Community News Archives for 2019-12

Salvation Army looks to year-end gifts to help fund 2020 programs

With 2020 just days away, The Salvation Army is hopeful that year-end giving will make a big impact in communities across the state. Red kettle donations were down across the state, but these late-December donations can help ensure that life changing programs are able to continue into the new year.

 

In the United States, around 30% of all annual giving takes place during the month of December. For many Salvation Army locations, a large portion of their annual budgets are supported by the annual Red Kettle Christmas Campaign and charitable donations made in last weeks of the year. These donations include cash and personal checks, corporate and foundation gifts, and gifts of stocks, mutual funds, and federally-mandated IRA distributions.
 
"We've built up some amazing programs across Indiana," said Major Bob Webster, Divisional Commander of The Salvation Army in Indiana. "Everything from a world-class summer camp for low-income kids to our Pathway of Hope program, which is helping families break the cycle of poverty. These programs are dependent on the generosity of donors in every county in Indiana, because they serve Hoosiers from every zip code."

 

Year-end gifts can be designated to help a single county, community, facility, or program. Donors are able to earmark gifts for services like emergency assistance or food pantries. They can also ask that funds are used specifically to help children attend summer camp at Hidden Falls Camp or to help adults seeking treatment at the Harbor Light Center. Both of these Salvation Army facilities serve residents from every corner of the state.
 
Donors who are interested in making a year-end gift can contact the Indiana Divisional Headquarters in Indianapolis at (800) 589-1037 or find their local Salvation Army by visiting SalvationArmyIndiana.org. The easiest way to give is to visit the Ways to Give page on The Salvation Army's website: centralusa.salvationarmy.org/indiana/ways-to-give

 

Both designated and undesignated gifts can be sent through the mail to:

 

The Salvation Army Indiana Division

6060 Castleway West Drive

Indianapolis, IN 46250
 
Thank you to all the donors and volunteers who made 2019 such a wonderful year. Because of their efforts, The Salvation Army helped displaced people find shelter, hungry families put food on the table, and at-risk children rediscover the joys of childhood. There will always be need in Indiana, but The Salvation Army is dedicated to continue serving Hoosiers and giving them hope for better days ahead.

Final call for Shelbyville leaf pick-up

The City of Shelbyville Street Department says the leaf machine will stop running on Friday, January 3 for the season. 

 

Shelbyville residents can call the Street Department from now until next Friday to request pick up. 

 

After January 3, leaves will have to be bagged in paper bags for pickup. 

 

Call 317-392-5169 for scheduling.

DNR says no ice is safe ice

With the recent snowfall and dropping temperatures, Indiana Conservation Officers advise being mindful of the potential hazards of frozen lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.

 

It’s also important to keep a watchful eye on neighborhood retention ponds, lakes and other waterways for others who may venture out and find themselves in trouble.

 

Every winter, thousands of Hoosiers safely enjoy fishing, skating, hiking, or just sliding around on frozen ponds and lakes. And every year, people drown after falling through ice.

 

Just like  driving differently on snow versus clear roads, some may need to re-learn how to safely have fun on ice.

 

Put safety first. The best rule of thumb is, when thinking about getting on the ice, believe it is thin ice unless proven otherwise.

 

Here are a few tips to remember when considering standing on or walking on a frozen lake or pond: 

  1. No ice is safe ice.
  2. Test the thickness of the ice with an ice auger. At least 4 inches of ice is recommended for ice fishing; 5 inches is recommended for snowmobiling.
  3. If you don’t know the thickness of the ice, don‘t go on it.
  4. Wear life jackets or flotation coats.
  5. Carry ice hooks and rope gear.
  6. Before going on the ice, leave a note of your whereabouts with a friend or family member.
  7. Don’t test the thickness of the ice while alone.

Wearing a life jacket is especially important when on the ice. If you fall through, a life jacket will keep your head above the water until help arrives.

 

The coating of snow that Indiana just received can make for treacherous ice conditions. The snow can insulate the ice, causing it to freeze at a slower rate. When snow and rain freeze into ice, it is never as strong as solid, clear ice.

 

If you see a pet or other animal in distress on the ice, do not go after it. Doing so can often end in tragedy. Instead, contact your local emergency response personnel, who are equipped to make a rescue.

 

Some bodies of water will appear to be frozen solid but actually can have thin ice in several potentially unexpected areas. Flowing water, such as rivers and streams, should be avoided when covered by a layer of ice. Water that is surrounded by sand may freeze with inconsistencies in the thickness of the ice.

 

Underground springs, wind, waterfowl and other animals can also keep areas of ice thin.

Robinson awarded Lilly Endowment Scholarship by Blue River Community Foundation

Blue River Community Foundation submitted the following article announcing the 2020 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship for Shelby County - Maddie Robinson.

 

Blue River Community Foundation (BRCF) is pleased to announce the recipient of the 2020 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship for Shelby County. This prestigious award grants full tuition to any accredited public or private college or university in Indiana. In addition, it provides an annual stipend of $900 for required books and equipment.

 

Madeline (Maddie) E. Robinson is the Class of 2020 recipient for Shelby County. Maddie is the daughter of Rebecca and Heath Robinson. She will graduate in May from Waldron Jr./ Sr. High School and plans to attend Marian University to pursue a degree in nursing.

 

 

At the time of application, Maddie was ranked second in her graduating class and her GPA was 3.92 on a 4.0 scale. She is involved in several extracurricular activities including; National Honor Society (Vice President), Student Council (President), Sunshine Society (President), HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America), basketball, volleyball and softball. In addition, she is an active community volunteer who has served in various capacities for Waldron United Methodist Church, Shelby Senior Services, and her school community. Maddie is also employed at Especially Kidz as a certified nursing assistant.

 

Maddie’s dedication to pursuing a career in nursing is not only demonstrated through her current employment, but also with the academic track she committed to prior to high school.

 

After learning of Maddie’s selection, Whitney Moore, Waldron Jr./Sr. High School (WHS) Counselor, stated, “Maddie has been determined to enter the medical field in some way as long as I have known her. She approached me her freshman year to ask if we could arrange her four years at WHS to accommodate for 3 years (instead of our normal 2) at Blue River Career Programs (BRCP) in the Health Science programs and internship. Maddie has taken classes every summer to keep up with the requirements of the Academic Honors and Technical Honors Diplomas and provide flexibility to attend the career center. She has done internships and job shadowing to solidify her plans for life after high school and college. She is a highly motivated individual who is passionate about serving others and making a difference in the world, which she demonstrates regularly in her extracurricular involvements.”

 

The Foundation’s competitive selection process for this scholarship begins with an online application. Students must provide a written essay, two letters of recommendation, and a scholastic profile completed by their school counselor. Meaningful community involvement, extracurricular activities, academic history and commitment, character, and the student’s potential for success are also considered by the BRCF scholarship committee during the application evaluation process. Without question, selecting a student for the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship continues to be a difficult decision for BRCF’s Scholarship Selection Committee.

 

According to Julie Alvis, Youth and Education Program Officer for BRCF, the committee evaluated a total of 55 fully completed, qualifying applications for the 2020 scholarship. “Shelby County students continue to impress the members of our scholarship committee. In addition to excelling academically, these students are leaders that are contributing to our community.”

 

After thorough review of each application, which the Foundation’s scholarship committee does in the blind (applicant’s names are removed from viewing during this phase of the selection process), eight finalists were selected for a personal interview. Selection criteria considered during the interview include determination, decision making skills, knowledge of what is required to succeed in college and the ability to apply that knowledge, goal orientation and evidence of life planning, and intellectual curiosity in the student’s chosen field.

 

In addition to Maddie, Alexandra Carter (Shelbyville High School), Catherine (McKenna) Hall (Shelbyville High School), Brooke Haney (Triton Central High School), Karmen Kissell (Southwestern High School), Reid Schene (Shelbyville High School), Joshua von Werder (Shelbyville High School), and Landon Watson (Shelbyville High School) were also interviewed for the scholarship. Due to their exceptional academic and personal achievements, these seven students will receive a four-year renewable scholarship from one of the 90 funds administered by BRCF.

 

Independent Colleges of Indiana oversees the administration of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship program and provides final review and selection of the recipients. ICI is a nonprofit corporation that represents 30 regionally accredited degree granting, nonprofit, private colleges and universities in the state and oversees the administration of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program.

 

Since the program’s inception in 1998, 4,769 students have been awarded over $405M in full-tuition scholarships; including the 23rd cohort.

 

The primary purposes of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program are:

1. to help raise the level of educational attainment in Indiana

2. to increase awareness of the beneficial roles Indiana community foundations can play in their communities

3. to encourage and support the efforts of current and past Lilly Endowment Community Scholars to engage with each other and with Indiana business, governmental, educational, nonprofit and civic leaders to improve the quality of life in Indiana generally and in local communities throughout the state.

Rental fraud pervasive among home, vacation property listings, Better Business Bureau study shows

The place seems like a dream come true: the right space, the right location, the right price. But is it really for rent? Or will the renter or traveler arrive to find their money gone with nowhere to stay? 

 

An in-depth investigative study by Better Business Bureau (BBB) finds that fraud is widespread in the online rental home and vacation rental market, with 43% of online shoppers encountering a fake listing and more than 5 million consumers losing money to such scams. 

 

The investigative study -- Is That Rental Listing Real? A BBB Study of Rental Scams Involving Apartments, Houses and Vacation Properties -- notes that 85% of consumers encountering fake rental listings do not fall for them. However, these figures suggest that the volume of rental scams lurking on the internet is staggering. Get the full study at bbb.org/rentalscams

 

According to the study, rental scams can take several forms, but perhaps most commonly, fraudsters simply copy the photo and description of a property, post it online with their own contact information and try to get a deposit and first month’s rent from the victim. The fraudster may communicate only by email or text message and may claim to be out of the country and unavailable to show the property. Once the victim sends money, the fraudster disappears. 

 

In less common types of fraud, victims may be enticed to buy an online directory of homes supposedly for rent, or they may be tricked into signing up for credit monitoring that comes with recurring monthly charges. 

 

“While an advertised rental that meets your needs at a great price might be tempting, it may just be a scam,” said Tim Mansicalo, BBB Central Indiana President and CEO. “Consumers shouldn’t rush into paying upfront fees for renting housing sight-unseen. Instead, take time to verify the details of listings.” 

 

BBB Scam Tracker has received more than 1,300 reports of rental fraud from 2016 to 2019, while the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reports more than $37 million from January 1, 2019, through October 20, 2019, in losses associated with complaints that mention the word “rent.” 

 

Many consumers look for rental listings on free classified listing sites like Craigslist in the U.S. and Kijiji in Canada, as well as Facebook Marketplace. They also check websites such as Apartments.com, Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and Homes.com. Fake listings turn up frequently on these sites, despite the companies’ efforts to keep scam listings off their sites and warn consumers about potential fraud. The study finds that while the most fraud reports come from the largest metropolitan areas, no geographic area in North America appears to be safe from it. 

 

One Indianapolis woman lost more than $1,000 to a scammer that posed as an actual property management company. The scammer duplicated the company’s rental listing and took advantage of how large property management companies show rentals. By using a website called Rently, a self-showing solution for residential rental vacancies, the scammer was able to intercept the process and provide the woman with a lockbox code to view the property. The property manager contacted her after she visited a property, but the scammer acted quickly before anyone caught on by pressuring her to make a deposit via money order. 

 

Scams also frequently appear on vacation rental websites such as Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway.com. They follow the same pattern, preying on vacationers’ inability to check out a listing before paying money for it. Cases also have been noted of scammers luring a renter away from Airbnb to deal with the “landlord” directly or spoofing Airbnb’s site to impersonate the landlord and the company’s payment portal. These companies likewise have warned consumers about potential fraud and taken steps against fake listings. 

 

Rental fraud often is committed by Nigerian criminal gangs that participate in other types of fraud. Law enforcement efforts have targeted perpetrators of a variety of rental fraud. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took action against a company that fraudulently sold credit monitoring that allegedly was required before a consumer could tour a rental property, while another company selling a fake directory of “pre-foreclosure” homes was successfully prosecuted in federal court. 

In addition to warning consumers of red flags that may signal apartment or vacation rental scams, the report recommends: 

 

  • Rental unit owners should watermark photos used for rental postings, which will make it more difficult for scammers to copy photos of other properties posted online.  

  • Website platforms that list houses, apartments and vacation properties should make extra effort to screen for bogus listings, and they should explore ways to allow consumers to easily report scam listings. 

  • Police should encourage victims to report not only to the rental platform, but also to the FTC, BBB, and IC3. 

What to do if you are the victim of a rental scam: 

Online form intended to help fight Social Security scams

Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, and Gail S. Ennis, the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration, have announced the launch of a dedicated online form at oig.ssa.gov to receive reports from the public of Social Security-related scams.

 

These scams—in which fraudulent callers mislead victims into making cash or gift card payments to avoid arrest for purported Social Security number problems—skyrocketed over the past year to become the #1 type of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission and the Social Security Administration.

 

To combat these scams, Social Security and the OIG will use the new online form to capture data that will be analyzed for trends and commonalities. The OIG will use the data to identify investigative leads, which could help identify criminal entities or individuals participating in or facilitating the scams. Ultimately, these efforts are expected to disrupt the scammers, help reduce this type of fraud, and reduce the number of victims.

 

Commissioner Saul and Inspector General Ennis encourage the public to use the new online form to report Social Security phone scams including robocalls and live callers, as well as email, text, and in-person scams. The form allows people to create a unique Personal Identification Number (PIN), so if OIG contacts a person about their report, they will know the call is legitimate.

 

Social Security employees do occasionally contact people--generally those who have ongoing business with the agency--by telephone for business purposes. However, Social Security employees will never threaten a person, or promise a Social Security benefit approval, or increase, in exchange for information or money. In those cases, the call is fraudulent and people should just hang up.

Generally, the agency mainly calls people who have recently applied for a Social Security benefit, someone who is already receiving payments and requires an update to their record, or a person who has requested a phone call from the agency. If a person is not in one of these situations, they normally would not receive a call from the agency.

 

The Social Security OIG will also continue to take reports of fraud, waste, and abuse in Social Security's programs and operations. A separate online form for those reports remains available at their website.

 

Online shopping this holiday season? Be sure to stay safe

The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and the Indiana Department of Revenue (DOR) is partnering with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to encourage online shoppers to be extra vigilant to protect their important financial data.

 

The holidays offer cybercriminals the perfect opportunity to steal sensitive data and turn it into cash by either draining financial accounts, charging credit cards, creating new accounts or even using stolen identities to file a fraudulent tax return for a refund.

 

“We all need to proceed with a heightened sense of awareness during the holiday season to protect our financial and personal information,” said DOR Commissioner Adam Krupp. “Please don’t let your guard down, especially during the season of giving, because cybercriminals, in particular, are looking to prey upon Hoosier consumers.”

 

The IRS and DOR have several tips to help individuals protect themselves while shopping online:

  • Avoid unprotected Wi-Fi. Unprotected, public Wi-Fi hotspots may allow thieves to view transactions causing a huge risk if you make any online purchases or financial transactions.
  • Shop at familiar online retailers. Generally, sites with the “s” designation in “https” at the start of the URL are secure. Be sure to also look for the “lock” icon in the browser’s URL bar.
  • Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails. Look for misspellings and bad grammar. Never click on links or attachments from unknown or suspicious sources and remember, neither DOR nor the IRS uses email to send or request sensitive information.
  • Keep a clean machine. Use security software to protect against malware that may steal data and viruses that may damage files. Set it to update automatically, so your device always has the latest security defenses.
  • Use strong and unique passwords. Be sure to use different passwords for each account and use a password manager if necessary. Experts suggest a minimum of 10 characters.
  • Use multi-factor authentication. If it is offered, set up your multi-factor authentication for accounts. This means that users may need a security code, usually sent as a text to a mobile phone, in addition to usernames and passwords.
  • Encrypt and password-protect sensitive data. If keeping financial records, tax returns or any personally identifiable information on computers, encrypt this data and use a strong password.

To learn more about how to prevent identity theft, visit DOR’s website at www.dor.in.gov and click on “Stop ID theft” on the menu.