Letter from the Undersecretary
Dear Massachusetts Consumer,
During these challenging times it is more important than ever to feel connected to one another. We want to remind you that the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is a resource you can always turn to for helpful information.
As we all adhere to Governor Baker’s stay-at-home advisory while teleworking and home-schooling, it is important for each of us to also feel empowered. So, please do your part and fill out the 2020 census online to help our Commonwealth maximize federal funding. Additionally, please consider contacting the Red Cross to donate much needed blood, or supporting the newly established Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund.
Finally, remember to check in on neighbors who are elderly and/or disabled and help them out by picking up groceries or other necessities. We are all in this together, and we can all make a difference in helping to flatten the curve of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) by adhering to social distancing protocols.
Please be safe, and be well!
Edward A. Palleschi
Undersecretary, Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation
FBI Warns: Zoom Bombers on the Attack
With much of the world at home these days, staying connected through video-teleconferencing apps for work and school has become quite common. As this technology gains in popularity, hackers are flocking to it as well, finding was to be disruptive by infiltrating videoconferences and online classes. By hijacking these platforms, hackers can record or steal information, shout profanities, reveal private information about speakers, and/or share inappropriate materials. This is known as Zoom bombing.
Steps you can take to protect against Zoom bombers:
- Disable guest screen sharing
- Properly secure browser
- Require the host to be present: make sure the “Join before host” setting is off.
- Keep your personal meeting ID private: use a unique meeting ID for each separate meeting
- Use a password: only share with those people you would like to attend
- Use a waiting room: gives the host control over who can attend
- Keep Zoom client updated: If you are prompted to update your Zoom client, install the update.
- Lock meetings when everyone has joined so that nobody else can join
- Make sure that your organization’s telework policy or guide addresses requirements for physical and information security
What you need to know about Zoom conferencing:
- The host can record a Zoom meeting, including video & audio to their computer. Participants will know when a meeting is being recorded as there will be a ‘recording’ indicator displayed in the top left of the meeting
- A user can download their chat logs before leaving a meeting. These logs will only contain messages that you could see, but not the private chat messages of other users.
- Do not post pictures of your Zoom meetings. If you take a picture of the meeting then anyone who sees the picture will be able to see its associated meeting ID. This can then be used by an unauthorized person to try to access the meeting
- Don’t post public links to your meeting: this will cause search engines such as Google to index the links and make them accessible to anyone who searches for them.
- Be on the lookout for Zoom-themed malware, phishing scams, and other attacks. Only download the Zoom client directly from the legitimate Zoom.us site and not from anywhere else.
For further information on Zoom’s security, please see their security guide.
If you were a victim of teleconference hijacking or any cyber-crime report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov. If you receive a specific threat during a teleconference, please report it to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov or call the FBI Boston Division: (857) 386-2000
Fraud Alert: Impostor Scams
The Federal Tarde Commission (FTC) is warning consumers about scammers who are trying to take advantage of the public’s fears, and home-bound situations, by peddling everything from fake cures and virus testing to phony charities and early access to stimulus payments. Scammers are putting in long hours trying to find new ways to deceive you to steal your personal information and your money during the pandemic emergency by using tricks they began perfecting long before anyone heard of COVID-19.
In 2019, the FTC received 3.2 million complaints about impostor scams, with a cost of $667 million to consumers. And in the first three months of this year, more than 7,200 Coronavirus related complaints have been logged by the FTC, with a cost of $4.6 million to consumers.
To keep scammers from getting the best of you begin by guarding your privacy: do not connect to email links, do not respond to robocalls, do not let strangers into your home, ignore online ads for vaccinations and home test kits, know who you are buying from when dealing with online vendors, and do your homework before making online donations to charities and non-profits.
Helpful government resources:
DOI Approves Rate Reduction
The Division of Insurance (DOI) has approved a 6.8 percent reduction in the existing overall average workers’ compensation insurance rates for policies effective on and after July 1, 2020. The rate decrease was the result of a compromise reached by the State Rating Bureau, the Workers’ Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau of Massachusetts (WCRIB) and the Attorney General’s Office.
“We appreciate the collaboration by all the parties to lower workers’ compensation rates. This relief removes any further delay and uncertainty for policyholders and is especially important for businesses grappling with the economic impact of the COVID-19 public health crisis,” said Commissioner of Insurance Gary D. Anderson.
With a few, limited exceptions, Massachusetts businesses must purchase workers’ compensation insurance to provide for lost wages and other expenses for employees who are injured while on the job. A 6.8 percent decrease in premiums will result in savings for business owners across the Commonwealth.
The WCRIB initially sought a statewide average rate decrease of 3.8 percent. Following a public hearing, the rates were set through an administrative hearing before the Division of Insurance.
The State Rating Bureau, within the Division of Insurance, serves as a consumer representative in hearings on the appropriateness of rates filed by auto, workers' compensation and health insurance carriers.
Licensure and Essential Business Designation
The State of Emergency is impacting individuals in every profession. Those who work in the 167 trades and professions licensed by the Division of Professional Licensure’s (DPL) 38 boards have one less thing to worry about when it comes to licensure.
On March 18th, 2020, Governor Baker signed an executive order extending the registration of certain licensed professions. Effective immediately, all individual and business licensees that are current and in good standing will remain current throughout the period of the State of Emergency. Once the State of Emergency is declared over, your license will remain current for an additional 90 days. After that 90-day period, if you have not satisfied all of the requirements to renew your license, it will expire.Licenses issued by municipalities, agencies under other independent constitutional officers (e.g., Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, which is under the Office of the Treasurer), and Quasi government agencies are not covered by this order. For information on licenses issued by those entities, please visit their websites.
During this unprecedented time business operations are contingent upon an “essential” designation. To see if your business is on the Governor’s list of Essential Businesses, check here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-essential-services-faqs. To stay up-to-date on what is happening in the Commonwealth during the state of emergency, go to: COVID-19 Mass Gov State of Emergency. Or, visit the Division of Professional Licensure.
Employee Spotlight: Commissioner D'Emilia
Layla D'Emilia Esq. was sworn in as Commissioner of the Division of Professional Licensure (DPL) by Ed Palleschi, Undersecretary of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation on March 9, 2020. She joins DPL from Indigo Consulting, a legal consulting firm, where she was Founder and Principal. D’Emilia previously served as Deputy Director of Policy and Boards at DPL.
Helpful Consumer Resources
The state has launched a COVID-19 Text Message Notification System. To receive daily updates text “COVIDMA” to 888-777