This is Bad…Really Bad
You may think this is an over-reaction, but it is NOT! A Russian hacking group called “Fxmsp” has claimed to have “hacked” (as in breached) three of the most popular computer security solution providers that provide antivirus and malware protection for millions of computer-users like you. However, to date, the names of these organization have not all been confirmed.
At this point, there is no evidence that customer data has been compromised or stolen because the group went straight for these companies’ jugulars. Instead of going after customer data, they allegedly stole private company information. Consequently, customers may think they are in the clear because their data wasn’t taken, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Security experts have found credible evidence the information taken by the hackers includes development documents, artificial intelligence models and security solution base codes. This means hackers know exactly how to bypass the security solutions developed by these three companies. This is very bad. Not only for the companies that now must do damage control, but for anyone using products built by these companies. But there is a problem. No one yet knows for sure which companies were hacked. One company (“Komando”) reached out to “Bitdefender”, “Avast”, “Norton”, and “McAfee” for comments. Both “Bitdefender” and “Avast” confirmed they were not one of the companies impacted. “Norton” and “McAfee” have yet to respond.
You’re likely thinking, “Great, now what?!” Well, that’s a good question. It’s being strongly recommended you reach out to your security provider and ask if they were breached by this group. If so, you need to find another company. And don’t be naive! The company will do whatever they can to put their customer’s mind at ease. They will likely claim it’s completely taken care of and customers are just as secure today as they were prior to the attack. However, that cannot possibly be the case. The hackers have all the innermost workings of the company’s security products. Therefore, they know exactly how to bypass it. So, again, this is bad, very bad. If your security solution provider was breached, you need to seriously consider finding an alternative.
UPDATE: “BleepingComputer”, a computer support firm, has released messages obtained from private underground forums, which appear to indicate “Symantec”, “McAfee”, and “Trend Micro” were the three companies breached. Of the three, “Trend Micro” is the only one that has confirmed being impacted.
Told you this was bad.
Following a conversation over dinner with a long-time friend, I began this journal. After sharing my idea of wanting to document some observations related to my aging in the hope of helping to shed more light on the subtleties of growing older, he encouraged me to get started before it was “too late”. The import of his words was not lost on me and the project was begun.
As I began to organize material for what I would write, my first
realization was, "I should have started this project sooner." Now, in a
fit of pique brought on by a belated sense of determination, I regret
not having written down all those "a-ha moments" as they occurred and
when I thought to myself, "I should write this down." Of course, the
comparative value of any one of those revelations is relative only in
its application to my personal circumstance at the time it occurred and
not in how it might be measured by others after the fact. Therefore, the
following scribbles, which I considered priceless when pencil finally
met paper, may only hold value proportional to whatever, if any,
universal merit may be found in them. I leave that determination up to
In short, this essay is an attempt to identify and define some of the
experiential insights associated with certain events which have
occurred and continue to do so as part of my "maturing process". Of
course, the initial hurdle which had to be overcome was to admit I have,
in fact, gotten older and am getting older on a daily
basis. Understanding it is a process in which we are all engaged right
from the moment of birth, I, nonetheless, find no comfort in that
thought. Most of the time the events we associate with aging happen in
small increments. It is also true they occur with daily regularity. So,
admitting an awareness of the reality of my aging was and remains not an
easy thing to say or, do. I suspect this may be true for many.
The first step in this self-assessment was to decide what “getting
older” meant specifically to me. Aside from some of the more common
characteristics of aging with which all of us seem to eventually
identify, I also think there is a more personal side to aging which is
unique to each of us. For purposes of writing this journal, I decided
that "getting older" should be defined as the net effect of (1) changes,
both physical and mental, which have occurred and continue to occur
causing alterations in any one or more of my daily activities and (2)
the extent to which those changes, no matter how seemingly
insignificant, have had permanent impact on my ability to partake in my
activities of daily living going forward. It’s my belief the physical
changes are ones in which we all share a common familiarity. The way
each of us accommodates these changes is reflective of the uniquely
personal aspects of growing older.
While certain I have undergone some age-related changes which
initially went unnoticed, their cumulative effects will, if not already,
be realized and accommodated. Therefore, my assumption is all changes
have consequences as one "gets older” and must eventually be dealt with
in one way or another. This would certainly include those changes
willfully ignored since the very act of doing so constitutes a way of
dealing with such issues. In short, it’s kind of a package deal...as we
grow older, we experience changes in body, changes in mind, and changes
in being... all-inclusive, over time, and all having measurable effects
for which we must find accommodation.
The earliest of my own age-related changes without warning as my physical body quietly began its slow and inevitable metamorphosis. At first, there was a reluctant awareness of my growing inability to do certain things the way I had always done them. Oh, I was still doing everything I needed and wanted to do, but I noticed it was taking a just a little longer to accomplish some of these usual and routine activities. I had also begun to realize the completion of some tasks required just a little more effort than had been needed on previous occasions. At first there was just the hint of a growing lack of enthusiasm and only minor physical discomforts which would follow certain activities. Over time, however, these aftershocks began to increase in their intensity and duration. Running upstairs to retrieve a different pair of shoes and feeling the tightness in my legs that wasn't there not so long ago is but just one, small example of the kind of early physical changes that had begun to make their not-so-subtle appearances in my life. Other changes followed with varying degrees of disquiets.
As I continue to grow older, I find that the balance of demands on my physical being are met with increasingly more weight applied to the scale on the side of annoyance rather than interest and with a growing heft of reluctance instead of eagerness as each day is balanced over the fulcrum of my experience. Of course, there have been those stand-alone events in my life that made their presence known with more vengeance than subtlety...the ruptured appendix, the MI, a gangrenous gall bladder, and the carcinoid lung tumor...all rather scary and behind me for now but, each in their own way aiding and abetting the overall process of aging.
The earliest effects of my getting older began to reveal themselves when I started making conscious choices not
to do certain things because of the estimated amount of effort required
to do them. The decision to cut the grass tomorrow because “the weather
might be better” is a good example of an age-related deferment policy I
employ from time to time. In other words, on some level, I know I am
not up to a particular task while holding out the hope I will find the
impetus for its completion at some future point in time.
Putting on my overcoat and seeing what appeared more like my father's hand emerge from the end of the sleeve was quite off-putting the first time it happened. It was an occasion which forced me to admit I was probably the last person to realize how much of a toll age had been taking on my physical appearance. Even now, I observe what I know to be the backs of my hands hovering over the computer keyboard while not really accepting they are a part of me. This denial of my own aging runs deep, but surfaces whenever I see friends with whom I went to high school and catch myself thinking "how old they look". This is probably the best example of a clear lack of self-actualization as it relates to my own process of aging. So, whenever I see my father's hands in place of my own, it is always somewhat of a surprise and, to a degree, surrealistic experience which still gives me an uncomfortable feeling. It is, after all, an indication of how things really are, and the realization only reinforces the fact there are probably many other discomforts to come.
My unenthusiastic submission to the reality of my own aging tends to show up at the most innocuous of times. The fact I’ve come to a place where I prefer to shop with my wife only in those mall stores that provide chairs or benches for their customers' comfort is one of those admissions I am reluctant to make but, pleased to advantage. Or, if the retailer does not offer seating inside the store, I am quietly relieved when I find a bench outside and directly across from the store's entrance. Such accommodation sanctions not only my comfort, but also provides an alternative to being compelled to venture in among the better dresses and lingerie. While we do not discuss it openly, my need for respite is quietly understood by my lovingly accommodating spouse. All the relentless changes which have resulted in my being frequently "benched" add up to other surprising and sometimes not so welcome realizations about aging. I simply can’t do it the way I used to do it, whatever “it” is.
Aging is a very different personal experience for each of us. Those who experience some catastrophic event or illness resulting in irreversible physical and/or mental changes are often confronted with some of the most difficult challenges with which anyone must deal. A "stroke", for example, can be a sudden and devastating event when it results in the loss of the ability to do what just the day before was a routine activity of daily living. Or, the trials of a prolonged and life-limiting illness for which there is no relief slowly rendering an individual helpless and fully dependent on others for care can be overwhelming…for all concerned. These are but two examples of why we all should make just a little more effort to learn about age-related changes and how to deal with them before it is too late. Knowing the impact they can have and what steps we can take helps us be better prepared to deal with whatever may come our way.
Admitting I was a "senior" was only fun the first time I learned I was eligible for a discount at one of my favorite retailers. It was also the last time. I appreciated the respect, but I resented the implication. However, it was phase that passed quickly. Once I moved beyond the shock of those early encounters in which others were seeing my age before I did, I realized the number of retail goods and service providers that offer “senior discounts” is quite substantial. Now, instead of feeling insulted when someone offers me a well-deserved “senior perk”, I more often behave badly whenever I frequent a retailer who doesn't readily offer at least a double-digit percentage discount from my bill. The list of more easily recognized retailers who offer discounts includes Burger King, Denny’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, IHOP, Golden Corral, McDonald’s, Shoney’s, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, White Castle, Kohls, Ross, Albertsons, Kroger, Piggly Wiggly, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Best Western, Crowne Plaza Resorts, Double-Tree, Holiday Inn, Motel 6, Avis, Hertz, Southwest Airlines, Amtrak, Greyhound, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and Great Clips just to name a few. In short, anytime I go into a store, contact a business on the phone, email an internet vendor or, go “benching” at the mall with my wife, I always ask for the vendor’s “senior discount”. Let them feel the embarrassment of having to say “sorry” if they don’t offer one. It also allows me to suggest they start one.
Another milestone along the path of getting older is discovering the subtleties of ageism. We laugh at the greetings cards or jokes that make fun of older people not recognizing the fear and prejudices that are embedded in them. When I was young, it never occurred to me I would one day consider myself "old". In fact, I truly never thought I would make it this far. As a young man, I dismissed my own aging by boldly and repeatedly proclaiming I would not survive beyond my fortieth birthday. For sure, some of my chosen lifestyle habits at that time seemed to support that supposition. I’m not sure what scared me more – not living to the age of 40 or, living beyond the age of 40. Now that I have nearly doubled that number, my perspective has changed somewhat. It was probably the day I sat across from the clerk at the Social Security office discussing my "retirement" and "benefits", that I truly realized just how frightened I was. I was preparing to move into a very different phase of my life. And, the jokes and greeting cards didn't seem quite as funny. So, if you find yourself wondering whether something is ageist, make the subject of whatever it is a woman, a minority or, a person with a disability and see if you think it would offend any one of them. If the answer is "yes", then it's probably ageism.
While things have progressed, generally-speaking, with relative smoothness despite my fears and apprehensions about growing older, I didn't really begin feel old until I overheard someone say they had never seen an episode of “MASH”. That nearly took my breath away. The fact of the matter is, while I may not feel older than the younger people in the room, to them I am old. So, in my relationships with younger folks I remind myself to respect their right to experience their own path to growing older. I cannot and should not force the experience of my age on them. Dealing with age naivete' diplomatically is, indeed, a skill acquired only through one’s own aging…and not all of us do it well, I’ve noticed. Even now, when I realize I am talking with someone whose birth only just took place this side of the new millennium, I sometimes catch myself thinking, “Oh, my God, they are so young!” And, muttering “I am so old!” under my breath.
I remember those times in my life when someone I considered to be
“old” would ask me to help them with a task which demanded clearer
vision, more nimble fingers or, more acute hearing than they had. It was
fun to show elders how to do something with their new mobile phone or,
how to operate the TV remote. However, the first time I found myself
seeking help from someone with “good eyes”, I knew I had passed yet
another one of many milestones along my own journey toward
seniority. I’ve heard some of my more cynical friends say it’s the
reason we have children. We need the access to younger senses and
dexterity to make up for our failing abilities as we grow older. While I
don’t necessarily subscribe to that axiom, I do appreciate having
younger people around me.
When it comes to hanging out with young people, one consideration to
take into account is the longer we live in their world, the more we are
exposed to ever-increasing volumes of information. It was Buckminster
Fuller who developed the concept of the “Knowledge Doubling Curve” by
which he attempted to measure the rate at which the volume of available
knowledge expanded. In his time, this curve was measured in
years. Today, according to some experts, the amount of “information”
available to us doubles approximately every 13 months and, as more time
passes, the doubling curve shortens. That’s an incredible pace with
which to keep up especially for seniors.
Most of this available knowledge comes to us through our electronic
devices (you know, the ones with which we need the eyes and hands of
younger people in order to use them) that feed our seemingly insatiable
appetites for evidence of the extremes in all of us. While we search for
all kinds of information, it is my feeling we seniors seek much of the
information pertinent to us in the hope of being reassured that we are,
indeed, “OK”. We seek validation of and for ourselves. However, the
information is available to all and is accessible to every level of
understanding regardless of education. So, in my estimation, open access
to this volume of information has led to dubious intellectual gain.
It seems to me, accessibility to vast amounts of available information appears to have fueled a narcissistic and misguided intellectual pseudo-equality that has crippled informed debates on any number of issues. Today, everyone seems to know everything about everything. All it takes is a quick trip through WebMD or Wikipedia, and even the most average of citizens, young and old alike, believe themselves to be on an equal intellectual footing with the most learned among us. Today, all voices, even the most ridiculous, demand to be taken with equal seriousness, and any effort to point out real facts which may contradict their postulations is dismissed as undemocratic elitism. As I become older, it becomes more difficult for me to participate in this kind of social exchange. It reminds me of those times while growing up when I was so dismissive of my elders. Perhaps what I saw in them and believed to be old-age grouchiness was merely a reaction revealing their perceptions of my generation and particularly of me.
It's interesting to observe those who appear to be grouchy old people. Having been acquainted with some of them in their earlier years, I knew them to be grouchy young people as well. I also knew some who were not. On that, I base my supposition that growing old doesn't necessarily mean you will grow grouchy, but it can happen to you if you let it. It’s my feeling those who opt for grouchiness probably do so out of their own unresolved issues around aging, the physical changes associated with becoming older, and accumulated personal regrets. To come to a place in one’s life where there is a sense of “I wish I had done something differently and now it’s too late” has got to be a miserable feeling. Hence, grouchiness exudes most often from those who realize there is a permanence which accompanies aging. Once something is done, it cannot be undone or done differently no matter what one’s age is and no matter how hard we wish we could undo it. So, consider your actions as well as your in-actions carefully. There are no Mulligans in life.
For some folks, including myself, rather than irritability what I think develops is an awareness of a mounting sense of urgency as we grow older. So, what may appear to be grouchiness to some may, instead, be simply a display of impatience. There is an obvious explanation – impatience grows out a realization that time, our time, is becoming more precious. Hence, we sometimes become impatient with ourselves and, unfortunately, with those closest to us, particularly the ones we love the most when that sense of urgency is at its strongest. Learning to manage our impatience in the hope of making the best of whatever time we have left is no small task. It requires a great deal of care and maintenance to take full advantage of the remaining minutes, days, weeks, months and years ahead. Time notwithstanding, before I retired, I was tentative about many things. As I have gotten older, I have come to know my own voice, and most importantly, and the confidence to use it. Now, I do things and participate in many activities that I thought not possible in earlier times. As I have gotten older, I've come to realize that I much prefer a creative mess than idle neatness.
As I write this essay, I am confounded by an occasional inability to recall certain things clearly such as the name of a former co-worker or, the title of song I heard on the radio last week This is an issue which is considered by professionals to be one of several characteristics associated with aging. My once-in-a-while inability to remember where I put the car-keys seems to be one of the more common examples shared by those of us over the age of forty, an age which experts frequently use as an landmark to chronicle things that typically happen to us as age. However, just because we tend to be forgetful from time to time is not necessarily an indication of anything more sinister. The fact that I recognize what the car-keys look like and that they are needed to operate my automobile are good signs. Those who suffer more damaging effects of some pathology often don’t recognize car-keys when they see them or might not know what they are used for once found. And, such forgetfulness tends to be permanent. None-the-less, I find it most annoying when I catch myself wasting time searching for the keys I swore I left on the kitchen counter just this morning only to find them next to the coffee creamer in the refrigerator.
Generally, as we get older we tend to process things a little more slowly and “multi-tasking” may not be as much fun as it used to be. Also, multi-tasking is not to be confused with “run-on tasking”. Multi-tasking involves doing several things at the same time. Run-on tasking requires more of a geriatric-focused approach. For example, the other day I was folding some laundry and happened to notice the dust around the clothes dryer had accumulated to unacceptable levels. So, I stopped folding clothes just for a moment to address the “bunnies” hiding near and under the dryer. As I turned to retrieve the dust mop, I saw that the dog’s water dish was just about empty. So, I leaned the dust mop next to the clothes dryer on top of which was the remaining pile of unfolded clothes and, taking the dog's dish in hand, headed toward the kitchen to re-fill it. As I entered the kitchen, my eye caught a glimpse of a letter on the kitchen counter that was missing a postage stamp. Realizing it was a bill needing to go out to the mailbox, I placed the dog’s bowl in the kitchen sink, turned on the tap, and then commenced a search through the kitchen “junk drawer” in the hope of finding a loose stamp for the as yet unposted letter. However, instead of stamps, I came across some old photographs from last Christmas I had intended to put in the family photo album. So, after putting the unstamped letter under a magnet on the refrigerator as a reminder to mail it later (where, by the way, it remained until the arrival a “second notice” in the mail a month later), I ran upstairs to put the pictures in their respective photo albums. While in the bedroom, I saw there was not the usual pile of clean laundry waiting to be put away. It then occurred to me I had left the laundry half-folded on the dryer. So, I headed back downstairs where I heard water running in the kitchen. When I looked in, I found the dog’s water dish in the sink still under the open tap and over-flowing. As I approached the sink to turn off the running water, it I thought I should probably do the few remaining breakfast dishes left on the kitchen counter. Once the dishes were done and dried, I thought I should probably hang out a clean dish towel. After a search through the drawer containing our assortment of dish towels, I did not find the one I wanted. Of course, I thought, that's because it was still in the laundry room. Oh, yeah, I thought, and back to the laundry room I went. And that’s how the laundry got folded that day. I’m told by friends this is “normal” for “someone my age”. It may be normal but, it’s exhausting.
Like many who believe life is a gift, I held a similar understanding
for a very long time. Now that I’m older, I’ve come to think life may be
the unfairest of gifts. I feel it comes to us when we are in a most
vulnerable condition and it is taken from us often with little notice
given and while we feel most unprepared. However, in exchange for these
seemingly unjust approaches to its beginning and ending, I also believe
life provides us with both wonderment and surprise throughout all the
time in-between. However, it often tempers our awe with intermittent
instances of unfulfilled anticipation and disappointment while it
beckons us with the promise of new and undiscovered treasures of
experience. Indeed, the path to life’s riches is not without obstacles,
but it is the journey itself that reveals the greatest wealth by the
measure of those we love and who love us along the way.
As we get older, I believe we tend to look back over our time with greater frequency. We reminisce. As we do this, we need to reflect on the routes along which we have come, no matter how short or long, and recall the many crossroads that caused us to question our bearings from time to time. By doing so, we can see that at each of those junctions, our lives interconnected with others as they, too, journeyed their own pathways. These fellow travelers may have been our parents, our friends, or other family members. They may have been spiritual mentors, teachers or, co-workers. Because of them, we were able to draw strength from the knowledge they shared whenever we showed doubt or were about to misstep. We may have wanted to give back, but it always seemed what we received was of far greater value than that which we offered. A few of these companion travelers became our pathfinders. They were different than the others. They reoriented us. They helped us find direction. They provided comfort by reassuring us we were not lost. Most of all, they offered us guidance, without judgment, no matter which direction we chose or, how many times we may have passed the same crossroad.
So, it is typically in the autumn of our lives when recollections of our journeys seem to surface a little more easily and the colors of recalled images seem just a little more vivid. It is in the fall of our lives when we prepare for the long winter ahead by harvesting the bounty of our pasts. We lovingly recall thoughts and memories of our pathfinders who may not have realized the abundance they provided us, but who were the real treasures of our lives. Life is, truly, the unfairest of gifts and most precious as the days grow shorter. There is a chill in the air and a hope rises for another spring ahead. But, should the journey end here, we must be most grateful for this unfair gift and the treasures it contained, both given and received.
While our interrelationships to innumerable natural phenomena are
well-recognized, unlike the cyclic fates of natural things which can be
most accurately predicted, the progress of our own transformations often
remains unpredictable and our destinies, until the very last, may
remain unknown. Of all the relationships in our lives which have
unfolded, for many of us, it is our first experience with the loss of
one of those relationships that causes us to first confront and question
our own destinies.
Most often our first real experience with loss involves a family member and it is likely our first encounter with death and dying. It was in my case and, sadly, it wasn’t the last. As humans, we have a specific life-span, determined mostly by genetics. Certainly, environmental issues can play a role, but mostly our genetics hold the controls. Usually, it’s when we get to that point in our journeys where we recognize there is less span of life ahead of us than there is behind us, we begin to deal with the reality of our own mortality…or, not. Sadly, as we get older the frequency with which we are confronted by the experience of death seems to accelerate. Because, as elders, we appear to lose others in our lives with such regularity, we are often mistakenly viewed by those younger as “experts” when it comes to dealing with loss, particularly regarding what one should say or do when death occurs. For me, being at expert is certainly not the case.
Coping with loss is not easy for any of us. It always seems to come at the wrong time in our lives no matter what our age. If it happens at a time when we are just beginning to deal with age-related issues in our own lives, the pain of loss can be particularly exquisite. Not feeling able to find the right words to express our grief is not an uncommon experience. Even more impactful is not knowing what to say to ourselves.
After years of working in the healthcare industry and having dealt with death first-hand far more often than most, I can tell you that knowing just the right thing to say or do when someone dies doesn’t come naturally. It is only worse when it is someone in your own family or a close friend. It’s probably easier to know what not to say. The first rule, if there are such things as rules when it comes to comforting someone after suffering the loss of a loved one, is not to say anything at all. Sometimes, just “being there” for the bereaved is all they really want. We all seem to respond to and appreciate the presence of another person when we are feeling alone and sad. Words do not always make the best company. So, I’ve learned, sitting quietly with your friend or loved one often speaks volumes.
Assuming, for the sake of discussion, I am a being of average intelligence and experience, I understand that as humans, we feel a certain level of anxiety when someone close to us suffers a loss. I also know that talking can be a relief valve for this anxiety. So, when I start feeling compelled to talk in that situation, I’ve come to understand it’s usually because of my own discomfort and not necessarily that of the bereaved. So, I try to keep the conversation simple and brief. There is no need to elaborate when it comes to sharing your sorrow with another. Sometimes just saying, “I’m sorry” is the only message than needs to be communicated. If I say anything in those situations, I have found that no matter what I say, being sincere, genuine and concise are all the characteristics needed.
Above all, when I do talk with someone who has suffered a loss, I’ve learned not to try making assumptions when attempting to comfort them. I find that making assumptions tends to push my own beliefs onto them and that simply doesn’t work following a death or, at any time for that matter. Assumptions are not well-disguised and misguided efforts to minimize the pain others may feel. Assumptions have no place in the conversation. Assumptions tend to show a certain disrespect for the feelings and beliefs of others. In the worst scenario, an assumption can easily become an accusation. When one doesn’t get the expected response to their stated assumption, it can and often does deteriorate into an “I told you so” situation. So, I’ve learned to keep my assumptions to myself and try to be a better listener.
The other thing I’ve learned over time is it’s perfectly normal to cry. Having grown up in an atmosphere of “big boys don’t cry”, accepting the alternative was slow to happen. I am convinced this is true of many men my age. However, when it comes to comforting others at their time of loss, tears convey a message that cannot be expressed by words. In fact, when the bereaved see others crying it helps them by allowing them to find comfort in knowing others care too. It still feels a bit awkward to me but, I am not embarrassed the way I used to be if I should happen to “well-up”.
As I age, I find I think more often about death and dying. I suppose, like others my age, I have questions about mortality for most of which there are probably no real answers. But, in my own experience, I have come to believe we only want to know two things at the end of life: (1) “Will I be remembered?” and (2) “Did I do a good job?” In my work as a hospice nurse, these two or very similar questions were often a part of the many conversations I had with those whose deaths were imminent. It didn’t seem to matter what the dying person’s socioeconomic status was or, what job title they held, or, where they lived or, how much money they had in the bank, at the end it all boiled down to their wanting to know if their “lives mattered”. It most certainly didn’t have anything to do with anyone’s ethnicity, religious belief, or political leaning. It was simply the desire for validation and that their journey had meaning. So, as I approach each day, I try to imagine what my answers to those two questions are. I also think it is why we reminisce the way we do as we age. We may be looking for the “evidence” we feel we need to secure the answers to those two important questions.
As time goes on, a second part to this essay will appear. Hopefully, as my good friend reminds me, before it’s too late.
A recent industry survey revealed some startling facts. It seems a significant number of information technology professionals lack certain basic knowledge and fail at maintaining best practices in their work.
1 out of 10 of those surveyed, don’t know what “phishing” is…
Granted, not everyone reading this will likely know what phishing is either. However, not everyone reading this is an “IT pro” making a living in the information technology industry.
PC Matic, a cyber-security firm, recently conducted a password management and security best practices survey of over 1,000 IT professionals. The results showed information that was shocking, if not downright concerning.
According to the responses received, one out of ten IT professionals do not know what “phishing” or, “two-factor authentication” or, a “virtual private network” (VPN) are. All these things should be basic knowledge for even the most inexperienced IT worker.
It was also determined IT professionals practice more of a “do as I say, not as I do” approach when it comes to password management. Over half, 50.84% to be exact, reported changing their passwords only when they were forced to do so either by necessity or by their management. Additionally, 31.99% reported using the same passwords across multiple accounts, both personal and work related. This is potential for disaster. Why? If computer-users experience a data breach, they are not only facing compromised personal accounts, but they are also exposing their employers’ networks due to their use of identical credentials for both systems.
Speaking of increasing security risks, 55.91% of IT professionals reported using company networks to check their personal email accounts. They do this despite knowing personal email accounts are most often targeted for malicious viral attacks. By checking personal email on company networks, IT professionals — or anyone doing this — are putting their employers’ systems at risk. If a user were to click on a malicious link or open a malicious email that doesn’t require any action to launch the virus it contains, the malware attack could easily spread throughout the company’s networks.
What should all computer-users be doing, you ask? Users should be changing their account passwords once every two to three months. Some commercially-available security programs automatically change passwords at each use. Passwords should also never be used for more than one account and should never be cross-utilized between personal and work accounts. Additionally, personal accounts should never be opened on company networks. Such actions pose a serious and unnecessary security risk.
The following is shared with much sadness.
Willingboro, New Jersey - Vivian D. Lewis, 75, of Willingboro, passed away on April 15, 2019. She was born in Daytona Beach, FL on March 24, 1944 to the late Reverend Pollard L. Stanford, Sr. and the late Louise P. Stanford; and raised in Woodsville, Manalapan Township.
She is survived by a daughter, Adrienne P. Lewis-Harris. She is also survived by her brother, Pollard L. Stanford, Jr.; a brother-in-law, Joseph Allen; and two sisters, Lilly Foster; and Brenda Stanford. Vivian was preceded in death by a sister, Sandra J. Stanford-Allen and two brothers, Lorenzo Stanford and Carl Stanford.
She graduated from the Manalapan-Englishtown Elementary School Systems in 1958; and Freehold Regional High School, Freehold in 1962; and received a Bachelor's of Science Degree from Central State University, Wilberforce, OH in 1966.
Vivian had dual careers in her civilian and military life. Vivian's military career began in 1979 and she was Honorably Discharged from the U.S. Army with the rank of Major in 1996.
Our condolences to Vivian’s family and loved ones.
Unfortunately, some of the nicest weather and foliage during the year is accompanied by an onslaught of allergens. As pollen fills the air, people afflicted by seasonal allergies begin to groan.
Like millions of Americans, seniors are not exempt from bothersome allergy symptoms. However, seniors often have complicating factors such as chronic diseases that can make it difficult to manage and treat their watery eyes and stuffy noses.
Christopher Randolph, MD, a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology’s Asthma & Allergic Diseases in the Elderly Committee, offers the following suggestions to help caregivers make allergy season more bearable for their loved ones:
This message is being posted in an effort to determine whether the FRHS website should be discontinued.
At this point, this website is due to expire at the end of the current year. There are fees required in order to maintain the required "license" to continue. So, the question is whether the costs to operate the website are justified. The approximate cost is $150 to $175 every 2 years. To date, the Class of '62 has been supporting the website.
At the present time, usage of the features on this site has been minimal. Most viewers do not post messages or images to share. Most viewers simply "check in" to view the site without taking advantage of the available options. If you feel this website should be continued, please let us know. Otherwise, this site will shutdown in December of this year.
Please respond on this site or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you think.
Pastoral Notice from St. Peter’s Church, Freehold, NJ
On behalf of Nancy and Don Ollwerther, we
sadly share that Nancy's sister, Cheryl Read Vota, died following a long illness. Her family and
loved ones were with her at time of passing.
Cheryl was a life-long member of St. Peter's and was heavily involved in the greater Freehold community. She will be missed by all who knew her.
Cheryl's funeral service will be
conducted at St. Peter's on Saturday, March 9, 2019 at 10 AM.
Visitation will be held Friday, March 8, from 5 pm - 8 pm, at Freeman's Funeral Home located at 47 East Main St, Freehold, NJ.
OK, I admit it. I am not opposed to guns. I own guns, but I am not compelled to possess more of them than the local National Guard unit. I like to shoot, but I don’t hunt. I belong to the NRA, but I don’t always vote for the political candidates they endorse. So, I guess I’m kind of a moderate when it comes to the whole gun thing. However, I do have a comment in response to the arguments I hear on the news networks following every incident involving a gun. I am baffled as to why so many of the so-called experts would rather debate the use or, misuse of guns rather than the underlying issues in our society. The logic they seem to employ is the kind that would suggest it’s the pencil’s fault every time someone misspells a word. Only a very few of these experts even mention what should be their greater concern and that is our culture’s repeated displays of and fascination with violence. It seems a more pervasive issue than the guns themselves.
Violence is born out of ignorance and intolerance and, I believe, it
comes in many different forms. Most often, violence is thought of as
that kind of behavior which results in physical harm such as that which
is perpetrated with guns. It’s the kind of behavior that takes place
between individuals, or between groups of individuals, or between groups
and individuals, or, in the worst case, between nations. However, there
are other forms of violent behavior which can be just as harmful and
are utilized at least as often as the physical kind.
Intellectual violence, for example. When one individual, group or nation uses intellectual capacity to inflict harm on others by withholding information or, giving intentionally misleading information to gain some perceived advantage might be considered a form of intellectual violence. Similarly, when an individual or a group of individuals uses an elitist influence such as that frequently found in academia to achieve their own purposes might also be considered intellectual violence on their naive victims. I doubt I am the only one who recognizes this kind of violence.
Then there’s the question of emotional violence. This form occurs when one individual manipulates the emotions of another to gain some advantage as is often seen in situations described as domestic violence. Sadly, when that doesn't work to the perpetrator's satisfaction, it is typically combined with a physical assault of some kind to get the effect desired. It's probably a safe bet that each one of us knows at least one person who has been victimized in this manner. That is, if you're not a victim yourself.
Equally frightening and perhaps more damaging than emotional violence is spiritual violence. This occurs when an individual or individuals use another person's or group's theology against them as a weapon to influence and overpower them for purposes of satisfying their own personal agendas and/or needs. Many of my Catholic friends are wrestling with feelings around this kind of abuse of late.
What about the bigger picture, you say? What about violence in its totality? Still don’t see a problem? Then just turn on your television. It won’t take you more than five minutes to find someone talking about a recent shooting, stabbing, domestic altercation, rape, kidnapping, murder, robbery, or some other malfeasance both public and private. Is there anyone who’s never heard of “Live PD”? If those topics don’t satisfy your base desire to be a “bystander” to someone else’s misery, try watching or listening to the “news networks”. They seem to thrive on the most violent of behaviors not just in our neighbors, but in that which can be found in nations around the globe. Even those channels which portend to be about history or science seem to have a propensity for the more violent periods in our past like wars and revolutions or, the most dangerous of the planet’s exotic creatures or, the most devastating global natural events. Even “prime time” television hours are populated with fictionalized stories utilizing violence as entertainment in case you get tired of the “real thing”. And, we all watch if for no other reason than to be able to say, “Gee, I’m glad it wasn’t me.”
What we should be talking about are the root causes of the problem. Things like “diversity” which, in its extreme, may be a big part of the problem. Diversity in its purest form breeds distrust, even hatred, among individuals, groups, and even nations. When diversity takes control, compromise and understanding are near absent. Diversity thrives on ignorance and intolerance, the same menu as that of violence. Astonishingly, many considered part of an elite class in this country seem to be promoting even greater class separatism under the guise of diversity by arguing for the elimination of national borders. And, yes, I know this country was built by diverse groups who came here as immigrants. However, the distinction being, those who came earlier, like my grandparents who never heard about diversity, came with the understanding they were to adopt a common language, common values, and share in a “unified” allegiance to this country. Not the fallacy being promoted today.
If we are to believe we can gain control of violence, we must
confront our own individual ignorance and intolerance. We need to
re-evaluate those morals and values we are supposed to be teaching our
children, especially immigrant children. As more diverse, single-parent,
mixed parent, same-sex parent, and no-parent households parade in
lock-step with those among our nation's population who are marching
toward becoming a more secular society, the teaching of self-respect and
respect for others seems to wane. Too many of our children are being
taught to isolate rather than integrate. And, the more they isolate, the
more they adopt a kind of narcissistic view of the(ir) world.
Consequently, what doesn’t please them becomes a focus of their dislike,
even hatred, and, more often than not, they respond in the only way
they’ve been socialized to respond – alone and with violence. If you
doubt this, remind yourself of how many “mass shootings” or
multiple-victim stabbings you’ve read, seen or heard about over the past
six months. And, in most cases, the perpetrator was probably described
as being “such a nice quiet guy who kept to himself.”
The gradual erosion of morals and values, the instability of the “family unit”, the devaluation of our Judeo-Christian concepts combined with a broadening emphasis on diversity at all levels of our social system are causing many to feel isolated and distrusting of anyone not part of their own diverse group. When diversity takes this form, it breeds ignorance and intolerance. It’s not much of a leap from there to that place where violence becomes a “tool” for the expression of this distorted reality – “Agree with me or, I will hurt you."
So, will more rules work when it comes to guns? Probably not. If we
continue to avoid confronting the roots of our inherent violence, it
will persist, but only as a symptom of the greater malignancy growing
deep within our culture.
If crooks (“scammers”) reach out to you during this current tax season, it will likely be through one of these two avenues – phone calls or emails. It’s important for you to know the following about each potential attack.
Fake Phone Calls
First, scammers will fraudulently alter their “Caller-ID” so it reflects an IRS phone number and not the actual number they are using. Next, they will falsify their names and titles, in an attempt fool you by attempting to create some sort of legitimacy to their fraudulent identity. Then, they will do one of two things: (1) they will claim you have an outstanding debt with the IRS which must be paid immediately over the phone, or, (2) they will claim to have a refund for you that wasn’t properly distributed and they need your personal information to process the refund. Neither of these claims is true.
At the same time, scammers have found sending malicious phishing (a neologism created as a homophone of “fishing” due to the similarity of using a bait in an attempt to catch a victim) emails to the masses is a much faster payday than individually calling people. These emails have one primary goal — to generate urgency for the reader to act. This action may be clicking on a link, calling a phone number, or downloading an attachment. The email will likely make similar claims as the phone scams, either the victim “owes” funds, or is getting “refund”. Regardless — it is fake.
Don’t Fall for This
It is important users understand, the IRS will never reach out to you via telephone or email. If you legitimately owe the IRS money, or are privy to an additional refund, they will reach out to you via the United States Postal Service, either through standard or certified mail. Also, the IRS will never require you to make a payment through a certain payment method, like a prepaid credit card. Nor will they threaten to notify local authorities if you fail to pay. If you receive a bogus phone call, please let them know you’re aware it is a scam. This should get them to remove the phone number from their list, since they know it’s a waste of time. If you receive a phishing email, send it to email@example.com and then promptly delete it. Do not open any “links” inside the email!
If you’d like confirmation regarding your tax refund or clarification regarding any past-due taxes, you may reach a legitimate IRS staffer at (800) 829-1040. Or, if you are certain you don’t owe taxes and don’t have any tax problems, report the phone call scam to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484.
Are You Getting Your Money’s Worth?
The following is a brief list of popular retail shops and services offering discounts to seniors. Be sure to take advantage of them. If you know of other discounts and roll-backs not listed here, let us know by commenting on this post!
Cell phone services:
AT&T offers a special Senior Nation Plan for account holders 65 or older for $29.99/mo. It has 200 Anytime Minutes, Mobile to Mobile Minutes, and Nights and Weekends, without roaming and long-distance charges.
Verizon Wireless: Verizon Wireless offers a special 55 plus nationwide unlimited talk and text service plan to customers who are 55 or older. Check to see if your location offer this with Verizon.
Consumer Cellular: Consumer Cellular offers AARP members who are 50 or older exclusive savings on monthly service charges in addition to discounts on accessories.
American Discount Stores: 10% off every Monday (62+)
Fred Meyer: Senior Discount: 10% – 15%, depending on dept., first Tuesday of each month (55+)
New Seasons: 10% off every Wednesday most items (65+), 10% off every Tuesday for military
Regal Entertainment Group: Regal Entertainment Group offers up to 30% discount off the regular adult ticket price for ages 60+ (Check your local theatre)
AMC Theaters: AMC Theatres offers discounted ticket prices to customers who are 60 or older with valid photo identification.
Marcus Theaters: Every Friday Marcus Theatres has special admission prices for anyone age 60 and over. Come and enjoy a movie at any Marcus Theatres with our Young at Heart special – only $6.00 for any show that starts before 5:30 PM. Additional charges apply for 3D features. Young at Heart program valid for patrons age 60 and over. Additional charge for 3D, 4DX, UltraScreen DLX, SuperScreen DLX and IMAX. Admission and concession specials available for Friday showtimes before 5:30pm.
Showcase Cinemas: For our patrons, age 60 and older, we offer Senior Wednesdays. Discounted admission is $7.50. Plus enjoy a popcorn & soda for only $4.50
Landmark Theaters: Senior's Day Monday: Seniors enjoy 20% off the posted Senior's admission price and to sweeten the deal, receive 20% off their concession purchase too! So, make Mondays your Movie Day because a great deal never gets old. Check your favorite Landmark Cinemas for showtimes and pricing.
Best Western: up to 15% off for 55 and over
Choice Hotels: 10% off for 60 and over (or AARP members)
Hampton: 10% off for AARP members
Holiday Inn: discounts to 62 and over
Marriott: 15% off to 62 and over
Red Roof: 10% off for 59 and over
Motel 6: 10% off to 60 and over
Super 8: discounts for 60 and over
Travel and transportation:
Greyhound: 5% off for 62 and over
Amtrak: 10% off for 65 and over
National Parks Service: discounted senior pass for $80 for 62 and over
Carnival: savings on cruises for 55 and over
Royal Caribbean: reduced prices for 55 and over
Hertz Car Rental: various discounts to those 50 and over
Avis: up to 30% off to AARP members
Payless Car Rental: various discounts to AARP members
Southwest Airlines: various discounts for 65 and over
United Airlines: various discounts for 65 and over
Uber: two free trips on the first day of every month
Applebees: 10% discount
Burger King: 10% discount and discounts on drink items
Chick-fil-A: 20% off during breakfast hours and 10% off during lunch/dinner hours
Denny's: senior menu with discounted prices
IHOP: senior menu as well as 10% off
Sonic: 10% discount
Golden Corral: discounted menu prices for 60 and over
Subway: 10% discount
Wendy's: free drink (or 10% at some locations)
Outback Steakhouse: 10% off for AARP members
White Castle: 10% off for 55 and over
Goodwill: 10% off for 60 and over on Tuesdays
Michaels: 10% off for 55 and over
Hy-Vee: 5% off every Wednesday for 55 and over
Jo-Ann: a senior discount day that included 20% off for 55 and over
Kohl's: 15% discount for 60 and over on Wednesdays
Rite Aid: various discounts for 65 and over including 20% on the first Wednesday of each month
Walgreens: discounts for 55 and over or AARP members
Habitat for Humanity Restore: 20% off on Thursday for 55 and over
Health & beauty:
Great Clips: Great Clips offers various discounts for seniors
YMCA: YMCA offers discounted membership fees for 65 and over
Pep Boys: 10% off for 55 and over
Jiffy Lube: 10% off for 55 and over
Hackers have used several different platforms to spread their scams. These have ranged from fraudulent “tech support” websites, malicious social media “posts”, and scam phone calls. In addition, there have been tax scams spread through phone calls and/or fake emails. The options are unlimited — so why would we be surprised that they are now sending text messages claiming you need to call now?
The message shown in the image above was recently sent to an unsuspecting individual.
The recipient’s initial reaction was to call the number shown.
Fortunately, no call was made and this proved to be a hoax message. The
sender hopes to get people to respond and, once engaged, convince them
to reveal confidential information which helps the scammer gain access
to personal and financial information.
So, beware of these kinds of fake messages. When these “suspicious email activity” alerts are legitimate, they never offer a phone number for you to call to remediate the situation. If you get a message like this, do yourself a favor and delete it immediately.
Independent living, in the context of eldercare, is seen as just one step in the continuum of care. Senior independent living refers to housing communities for senior citizens between the ages of 55 and 65+. People who live in these communities are normally healthy and need minimal support and/or medical help.
Independent living communities are apartments, cottages or condominiums which offer residents the freedom to come and go as they please. Another bonus to independent living is that the communities are strictly set up for senior citizens, so residents are with others in the same age groups. Most independent living communities offer a variety of community and shared programs such as shopping and casino trips. Depending on the independent living community, residents can enjoy a variety of meal plan options, housekeeping services, both inside and outside maintenance and landscaping, assistance with laundry, and other services of convenience. Seniors usually pay for independent living out of their own assets, and, if eligible, veteran benefits may offer some assistance as well.
retirement centers and senior apartments are other terms used for independent
living. The physical structures of
facilities that qualify as independent living residences are very diverse.
Planned communities may consist of single-family or attached homes, mobile or
manufactured homes, high-rise or low-rise apartments, cluster housing, standard
subdivisions, or any other structure and layout that works for elderly
residents. Congregate housing and senior apartments generally consist of
converted private homes or apartment complexes. In general, facilities may
offer any number of designs and layouts.
A high percentage of retirement communities and independent living facilities provide common areas for meals and socializing. In larger planned communities, common areas may consist of a full community center designed as a separate structure or wing of the facility. In smaller facilities, common areas may simply consist of a community dining room, an open sitting area or any other space dedicated to multipurpose use for groups of residents. A portion of the facility cost often reflects the amount of community space that is provided.
Recreational and social activities in retirement communities and independent living facilities vary as much as the facilities themselves. Some communities have full-time directors for these services, while others offer only informal activities arranged by residents themselves. Depending upon the age and resources of residents, activity calendars may range from plentiful to sparse.
Medical and personal care services generally do not vary quite as much as other kinds of services in retirement communities and independent living facilities. Virtually all facilities in the latter category require that any medical or personal care services to be provided by local visiting nurse and/or homecare agencies. Some facilities, especially those advertised as congregate living or senior apartments, may have a social worker on staff to assist residents to contact such agencies. In other communities, administrators may provide such help when there is no social worker available.
By comparison, nursing home and assisted living facilities are set up in more hospital-like surroundings with around-the-clock medical care available. These facilities are for senior citizens who need constant care and cannot function independently. While some independent living facilities may have a nurse on staff that can help with small medical needs, they are not equipped to care for residents who need excessive medical attention and support.
today are living longer lives and enjoying better health than any generation
that came before them. Today's seniors don't automatically turn to nursing
homes when they start to need extra assistance. They look to other, less
restrictive options, like independent living and assisted living facilities.
Independent living is for seniors who do not need assistance with their activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, managing medications and going to the bathroom. If a person in independent living becomes unable to manage his or her own ADLs, that individual must eventually transition to an assisted living or, other care facility which offers the needed support and services.
Typically, a retirement community or independent living facility may be suitable for an individual if:
The cost of retirement communities and independent living facilities is extremely variable. At the low end are subsidized housing, congregate living and senior apartments, most of which charge a percentage of the residents' income. Subsidies to make up the true cost of the facility are provided by public or private charities.
At the high end are planned retirement communities that require the purchase of a separate home, unit or cooperative share as a price of admission. The cost to “buy in” is reflected by the local real estate market for housing of similar location and quality, plus the cost of physical amenities provided by the facility or the community management. In the U.S., these entrance costs can range between $100,000 and $1 million. Once the buy-in costs are satisfied, the typical monthly cost for these planned communities can be anywhere from $1,500 to $6,000 which pays for taxes, common utilities and services provided to residents.
In between low- and high-end facilities are the retirement communities and independent living facilities which operate strictly on a rental basis, plus a monthly charge for services, but without the requirement of a “buy in”. Rent and service fees tend to reflect the cost of luxury housing in the local community. Fees in the urban Northeast, for example, can be substantially higher per month than the national average for a comfortable facility and a service package that includes meals, housekeeping and linens. In general, average monthly costs can range from $1,500 to $6,000 per month for an independent living facility.
Because of the wide variations in facility types, their design, services and costs associated with living in a retirement community or independent living facility, a thoughtful plan should be developed before making a final decision. Visits to as many facilities as possible to learn the details of each one is strongly suggested in order to make an informed choice.
Almost a year ago, hackers were running a scam offering refunds from companies that were allegedly “going out of business”. The truth of the matter was that none of these companies were really shutting down. Instead, hackers were using this claim as an excuse to gain the personal banking information of their victims, so they could “process” the unexpected refund.
Today, this “refund scam” has resurfaced and one business the scammers claim to represent in particular is your “antivirus provider”. The scammers know, with our ever-growing dependency on technology, most people have a computer or mobile device that probably has antivirus protection on it. Scammers are exploiting this fact by calling unsuspecting victims claiming to represent their “antivirus company”, which they then claim is “going out of business”. Their comments remain vague, being careful not to disclose a company or product name. Instead, they wait for the victim to respond with something like “Oh, PC Matic?”. And just like that, they have the information they need. Often, the victim doesn’t think twice that they’ve just given the hackers the information they needed to appear to be legitimately from their security company.
This is exactly what happened recently to a 67-year-old Arkansas resident. After naively providing her banking information for the “refund” to go into her bank account, the scammer called back saying an error had occurred and the wrong amount was transferred to her account. He then said she would need to transfer back thousands of dollars to correct the error. It was then, she realized it was a scam. She immediately hung up and froze her bank accounts.
First, let your common sense prevail. Companies are not going to call every customer offering a refund if they should be forced to go out of business. Instead, they would likely do a major press release and/or send out a letter or email confirming the company’s doors are closing. Taking the time to notify each customer by phone is not realistic. If you receive a call like this, you’re encouraged to tell them you know it’s a scam. They will likely hang up, and not call again. By the way, the number which appears on your caller ID is almost certainly not the scammer’s real number so, it’s probably pointless to try reporting it to the authorities.
Also, do your due diligence and share this information with your friends and family. The more people know the less likely they are to fall victim.
Stay safe out there!
Microsoft has released plans to end support for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020.
The end of life (EOL) of Windows 7 means Microsoft will no longer provide security patches, software updates, or customer support to Windows 7 users. Fortunately, users have plenty of time to update their systems to Windows 10. For many home users, updating to Windows 10 will not be a major issue. Businesses, however, may face larger complications.
Moving a business over to an entirely new operating systems can lead to major complications. This is due to outdated systems that aren’t compatible with Windows 10, training new employees on a new system, ensuring qualified tech staff is available for the transition, and the cost associated with all the above. In addition, some of the recent Windows 10 updates have created more problems than benefits. This in and of itself has left businesses in no rush to migrate to this particular operating system. Unfortunately, there are few options available for businesses running Windows 7.
For all users, it’s important to know that just because Microsoft is no longer supporting the OS, doesn’t mean it will stop working. Therefore, users can continue running the OS, but at their own risk. The lack of support means security patches and updates will not be available. Therefore, all known security vulnerabilities that are typically patched by Microsoft, will be left exposed, creating potential security risks.
If users opt to keep Windows 7, their best line of defense will be to use an application called a “whitelist” as their primary method of malware detection. A whitelist will not patch the known security holes but will prevent all malicious entities from running on your device. Therefore, if a hacker attempts to exploit these known security gaps by installing malware — the whitelist will not allow it to run, as it is not a known safe program.
The second option is for users to pay for extended Microsoft support. To determine the cost associated with this, users are encouraged to contact Microsoft directly.
Lastly, users can develop and implement a plan to transition their PCs from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Even if this option is chosen, an application whitelist security solution should still be implemented to effectively thwart malware attacks and keep data and endpoints secure.
The Veterans Affairs Department and U.S. Postal Inspection Service have issued warnings to veterans regarding two kinds of scams which are specifically targeting former service members. The first involves fake charities posing as legitimate organizations offering benefits to the needy veteran population. The second fraudulent scam claims to be a service that offers pension buyouts to veterans. Both are becoming more prevalent and dangerous to the veteran community, VA spokespersons said recently.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the non-profit AARP say they are noticing more fake charities using names that sound very real and authentic as a ploy to convince veterans to donate money. These fraudulent organizations attempt to appeal to a veteran’s sense of duty and honor when soliciting donations. Most of these “charities” are pocketing the donations for themselves, the agencies said. One scammer operated two fake charities and pocketed the veterans’ donations, then used the personal information written on the checks to steal donor identifies and take even more cash, according to the VA.
Before donating to a charity, veterans should verify the organization’s name and do some research about their mission and reputation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service said. In addition, veterans should understand where their donations will go and who will benefit from them specifically. The Postal Inspection Service and VA recommend “CharityWatch” as a resource, which reviews charities’ financial statements and gives organizations a rating based on their transparency and spending.
Still other scammers are attempting to go after veteran pensions. For most veterans, their VA pensions are critical to their financial situations. But the Postal Inspection Service said some fraudulent companies are offering veterans a “pension advance” or “buyout”. In these situations, a company offers a veteran who may be experiencing a short-term financial hardship a lump sum in exchange for a piece of all future pension payments. Those veterans may see this as an attractive option, especially if they are looking for fast cash. However, VA and the Postal Inspection Service say these schemes are typically a bust, because these companies often charge very high interest rates. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has seen some interest rates as high as 106 percent, the agencies said. The Postal Inspection Service suggested veterans avoid high fees and interest rates, and that they should never sign over control of their benefits. Again, these organizations often have patriotic-sounding names and logos and sometimes claim they have been endorsed by the VA.
Click here to edit text
Here is a list of passwords which were compiled from millions of user accounts that were “hacked” this past year. It suggests plenty of people aren’t making much effort to create secure passwords. The top five passwords don’t vary much from year to year… which means people keep using the same predictable passwords, which make it that much easier for anyone to get into their accounts.
Here are this year’s top worst 25 passwords:
Even if you aren’t a security pro, you can probably see a problem here. Seven of those passwords are simply a straight row of characters across the keyboard (presumably to whatever number of characters a particular password requires). And they aren’t the only patterns on the list: “111111” and “666666” are even lazier. Then there’s the perennial “password,” which is certainly easy to remember — but, it’s also the first password any hacker will try. A variation on this basic password is also inevitably on the worst passwords list: “password1” may be a little more complicated than the simple “password,” but it isn’t much better. If “password” is a hacker’s first guess, this will be the second.
Even worse, “123456” and “password” have made the top two spots on the worst passwords list for six years in a row! That implies that not only are these lousy passwords getting used, but they keep getting used.
New to the list this year was “donald,” debuting in the #23 slot. And while it’s a bit better than “password,” setting your password to the name of the president still isn’t very secure.
So how can you keep your online accounts — and thus your personal information — safe? The first step is making sure none of your none of your password are on SplashData's worst passwords of the year list. If you are, you should log on and change them immediately. Then make sure you’re creating a strong password. A good password needs to:
The holidays to which we looked forward with such anticipation are here. Despite all the planning and celebration, this time of year can be particularly stressful, especially if it closely follows the death of a loved one. Friends and family members may be unsure how to act or what to say to support the bereaved during the holidays. More importantly, those who are grieving may not know how to talk with their family and friends let alone what to tell them about how they feel.
In general, the best way to help those who are grieving during the holidays is to simply let them know you care. They need to know they are not alone, and they need to know the one who died is remembered as well. You should never be afraid of saying or doing the “wrong thing” because just making an effort and showing your concern will be much appreciated.
It’s important to remember that grief is a normal response to and process for loss. It is sometimes referred to as “the price we all pay for having loved someone”. There is no time limit on the grief process. Each of us needs and should take all the time necessary to do our individual grief work. And, each of us will do our grief work differently and in ways unique to our own needs.
During the holidays, it’s most important to recognize that it’s still OK to have a “good time”. If we should catch ourselves having fun with the children or, feeling good about being with our friends at the dinner table, it’s not something about which you should feel guilty. Above all, it’s important to know all the feelings and emotions that emerge during this time of grief are normal.
Some tips for the holidays shared by those in grief include, but are not limited to the following:
° Be supportive of the way in which your grieving friend chooses to celebrate the holidays. Some may wish to follow traditions; others may choose to change their rituals.
° Offer to help with tangible tasks such as baking, cleaning, or decorating. For those dealing with grief, simple tasks can be overwhelming and a little help can go a long way.
° Invite a grieving friend to attend a religious service with you and your family, but don’t be discouraged if you are turned down. Suggest taking a walk or perhaps bringing a lunch to your friend or loved one after church service would be appreciated instead.
° Offer to help with holiday shopping or share your favorite catalogs or on-line shopping sites. Picking up a package at the post office or store might be appreciated.
° Invite your friend to your home for the holidays.
° Inquire if your friend or loved one is interested in volunteering with you during the holidays. Doing something for someone else, such as helping at a “soup kitchen” or working with children may help your friend feel better about the holidays.
° Make a donation in memory of your friend’s loved one, as a reminder that his or her special person in not forgotten.
° Never tell anyone in grief that he or she should be “over it”; grief is an individual process with its own timeline and there are no “right or wrong” ways to grieve.
° If your friend wants to talk about the deceased loved one or their feelings about the loss, LISTEN, but do not judge. Don’t worry about being conversational or knowing all the answers…just listen.
° Remind your friend that you are thinking of him or her and the loved one who died. Sympathy or friendship cards, telephone calls, and visits are all great ways to stay in touch.
° Keep in mind, rituals help us to remember. Simple expressions of love such as lighting a candle on special occasions; looking at old photographs together and sharing fond memories; writing letters to the deceased; visiting the grave-site; making a special holiday ornament with the loved one’s picture on it; or simply talking about the loved one are all good ways to “give voice” to grief.
It is important for each of us to remember that grief is a process, that it can be worked through and, that seeking and accepting support from others as we do our grief work, is both healthy and self-affirming. Expertise can be found in support groups and through expert counseling. Community hospice programs are a valuable resource for those who struggling with grief and loss. If you recognize a need to talk with someone about a loss and your own grief process, or your loved one asks you to help, contact your local hospice organization to inquire about support groups and/or counseling.
Resources used in the preparation of this material include:
On Grief and Grieving – Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler, Scribner, New York, 2005.
Grief’s Courageous Journey – A Workbook, Sandi Kaplan and Gordon Lang, New Harbinger Publications, Oakland, California, 1996.
Don’t Ask for the Dead Man’s Golf Clubs – What to Do and Say (and What Not to) When a Friend Loses a Loved One, Lynn Kelly, Workman Publishing, New York, 2000.
A few classmates had inquired about the PowerPoint presentations that were shown during our 50th and 55th Reunion dinner/dance events. For those who have Microsoft Office PowerPoint capability on your computers, the following link will run the presentation for you. For those who don't have MS Office, it may run using a generic application. Good luck!