|Posted on October 22, 2018 at 1:05 PM||comments (0)|
While it is difficult to determine what is a scam and what isn't, it seems that most telephone calls requesting account information can pretty much be chalked up to being inapprpriate. This is especially true when dealing with government agencies, and big corporations, like banks. They will never call to request account information and other personal data. They will write to you through the U.S. mail. If in doubt, you can always ask to call them back, in order to verify that they are indeed calling from where they say they are calling from. Check out this warning from the Social Security Administration:
|Posted on March 1, 2018 at 4:40 PM||comments (3)|
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (Medi-Cal) Services have announced that new Medicare cards will be sent to all by April 2019. They are removing Social Security Numbers from the cards, and a new identifying number will replace it. You may receive your card at a different time than your neighbor, and this helps to keep mail thieves away. Mailing begins this April.
The card will be printed on paper, and if you ever lose it, you can always print a new one yourself! If you have another card for your Medicare Advantage plan, you should still keep it, and carry it with your Medicare card for use during your medical appointments. Do not share your number with anyone who is not directly billing for a medical appointment. You should also destroy your OLD Medicare card, once you receive the new one. Remember, the old card has your Social Security Number on it, so disposing of it properly will guard off identity theft, and keep you safe.
Check out this video about the new cards:
|Posted on May 20, 2017 at 12:55 AM||comments (11)|
I went to visit a friend who had recently been placed in assisted living. I had lost touch with her over the last couple of years, becoming too busy in my life to keep much social contact going. When I entered her room, I came upon a slightly slumped over, little old lady, watching the news in a wheelchair beside her made-up bed. I touched her shoulder, gently, then came around to the other side of the bed to sit, before bombarding her with social chatter. She immediately began the conversation, as I always remembered her doing, talking about her day, explaining what she was watching, how much she liked watching current events, how great I looked (I love this woman), why she was in assisted living, on, and on, she went. She always did.
Nothing changed here. She was always good at holding conversation, and would, at some point, get around to asking about my life, and remembering things about me that I had shared over the years. She's around 97 years old, so there is a lot of history about me she knows.
Then, at some point, maybe about 20 minutes into the visit, my husband and I asked her a question, and she went right into a story about some other topic...just like that. It wasn't a topic far off one of the others we had been talking about, but off enough that I was taken aback. I didn't know what to say, except just continue on with the new topic of discussion. Did she not hear the question? Maybe, it was too personal a question, and she just didn't want to answer it, so she changed the subject. For a brief moment, I thought, "What if she's losing her mental capacity? What do I say? What do I do?" Then I thought, "Why do we have to jumpt to that conclusion? This would have just been called 'old age' a few years ago."
What is old age, and when should one be concerned about possible memory issues which require another's assistance? When does mental capacity require a trip to the family lawyer? I got some relief after receiving an email about memory issues. Take a look at this infographic from The National Institute on Aging:
|Posted on January 4, 2017 at 5:50 PM||comments (0)|
When this question comes up, it is usually because of some emergency. Someone has either had an accident, or surgery, and needs to recover after leaving the hospital. They usually need more care than staying at home can provide. Or, they are in an advanced stage of a terminal disease, and need medical care before hospice is necessary. How does one pay for this kind of 24-hour care?
Until the person is able to be taken care of at home, with less than round-the-clock care, they will need to stay in a skilled nursing facility, otherwise known as long term care. The average private pay rate for these facilities in 2016 was $8,189 per month. You can imagine the shear terror some family members face when asking, "How do we pay for that?"
If the patient has long term care insurance, you can usually breathe a sigh of relief. One of the great things about this kind of insurance is that it works hard to care for the person in their own home. The insured will also not need to pay their premium for months spent in a long term care facility in most policies. If your loved one doesn't have this insurance, they can rely on Medicare to pay the first 22-100 days of long term care, but if insurance runs out, then what?
One overlooked area is the Veteran's Administration (VA). If there is any chance your loved one may have served the U.S. Military, or been the dependent of someone who did, it is well worth the investment of time and energy to apply for VA benefits. Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits will help a veteran who needs care at home, is in long term care, or in Assisted Living. Assisted Living is different than long term care, mainly in that it does not require 24-hour nursing care for it's residences. Any long term care facility can take VA payments. They do not have to be VA certified. The patient does not have to be in a VA hospital, or even seen by a VA doctor. Aid and Attendance is for veterans who need help with activities of daily living (dressing, bathing, transferring, toileting, or eating). Homebound is for veterans who are substantially confined to their homes because of a permanent disability. These are benefits that reimburse the veteran, after he/she has paid for the care expenses.
Medi-Cal (Medicaid in the rest of the U.S.) might be able to help for those with little or no assets. Some assets are exempt, like the home they live in, one vehicle, burial trusts, most household/personal possessions, and most special needs trusts. Depending on the amount of income the patient has, they will pay the long term care facility a monthly Medi-Cal Share of Cost. This is usually all of their countable income, minus $35 for a Maintenance Need.
So breathe a sign of relief, and know there are some avenues to pay for a loved-one's long term care stay. The word, "long" in "long term care" doesn't usually fit most patient's length of stay in one of these facilities. If you need help finding payment resources, give Sunrise Fiduciary a call. We are happy to help ease the stress these moments can bring.
|Posted on March 31, 2016 at 10:05 AM||comments (0)|
If you are caring for a veteran with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), the Veteran's Administration has a tip sheet full of great suggestions:
|Posted on February 17, 2016 at 9:50 AM||comments (0)|
"S.A.F.E. Act 2015"
"...a new Security features that helps you as a tax payer..."
Besides the obvious bad grammer and misspellings, these types of emails should stand out to you that something is not quite right. The email might have even made it to your Spam Folder, and not your Inbox; another sign that it might not be a legitimate email from the Social Security Administration. These are usually phishing emails, designed to download malware onto your computer to take your personal information after they convince you to click on a link. Or, they are designed to send you to a special website where they will convince you to enter your personal information to get credit monitoring or find out about unauthorized users of your Social Security information. They are not from Social Security.
You can do a quick test to see if the email is from a phishing site: Hover your mouse over the link they want you to click on, but don't click on it. A message box should show you the website's address where you would go, if you actually clicked on the link. It usually will not say, "http://www.SSA.gov." If you get one of these emails, use the forward button to send it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at "spam.uce.gov." Or, you can mark it as "spam," if your email provider has a button to allow you to do so.
The Social Security Administration has this to say about reporting spam emails to them: "Your report is most effective when you include the full email header, although most email programs hide this information. To find out the full header, type the name of your email service with “full email header” into your favorite search engine, and include this information in your report. When you’re done, delete the email."
This is what a phishing email might look like:
If you ever need to know if a government agency sent you an email or not, contact them through your own means (look up the telephone number or email address; don't use links in the original email). Even if you have to wait on hold, or get shuffled through several people to find your answer, the cost will be much less than losing your credit and identity. Be safe.
|Posted on February 16, 2016 at 10:50 AM||comments (0)|
A reminder from the IRS about scams this tax season:
Scams using the IRS as a lure continue. They take many different forms. The most common scams are phone calls and emails from thieves who pretend to be from the IRS. They use the IRS name, logo or a fake website to try to steal your money. They may try to steal your identity too.
Be wary if you get an out-of-the-blue phone call or automated message from someone who claims to be from the IRS. Sometimes they say you owe money and must pay right away. Other times they say you are owed a refund and ask for your bank account information over the phone. Don’t fall for it. Here are several tips that will help you avoid becoming a scam victim.
The real IRS will NOT:
Call you to demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call you if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail.
Demand tax payment and not allow you to question or appeal the amount you owe.
Require that you pay your taxes a certain way. For example, demand that you pay with a prepaid debit card.
Ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Threaten to bring in local police or other agencies to arrest you without paying.
Threaten you with a lawsuit.
If you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you do:
Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use TIGTA’s “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page to report the incident.
You should also report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your report.
If you think you may owe taxes:
Ask for a call back number and an employee badge number.
Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS employees can help you.
In most cases, an IRS phishing scam is an unsolicited, bogus email that claims to come from the IRS. They often use fake refunds, phony tax bills, or threats of an audit. Some emails link to sham websites that look real. The scammers’ goal is to lure victims to give up their personal and financial information. If they get what they’re after, they use it to steal a victim’s money and their identity.
If you get a ‘phishing’ email, the IRS offers this advice:
Don’t reply to the message.
Don’t give out your personal or financial information.
Forward the email to [email protected] Then delete it.
Don’t open any attachments or click on any links. They may have malicious code that will infect your computer.
More information on how to report phishing or phone scams is available on IRS.gov.
Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.
|Posted on February 4, 2016 at 11:50 AM||comments (0)|
It's that time of the year when we pull out all those receipts we've been hoarding during the previous year to either do our own taxes, or drop on a professional tax preparer. Doing them yourself is so much easier with the few computer programs out on the market, but if the idea of devoting several weekends to working through that program's myriad of questions is not your idea of finding your best return, hiring a professional may be the next item on your To Do list.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) wants to remind us to be particular about who we hire to do our taxes (or the taxes of our loved ones). There are unscrupulous folks out there who just want to steal your identity, or file for deductions you might not be eligible to, just to get you a better return, and thus get them a higher fee. The IRS has some suggestions for how to search for a tax preparer:
- Ask if they have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Preparers are required to register with the IRS, and get one of these numbers.
- Ask if they have a professional degree (certified public accountant [CPA], enrolled agent, lawyer), attends continuing education classes, or belong to a professional association. They are not required to have a professional credential, but most do because they are interested in giving you the most up-to-date and best service.
- The IRS has a tool on their website to help you find a certified preparer in your area: http://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf
- Ask the Better Business Bureau if there have been any complaints filed for this preparer. Check on the website for the professional association this preparer says they belong to for any issues with their membership. For CPA's check the State Board for Accountancy. For attorney's, check the State Bar Association.
- Preparers are not allowed to base their fee on the amount of your refund, so ask them how they will base your fee?
- Ask them to e-file through the IRS. It is the safest and fastest way to get your return. Preparers who have more than 10 clients must e-file.
- Make sure your preparer will be available for questions you may have after your return is filed. Fly-by-night preparers will often not be easy to find again.
- Understand if they can represent you in front of the IRS if an audit is necessary. Certified perparers can. Others are limited in what they can do.
- Never sign a blank return!
- Before you sign a completed return, review it, ask all questions until you feel satisfied and comfortable.
- Report any tax preparer misconduct to the IRS
|Posted on January 19, 2016 at 11:30 AM||comments (0)|
Tax season is here, and since we are stopping our lives to take care of business, so-to-speak, we can also stop to make sure we have some practices in place for the New Year. This isn't about eating right, or getting in more walks per week, but about getting into the habit of checking our personal information and passwords out there in the digital realm.
Let this serve as a reminder to some that their information is out there in a digital world. It is not written on a billboard that our neighbors can see whenever they get on the freeway, but it might as well be to those who want to find it. We want to make sure that our information is found by those who are supposed to, and that have our permission to use our information. If our personal data ends up in the wrong hands, it could leave us completely devistated.
If you're already in the habit of paying your own bills, then you have everything you need to check-in with your personal cyber information regularly. Remember that annoying carbon monoxide alarm? The one that runs on batteries, and needs to be checked each year? It's completely inconvenient to add it to an already long list of things which need our attention, however, if we put it into perspective, once per year is hardly something to get stressed over. A friend of mine once told me she checks hers during the Fall Daylight Savings Time date. It makes it so easy, one doesn't even need to write it down to remember! That could be the date we devote a portion of our day to checking smoke detectors, emergency food items and supplies, and ordering our free, annual credit reports.
Just like April 15th is a day devoted to our tax responsibility, one day per year could knock out three other life-saving tasks. Then we are left to live a life spent more focused on the very best parts of being alive. Check out this Youtube video from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about even more ways to insure your cyber security (2 minutes long):