Last week, Staying Put at Home detailed steps to take to protect your information on the Internet. Safeguarding your online security is essential to avoiding identity theft, but overlooking the offline tactics that scammers also use can still leave you vulnerable. It takes only one credit card offer for a crook to assume your identity and defraud you of hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
Opt Out of Financial Offers
Are you looking for a new line of credit? If not, credit card offers likely do little more than fill up your garbage. Unless a con artist gets to them first. Especially when you have an unsecured mailbox, a scammer can easily grab your mail without you ever knowing it. To stop receiving potentially risky offers, the Federal Trade Commission recommends going to optoutprescreen.com and adding yourself to its list.
Shred Confidential Documents
Whether it’s an unwanted credit card offer, old paystub or ATM receipt, never let any item with your name, social security number, banking account number, address or even phone number go directly into the trash. Once your bins are at the curb or bags are in the dumpster, con artists can fish through your garbage to find this information. Invest in a shredder and destroy sensitive documents you no longer wish to keep.
Sign Up for Online Billing
Do you still get your bank statements and bills through the mail? If so, you might be making it easier for an identity thief to swipe them for fraudulent purposes. Last week’s post discussed the importance of setting up secure passwords to protect your Internet information. As long as you take this essential step, though, you can reduce your identity theft risk by switching over to online billing and banking.
Lock Up Your Social Security Card
Your social security number plays a pivotal role in your financial security and identity. That makes it especially attractive to con artists. For this reason, never keep your social security card with your credit cards or ATM card. A single moment of distraction can lead to a scammer taking an unattended wallet or purse and leaving you to deal with months or even years of identity theft fallout.
Do you have more suggestions on how our readers can avoid identity theft? Please let us know about them in our comments section.
Do you worry about becoming the victim of fraud? The unfortunate truth is that seniors are frequently the target of unscrupulous people. The National Council on Aging notes that scammers go after boomers because they often have significant savings and unsuspecting attitudes. As more seniors take to the Internet, fraudsters too are using it to gather and manipulate private information. Though the Internet can offer a wonderful alternative for simplifying daily tasks and contacting loved ones, it’s important to safeguard the information you send through it.
Protect Your Social Media Shares
Social media websites like Facebook and Twitter make it possible to connect with loved ones around the world. If you use these sites, though, be aware of your privacy settings. Some individuals may post updates without realizing that anyone with an Internet connection can see them. Unless you place restrictions on who can see your posts, you might inadvertently give strangers access to personal information that they can use to their advantage.
Look for Security Measures
When you make a purchase or payment—or just look at your bank account online—you are sending private information through the Internet that con artists could intercept. So prior to initiating a financial action, look at your address bar. The website URL should begin with “https.” This signifies that the website uses encryption to secure transmitted information. A lock icon also indicates a safe site; however, do not rely on this image alone to assess site safety. Scammers can add this icon to deceive users into a false sense of security.
Be Wary of Unsolicited Emails
Fraudulent emails, also known as phishing emails, run rampant across the Internet. Con artists create emails that masquerade as banks, credit card companies, or even the IRS—any trusted institution that might get your attention. These messages typically demand immediate action and provide a link to a fake website that requests confidential data such as your credit card number or account username and password. If you receive such an email, do not click on the link. Instead, contact the institution it claims to represent and check the veracity of the email.
Diversify Your Passwords
Even well-protected websites are not immune to data breaches. If you use a website that suffers an online security issue, fraudsters could access your username and password—or worse. If you use the same username and password for multiple sites, you may be giving up the information you have provided to each of them. To minimize identity theft threats, create a distinct username and password for each website. Also, choose difficult-to-guess words and phrases. While your middle name might be easy to recall, it can leave you exposed to scammers.
Have more online security tips for our readers? Let us know in our comments section.
Back pain is a big problem. The National Institutes of Health states that approximately 80 percent of all Americans will have it at some time in their lives—and it doesn’t always go away. Chronic back pain can last for months or more, and worse, it may render even the most basic activities impossible. So if you’re in pain, make an appointment with your doctor, as you might have a serious injury or disease.
Back injuries are a common source of back pain because they can happen at any time. You pick up your grandchild and strain a muscle. You slip on an icy sidewalk and get a painful bruise. But when that strained muscle or bruise continues to throb or ache longer than normal, it might indicate a bigger problem. For many people, a seemingly minor accident might actually be a herniated disc or compression fracture.
Pain is the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. So if you’re suffering from chronic back pain, tell your physician. If a past injury isn’t to blame, it might be an undiagnosed medical condition. Degenerative disc disease, which robs the intervertebral discs of their sponginess and flexibility, frequently produces back pain. The narrowing of the spinal canal, or spinal stenosis, can also lead to chronic discomfort.
Remember when your mother told you to stand up straight? Well, she was right. Millions of people go to the doctor each year with back pain only to find out that their posture is causing it. Especially when sitting at a desk all day long, poor posture can create an unnatural curvature of the spine that instigates pain. No matter the source of your pain, though, the good news is that natural remedies, including exercise, proper posture and hydrotherapy, can often alleviate it.
Do you suffer from back pain? If so, what treatments have been the most effective in stopping it? Let us know in our comments section.
Shirley Magee* cares for her husband, Jim, who has Alzheimer’s disease. Though Jim is accustomed to taking the occasional nap, his wife noticed that he was sleeping more during the day. He also appeared lethargic. But apart from these slight issues, which can be normal for Alzheimer’s patients, Shirley didn’t see other changes. Jim wasn’t coughing. He wasn’t complaining of chest pain. He wasn’t even breathing hard. But Shirley soon found out that Jim’s excessive sleeping was due to an undiagnosed bout of pneumonia.
Shirley’s story is not uncommon. As many caregivers know, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can significantly diminish the communication efforts of those with it. Sufferers may initially forget words and phrases only to eventually lose most verbal faculties, making it difficult for them to tell loved ones or doctors that they feel unwell. So as the disease progresses, caregivers must watch for non-verbal signs that may indicate physical needs and health concerns.
As their oral abilities decline, individuals with dementia may become more anxious and aggressive. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, agitation often indicates frustration. In many cases, that frustration may stem from a growing lack of personal autonomy. However, distress can also point to physical problems. For instance, caffeine-induced stimulation or exhaustion can make a person act in an agitated manner.
Caregivers might also notice that loved ones increasingly want to roam for no apparent reason. What friends and family may not realize, though, is that wandering can be a sign of distress. Some dementia sufferers roam because they can’t locate the bathroom or verbalize their discomfort to a loved one. Others may wander because they want food or a drink but can’t express their hunger or thirst.
Dementia sufferers often sleep during daylight hours. However, friends and family members should note if a loved one suddenly sleeps more than usual. Such a change may indicate a physical health problem such as pneumonia, which requires professional medical attention. Checking the temperature of a dementia patient on a regular basis could also help to quickly identify a fever brought on by infection that a loved one may not be able to point out.
Are you caring for a spouse or parent with dementia? What behaviors do you most often encounter and how do you address them?
*The names in this story have been changed for privacy reasons.