With so many of us spending more time at home these days and much of that time on our computers, the “bad guys” are looking to take advantage.
This week Microsoft issued a warning about a massive “phishing” (the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers) attack that apparently began on May 12th. This attack sends computer users infected emails that appear as though they are from the "Johns Hopkins Center", and they have an Excel spreadsheet attachment allegedly showing figures for US deaths caused by the Coronavirus.
When the computer user opens the infected "Excel doc", the file downloads a macro (a single computer instruction that expands automatically into a set of instructions to cause a computer to perform a particular task) and runs an application called “NetSupport Manager Remote Admin Tool” which allows the infected file to open. The application itself is a legitimate user support product, but it can also be used for criminal purposes, specifically to download infected files on a targeted computer or device. When installed, it allows the bad guys to gain complete control over the infected machine and execute commands on it remotely. Microsoft Security Intelligence team says this massive campaign is spreading this tool to tens of thousands of potential victims.
What to do about this attack – if you should receive an email that looks like it is from Johns Hopkins University and has an Excel attachment which claims to have stats about the number of coronavirus deaths in America, DO NOT OPEN IT! If you open the attachment and click on “Enable Content”, it will download software that allows cybercriminals to take over your computer and steal confidential information. So, do not open any Excel files from Johns Hopkins University. Furthermore, it is likely there will be more scams like this, so please remember to always “Think Before You Click!” If the message looks suspicious, it probably is.
Be smart and safe out there!
Be alert and don’t fall
for these three on-line scams.
1. “Weaponized Documents” – legitimate-looking web pages that ask unsuspecting users to download a document.
2. Ads Collecting User Data – Unwanted software inserted and hidden in banner advertisements that trick users into “clicking” on the ad and then steal user private information. This includes “games” appearing on Facebook pages that entice users to play a game or, enter a contest.
3. “Phishing Scams” – Email messages that try to get users to enter personal information or credentials on fake online sites.
If you don’t already have a security application loaded on your computer to help protect you from these and other illicit attempts to steal your information, you need to find one now. There are many reliable and trustworthy programs available. One more tip…there is only one security application which is entirely USA manufactured and supported. Other programs whose names you have probably heard most often originate from countries other than the United States. This is a point worth considering when making your choice.
The post-holiday period is a good time for travel and seniors are now traveling more than ever before. The availability of flights and lower cost incentives being offered by airlines, senior citizens in today’s world are traveling to almost any international destination. Accordingly, seniors should always take extra safety precautions when doing so. By following a few travel planning tips – potential disasters or misfortunes can be avoided. Being fully aware of and preparing for unforeseen occurrences is highly recommended for traveling seniors who are more likely to injure themselves or encounter a stressful experience. Planning a fun, safe, and comfortable trip is simple and easy to do!
Here are some travel tips for senior citizens that will prepare them for a safe and easy flight while traveling to international destinations.
1. Select an Aisle Seat on Long Flights
When the flight is long, you don’t want to have to negotiate with your seatmates when you need to stretch, use the restroom, or ask the flight attendant a question. The freedom to move about is less restricted from an aisle seat. If you are traveling with another person, choose seats that are across the aisle from each other, so you can be nearby and still have equal mobility.
2. Keep Medicines Handy
Travelers should always have several days’ worth of their important medications in their carry-on and keep them handy, in their seat (to avoid having to get up and dig in your bag in the overhead bin). Why several days’ worth? If you check your bag and then the flight is delayed, it’s hard, if not impossible, for the airline to retrieve your bag – even if the reason is something as critical as accessing your medication. Keep plenty with you so that you can make it through the flight, in case of a potential delay to your destination.
3. Print and Share Your Travel Documents
Print and/or have your travel documents handy. Make a backup copy of your itinerary and send it to those you are visiting – so they know when your plane is arriving and can be prepared if it is delayed – and leave a copy with a friend or family member back home. Have copies of your travel insurance, your passport ID page, your visas, emergency contacts, and medical information with you. If your flight is canceled, your passport is stolen, or your prescriptions are lost, you can call your travel insurance company for help.
4. Know What to Expect on Your Trip
To avoid unexpected surprises, get as much information as you can about your travel, including the flight departure and arrival times, terminal maps, immigration information, etc. You may be required to complete immigration forms or customs forms during the flight. Don’t be afraid to ask the flight attendant for help before you land so your forms are ready. Make sure you understand the destination country’s customs regulations to avoid bringing items that are not allowed. For example, you can’t bring fruit, seeds, or plants into the U.S. and if you are caught you may face fines or other legal problems.
5. Navigate the Airport with Ease
Get to the airport with time to spare so that you aren’t rushed as you find your way to the right terminal and gate. Try to avoid walking very long distances and if you need help, arrange for a wheelchair or assistance ahead of time (usually the airline can help you arrange this when you book your tickets).
6. Skip the Alcohol and Drink Lots of Water
Flying at high altitudes is extremely dehydrating and most people think if they are sitting quietly they don’t need a lot of water. Unfortunately, this is how many seniors get into severe trouble – they accidentally get dehydrated. Have a water bottle with you and fill it at one of the airport cafes after you pass through security. Keep sipping the water all throughout your flight. Drinking water has the added benefit of getting you up and moving too – even if it’s just to the lavatory.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Crew Members for Help
While flying has changed significantly from the roomy and comfortable flights of long ago, the crew members are there to help passengers and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help lifting your bag into place, or getting a cup of water, for example. Many passengers around you are also willing and happy to help as well.
8. Have Healthy Snacks Available
Don’t let yourself get too hungry either – have a few healthy snacks on hand. Some nuts, sliced fruit, or energy bars are all good options. Depending on the airline, snacks may only be available for purchase, and it’s easier (and cheaper) to have what you like on hand rather than taking your chances with the food carts. Pack your snacks in plastic zippered bags, so they don’t leak in your bag, and keep them handy so you don’t have to retrieve your bag from the overhead bin.
9. Stand Up and Stretch Often
One of the most critical risks for senior travelers is DVT (deep vein thrombosis) which can cause severe pain, disability, and, in the worst case, even death during and after a long flight simply because a person did not move about or stretch often enough. When you are cramped in an airplane flying for many hours, it’s critical to wriggle, stretch, stand, and even move about when you can. Even if the seatbelt sign remains on and you are prohibited from moving about the airplane’s cabin, you can stretch your toes up and back, bring your knee into your chest, and roll your feet about.
10. Get Help with Your Luggage
Unless you are traveling very light, get help with your luggage. Traveling at 30,000 feet or more through the skies is hard on the human body and you may become far more tired than you realize. So, take it slowly and be careful when you arrive at your destination. The simple act of reaching for a bag on the fast-moving luggage carousel could cause you to lose balance and fall. So, take it easy on yourself. Ask another passenger to grab your bag and if you don’t have family at the luggage point, get a porter to load your bags into the taxi or hotel van.
The AARP provides an extensive free library of travel-related articles and advice for seniors, including destination guides, budget travel recommendations, and an interactive trip finder. Being prepared before you travel is the wise approach.
A few days ago, "The Washington Post" conducted an interesting experiment. With the help of an automotive technology expert, they hacked into a “Chevy Volt” to see how much information the car was collecting on its driver. The results were alarming.
A technology enhanced car should be collecting diagnostic data on itself. It’s even reasonable to expect it to record mileage and possibly where it’s been. What the reporters found was a lot more than that. With the help of Jim Mason, a PhD in engineering who hacks into vehicles for a living to reconstruct car accidents, they were able to access the car's “infotainment” computer. With a few simple hacks, Mason was able to see where he’d been that day. He was also able to see unique information on his and his passenger’s phones. The car even collected the names and personal information of the contacts stored in Mason’s phone.
Mason and the reporters decided to do a more in-depth search, purchasing another previously-owned infotainment system online for less than $400. They were able to glean enough data from the purchased system to know the names of the contacts in the prior owner’s phone, where he/she traveled, pictures from his/her phones, and the locations of gas stations and restaurants visited.
Chevy hasn’t disclosed the fact that they’ve collected and continue to collect all this data to any of its consumers. They also don’t list it in the owner’s manual as there are no laws or regulations stopping them from collecting this type of information. After some questioning, Chevy wouldn’t own up to what it was collecting off the other computers in the car of which there are a total of 7.
In 2014, 20 automakers pledged to adhere to privacy standards in connection with the data they collect. None of them have upheld that promise. Why does it matter, you ask? According to tests, the computers in new cars are extremely easy to hack. And if you’re thinking this is some science fiction nightmare, it’s not. It’s a reality. Car hacking has already happened.
In 2010, over 100 customers who purchased vehicles from Texas Auto Center found their cars were going out of control. A disgruntled employee was later charged with helping to facilitate the hack. The software used to disable the cars didn’t have the ability to shut down a moving vehicle, but that wasn’t the case for one individual. Andy Greenberg, a “Wired” (a popular slick digital tech magazine) writer contacted two hackers in 2015 to challenge them to take over his moving vehicle with him in it. They were able to take over complete control of all functions in his Jeep, including killing the transmission while Greenberg drove on the highway.
This wasn’t the trio’s first experiment. Greenberg had challenged them in 2013 to take over his car in the safety of an empty parking lot. They were able to do it by plugging their laptops into the main switchboard of the car. Two years later, in 2015, their hacking was completely wireless. Well that seems quite scary and it should be.
As technology advances, we’re constantly bombarded with new gadgets and lifestyle changes that make our world safer and more interconnected. Unfortunately, a lot of the people utilizing that technology aren’t thinking about the risks associated with wireless integration. While the idea of losing control over the machines we rely on to carry us from place to place may be scary, remember that you have a voice. Ask questions of your automaker, and make sure you are a well-informed consumer. And if you’re really concerned, give your state’s attorney general a call. It’s up to all of us to protect our identity from potential breaches.
Excerpted from a December 27, 2019 online article by Mary James.
In January of 1962, with less than one half year until high school graduation, it's a safe bet many of us couldn't have imagined where we would be in January of 2020. Well, here we are and, if you're like the most of us, you couldn't have predicted all that has happened over our concurrent journeys. Wishing all a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year! Looking forward to seeing everyone at the next reunion!
Christmas is a most magical season. As it gently blankets us, we are warmed by the memories layered within and upon us. Christmas may be a time of celebration and feasting or of quiet prayer, but it is always a time of remembrance of those near, far, and no longer with us.
As we come together during this special time, may the blessings of the season be found in our lives and remain with us throughout the coming year. May we know true delight in the simplest of things, find solace no matter our circumstances, show mercy for those in need, cherish our families and friends, and be filled with the true grace in the act of giving.
And, on Christmas morning, may we unwrap “just what we wanted” to discover true joy, know that such peace can be a part of every day, and be comforted by recalling those moments with which we have been blessed over our lifetimes.
Merry Christmas to all...
It’s around this time of year when we hear ourselves and others saying things like, “I can’t believe the holidays are here again already.” It’s a seasonal lament, but one with which we are all too familiar. Perhaps it’s a growing mindfulness for some that time is becoming more precious which causes us disquiet. We chastise it as if time had feelings and should know better than to pass too quickly.
So, in the hope we might slow our personal timepiece just a little, we find ourselves retelling the memoirs of our pasts, recalling names and events from our personal histories, revisiting points long gone from our maps of forgotten places. And, as we listen to our own voices, we hear the echoes of our elders. In doing these things, we are pulled into a melancholy embrace of remembrances yet; it all warms our hearts. It does not, however, lessen the persistence of the clock.
With the passage of time, we may find ourselves saying more goodbyes than greetings and we are haunted by missed opportunities. We may share favorite anecdotes calculated to touch feelings of nostalgia for those we loved and who are no longer with us. But, in the end, we look forward in the hope of imparting what we can to those who still have much of their journeys and time ahead of them. And, most of all, we are thankful for the opportunities to share our love and good wishes with our families and dear friends.
While the holidays are a time of gatherings with family and friends, they can also be a source of stress, as regular schedules are disrupted for shopping excursions and rich holiday meals challenge even the most ardent of dieters among us. Staying healthy can be a challenge during this time of year, especially for seniors.
According to Amy Fuchs, a licensed clinical social worker and owner of The Elder Expert, LLC in Saddle River, New Jersey, one of the difficulties for family members during holiday season is not knowing their elderly relatives’ limits. Fuchs suggests that although seniors might need help, they might not verbalize that they've slowed down and could use the assistance.
Robyn Golden, a licensed clinical social worker and director of the health and aging department at Rush University in Chicago, agrees. She believes offering options to older relatives and asking them what they want to do is a better approach than simply assuming their limitations.
Helping seniors reduce stress and avoiding “holiday blues” may be accomplished using the following tips for staying healthy during the holidays.
1. Make healthy choices
From rich meals to tempting and tasty homemade snacks, the holidays are a time for many to indulge in food -- or overindulge. So, try to plan meals with other events in mind and know there will probably be ample “treats” available. For example, if a big dinner is planned for New Year's Eve, consider a lighter lunch of salad or soup on that day. Planning ahead will help keep down the calories. Remember, after large meals, it is natural to want to rest and, yes, sleep during the holidays is important. However, sleeping after a large meal has the potential to allow food to sit. As food sits, particularly carbs, it does not turn into energy for your body. Instead, it gets stored in fat cells. So, a little walk after a meal, even if it isn’t very far or fast, can do wonders for your body both during the holidays as well as the rest of the year. To make it even better – include the whole family in on your walk!
2. Stay hydrated
Drinking water is one way to stay healthy during the holidays. Seniors need to drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids as they are more vulnerable to dehydration. Water is good on many levels. Water helps flush out toxins and cleanse the body faster than anything other drink because it contains replenishing electrolytes. Tap water contains fluoride which is important in retaining healthy dental hygiene. Water can also help prevent the tendency to over-eat by creating a sense of fullness faster. Drinking a glass of water after a plate full of food will help prevent going back for another plate full. And, since food goes in faster than the body can process it, the brain only just realizes the stomach’s level of fullness from the first plate after the second plate full is on its way down. By then, it’s too late. To make it easier to stay hydrated, have water easily accessible at home, with meals, and even keep a bottled water in a purse or bag when running errands.
3. Follow dietary restrictions
Butter, salt and pepper are cultural staples for the dinner table. Try to avoid adding salt and butter until after tasting the food first. Often there are plenty of additives already in the food. Seek out other spices to substitute for the salt and butter. Some seniors must follow special diets for medical reasons, such as one that is low in sodium. So, alternative spices may help to enhance food flavors without jeopardizing the medical care plan. It can be difficult to adhere to a diet during busy, stressful times, especially if there aren't any healthy options available. When people are stressed, they tend to overeat and often don't stick to their special diets. So, to make it easier to follow dietary guidelines, keep healthy options like fresh-cut vegetables and fruit on hand.
4. Drink in moderation
The holidays are a great time to relax with a favorite beverage and enjoy time with loved ones. However, most alcohol is loaded with carbohydrates and unnecessarily high calorie counts. The effects of heavily loaded cocktails can cause inflammation of the joints, making problematic joints and muscles worse. Instead of mixing alcohol with sodas, try tonic water or diet drinks. Watch out for cocktails using juice drinks that can carry high levels of sugar. When it comes to beer, try to drink “light” beers. Also, any of the wheat ales tend to carry less calories. Even egg nog can be made somewhat healthy if it’s made with soy or skim milk. Too much alcohol can impair functions, and for some senior citizens, drinking alcohol while taking certain medications can result in extremely adverse side effects. Instead, consider other, alcohol-free drinks so everyone can celebrate the holidays.
5. Keep exercising
In many parts of the country, the holidays are synonymous with cold weather and snow. Sticking to an exercise schedule in these situations can be a challenge. So, wearing the right clothes for a daily morning walk can make it more tolerable when the weather turns wintery. If it's snowing or sidewalks are icy, get together with friends and go to an indoor shopping mall. Window-shopping while walking around the mall can be quite fun and exercising.
6. Shake up traditions
Between cleaning the house and cooking for a crowd, hosting a big holiday meal can be a big source of stress. And, for many families, these events often take place at “Grandma’s house”. So, if an older relative traditionally hosts a big holiday meal, consider passing the tradition on to a younger member of the family. Or, if the senior relative insists on hosting, younger family members can volunteer to clean or prepare part of the meal.
7. Decrease gifts
For many seniors, especially those on a fixed income, the holidays can be a financial challenge when faced with buying gifts for everyone in the family. To reduce the stress of having to pay for multiple gifts, it would be financially easier, and therefore less stressful, to have a family grab bag or, Pollyanna, where everyone contributes just one gift.
8. Rest after traveling
For some seniors, the holidays are a time to travel long distances to visit family and friends. Whether traveling by car, rail or plane, allow for ample rest upon arrival and throughout the visit. Watching television or taking a nap instead of planning a day of shopping and visiting can be a welcome option.
9. Make homes accessible
If older relatives are visiting relatives for the holidays, ensure home safety and accessibility. For instance, someone with a cane could trip over area rugs so, removing them can improve safety levels in the home. Consider having senior relatives sleep in a first-floor bedroom to minimize the need to climb stairs. Try to let them stay in a room close to the bathroom with easy and well-lighted access. Use nightlights in hallways and be mindful of all the extension cords used for seasonal decorations inside the house.
10. Take breaks
The holidays often involve busy days and late nights. So, make sure there are plenty of opportunities for rest and quiet between the parties and shopping. When all, especially seniors, are on an all-day outing, be sure to carve out some time for a nap or another way to relax for a bit, even if it is just to sip tea in a cafe.
11. Stay involved
Everyone wants to feel that they are part of the holidays. So, it’s important to find ways for seniors to be included without jeopardizing their health. With a few preventative measures and a willingness to change some traditions, seniors can stay healthy, follow their diets, and not put themselves at risk while also having fun with their family members this holiday season.
Most importantly, enjoy the holidays! The above are simply suggestions to assist in the maintenance of good health habits. Holidays are a great opportunity to spend quality time with family and enjoy the pageantry.
Have Happy and Healthy Holidays!
is the time of year when many folks are talking about health insurance. The following is intended to help you avoid
potential pitfalls as you work your way through the maze of information out
Finding the right health insurance policy for you or your family can feel daunting. Combing through paperwork and the fine print may leave you bewildered and frustrated. Shady scammers are ready to take advantage of that confusion, hoping to sell you fake health insurance products.
Scams pop up online and in spam emails all year long, but the fraudulent activity tends to increase when healthcare is in the news and on consumers’ minds—for example, during the HealthCare.gov open enrollment period from November 1 to December 15. Scammers try to convince you they have a simple solution to obtaining coverage. Whether they get you through a cold call, you’re lured in through online ads, or you stumble on their site in Google search, their “products” often promise comprehensive plans that meet current federal regulations. These products may even illegally feature the names and logos of major insurance companies, adding to the appearance of validity.
Sadly, these scam plans fall far short of what you think you’re buying. The “prescription coverage” offered may be no more than a discount card that offers a small price break on services and medicine you’ll pay for completely out of pocket. The stripped-down health coverage plan may also be useless if it doesn’t cover the services you need, regardless of federal regulations. Some plans have benefits that are far skimpier than advertised while others are complete fakes, taking your money and offering no coverage at all.
The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association estimates that healthcare fraud costs the nation about $68 billion annually. Other estimates soar as high as 10% of annual healthcare expenditure, or $230 billion. Healthcare fraud is a felony in most states and a federal criminal offense under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Although fraudsters are always working on new ways to separate hard-working consumers from their money, some of their most popular techniques are all too familiar. Protect yourself with this knowledge and know your next move if you find yourself in a conversation with a scammer.
Scammers will cold-call consumers with an offer to help navigate the Health Insurance Marketplace. But that help isn’t free! You may be told you must pay a fee for the assistance or that you owe a penalty because you didn’t seek their advice sooner. Never pay an individual offering to help you enroll in a government health insurance program. The people who offer legitimate help with the Health Insurance Marketplace—sometimes called “navigators” or “assisters”—are not allowed to charge you a fee. Whether a fake offer of help comes via phone or email, don’t be tempted to accept. These tricksters are only looking to obtain your personal and financial information to steal money or your identity.
Scammers target seniors with phone calls claiming an approaching expiration date or regulatory changes that require them to obtain a new Medicare card. They’ll caution that a person might lose Medicare coverage unless they pay a fee for a new card. Be familiar with the Medicare rules and regulations, and call 1-800-MEDICARE if you have any questions. Current federal regulations do not require that you obtain a new Medicare or health insurance card. Furthermore, not obtaining a new Medicare card will not result in a loss of coverage. You should never give any personal (birthdate, social security number, etc.) or financial (credit card number, banking, etc.) information to anyone who initiates contact with you claiming to be from the government or your insurance company.
Some scam are packaged in the form of paid discount programs that supposedly cover (or reduce) the cost of health services and products. The discount card or program might promise it meets the minimum healthcare plan requirement under “Obamacare” and that its cost will ultimately save you a bundle. To weed out scams from legitimate savings option, read all the terms and FAQs on a company’s website. You can also contact your state insurance commissioner’s office to learn if a health plan is real insurance or a fake discount program. Free, legitimate coupons available through legitimate companies like GoodRx can actually help you afford the high costs of prescription medicine.
Neither state nor federal government representatives will ever call you to verify your social security number or bank information. Agencies like the IRS or Medicare may send a written letter via snail mail (never email) asking you to contact the agency, but they will not request or demand you wire money or provide credit card or bank information over the phone to make a payment. Do not provide any personal or financial information to anyone cold-calling you or contacting you via fax, letter, or email without verifying the identity of the company or agency. Ask for a name, department, and phone number to call the person back. Though scammers may sound convincing when they tell you they’re from the government, remember that those agencies will never contact you via phone.
Along with knowing to avoid the most popular scams, be on the lookout for certain “characteristics” of fraudulent sites or salespeople.
Pushy sales pitches: Scammers are often very pushy and aggressive as they demand you make an immediate decision because the “deal of a lifetime” they’re offering will expire soon. They will often talk in circles to confuse you and become irritated if you ask questions. The seller may also try to obtain your bank account and credit card information before you even sign up or receive plan details.
Healthcare reform: It’s common for con artists to sell fake health insurance that they claim is “required” as a result of recent healthcare reform. The pitchmen may say this is a “limited-time” deal, or “limited open enrollment.” Watch for blast faxes, emails, and TV ads. You can find free assistance navigating the Health Insurance Marketplace by visiting HealthCare.gov and clicking “Find Local Help.”
Evasive answers: If a salesperson is sketchy and avoids nailing down specific coverage details (deductibles, co-pays, providers in the plan, etc.) or doesn’t clearly answer your questions, that’s your cue to end the conversation. You should also never be pointed to a website or brochure for more information. A legitimate plan representative should be able to answer any question without having to pass you on to another source.
Membership is required: You should not have to join an “association” or “union” to buy the coverage. In general, these groups—and the coverage they claim to offer—are fraudulent.
If you suspect you’ve been a victim of a healthcare insurance scam, there are several local and federal agencies available for help and guidance including the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association, your State Insurance Fraud Bureau, the official U.S. Government’s site for Medicare: “STOP Medicare Fraud”, your state’s department of insurance website, and the Federal Trade Commission.
Original post by Gina Roberts-Grey on October 18, 2019.