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SCAM Update and Warning about Robocalls

There was recently an article in the AARP Bulletin on that had to do with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) cracking down on new scams. This made us think we should do a blog update on scams and pass out some new warnings from the FTC.

What’s new? Well, it seems scammers are now impersonating medical alert companies in order to get money or personal information (to steal your identity) from seniors. The scams are coming in the form of phone calls, sometimes with a live person and sometimes an automated or robocall. The calls are either trying to sell you a system, often using very strong tactics to get you to give your credit card or other payment information or they are stating that you (or someone you know) have already ordered the system and demanding payment. They have even been known to threaten legal action if you don’t pay up.

What you should know. Robocalls are illegal. But you may be asking, what is a Robocall? Well, direct from the FTC, here is an explanation of a robocall:

If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it’s a robocall. You’ve probably gotten robocalls about candidates running for office, or charities asking for donations. These robocalls are allowed. But if the recording is a sales message and you haven’t given your written permission to get calls from the company on the other end, the call is illegal. In addition to the phone calls being illegal, their pitch most likely is a scam.

So, what should you do if you get a robocall? The FTC recommends that you, hang up the phone. They also say you shouldn‚Äôt press 1 to speak to a live operator and don’t press any other number to get your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.

What else can you do?

• Consider contacting your phone provider and asking them to block the number, ask about whether they charge for that service. Remember that telemarketers change Caller ID information easily and often, so it might not be worth paying a fee to block a number that will change.

• Report your experience to the FTC online at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0341-file-complaint-ftc or by calling 1-888-382-1222.

Some other helpful tips:

If you get an unsolicited call, hang up. Don’t even ask for details from someone making a cold call.

If you are interested in a medical alert product, gather the information and ask for documentation of fees up front.

Beware of offers that state your insurance will cover medical alert programs or that you can get them for free. Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance companies will not pay for this service.

Don’t pay for anything that you didn’t order. Hang up and contact authorities to make a complaint if you are threatened.

And again, don’t press any numbers as prompted in the robocall, this could just notify them that this is a live, working phone number and you could become the target of future calls or scams.

For more information from the Federal Trade Commission visit: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0259-robocalls

Food Hardship, Do you have enough?

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) recently released their analysis of survey data collected in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. ¬†In the breakdown of state data, the survey reveals that the highest rates of “food hardship” happen to be in the Southern parts of our country. When it comes to New Jersey’s congressional districts, the 10th district comes in at number 9 out of 436 districts. This was the highest by far compared to all other New Jersey congressional districts. The 10th district consists of towns in Essex, Hudson and Union county. Mostly, the 10th District is made up of Essex county towns such as Orange, West Orange, East Orange, South Orange, parts of Newark and parts of Montclair. The representative for NJ‚Äôs 10th Congressional District is Donald Payne.

With the New Jersey Elder Economic Security Index, we found that food was 11% of an elder’s budget. What that breaks down to is a monthly average of $234 spent of food for a single elder and $430 for a couple. Housing and healthcare are the highest costs for those 65 and over in NJ. However, programs like SNAP (Food Stamps) and Farmers Market Coupons, can help to save seniors a little money in one area (food costs) so that they aren’t deciding between paying their rent or mortgage versus eating. The FRAC study really highlights what we already now, many people in New Jersey (and throughout the country) don’t have a sufficient income to cover the necessities.

If you or someone you know need assistance, please contact your County Office on Aging, you can find a list at http://www.njfoundationforaging.org/services.html  or call the Food Stamp Hotline at 1-800-687-9512 or on the web at  http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/dfd/programs/foodstamps/ .

To view the entire FRAC report visit: http://www.frac.org/pdf/food_hardship_report_2010.pdf but here are some more national highlights and figures from the report:

The survey asked more than 530,000 people if in the past 12 months they were unable to buy enough food for themselves or their families. FRAC’s analysis provides a percentage of “food hardship” for the nation, states, Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA’s) and congressional districts. The data is from 2008 and 2009. Nationally, the survey shows that many people began having difficulty purchasing food for themselves and their families in mid-2008. The number of respondents that stated they did not have enough food jumped from 16.3% in the first quarter of 2008 to 19.5% in the last quarter of 2008. This coincides with the rise of the unemployment rate nationally, which was 6.9% in November of 2008. At that time food prices were also on the rise. By the fourth quarter of 2009 the rate of “food hardship” dropped to 18.5%, the report suggests this was due to falling food prices and by an increase in support programs such as SNAP (food stamps) which received a boost to match the increased enrollment as well as an additional boost from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Despite the drop, the reports writers caution the reader that this is not the best news; it still means that 1 out of 5 Americans does not have enough food.

When it came to ranking the 436 congressional districts in the US, a rank¬† of #1 means the highest food hardship rate, but again the report warns us that a ranking of 300th or 400th is still not good news, because the data really shows that food hardship is an overwhelming problem in our great nation. The writers go a step further to challenge congress to act on this national problem, stating it is a problem that is “demanding a solution”.