Homeowners & Landowners: The U.S. Gov Has You Covered!

April 26, 2016

Homeowners and landowners! The U.S. Government has several useful publications to help you make knowledgeable decisions about your habitat. Reduce the hazards of lead-based paint. Stop up energy-wasting air leaks. Know what you need to know about interstate natural gas projects. Read on!

Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home

055-000-00683-1Lead-based paint is hazardous. You probably know that. The older the building, the more likely the inside and outside surfaces contain the heavy metal (the chemical element, not the music). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development pulled together this brochure to help you identify the many sources of lead and eliminate risks.

First step: “The only way to find out if paint, dust, or soil lead hazards exist is to test for them.” For homes and childcare facilities built before 1978, you have cause to act even quicker. In fact, Federal law requires disclosure of lead-based paint information to prospective buyers and renters of pre-1978 properties. Protect your family from damaging health effects—check your home for lead!

A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Sealing and Insulating with Energy Star

055-000-00684-9Does Aunt Mabel often feel a draft when she’s visiting your home? Better patch up those leaks! The EPA offers this handy guide to locate and seal leaks, specifically in the basement and attic where most problematic leaks are hidden. Pesky leaks love to seek cover behind insulation.

To get started, make a rough sketch of your home’s floor plan. Spatial reference points will help you locate common household air leaks in wiring holes, plumbing vents, furnace flues, etc. Then follow the booklet’s guidance for plugging holes and caulking gaps. Enhance the performance of your insulation, reduce your energy bills, and make your home more comfortable—this government resource will get you there.

An Interstate Natural Gas Facility on My Land? What Do I Need to Know?

061-000-00967-1_Page_01If these are questions that keep you up at night, then grab yourself a copy of this Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) booklet. FERC is responsible for approving private natural gas pipelines projects. The agency assembled this concise, illustrative pamphlet to let consumers know:

  • How the Commission’s evaluation process works;
  • Landowner rights;
  • Issues involving project location and pipeline construction
  • Environmental, safety, and storage issues.

Bonus: a two-page graphic of a pipeline installation sequence gives visual context to what it takes to move natural gas across state boundaries. It’s quite the process. And FERC is here to tell you all you need to know.

HOW DO I OBTAIN THESE PUBLICATIONS?

Shop Online Anytime: You can buy eBooks or print publications —with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide— from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov.

 Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.

Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.

Visit a Federal depository library: Search for U.S. Government publications in a nearby Federal depository library. You can find the records for most titles in GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications.

About the author: Our guest blogger is Chelsea Milko, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Public Relations Office.


Ponzimonium Revisited: An Interview from the Front Lines of the Battle against Investment Fraud

September 3, 2013

Ponzimonium: How Scam Artists Are Ripping Off America (FREE eBook from CFTC available at http://bookstore.gpo.gpo) With the recent publishing of the FREE EBOOK edition of the CFTC’s best-selling investment fraud paperback book Ponzimonium: How Scam Artists are Ripping Off America on the U.S. Government Bookstore website, Government Book Talk interviews the team behind Ponzimonium at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)– Commissioner Bart Chilton, Consumer Outreach Officer Michael Herndon, and Whistleblower Office (WBO) Director Christopher Ehrman– to talk about life after Ponzimonium was first published and the state of the CFTC’s battle against investment fraud.

Background: What is Ponzimonium about?

In November 2011, Government Book Talk reviewed the recently released book in Part I of this 2-part Ponzimonium blog series:

Ponzimonium: How Scam Artists are Ripping Off America introduces some of the lesser known, but equally despicable fraudsters that have been uncovered since 2008 by the CFTC and SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission).

The book lays out the fascinating and dramatic details behind the fraudulent schemes, their smooth-talking masterminds, and their many honest, hard-working victims, who often lose the money they’ve saved for their kids’ college funds, needed health care expenses, or their own retirement as a result of misplaced trust in these criminals.”

In addition to the engrossing stories of crime and consequences, Ponzimonium also includes some very useful features for consumers that make this a valuable resource for any investor to avoid getting scammed, including Red Flags of Fraud, Investor Checklist, Fraud Resources and a Glossary of Terms, among others.  To learn about how a Ponzi scheme works and more details of the book, read our Part I blog post.

Reaction to Ponzimonium

Government Book Talk: Commissioner Chilton, now that it’s been two years since Ponzimonium first came out, what has been the reaction to the publication?    

Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Commissioner Bart ChiltonCommissioner Chilton: It’s been great! The media has helped to get the word out about how folks need to be cautious.  A lot of times, in conjunction with a speech, the organizers will provide copies to their participants.  I get all sorts of positive feedback from people and schools are using it as well.  But, most importantly, I receive letters and emails all the time from folks who, because of this book, avoided making a major misstep.  Some have questioned their investment choices and saved themselves and their families a lot of agony.

GOVBOOKTALK: What are you most proud of with Ponzimonium?

Chilton:  I’m most proud that we created something totally different for the Government with this book. Ponzimonium is about real life Ponzi scams that is told in an engaging way and it’s actually helping people avoid becoming a victim of a financial fraud.  It’s more than just another spiffy web site, or a brochure.  Those things are great and necessary too, but Ponzimonium is a value-added education tool which never existed before.  It’s a new and needed tool in our education and outreach arsenal.

GOVBOOKTALK: Any examples of how consumers or others are using Ponzimonium?

Chilton: In addition to consumers who have printed it off or purchased it in print  and now are downloading it for free as an eBook from the GPO bookstore, we have many professors who are using Ponzimonium as a supplemental teaching text.  The book has been used at Georgetown University, the University of Chicago, New York Law School, Rice University, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Delaware, Cornell and several other colleges and universities, not to mention many high schools. 

If you would like copies of Ponzimonium for educational purposes, please contact our outreach office at consumers@cftc.gov.

Also, we just started offering Ponzimonium to public libraries and have had an excellent response.  Some are even providing extra copies of it to patrons in addition to keeping one in their permanent collection.  Our Office of Consumer Outreach is continuing to explore ways to get the book and its message out to the public.

Current Status of Investment Fraud in the U.S.

GOVBOOKTALK: Michael, do you believe the amount of fraud is increasing and if so, why?

Michael Herndon, Consumer Outreach Officer, Commodity Futures Trading CommissionMichael Herndon, Consumer Outreach Officer for the CFTCFederal, state and local law enforcement officials have reported enormous increases in tips and criminal activity since the economy tanked in 2008, and are still witnessing historic levels of these scams today.  At any one time, enforcement staff at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) are investigating anywhere between 750 and 1,000 individuals and entities for various violations of the law. 

Increases in tips and fraud cases have also occurred at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in the states, and in various localities around the world.

Advice to Consumers on Avoiding Investment Fraud

GovBookTalk: What are some common con artist tactics to watch out for?

Herndon, Consumer Outreach Officer for the CFTC: Con artists, especially in investment/trading frauds, use a lot of tactics that seem obvious after the fact, but work at getting someone to fall for their scam. They include:

* “Easy Money”—dangling the prospect of quick riches and enticing you with the high returns you want but can’t find elsewhere.

* “Credibility”—trying to build credibility by claiming to be with a reputable firm, have a special credential, or possess lots of experience.

* “Social Consensus”—leading you to believe that other savvy investors have already invested.

* “Tradeoff”—offering to do a small favor for you in return for a big favor, like take you to lunch and then ask you to invest with them.

* “Scarcity”—creating a false sense of urgency by claiming limited supply or time limit of the investment.

GovBookTalk: Any additional advice to consumers not included in the original book?

Herndon: Report fraud! We know that falling for a fraud is painful and can be financially devastating. Yet so many people don’t report fraud that’s happened to them for a variety of reasons including shame and a sense there’s no point in trying to get their money back. However, there are several financial benefits of reporting fraud including tax implications and possible restitution.

And I always like to remind people, for fraudsters, ripping people off is their job and sadly they are very good at it. There’s no shame in making a mistake to someone who is that good.

GovBookTalk: If a consumer suspects something “fishy” with a proposed investment, how does he check it out? What is the process s/he should follow? Whom should they contact?

Herndon: If a consumer suspects something fishy, there’s VERY good reason for that usually. You’d be surprised how many people think something is odd about a deal, yet go ahead with it. That gut feeling often proves to be correct. As for checking it out, there are a few simple things consumer should ALWAYS do, no matter the profession.

First, check with an independent government agency or authority about the person or business. If you ask someone, “Are you legitimate?” of course they will tell you yes, and that their registered as they need to be. However, with a few quick phone calls or internet searches you can find out for yourself.

For individuals under CFTC jurisdiction, consumers can find information on the National Futures Association’s Background Affiliation Status Information Center database (BASIC).

For other investments, you can research brokers, brokerage firms, investment advisers and firms with this free tool from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, FINRA’s BrokerCheck. Also, just a simple call to see if the person has a business license or even searching their name on an internet search engine can help.

 My advice is always consult THREE independent sources for background information before you invest, or conduct any financial transaction for that matter.

GovBookTalk: Thanks, Michael, this is great advice for our readers and their friends and families!

FINRA_broker_checkImage: FINRA’s website with link to Broker Check:
http://www.finra.org/Investors/ToolsCalculators/BrokerCheck/

How and Why to Blow the Whistle

GovBookTalk: Christopher, what about a whistleblower in a company that suspects something illicit is going on?  How should s/he report his/her suspicions and why?

Christopher Ehrman, Director, Whistleblower Office (WBO): The person is encouraged to report the information to the CFTC’s Whistleblower Office. The office was created to receive and process original information from individuals who voluntarily report potential violations of the Commodity Exchange Act.  The program provides monetary awards if the CFTC brings an action, based on that information, resulting in more than $1 million.

If the person chooses to report internally first, their information will be deemed to be submitted to us on the date they reported it internally if they also report it to us within 120 days of that date.  Under these circumstances, we will consider their place in line for determining whether the information is “original information” to be the date they reported it internally. Also, the fact that the whistleblower reported their information internally, and the extent to which they helped their company uncover a violation, will be considered as factors that may increase the size of any award that they are eligible to receive.

However, please note that a whistleblower is not required to report internally to be eligible for a whistleblower award, and they may submit their information directly to us at any time. 

For a more detailed overview of the CFTC Investment Fraud Whistleblower program and how to contact the office, please visit http://www.cftc.gov/ConsumerProtection/WhistleblowerProgram/index.htm.

Government Book Talk: Thank you, Christopher. Hopefully, those who have knowledge of a known or suspected fraud going on will get in touch with your office and prevent these despicable criminals from devastating more lives. Which brings me to my last question.

Michael, speaking of “these despicable criminals”, inquiring minds wish to know if there are any updates on the perpetrators listed in the original Ponzimonium book?

Michael Herndon: Yes, in the reprint of the book– due later this year– we are including updates to two of the cases, Chapters 3 and 10. Stay tuned…

GovBookTalk: We– and America– can’t wait! Thanks again to all of you at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and for all you do to help honest investors.

How can you get a copy of Ponzimonium?

With this special offer, the GPO best-selling book on Ponzi schemes and other investment frauds and how to avoid them, Ponzimonium: How Scam Artists Are Ripping Off America, is now AVAILABLE FOR FREE as an eBook from the CFTC on the US Government Bookstore website.

Download the FREE Ponzimonium eBook in these formats:

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Over 1 Billion Served: GPO’s Pueblo Distribution Center Hits Historic Milestone Today

May 7, 2013

GPO_Pueblo_1_Billion-Shipped1 Billion.  One thousand million. Any way you count it, that’s a bundle! And at the US Government Printing Office Document Distribution Center in Pueblo, Colorado, we have reached that magic number. As of today, our Pueblo facility has shipped over 1 billion consumer publications, making it a bundle of bundles sent out to the American people!

GPO’s Western Expansion

Growing up, I always heard or read public service announcements from the Federal Government offering helpful advice on everything from how mortgages work to getting vaccinations. Each time, the commercial or ad would end with the same tag line: “To order this helpful free publication, contact us in Pueblo, Colorado” and an address and phone number (and today, a website address) would be given with ordering information.  I thought it amazing that all this great consumer information was available from one Colorado town.

Although unbeknownst to me at the time, it turns out this famous Pueblo location is actually one of two distribution facilities operated by the Government Printing Office’s Agency Distribution Services that stores and ships out Government publications on behalf of our Federal agency clients to the public –the other being in Laurel, Maryland.

In an effort led by House Appropriations Committee member Congressman Frank Evans, the GPO distribution facility was proposed and then approved on October 8, 1970, by the Joint Committee on Printing and the 15th Public Printer of the United States, Adolphus Nichol (Nick) Spence. The Pueblo Public Documents Distribution Center (PuDDC) was dedicated on October 8, 1971, and opened on October 11, 1971, to provide support for the expanding dissemination needs of Federal agencies, from books to posters to other products.

GPO_Pueblo_Congressman-Frank-Evans-Distribution-CenterLast year, President Barack Obama signed an act of the 111th Congress to rename the center the “Congressman Frank Evans US Government Printing Office Pueblo Document Distribution Center” after the former Congressman who passed away in June of 2010. It was re-dedicated on October 11, 2011, for the fortieth anniversary of the Pueblo facility.

Image: Renaming ceremony of the GPO Pueblo facility on October 11, 2011.

Today, GPO’s Pueblo Document Distribution Center provides distribution services to 10 federal agencies and other entities including: The Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Health and Human Service (HHS – Women’s Health), Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), Federal Drug Administration (FDA), Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and three programs within the Department of Homeland Security  that produce items such as Transportation Security Administration (TSA) posters, bookmarks and baggage inserts.

Ruehlen-at-Pueblo-PuDDCImage: Jimmy Ruehlen has worked for Pueblo’s Government Printing Office Distribution Center since it began operations 40 years ago. Photo credit: The Pueblo Chieftain / Mike Sweeney (Photographer)

The Pueblo Distribution Center has processed over 105 million customer orders from the day it opened its doors through the end of April 2013, and as of today, May 2, 2013, the Center has distributed over 1 billion publications on behalf of its various Federal clients.

GPO Gets a “CIC” out of Distributing Consumer Publications

The Pueblo facility really got a kick-start when it signed an inter-agency agreement with the General Services Administration (GSA) in January of 1973 to take over the warehousing and distribution of the millions of printed consumer publications being provided through GSA’s then-new Consumer Information Center (or CIC), which itself has provided service to the GSA’s Federal Citizen Information Center (or FCIC), the U.S. Postal Service and the Department of Education.

Consumer-Info-Catalog-Winter-Spring-2013_coverThe gem in the FCIC’s crown is the Consumer Information Catalog, printed by GPO, which lists the latest and most popular of the many thousands of consumer publications available by topic and is updated several times a year.

Most of the print publications–the majority printed by GPO– in the Consumer Information Catalog are FREE for U.S. delivery if ordered online; the rest require only a nominal fee. Plus, a number of the publications are offered for FREE in electronic format for immediate download on the Publications.USA.gov website.

Some of the many categories of helpful consumer pamphlets and publications include: Education; Employment; Family including Pets; Federal Programs and Benefits, Food; Health including Drugs and Exercise & Diet (even information on braces, tattoos, and tanning!); Housing including Financing and Home Maintenance; the ever-popular Money category including Fraud, Credit Cards, Living Trusts, and Retirement Planning; even Small Business and Travel, and more.

Consumer-Info-Catalog-Winter-Spring-2013_Page_11

Image: Page from the Consumer Information Catalog Winter/ Spring 2013 Edition.

How can I get a copy of the Consumer Information Catalog and order publications?

Find the latest Consumer Information Catalog in PDF format online, or you can also order FREE print copies to be mailed to you at the same Publications.USA.gov website.

Consumer-Action-Handbook-2013The most popular document distributed by Pueblo remains the annual Consumer Action Handbook, a free trouble-shooting guide to help Americans solve all sorts of consumer problems. I’ve ordered five to share with family and friends!

In addition to ordering from GSA’s Publications.USA.gov website, you can find a number of these consumer publications on GPO’s US Government Online Bookstore.

Below are some of the more popular publications in the Consumer Information Catalog that are also available on GPO’s online bookstore:

You can also browse our Consumer, Home & Family category on our online bookstore.

With so many useful consumer publications available from the Federal Government, I’m sure it won’t be long until we distribute another billion items to help American consumers!

About the Author:

Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


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