FRAUD ALERT: Equifax Breach

About half (143 Million)  of  American consumers sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies. According to Equifax, the breach lasted about two and a half months, from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people.

There are steps to take to help protect your information from being misused.

  1. Visit Equifax’s website.
  2. Find out if your information was exposed. Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.
  3. Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring and other services. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. Write down the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date. You have until November 21, 2017 to enroll.
  4. You also can access frequently asked questions at the site.

For additional information and other steps that you can take to protect yourself, visit the website for the Federal Trade Commission.

 

* The information contained in this Blog is intended for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion of counsel.

Fraud Alert – Medicare Cards

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015, requires Medicare to remove Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from all Medicare cards by April 2019. The new cards will have a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) that will be used for billing and for checking your eligibility and claim status. This will happen automatically. You will not be contacted by anyone asking for any personal information.

If you receive a phone call or email asking you to give or confirm information or make a payment to receive your new card, it is fraudulent.

You can get more information from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service or the Federal Trade Commission.

* The information contained in this Blog is intended for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion of counsel.

New Legislation Passed for Special Needs Trusts

Yesterday, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act.  This includes a subsection known as the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act. Effective immediately, disabled persons with capacity can now establish and sign their own special needs trust. Previously, the law only allowed a parent, grandparent, guardian or court could establish a first party special needs trust. This added a great deal of unnecessary expense to the establishment of these trusts for disabled persons with capacity that did not have a living parent or grandparent, as the only way that a special needs trust could be established for them was through a court order.

* The information contained in this Blog is intended for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion of counsel.

Gift Ideas for Nursing Home Residents

While this is a repeat of a blog from several years ago, it may be a help to some of you as we enter this holiday season. The best gift that you can give to a nursing home resident is a visit. If you cannot visit or want to do something extra for the holidays or their birthday, the following is an adaptation of a list published by the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform in the winter of 2011.

  • A new pair of slippers or a robe in a favorite color.
  • A gift certificate for a haircut, massage, or manicure.
  • Recent pictures of family and friends in an album, frames, or a bulletin board.
  • Video record a family event that the resident was unable to attend and enjoy watching it with them.
  • A subscription to a favorite magazine or newspaper.
  • Crossword or word search books. (Perhaps in large print.)
  • A personal television for the resident’s room or wireless headphones for their television.
  • A wireless reading device.
  • Quilt or lap blanket.
  • Regular deliveries of flowers.
  • Plant.
  • Tote bag for walker or wheelchair.
  • Luxury toiletries.

* The information contained in this Blog is intended for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion of counsel.

Paying Home Health Care Workers

We are frequently asked questions about how to pay home health care workers. Unfortunately, the cash arrangements that many people use to pay caregivers are not legal and we need to discuss the risks and liabilities of this practice.
It can be very confusing for the consumer to distinguish when a home health care worker is a private contractor and when they are an employee. When the worker also lives in the home, there are additional considerations about record keeping and overtime compensation.
There are even some concerns about liability when the home health care worker is hired through an agency of which the consumer needs to be aware. The United States Department of Labor has published a guide to address some of these issues. The following link will direct you to their website to download the guide, “Paying Minimum Wage and Overtime to Home Care Workers: A Guide for Consumers and their Families to the FLSA.
While this publication does not address all of the issues that need to be considered, like insurance and withholdings, it is a good start to understanding how to classify and pay in home health care workers.
* The information contained in this Blog is intended for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion of counsel.

SCAM ALERT: Fraudulent Family Calls

Have you ever gotten an emergency phone call from someone pretending to be a friend or family member? The caller may claim that they are in jail, in the hospital, have been robbed, or being held hostage. The things that all of these calls have in common is that they are going to ask for money and they are fraudulent. If you get one of these calls, you should follow these guidelines:
1. Do not give the caller any personal information.
2. Hang up and check it out. Contact your family member or friend directly.
3. Never send money to anyone who calls and asks you for it.
4. Go to consumer.FTC.gov and report it.

The Federal Trade Commission has published a short video with more information. Click here to view.

* The information contained in this Blog is intended for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion of counsel.

Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

I have had phone calls the past three mornings (including one at 5:00 a.m.) from a recorded caller claiming to be from the IRS and demanding that I call them back immediately or the IRS will file a lawsuit against me. I have not returned these calls, however there is a good chance that someone that I know or that you know may be frightened by a call such as this and will respond to the call. I am sure that the first thing that they will be asked for is their social security number and maybe even their bank account number to transfer funds to settle the lawsuit.
This is just one of the many scams that are taking place every day. The purpose of having a world elder abuse day is to educate older adults and those who care for them about the many types of financial elder abuse that are occurring and how to prevent them. While it is not always easy to identify financial elder abuse, you can watch for changes in the older person’s financial activities that may signal that there is an issue, such as:
• Unusual changes in wills or powers of attorney – Out of the blue, your grandfather wills all of his belongings to his new caregiver.
• Financial activity the person couldn’t have done herself – You discover repeated online credit card charges on your mom’s bill, who does not know how to use a computer.
• Bills not being paid – When visiting a neighbor, you see mail piling up on his desk or you stop seeing his lights on at night.
• Significant withdrawals or unusual purchases – You notice charges for luxury items on your thrifty aunt’s credit card bill.
The following are some additional online resources that I recommend:
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “Pass it On” campaign has a number of resources for the consumer to protect themselves and others from scams.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has tools for caregivers that are trying to assist older persons with their finances. You can download their publication “Money Smart for Older Adults.”
* The information contained in this Blog is intended for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion of counsel.

Annual Special Needs Planning Meeting

Leslie and Sheri attended the 10th annual meeting of the Academy of Special Needs Planners, held in Tucson, Arizona, March 10-12. The
235-member Academy is the nation’s leading organization of special needs planning professionals. Members of the Academy devote a
significant part of their practices to working with individuals with special needs and their families to plan for the future and ensure that children with special needs receive ample financial protection.

The Academy’s annual meeting featured presentations by some of
the nation’s leading experts in special needs planning, who kept
attendees current on the latest regulatory changes and legal decisions
and shared strategies for better serving clients and their families in this fast-growing legal field.

Meeting sessions included “An Update on SSI Rules,” “Special Needs Trusts and Retirement Benefits,” “Recent Trends in Special Needs Planning,” “Identifying and Handling ‘Tricky Issues’ in SNT Administration,” as well as an “Ask the Experts” panel discussion.
Perhaps most importantly, the meeting afforded the chance for attendees to exchange planning ideas and strategies with fellow members working in special needs planning around the nation.