Weekly Update: March 17, 2023

NC Attorney General Josh Stein on ACA Protection & Fraud Prevention

Attorney General Josh Stein

February 2022

As your attorney general, it’s an honor for me to go to work every day to protect the people of North Carolina. My colleagues at the Department of Justice and I are dedicated to making North Carolinians’ lives better. You all understand the reward that comes from public service because you have also devoted your lives to serving others – thank you. As attorney general, please know that I am committed to safeguarding the rights of older or retired North Carolinians.

That includes fighting to make sure you can receive affordable quality health care. I have fought to defend the Affordable Care Act all the way to the Supreme Court – and won. The ACA protects more than 4 million North Carolinians from being discriminated against because of their pre-existing conditions, and it saves more than 1.8 million North Carolina seniors more than $1,100 a year on drug costs on average. Health care is a basic right, and I’ll continue to defend it. 

Additionally, my Consumer Protection Division works to protect seniors, students, and consumers from frauds and scams. During my time as attorney general, my office has won back more than $2.5 billion through consumer and taxpayer relief for the people of North Carolina. 

Fraudsters often prey on older or vulnerable populations to try to scam you out of your hard-earned money. In 2021 alone, my office received more than 1,000 complaints of elder fraud. 

Of course, the issue I hear about the most is robocalls. They are a scourge that disrupt our peace of mind every single day, and worse, rob people of their hard-earned money. Last year, North Carolinians filed more than 10,000 robocall reports with my office. That’s why I’m leading a nationwide group of 51 attorneys general and 15 phone companies to push the phone companies to put technology in place that prevents these robocalls from coming to your phone in the first place. 

And we’re also working together to hold these scammers accountable for their behavior. This January, I brought a lawsuit against telephone service provider Articul8 and its owner Paul K. Talbot for allowing tens of millions of illegal robocalls from international callers on the U.S. telephone network. The only way telemarketers can inundate our phones with robocalls is with the complicity of these gateway phone companies. These phone companies turn a blind eye to illegal robocalls in order to make money on each call. It’s wrong. It violates state and federal law, and I won’t tolerate it.

But the best thing you can do to protect yourself is watch out for the common warning signs of a scam: 

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 
  • A lot of exciting offers require you to make a small advance payment first. Don’t fall for it.
  • Don’t give your bank account or Social Security number to anyone you don’t know. 
  • If you get a call or email from someone you don’t recognize, or from a company you may do business with, examine it closely. Call or email the business back through a number or website you know to be legitimate. 
  • Pay with your credit card when you purchase so you can dispute a purchase if needed.
  • If you’re feeling pressured or something doesn’t feel right, pause and verify with someone you trust. 

I encourage you to visit our website at www.ncdoj.gov to learn more about how you can recognize the signs of a scam and protect yourself. If you have questions or think you might have been victimized by a scammer, report it to my office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or ncdoj.gov/complaint

As your attorney general, I’ll go after anyone who breaks the law to harm North Carolinians. And I’ll continue to fight to protect your rights and make sure we all have the opportunity to pursue our dreams, take care of those we love, be a part of strong, stable communities, and live out our lives with dignity. Thank you for your service to our state and its people.

Local Government Retirees to See a Spending Boost in 2022

Legislative Update

North Carolina’s local government retirees will receive a long overdue boost in their annual pensions. In late January the Local Governmental Employees’ Retirement Board, which governs the state’s local government pension system, approved an across-the-board 2 percent bonus for local government retirees.

There are more than 77,000 local government retirees in North Carolina who will receive the bonus in October 2022, as pursuant to state law. While local government retirees will receive their bonus, more than 234,000 state government retirees received a similar 2 percent bonus in their December 2021 checks, with another 3 percent bonus also coming in October 2022.

North Carolina Retired Governmental Employees’ Association (NCRGEA) represents both state and local government retirees and worked with state legislators, the State Treasurer, Governor’s office and both local and state retirement system boards to help insure that retired public servants would see a pension boost. NCRGEA Board of Directors President Vann Langston said he hopes the treasurer’s support of the 2022 bonus is only the beginning of future efforts to abate lost pension values for both local and state retirees.

“Retired public servants have suffered long enough,” Langston said. “Local government retirees have suffered the most, being overlooked for nearly a decade. Our association would like to see this as the beginning to restore retiree pension values to maintain quality of life,” Langston explained.

Normally, the local government pension system will only provide a cost-of-living adjustment through additional contributions from local governments. Langston explained that NCRGEA worked with the treasurer and retirement system trustees to have the $59 million bonus provided by investment returns rather than increased contributions by local governments.

“This bonus will be provided without placing additional hardships on our local governments,” Langston pointed out.

Historically, the state provided annual cost of living adjustments for both state and local retirees. However, as the Great Recession of 2009 crippled investment returns and lawmakers scrambled to cover the state’s bottom line, cost of living adjustments became few and far between. A decade’s long shift has occurred since, where lawmakers and other decision makers are now more inclined to provide one-time bonuses rather than recurring adjustments.

NCRGEA, with over 66,000 members, is the largest governmental retiree association in the United States. There are over 320,000 state and local government retirees and NCRGEA works for all of them.

Langston noted it was a team effort to help NCRGEA secure the bonus for local government retirees. He also pointed to efforts by the North Carolina League of Municipalities and the North Carolina City and County Management Association as key to successfully securing the bonus.

North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell said the state must take a long view to make sure government retirees will have healthy retirement benefits for future generations.

“We are blessed to have had sufficient market returns to provide this benefit increase to our local retirees, in a fiscally responsible manner,” Folwell said. “Our job is to keep the retirement system solvent for this and the next generation of those who teach, protect, and serve.”

Stay tuned!

Vann Langston
NCRGEA Board Director