March 3rd, 2014
Every year, hundreds of thousands of older people become victims of an insidious crime that can rob them of their dignity, their health and their wealth. It’s becoming so widespread, the crime has its own name – elder abuse – and various government and consumer groups have intervened to try to put a stop to it.
If you have older people among your family and friends (even if you’re an older person yourself), here are the warning signs to look out for in others:
- Physical signs like bruises, burns, or broken bones.
- A sudden change of attitude. The person may seem withdrawn or even depressed.
- Sudden changes in their financial situation.
- Strained relationships with caregivers.
- Unattended medical needs and poor personal hygiene.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- There may also be a reluctance to talk about any abnormalities you notice, especially if the abuse is coming from a spouse or other relative –look out for signs of belittling, threats and use of control.
If you suspect abuse and believe the victim (including yourself) is in immediate danger, the US Administration on Aging says you should call 911 or local police for help.
If the danger is not immediate, discuss it with a doctor, friend or family member. You can also report it to the state Adult Protective Services (APS) agency via the National Center on Elder Abuse at: http://tinyurl.com/APS-info or call 1-800-677-1116, where trained operators will refer you for local support.
If you or someone you know are a victim of abuse in a care or nursing facility, you might also contact the Long Term Care Ombudsman on 202-332-2275.
Finally, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has launched a new financial resource tool to help older adults protect themselves against identity theft, called Smart Money for Older Adults. It consists of a series of downloadable resources for seniors and instructors. For more information, visit: http://tinyurl.com/FDIC-smart.
February 18th, 2014
Precisely because they’re awkward to access and difficult to inspect from a distance, roofs are often the subject of scams. The usual approach is for the crook to call at your front door, saying he noticed a problem on your roof (especially after a storm) or your chimney stack. He may claim it’s in dangerous condition before offering to carry out an urgent repair because – guess what – he claims he just happens to be a contractor. He may or may not be, but you should certainly never agree to do business without having your roof checked out by a respectable local contractor. More likely than not, there’ll be nothing wrong with your roof. If there is, get at least two bids before having it fixed. Even if you decide it’s time to get the general condition of your roof checked out and maybe to consider a replacement, again always get multiple bids and ensure you understand your choices and costs.
February 17th, 2014
RVOS Lodge 103 is proud to once again offer two $1,000 scholarships to graduating high school seniors. Eligible applicants are those who are:
- High school seniors who will graduate in the spring of 2014
- Plan to attend college or a vocational school in the fall of 2014
- The child or grandchild of a current RVOS Lodge 103 member
This year’s essay subject is Texas history. Essays should be one page, double-spaced, using 10pt Arial font. The applicant’s name and phone number should appear on the page.
Scholarship deadline is May 13, 2014. Instructions and application form may be downloaded here.
2014 Lodge 103 Scholarship Application
February 17th, 2014
Your roof is one of the most important parts of the structure of your home. If it’s in poor repair, you risk flooding, infestation, and other damage. It can even affect insurance rates. Oftentimes, a visual check from the ground will tell you if it’s in good health, especially in a single-story home, but sometimes a closer inspection is called for. However, getting up on the roof and staying there safely can be a big challenge for many people, particularly those who don’t have a head for heights.
The first safety rule is that if you don’t have that head for heights, if you have a physical disability or are suffering from an injury, or if you’re just plain scared, you probably shouldn’t even think of going up there. Get a professional to do it instead. Most builders and home inspectors will probably do it for you for a relatively modest cost. But if you do make the ascent, here are some simple tips to follow:
- Avoid going on the roof if the weather has made it slippery or if strong winds are blowing.
- If there are damaged areas or weak spots, make sure you know in advance, if possible, where they are.
- Wear good shoes with non-slip soles, a safety helmet and, ideally, safety glasses.
- Use a ladder that’s right for the job – that is, the right height to allow a good leaning angle, sturdy and in good repair. Position it securely on a level surface so it won’t slip when you climb. Use the “three point rule” – when climbing the ladder always have three limbs in contact with the rungs.
- Try to have another person with you on the ground, to secure the ladder and to be available to get help in an emergency.
- Consider using a safety harness that you can anchor to something secure, like a chimney stack, as you move around.
- Keep your eyes on the area you’re inspecting and the direction you’re heading, testing carefully in front of you before placing your weight down.
- If you’re undertaking a major job, fasten either a ladder or temporary battens to the roof to give you firmer footing. Wear a tool belt and take all the items you’ll likely need.
February 10th, 2014
Checking the safety of electrical outlets around your home or those of elderly relatives should be a regular routine, and you can do it in just a few minutes. (WARNING: If you have to remove or replace any fittings, make sure the power supply is switched off at the fuse box first.)
First if you have young children in the house, make sure that all unused outlets have either a cover or a plastic insert to stop items being poked into the terminal holes.
Your regular inspection should also include checks for cracks and overheating. Look for browning on the plates; it’s a sign of burning or lack of grounding. Check for and replace missing screws.
Ensure too, both that you don’t have too many devices plugged into a single outlet and that you only have one high-wattage device attached to any single one.
If you’re in a new (to you) property, checking on relatives or doing an inspection after you’ve had internal painting done, check that none of the outlet plates has been painted over. Paint can be scraped off once the power has been deactivated.
If you’re not sure of something or not skilled at repairing or replacing, call in a professional electrician. There’s too much at risk.
February 3rd, 2014
How would you like to get an insight into a con artist’s mind, so you can see how they try to smooth-talk their way into fooling you? Now you can for free, with a document called The Con Artist’s Playbook. The publication is part of a new campaign called the Fraud Watch Network launched by the AARP. Although the organization represents older folk, this new report and the associated campaign are for everyone.
“We’re inviting anyone, of any age, to access our website and network of resources free of charge,” AARP says.
How can you stay safe? By learning the common strategies criminals use so you can be on guard to protect your money and possessions.
The Con Artist’s Playbook is based on the findings of hundreds of undercover fraud tapes and hours of interviews with both victims and crooks. It shines a spotlight on the tricks that criminals use and gives you the tools to defend yourself.
For example, using just five simple tactics can help you avoid many fraud tricks:
- Don’t use easy passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs). No family names, birth dates, or easily-guessable sequences of letters and numbers.
- Beware of email and text requests for personal or account information that purport to come from your bank or Internet service provider. They probably don’t.
- Call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT or visit optoutprescreen.com to stop pre-approved credit card applications that a thief could steal to get credit in your name.
- Never give personal information to telemarketers, and sign up for the Do Not Call Registry at donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222.
- Double check ID and references of people visiting you for door-to-door sales, home repairs, and other products or offers. Check that they are who they say they are!
How to Join the Campaign and Get Your Playbook
Visit aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or download the playbook from: http://tinyurl.com/aarp-playbook
January 27th, 2014
When you provide personal information to your health insurer or healthcare professional, you naturally assume it’s confidential and will be stored securely. But if an unscrupulous person gets their hands on it, they could use it to get medical services or prescriptions in your name or even to make false claims. In a worst-case scenario, the details they steal could be used to commit broader identify theft. Stolen health information could even be used for blackmail. This isn’t just a vague possibility. Around half of healthcare organizations are victims of medical ID
theft every year, costing them around $40 billion. To protect yourself, follow these steps:
- Protect your Medicare and Social Security numbers and don’t lend out your cards.
- Check all your medical bills, insurance statements, and summary notices.
- Be wary of anyone offering supposedly free medical services or equipment.
- Ask for and read the privacy notices that every medical service provider is required by law to provide.
- Challenge anything that doesn’t look right. If you think you’re a victim of ID theft, contact the Federal Trade
Commission (1-877-438-4338) For more on medical ID theft see: http://tinyurl.com/M-ID-theft
January 20th, 2014
Although exercise (along with diet) holds the key to personal fitness, there’s less agreement about how much you actually need and when is
the best time to work out. Of course, you should always seek advice from a medical professional before starting your regime. And the
amount you do – and when – may be dictated by your personal circumstances. However, if you can, the American Council on Exercise suggests you
should exercise when your body hits its warmness peak, which you can identify by taking your temperature throughout the day for a week
or so. For most people this usually occurs in the late afternoon. And according to the National Institute of Health guidelines, children
and teens need an hour of physical activity daily, while adults require around 2 to 2-1/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every
week – subject, as we said, to guidance from your physician.
January 13th, 2014
In the old days, a spike or drop in the power supply used to just mean a change in the brightness of our lights. But with so many sensitive electronic devices now connected to our power supplies, a surge can mean the difference between a working computer and a useless piece of junk!
Putting a surge protector between your PC or TV and the power outlet can eliminate the risk by blocking or shorting out those spikes. For a few dollars, you can buy either a surge-protecting power strip or a plug-in adapter – but don’t make the mistake of thinking that all power strips have this
ability. It should be labeled as such. When you buy one, check for these features:
- The “UL” seal, which means it’s certified to required standards.
- The number of outlets. Ensure there are enough for all devices you’ll attach.
- The surge protection rating, usually measured in “joules”, which indicates how much power it can absorb – 8,000 joules and up is good.
- The “trigger” voltage – the level at which it’ll kick into action. Four hundred volts or lower is best.
Now you’re set to plug in safely!
January 6th, 2014
Computer-mounted webcams and networked surveillance cameras – built in or as plug-in accessories – have revolutionized the way we communicate with family and friends, and keep an eye on our property. But who’d have thought they could also be used to spy on us. This sneaky trick has been highlighted by a couple of recent incidents:
- A rent-to-buy store chain was found to have installed a camera spy program on PCs it leased out to unsuspecting customers, supposedly so it could keep track of the machines.
- A camera supplier failed to adequately protect devices used for security monitoring, enabling hackers to gain access to the video feeds.
But that’s not all. Clever computer hackers also have developed viruses and other malware that can switch on the cameras on “infected” devices without users knowing. They can even block the camera light that usually signals it has been switched on.
You might have read a few months ago about how this nasty trick was used to spy on people, including a beauty pageant queen. The crooks recorded the video and then demanded payment to stop them from posting it online.
It’s easy to protect yourself against this danger in three simple steps.
First, install a reputable Internet security program that will scan your system for the spying malware.
Second, keep the lens covered when not in use. Many have built-in covers but if yours doesn’t, make a simple one yourself. If it’s a laptop, close the lid when not in use.
Third, control your behavior in front of the camera. Don’t undress or do anything else you wouldn’t want the world to see and don’t place the camera in “sensitive” places.