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Preventing fraud, elder abuse, guardianship problems
and romance scams

November 30, 2015

Tags: elder abuse, fraud, guardianships, identity theft, phone calls from IRS

by Pat McNees (updated 1-12-17; 8-25-16; 7-30-16; originally posted 11-3-15, updated April 30, 2016)

Gathered here are links to helpful articles about the many kinds of abuse elders may be subject to (including physical, sexual, and financial abuse) and steps they can take to avoid fraud and scams. Sadly, their abusers may be friends, family, caregivers, and professional advisors. Do your homework and protect yourself and those you care about. Let's start with Financial Abuse of the Elderly: Sometimes Unnoticed, Always Predatory (Elizabeth Olson, NY Times, 11-27-15) Mariana Cooper, a widow in Seattle who lost her home and now lives in a retirement community, is one of an estimated five million older American residents annually who are victimized to some extent by a caregiver, friend, family member, lawyer or financial adviser.
• "10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft," scroll down for this, on this Scottrade page: Secure Online Investing & Identity Theft Protection
Smart Tips for Protecting Yourself from ATM Fraud and Theft (Scottrade)
Phone Scams Continue to be a Serious Threat, Remain on IRS “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams for the 2016 Filing SeasonThe IRS will never:
---Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
---Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
---Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
---Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
---Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
How to avoid and detect Elder Fraud: A guide for older people, carers and relatives (Jon Watson, Comparitech, 8-2-17)
That is NOT the IRS Calling You! (Michelle Singletary, WaPo, 8-25-16)
I.R.S. Calling to Demand Cash? Don’t Pay Up. Hang Up. (David Segal, Wash Post, 2-28-16) About 900,000 people have reported getting a call from I.R.S. phone scammers, and not all of these people hung up unscathed. The IRS will NEVER call you to demand money. Just hang up.
“She Stole My Life!”: A Cautionary True Tale About Identity Theft Everyone Must Read (Doug Shadel, AARP on Reader's Digest, Oct.-Nov. 2014) "A few miles away, Alice Lipski was taking over Anderson’s identity. She signed Anderson up for a credit-monitoring service that was designed to protect customers from identity theft. Instead, it exposed her full credit history. The report revealed a mother lode of old accounts; over her life, Anderson had acquired dozens of cards from stores and banks. Most were inactive. Lipski reported those as lost or stolen, so the companies assigned new numbers with new usernames, passwords, and security questions that only Lipski knew, locking Anderson out of the accounts. “I knew everything about her,” Lipski says. “And what I didn’t know, I changed to what I wanted it to be.” She ordered Anderson’s mail forwarded to Lipski’s boyfriend’s house, then to a post office box. Since Anderson still received junk mail, it took weeks for her to notice that checks and bills had stopped coming."
Where to get started when you suspect you have a problem with identity theft (IdentityTheft.gov, Federal Trade Commission)
Fraud Watch Network (AARP). Fraud Watch Hotline: 1-877-908-3360

AARP Watchdog Alert Handbook (PDF). 13 ways con artists steal your money.
The Kindness of Strangers . Barbara Peters Smith's three-part investigative series for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune exposing tragic gaps in Florida’s system of senior guardianships (called conservatorships in other states). Florida’s elder guardianship system was set up to protect vulnerable citizens from fraud, abuse or neglect. But critics say the system often ignores individual rights, virtually imprisoning some elders who are not incapacitated. And most guardianship decisions are made in hearings and files closed to the public. (more…)

Making health care prices more transparent

November 29, 2015

Tags: price transparency, health prices, medical charges, medical bill, hospital price, price disparities

This blog post duplicated somewhat an earlier post, so I have combined them. You can find them here:

Taking the mystery out of health care prices

Pricing transparency: Doctors, patients, and insurance companies on the same page