR cautions that conditions are less favorable in the Central Valley and Southern California. Key reservoirs in the north—Shasta, Oroville, and Folsom—now store more water than the average, but a lack of rain in the south has resulted in below-average storage in nearly all reservoirs there.

DWR emphasizes that, due to drought conditions that are still felt in many parts of the State, residents should continue water conservation efforts.

More information from the Department of Water Resources

For water conservation tips, visit Save Our Water: http://saveourwater.com
Drought Breaking News Page: www.water.ca.gov/waterconditions/
Water Conditions Page: http://water.ca.gov/waterconditions/waterconditions.cfm

Pharmacists Can Help You Quit Smoking

shutterstock_142852237

It just got a lot easier to kick the nicotine habit now that products to help you quit smoking are available from your local pharmacy without a prescription.

“Quitting smoking is difficult to do, but important to patient health. Pharmacists can now offer greater assistance to individuals who have decided to quit smoking,” said Virginia Herold, California State Board of Pharmacy executive officer.

Board of Pharmacy regulations went into effect in late January that allow pharmacists to furnish smoking cessation products without a prescription.  Before they can provide the products, pharmacists are required to complete two hours of approved continuing education on nicotine replacement therapy and must then receive ongoing training.

Before dispensing, your pharmacist must ask questions to determine if nicotine replacement products are safe for you. Your pharmacist will ask about your current tobacco use and attempts to quit; if you’ve suffered a recent heart attack; if you have a history of heart problems; if you have frequent chest pain or unstable angina; or if you have nasal allergies or have been diagnosed with temporal mandibular joint (TMJ). Women will be asked if they are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

A pharmacist will use his or her professional judgment and the responses to your questions to determine whether to furnish the products or refer you to a health care professional.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2014 nearly 17 out of every 100 Americans – or 40 million people – smoked cigarettes. The CDC says cigarette smoking kills 480,000 in the U.S. every year and is the leading cause of preventable disease and death. Along with those deaths, more than 16 million Americans live with smoking-related diseases. Quitting smoking is an important step to improving your health and life expectancy.

Pharmacists received authority to provide nicotine replacement products with the passage of SB 493 (Hernandez). The Board of Pharmacy and Medical Board of California then developed protocols for pharmacists to follow. Ask your pharmacist if he or she can work with you to help you kick the smoking habit and start on a path to better health.

Click here to view the regulation: http://www.pharmacy.ca.gov/laws_regs/1746_2_ooa.pdf.

 

 

Tax Scams Are On The Rise

tax pic

For many consumers, the tax filing season is “taxing” enough without having to worry about whether they’re being scammed during the process.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), they are seeing a surge of scam artists impersonating tax agents, contacting taxpayers by phone and demanding money from them.

“There are a couple of things that should set off red flags for taxpayers,” said Franchise Tax Board (FTB) spokesperson Jacob Roper. “The first is beware of anyone calling and asking you to pay your due balance via pre-loaded debit cards. The second is threatening to send the local police to your home to arrest you if you don’t comply.”

Roper adds that scammers also prey on the elderly knowing that their “strong sense of civic duty” will often scare them into paying.

“When consumers receive a call from an FTB employee, generally it will be only after they have received one or more notices,” adds Roper. “The best way for consumers to avoid these scams is to know the scammers schemes and keep your guard up.”

Unfortunately, being vigilant against these scammers isn’t always easy. The callers are aggressive and threatening. Remember, neither the IRS nor FTB will ever:

  • Call and demand immediate payment and threaten arrest.
  • Call without giving consumers an opportunity to discuss a potential tax dispute.
  • Call and ask for your credit card numbers.
  • Call and ask for payment via pre-paid debit cards.

Additionally, before the FTB calls a taxpayer, Roper says the agency mails notices to those with tax issues. These notices not only provide consumers the opportunity to voluntarily resolve outstanding tax liability, they also inform them of their legal rights and responsibilities.

Consumers, who believe a call is a scam, should hang up the phone immediately and report the scam to the IRS. You can also call 800.852.5711 to inquire about the status of your account or to verify if the caller is indeed an FTB employee.

The IRS website at www.irs.gov has additional information to help consumers recognize scams as well as tips on avoiding becoming a tax scam victim.

The Department of Consumer Affairs’ California Board of Accountancy is also a good tax resource for consumers. Did you know that California is one of the few states that has mandatory requirements for professional tax preparers?

State law requires anyone who prepares tax returns for a fee to be either an attorney, certified public accountant (CPA), a California Tax Education Council (CTEC) registered tax preparer (CRTP) or an enrolled agent (EA).

Choosing a tax preparer who is not one of those four professionals may prevent you from legal recourse against any type of tax fraud. It may also increase your chances for additional taxes, interest and fines. Always verify the legal status of a tax preparer before handing over your private tax information.

For more information about the California Board of Accountancy, visit their website at www.dca.ca.gov/cba.

Online Refractive Tests: Not the Same as Comprehensive Eye Exams

At first it sounds convenient and cost-effective—go online, get your eyes tested, and in exchange for a fee, you receive a prescription. You take that prescription wherever you want and get your glasses or contacts. No appointments, no fuss. Over and done.shutterstock_262231775

However, be aware that perfect vision doesn’t necessarily mean healthy eyes. Substituting an online refractive test for a comprehensive eye exam can mean key issues could be missed and you could be putting your eye health—and possibly your overall health—at serious risk.

An online refractive test is a service provided through a website. They are vision tests used to determine the appropriate lens power necessary to correct your vision. You take a brief test online for a fee, then receive a prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses from a California-licensed ophthalmologist.

The California State Board of Optometry (Board) is one of the many healthcare-related boards that operate under the Department of Consumer Affairs. The Board, which  licenses and regulates optometrists and the optometry profession, believes that routine, comprehensive eye exams are crucial. Comprehensive eye exams can reveal serious health issues such as cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, retinal tears and scarring, eye infections, and dry eye syndrome—conditions that cannot be checked or detected by an online refractive exam.

For more information, contact the Board of Optometry by phone at (916) 575-7170 or toll-free at (866) 585-2666, or visit the Board’s website, www.optometry.ca.gov.

 

 

DCA is Here to Help All Year Long

Looking to protect yourself from fraud, identity theft and scams? Maybe you’re wondering about the best way to use credit, shop for a used car, or maximize your security online.

National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is an education campaign involving private and public organizations working together to give all consumers the skills and knowledge they need to ensure their interactions in the marketplace are safe and successful. This week, we’ve shared many consumer protection resources the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) offers, and we encourage you to continue learning more. As NCPW wraps up, DCA wants to remind consumers that our resources and programs are available any time of year.

An informed consumer is a protected consumer. Learn more at www.dca.ca.gov. Also, see our complete list of free publications at http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/publications_list.shtml and follow us on Facebook and on Twitter @DCAnews.

DCALogo_small 2007

Friendly Reminder: Check the License

For years you’ve heard our “check the license” mantra repeated over and over. Why? Because it’s one way consumers can protect themselves from unscrupulous operators.

We’ve all heard the horror stories about people who have had bad contractor experiences, whether it’s sloppy workmanship, major cost overruns or even worse, a contractor who takes your money upfront and doesn’t return to do any work.

Now, during National Consumer Protection Week (#NCPW2016), we are once again reminding consumers to “check the license.” It’s easier than ever! Just look for the new “License Search” button on the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) home page (www.dca.ca.gov) and also on the websites of our more than 40 boards and bureaus. BreezeWebButton_R2_LicenseSearch

DCA provides current license status information on the more than 2.8 million professionals licensed or certified through our boards and bureaus. Licensing ensures that practitioners perform their duties to an acceptable standard and provides consumers with a remedy if a service is not delivered. For example, if you’re planning on enlisting the services of a contractor for some home remodeling, a quick license search will tell you if that contractor’s license is in good standing and if he or she is insured and bonded. Some bonds are designed to protect you against substandard work that does not meet local building codes. General liability insurance offers protection in case of accidental damage and workers’ compensation insurance covers employees in case of injury.

What else can you do to protect yourself from phony contractors and getting ripped off? Check the company’s status with your local Better Business Bureau, and ask friends and family for reputable referrals.

For more information, visit http://www.dca.ca.gov.

 

DCA’s In Your Corner

National Consumer Protection Week spotlights free resources, programs to help consumers

The California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is proud to be a partner during the 18th annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), a coordinated campaign that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions. This year, NCPW (#NCPW2016) runs from March 6 through 12, so stay tuned to this blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for great tips all week!

Being a savvy consumer is a year-round pursuit. Here are some of the ways DCA helps:

Licensing for protection

Through its boards, bureaus, committees and other entities, DCA regulates many industries and the people licensed to work in them. Licensing tells you that the person you are dealing with has met certain qualifications and levels of competency and offers a remedy if a service is not delivered or work is not acceptable.

To verify a license, call the Consumer Information Center at (800) 952-5210, or visit the DCA website at www.dca.ca.gov and click on the “License Search” button. Consumers can file complaints against licensees by contacting DCA at (800) 952-5210 or online at www.dca.ca.gov.

Consumer education and enforcement

Licensing is only part of the story. DCA promotes and protects the interests of California consumers in other ways as well.

Through award-winning consumer publications, social media, blogs and community outreach events, DCA staff educates consumers by giving them the information they need to avoid unscrupulous or unqualified people who promote deceptive or unsafe services.

DCA also advocates consumer interests before lawmakers and enforces consumer laws. Its enforcement staff works with the Attorney General’s Office and local district attorneys to fight fraud in the marketplace. Many investigations are initiated as the result of complaints from consumers. If DCA determines wrongdoing, it can place licensees on probation, or suspend or revoke licenses.

Dispute resolution

When a dispute arises between a customer and a business in certain industries under DCA’s jurisdiction, alternative methods are available for resolving complaints without going to court in which the involved parties can work out a solution with the help of a mediator.

Learn more on our website at www.dca.ca.gov or get our publication titled, Who We Are & What We Do For a free printed copy, call the DCA Publications Hotline at (866) 320-8652. Find more resources at www.ncpw.gov or #NCPW2016.

who-we-are-cover

Psychologist Surrenders License Due to Sexual Misconduct

Psychology_Logo_Banner

Southland Psychologist was accused of having sexual relations with a patient

SACRAMENTO – A psychologist has agreed to surrender her license after she was accused of sexual misconduct with a patient while she was a director of two recovery centers where the patient was being treated.

Read the entire news release here.

State Opposes Professional Boxing in 2016 Olympics

CSAC_bear_logo

The California State Athletic Commission responds in opposition to International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) decision to allow professional boxers to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

Read the press release here.