Charitable giving is a significant part of many people’s lives and budgets and individuals are often eager to give back and lend a helping hand to those in need. Unfortunately, not every organization seeking a donation is exactly what it claims to be. If you’re not careful, you could wind up losing your well-intentioned money to a scam.
Don’t let the threat of scammers keep you from supporting the causes you care about. By staying educated and informed about charity cons, you will be prepared to spot a scam and avoid falling victim to fraud.
Recognizing common scam periods
While scams and other ploys can arise at any time, they often increase while emotions are running high — like near the holidays or following a natural disaster — when people let their guard down and are eager to support those in need.
Such scams may request donations from you over the phone, through the mail, via email or even on social media. They might include charity names that are very similar to legitimate charities, or even mention recent genuine emergency relief efforts. Their goal is to look as authentic as possible in hopes of tricking you. Some of them are very convincing, but you can protect yourself with these fraud awareness tips from Western Union.
Take your time
Be wary of any sense of urgency to donate. Scammers will try to work quickly, urging you to donate before you find any holes in their story. “If you get a phone call where someone is wanting a donation, don’t act right away. Do your research and donate to a recognized charity,” advised Western Union Senior Manager of Anti-Fraud Operations John Skoglund. Remember, authentic charities won’t push you for an immediate response, and will be happy to accept a donation at any time.
Don’t Respond to Emails or Phone Calls
Scammers may try to steal your donations by creating fake charities or impersonating an organization you’ve donated to in the past. There are many ways to do this; they might scour your social media accounts to find causes you’re sympathetic to or create a fake organization with a name that’s similar to a legitimate charity.
No matter the scam, they may try to solicit your donations via email or over the phone. Even if you think you know the organization that’s contacting you doesn’t mean it’s not a well-disguised criminal.
Don’t respond to email or phone solicitations, and avoid clicking unverified links or downloading attachments. Instead, go directly to a legitimate charity’s website to find the right donation channels.
Do your research
Want to verify if a charity is legitimate and if your donations will be tax-deductible? You can start with the IRS list of tax-exempt organizations. If a charity has registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3), you will find them here.
Don’t be afraid to ask for details about an organization. The charity should happily provide them. You can also find a third-party source for information such as Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance. If the group that contacted you isn’t recognized as a charity by any of these organizations, you should exercise extra caution and think twice before donating.
You can do further research to find out how charities will spend your money and how well they support their mission. Websites like CharityWatch and GiveWell provide ratings and information on charities nationwide.
Pay Using Secure Methods
If a charity is demanding specific payment types like cash or demanding unusual forms of payment like gift cards, this is a red flag. Legitimate charities should be able to accept multiple forms of payment.
You should always pay in a manner that makes sense for you – but keep in mind that credit card payments offer more security than debit cards, checks, or cash. That’s because credit cards aren’t tied to your bank account and have specific protections under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
Avoid Sharing Personal Information
Never share sensitive information like Social Security Numbers or bank account numbers. Even common data like your name, email address, and home address can be used to steal your identity or run further scams, so guard your information carefully. You should only share your personal info with legitimate organizations that take data security seriously.
The friends and family rule
Only use money transfers to send money to friends and family. Never send money to someone you have not met in person, and never share your banking or credit card information. Legitimate charities will never ask for donations to be sent to an individual through a money transfer service.
Be cautious of email links
Some donation requests may come through emails that house fraudulent links taking you to look-a-like websites. These websites have phony donation pages where fraudsters can capture your personal and financial information. Instead of clicking on links in a donation request email, open a new browser window to navigate to the charity’s official website and donate there.
Trust your instincts
Don’t ignore your own concerns regarding a charity’s legitimacy and never assume you’re “just being paranoid.” If you notice any red flags or feel uncertain about the situation, don’t donate. You may just be right after all.
Reach out for help
If you get a fraudulent charity donation request and you’ve sent them money via Western Union, call the company’s fraud hotline at (800) 448-1492 to report it. If the transaction has not been paid out to the receiver, Western Union can stop the transaction and refund your money. To learn more about scams and how to protect yourself, visit the Western Union Consumer Protection Center at www.westernunion.com/fraudawareness.
Watch Your Accounts and Credit Reports
Keep a close eye on your credit cards, bank accounts, and credit reports. If you see unusual activity on your credit card or bank account, you will need to report it to the financial institution immediately. And if inaccurate information lands on your credit report, it could be a sign of identity theft. Identity IQ offers daily credit report monitoring and alerts that keep you informed anytime your credit report changes.
Whether they are coming for an afternoon or a week, taking some steps before your grandchildren arrive can help keep them safe during their visit. Adopt any of the following precautions from this grandparents guide to child-proofing that are appropriate for your young visitors’ ages and abilities.
- Gather essential telephone numbers ahead of time. These should include the numbers of the children’s parents, their pediatrician, and your area’s poison-control center.
- If you have a gun, make sure it’s not loaded. Keep it locked up and store the ammunition in a separate place.
- Keep small and sharp objects off the floor and out of reach.
- Put safety plugs in wall sockets.
- Don’t let electric cords dangle where children can reach them.
- Lock doors that go outside, to stairs or to garages.
- Don’t leave children alone in a room with a burning fireplace or plugged-in space heater.
- Make certain curtain and blind drawstrings are secured and out-of-reach.
- Use your stove’s back burners and keep pot handles turned to the back of the stove.
- Keep hot foods and drinks away from the edges of tables and counters.
- Don’t allow children under 10 to use a microwave oven.
- Don’t leave a baby alone in a highchair. Always use the safety straps.
- Don’t use tablecloths. Children can pull down plates, hot foods and liquids on themselves.
- Keep cleaning products, knives, matches, and plastic bags out of reach.
- Don’t leave children in the tub or shower. Small children can drown in two inches of water within seconds.
- Keep medicines, vitamins, and soap where they can’t be reached. Buy medicines with child-safety caps.
- Always check the bath-water temperature with your hand before putting children into the tub.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the best way to dispose of old medications. Do not toss them in the wastebasket.
- Don’t keep any medications, vitamins, or other medicines on or in your bedside table. Children often swallow pills because they look like candy. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, grandparents’ medications account for nearly 20 percent of drug ingestions by children.
A baby’s bedroom
- Keep the crib away from window blinds and drapery cords.
- Put the baby to sleep on his or her back in a crib with a flat, firm mattress with no soft bedding underneath. Doing so reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
- In case of emergency, take the following steps if a grandchild swallows something dangerous or is burned or injured in any other way.
- Call 911 or your community’s emergency medical response number.
- Call the child’s parents.
- Call the child’s pediatrician.
Source: Stanford Children’s Health
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Going around the table asking family members what they’re thankful for may be a tradition in your household, and there are a number of reasons why doing so feels so good. Giving thanks, it turns out, has some major health benefits. Research has linked gratitude with an increase in self-esteem, resiliency and overall life satisfaction. It can also help you build new friendships and strengthen the relationships you already have. Researchers are investigating how positive emotions can lower disease and mortality in older adults. Even among people with serious illnesses like heart disease, those who practice gratitude tend to be less depressed than those who don’t.
Science has discovered that people who practice gratitude experience the following:
- Grateful people are 25% happier than those who do not practice gratitude.
- Being grateful and happy can add as much as 9 years to your life!
- When practicing gratitude, you will experience higher levels of positive emotions such as love, happiness, and optimism.
- By writing down thoughts of gratitude each day, you will have fewer illnesses because gratitude strengthens the immune system.
- Expressing gratitude will restore the natural rhythm of your heart.
- When we are grateful, we “bounce back” from stressful situations faster.
You can make gratitude part of your life by being thankful to those who help you, and by being mindful and appreciative of what’s important to you. Although it may feel strange to “practice” gratitude, over time it becomes a natural part of life. Don’t worry if gratitude doesn’t come naturally. In the same way you work out to build stronger muscles, you can also strengthen your gratitude muscle by
- keeping a gratitude journal or meditating briefly on what you’re grateful for
- concentrating on the good in your life
- reaching out to thank friends and family for being there, or for gifts or favors received
- starting a family gratitude ritual: have everyone list something they’re thankful for that day
- thanking strangers who have done something nice
Many Blessings from all of us here at Age Safe® America!
Increased awareness can prevent clothes dryer fires in your home or senior community. The leading cause of home clothes dryer fires is failure to clean them. It is important for everyone to know how to keep themselves safe from fire.
Fact is 2,900 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year and cause an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss. Failure to clean the dryer (34 percent) is the leading cause of home clothes dryer fires. More home clothes dryer fires occur in the fall and winter months, peaking in January.
Clothes dryer do’s
- Have your clothes dryer installed by a professional.
- Make sure the correct electrical plug and outlet are used and that the dryer is connected properly.
- Read manufacturers’ instructions and warnings in use and care manuals that come with new dryers.
- Clean the lint filter before and after each load of laundry. Don’t forget to clean the back of the dryer where lint can build up. In addition, clean the lint filter with a nylon brush at least every six months or more often if it becomes clogged.
- Clean lint out of the vent pipe every three months.
- Have your dryer cleaned regularly by a professional, especially if it is taking longer than normal for clothes to dry.
- Inspect the venting system behind the dryer to ensure it is not damaged or restricted.
- Put a covering on outside wall dampers to keep out rain, snow and dirt.
- Make sure the outdoor vent covering opens when the dryer is on.
- Replace coiled-wire foil or plastic venting with rigid, non-ribbed metal duct.
- Have gas-powered dryers inspected every year by a professional to ensure that the gas line and connection are together and free of leaks.
- Check regularly to make sure nests of small animals and insects are not blocking the outside vent.
- Keep the area around the clothes dryer free of items that can burn.
- If you will be away from home for an extended time, unplug or disconnect the dryer.
Clothes dryer don’t’s
- Don’t use a clothes dryer without a lint filter or with a lint filter that is loose, damaged or clogged.
- Don’t overload the dryer.
- Don’t use a wire screen or cloth to cover the wall damper. They can collect lint and clog the dryer vent.
- Don’t dry anything containing foam, rubber or plastic. An example of an item not to place in a dryer is a bathroom rug with a rubber backing.
- Don’t dry any item for which manufacturers’ instructions state “dry away from heat.”
- Don’t dry glass fiber materials (unless manufacturers’ instructions allow).
- Don’t dry items that have come into contact with anything flammable like alcohol, cooking oils or gasoline. Dry them outdoors or in a well-ventilated room, away from heat.
- Don’t leave a clothes dryer running if you leave home or when you go to bed.
5 Warning Signs it’s Time to Clean Your Clothes Dryer Vent.
1. Drying time for clothes takes longer and longer.
When a dryer vent is clogged, the drying cycle can double or triple in time. You’ll notice that clothes are not completely dry at the end of a regular cycle. A dryer is designed to push out the hot moist air for clothing to dry. If your vent is blocked by lint, the air will stay in your dryer keeping your clothes hot and moist. And when it takes twice as long to dry clothes, your dryer runs longer, putting more wear and tear on it and therefore cutting the machine’s life in half.
2. Your clothing and the outside of the dryer are very hot.
Do you notice that your clothing is very hot at the end of a cycle or the dryer is hot to touch? This warning sign means the vent is not exhausting properly. If your system is clogged, it not only wastes energy, but can cause the heating element and blower in the dryer to wear out faster.
3. You notice a burning smell.
When you run your dryer do you smell a burning odor? Lint, which is very flammable, can build up in the exhaust tube, lint trap and even in the drum casing. If it gets too hot, it can catch on fire, causing a burning smell. (Remember to empty the lint trap often). Discontinue use of your dryer and have it inspected as soon as possible.
4. The vent hood flap doesn’t open properly.
Another visual red flag that you’re due for a cleaning: You can see lint or debris around the dryer hose or outside vent opening: or the duct hood flap does not open as it is designed to do. An outside vent that doesn’t open when the dryer is running means air flow has been restricted due to lint buildup.
5. It’s been longer than a year since your last inspection.
Dryer vent ducts should be inspected at least once a year to reduce the risk of fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. If you hire a professional to clean your vent, expect to pay between $75 to $150, depending on the length and location of the vent. If the exterior exhaust vent is easily accessible, you can try cleaning it yourself with a brush kit. Some of the DIY cleaning kits do not always properly clean the vent duct. One advantage to hiring an experienced professional is he or she has likely seen just about every make and model of dryer and has the appropriate brush and equipment to effectively do the job.
As the seasons of fall and winter progress, there are rituals and celebrations that dominate our lives. For the many aging in place professionals that we train, their clients have family members who will fuss over them, include them in dinners and outings, spend time in their homes and add joy to their lives. And for some, none of those experiences will happen.
Caregivers are often the family members all year long but find the work especially poignant this time of year. So what are some great ways to support your client or loved one through the winter season?
Keeping them safe and positioned to thrive is the best gift! We can suggest these helpful tips to family members looking to find the best way to help professional caregivers provide quality care.
Certainly, the gift of time and communication is always the most appreciated. Setting a regular time or day of the week for a phone call, Skype or Facetime visit for non-local family members can be invigorating and improve our overall wellbeing.
There are also some practical safety tips for your client or family member during this time of year. The first is home maintenance; cleaning gutters, clearing pathways of leaves, debris or snow, checking fireplaces, dryer vents and furnace filters – even de-cluttering, taking magazines and papers off the stairs, and checking batteries in motion-sensor or dusk to dawn lights. Doing these activities safely often involves the right equipment and tools. Getting help with these tasks for your client or loved one may be the most important gift this year!
Remember, too, that the changes from daylight savings time to standard time means we need to check the lighting inside the house because it is dark earlier.
We should also check the outside lighting, too. If solar lights are the primary path lights, check the batteries and the placement to ensure that the lights can collect as much sunlight as possible to work effectively.
The longer, darker hours can create a greater sense of isolation so plan for additional activities or again, this may be a good time to embrace the technology of communication to help your clients stay connected to others. We can wrap our care around clients and family members with a personal emergency response system (PERS) too. This will improve peace of mind for your client or loved one as the weather gets colder and more challenging. You can learn more about personal emergency response system here: https://agesafeamerica.com/medical-alert-products/ and you can fill out the form for more information or assistance.
For even more safety tips on these topics and more for clients, yourselves and your families, too, please go to AgeSafeAmerica.com.
Fritzi Gros-Daillon, MS, CSA, CAPS, UDCP, SHSS
Director of Education and Advocacy
Age Safe® Live Well.