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|If you or someone you know has been a victim of identity theft or fraud, contact the AARP Foundation Fraud Fighter Center at 877-908-3360.|
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Warning Seniors about the “Can You Hear Me?” or “Say Yes” Telephone Scam
Through this scam, the caller will ask a simple question such as “Are you there?” or “Can you hear me?” in hopes that the recipient of the call will say “Yes.” The scammer records the affirmative answer and then uses that recorded voice to authorize unwanted charges on items like utility bills, phone bills, or even stolen credit cards.
In recent weeks, the committee’s Fraud Hotline has received an increasing number of reports from Mainers who are receiving this fraudulent call. If you or a loved one receive a call like this, hang up immediately and report it to the Aging Committee’s toll-free Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.
AARP Fraud Watch Network gives you access to tips that will help you spot and avoid identity theft and fraud, and is a resource for helping people who’ve been victimized get their lives back.
Anyone interested in learning how to protect themselves from fraud and identity theft can access the Fraud Watch Network information and resources for free.
You can receive alerts about scams and local events in your area. You’ll also get the inside scoop on the tactics and strategies con artists use to identify and swindle their victims out of their hard-earned money.
By becoming part of the AARP Fraud Watch Network, you can pass this knowledge along to family and friends who might need it. To learn more about the Fraud Watch Network, go to aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.
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About the Author
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Most seniors know that there will come a day when they’ll have to downsize, either to simplify their lifestyle, to cut costs, to be closer to grandchildren, or to address medical needs.
It’s often a stressful and tolling process – both emotionally and physically. But it doesn’t have to get overwhelming. Here are some tips from GoodCall to make your downsize easier.
This guide is fully accessible, but if you’d prefer to read it offline, you can download a printable version here.
Tips to make downsizing easier
1. Start early. Give yourself plenty of time for this process, because it will inevitably take longer than you expect. Take your time, and don’t try to sort through your entire house in one day or weekend. A couple of weeks to a month is a more realistic timeline. Take it one room at a time, and take breaks throughout.
“Go through each item one by one,” says Alison Kero, CEO of ACK Organizing in Brooklyn. “It’s important to give everything you own your attention for at least a second or two. It will also help you develop a great decision making system because you’re learning how to focus and then choose, if even for a second or two.”
If you aren’t rushed, you’ll find downsizing to be much less stressful.
2. Start small. You probably already have a couple of things in mind to toss out in the kitchen or garage, but avoid diving into such a big room at the very beginning. You have years and years of things to sort through. Start in an area with little emotional attachment. The laundry room or linen closet are good options. Understand your needs. If you’re moving into a two-bedroom house, four sets of sheets should be plenty. The rest can go.
“Garages/attics/basements are notorious for being the hardest rooms to tackle,” says Debra Blue, co-founder and CEO of Blue Moon Estate Sales. “These rooms tend to accumulate all the old hobbies, boxes, old holiday decorations, and clutter. They’re also known to be rather uncomfortable spaces. In the summer it’s too hot, winter it’s too cold, and in the springtime it can be too humid.”
3. Eliminate rooms you won’t have in your new home. If you’re moving to an apartment or townhome, you might not have a garage or office space. Nearly everything in those spaces will need to be sold, donated, tossed, or relocated to other rooms. These areas might also be good items for consignment or Craigslist sales; nice office furniture and outdoor tools are more valuable than old sofas or mattresses.
“Organize backwards,” suggests Jamie Novak, author of ‘Keep This Toss That.’ “A common suggestion is to pick out the stuff you don’t want and pack the rest. Try the opposite – pack the keepers. What’s left can be looked at and most can be shared or donated.”
4. Get rid of duplicates. You’ll find this is especially true in your kitchen. You have two or three spatulas and ladles; a couple of oversized stock pots; four different sized cookie sheets; a blender, a food processor, a coffee grinder, and a nut chopper. Now’s the time to reduce the clutter. If you’re feeling wary of handing off that second roasting pan because you use it every Christmas (but at no other time during the year), consider giving it to a child or grandchild who can bring it over for the holiday and take it home when they leave.
5. Only make Yes or No piles – no Maybes. When you’re going through years of belongings, some things are going to tug at your heartstrings, and you’ll be tempted to make a third pile of things to keep if you have space. Don’t fall for it. You’ll end up with a Maybe pile that’s bigger than either of the other two, and you haven’t really made any progress in sorting, just moved it across the room. Take a hard look at every item you pick up. If you use it regularly or expect to in your new home, keep it. If it’s been sitting in a closet or on a shelf for a year or more, it’s time to let it go.
“If you already weren’t using it, or didn’t like it, why on earth would you want to pack it up and schlep it to your next house?” says Hazel Thornton, of New Mexico-based Organized for Life. “I know it sounds silly, but people do it all the time. Moving isn’t cheap, either; do you really want to pay extra to move stuff you don’t even want? Don’t delude yourself by telling yourself you’ll deal with it at your next destination. No, you won’t.”
6. Reduce collections creatively. It can be hard to let go of a lifetime collection of porcelain dolls or snow globes from all your vacations, but they will eat up a lot of space or else end up stored in a box where you’ll never see them. Instead, pick a couple to keep and take high-resolution photos of the rest, then have them made into a photo book that can sit on your coffee table or mantle. You and guests will be able to enjoy them without the clutter. There are also tech tools or websites such as Fotobridge.com that will convert those boxes of photo negatives to digital.
Blue, of Blue Moon Estate Sales, says when you’re trying to reduce a collection, ask yourself, “Which one is your favorite?”
“This is a great way to thin out big collections and focus on the one that really brings joy. When it comes to the rest of your collections or newer ephemera, take pictures with your smartphone! You’ll enjoy it more when it comes up in your digital photos than it being stashed in a drawer or box. The memories will continue to live on through photos and conversations with loved ones.”
7. Don’t be afraid to sell things yourself. With Craigslist, Ebay, numerous smartphone apps, yard sales, and an abundance of consignment shops, selling your belongings has never been easier. You probably won’t make a ton of money on most items, so consider how much time you want to invest. Yard sales are usually faster, but items won’t sell for as much. Craigslist has its drawbacks, but you’ll have a much wider audience and can probably get more for your stuff. Consignment is a good option for high-end furniture, handbags and other accessories; prices are reasonable, and they’ll sometimes pick up heavy furniture for you. If you aren’t handy with a computer, your grandchildren can probably help. But if that all sounds like more than you care to deal with, hiring a firm to run an estate sale might be your best bet.
8. Consider legacy gifts early. Is there an antique clock in your foyer that you plan to one day leave to your son? Maybe a china collection your granddaughter adores? If there are certain heirlooms or pieces you plan to leave to your family in your will, consider instead giving those gifts now. This has two benefits: you’ll get the items out of our way, and you’ll be able to enjoy the feeling of giving those items to your loved ones now. While you’re at it, find out if there are any items your children want that you don’t know about – you might find an easy way to make them happy and lighten your load.
9. Allow some time to reminisce. While you’re cleaning and sorting, there will be some days when you want to stop emptying the kids’ bedrooms and just look through the kindergarten drawings, soccer trophies, and once-prized stuffed animals. It’s OK to pause and let the nostalgia take over for a bit. Cry if you need to, or move on to another room and come back. This is why you started early – just don’t let it prevent you from eventually getting the job done.
“I always ask my clients how the item at hand makes them feel,” says Morgan Ovens, of Haven Home in Los Angeles. “If it brings up any negative feelings, let it go. If it brings happiness of course it stays! The idea here is to only be surrounded by things you absolutely love. Isn’t that a great goal?”
10. Use this as a chance to bond. Invite the kids and grandkids over for the weekend. Talk to the young ones about where you bought your favorite trinkets. Tell them about your family’s heirlooms. Let them help pack, ask questions, and spend time with you. Get help posting items for sale online. It can be one more moment your family shares together in the house you’ve loved – before you start making those memories together in your next home. Remember that it’s your family that’s important for the memories you cherish, not the stuff around you.
Making the move after you pack
Now that you’ve downsized your belongings, how are you going to make your move? You’ll want to have an answer in mind from the beginning of your downsizing process.
Will you be rounding up family members to help pack and drive a moving truck? Or paying for a full-service moving company to pack, ship and unpack your things? Perhaps something in-between, with a mobile storage option in which you pack a container, and then the storage company does the shipping?
For seniors, there’s often another option. More companies, known as senior move managers, are popping up across the country that cater specifically to seniors moving, either to smaller homes or moving into senior living or nursing communities. They’ll usually do as much or as little as you want, from packing and moving to home cleaning and estate sales.
There are hundreds of senior move specialists. The National Association of Senior Move Managers reported nearly 1,000 companies as members in its 2015-16 annual report.
“There are now senior move specialists in most communities,” says Sara Geber, an aging transition coach with LifeEncore. “These are people trained to help at every step of the way, from selecting the new residence to downsizing, to transportation back and forth, etc. They are generally very reasonable in cost and well worth the expenditure. Most real estate brokers know of such professionals, as do estate attorneys and financial advisers.”
It’s important to keep these options in mind as you downsize because it might change your opinion on whether to keep or sell certain items. If you’re moving everything yourself, a 300-pound china cabinet might be better suited for the consignment shop to avoid the hassle and risk of injury. If you’re paying for full-service, you might be more inclined to keep it, but know that such heavy items add onto the price tag.
You’ll also want to be on the lookout for potential scammers. It’s fairly rare, but there are some companies out there that will promise one attractive price for a full-service move, and then once your stuff is all packed up in the truck, they’ll demand more money while holding your items hostage. Do your research and use companies that come with recommendations from family and friends.
If you’re undecided about what type of move is best for you, let GoodCall help you compare moving options.
Dealing with the emotional toll of downsizing
Inevitably, most people will struggle a bit with nostalgia when they’ve reached a point where it’s time to downsize . Geber, with LifeEncore, spoke with GoodCall about how to make the best of this difficult time.
“Change is hard for everyone, but the older we get, the more accustomed we are to our surroundings and our ‘stuff,’ even if all that stuff threatens to strangle us,” she says.
She says a lot of these negative feelings come from both sadness and fear, which is why she recommends making a downsize as early as possible, when it’s easier to adjust to a new environment.
Many senior living communities allow potential residents to spend a few nights on site to get an idea of what it would be like to live there. Take advantage of that if you can. You want to make sure you find the right fit, Geber says.
And don’t let the apprehension get you down.
“Looking forward to a new environment” can help ease the transition, Geber says. Focus on the positives and appreciate how much simpler life will be with fewer surfaces to dust, rooms to vacuum, or towels to wash.
Your downsize doesn’t have to be stressful, sad, or scary. Stay positive and get excited about a simpler life in a new place with less clutter.
About this guide
The Senior-Friendly Guide to Downsizing was created by the moving experts at GoodCall.com. The purpose of this guide is to provide seniors with a comforting and helpful resource, directed to the homeowners themselves, instead of their family members, as is often the case with guides like these.
As we age, it is of utmost importance to stay active and healthy. Our bodies change when we get older and it is essential that the elderly and aging are able to move about and get the exercise they need to stay healthy. It is imperative that older adults have a proper diet and exercise as much as they can. Studies have shown that exercising can improve circulation, strengthen the heart and bones and help prevent various forms of cancer.
The Importance of Exercise for Older Adults
Older adults should get proper exercise and stay active in order to maintain their physical health and function. Exercise can help to prevent or delay certain illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Walking, running, swimming and strength training for at least thirty minutes every day can help older adults keep up their muscle strength. It can also help to ensure their physical independence and ability to handle daily tasks on their own. Increased energy levels and elevated moods are some other benefits.
- Age Page – Why exercise is good for older adults, tips for exercising and much more.
- Reverse Aging – How proper exercise can help to reverse some of the signs of aging.
- Older Women and Exercise – This article explains the importance of exercise for older women.
- Benefits of Exercise – A video guide with added information that can show the many benefits of exercising for older adults.
- For Heart Health – Information about how exercising can improve and maintain proper heart health.
Aside from exercise, a proper diet is also essential for a healthy life. This applies to children, middle-aged people and older adults as well. As the human body ages, the dietary needs may change. High-fiber diets are important for older adults as well as increasing calcium to achieve sufficient levels particularly for women. Diets low in fat and sugar can help to decrease the risk of diabetes or heart disease and keep cholesterol levels low. See a nutritionist or talk to your doctor for some healthy eating guidelines.
- Tips for Healthy Eating– Some easy to follow tips on eating healthy as an older adult.
- Senior Nutrition – Details what senior adults should know about getting the proper nutrition.
- Nutrition and Aging – Facts about the body’s needs for nutrition as we age.
- Nutrition for Older Adults – A helpful site with information about the body’s needs for nutrition and healthy eating.
- Healthy Eating for Older Adults– Some quick and simple tips for healthy eating in older adults.
Tips to Make Exercising Fun
Many people often complain that they do not exercise because it is boring. The best way to work around this problem is to try and find a buddy to exercise with you. Organize a neighborhood walking group or just find a friend who might like to take daily walks with you. You may also join your local senior center or YMCA nearby and take lessons in swimming or participate in group exercises such as aerobics. An exercise program on tape or video can also help make your workout session entertaining and efficient in the process. You could also opt to buy in home exercise equipment making things convenient where you can watch television while you work out. Allowing yourself to come up with ways to add variety to your daily exercise routine is definitely encouraged so your workouts remain fresh and exciting.
- Variety and Fitness – This article discusses how adding variety into your routine can make fitness more fun.
- Choosing the Right Exercise – Information provided allows you to find out more about different types of exercises to see which ones fit your style.
- What Older Adults Want – This page explains what most older adults are looking for in an exercise program.
- Walking Club – Some advice for those who want to walk for exercise and tips for your walking club.
- Games for Groups – An excellent resource of fun exercise and fitness games that can be played as a group with friends or at your local YMCA or senior center.
At Home Exercises
Exercise does not have to be done only at the confines of the gym or in your neighborhood. There are endless ways you can stay physically fit at the convenience of your home. Exercise videos geared towards older adults can be purchased and viewed on your home media system. Some simple forms of exercise like stretching can be done daily at home, whenever you wish. There are numerous things you can do at home to stay active like gardening or doing other chores to help keep your body moving and worked out.
- 10 at Home Exercises – Here is a list of 10 simple exercises you can perform at home without any equipment.
- Building Muscle and Bone at Home – Facts about building up muscle and bone, all while staying at home.
- Chair Exercises-This helpful brochure lays out some chair exercises that older adults can do at home.
- Exercise and Seniors – Informative website with some at-home exercises for seniors.
- Abdominal Exercises – This site discusses some abdominal exercises that older adults can do at home.
Where to Exercise
There are many different places older adults can do their exercise. Often, changing your environment can help make things much less routine and add a bit of excitement to your daily regimen. Public pools are a great place to do water aerobics or swim some laps. Your local park is a great place to take a nice walk with friends. Many localities have fitness classes designed especially for older adults, so look into these as well. No matter where you choose to exercise, it’s important that you try to do this at least three times per week for about half an hour each time. Writing down a few great and engaging places where you could go exercise is definitely a worthwhile exercise in itself. Going out there to those places and getting your needed body and mental conditioning is all the more beneficial to your personal well-being.
- Health Benefits of Trails & Parks – This page explains the many health benefits of spending time at local parks and trails.
- Seniors Only Fitness Centers – An article about how seniors-only fitness centers are becoming more popular.
- Public Swimming Pools– Public pools are an excellent place to get great exercise.
- Older Adult Fitness Classes – This website gives one example of how many organizations across the US offer seniors-only fitness classes.
- Walking Trail Finder – Use this guide to help you find a good walking trail in your area.
Staying active and eating right can help people live longer and healthier lives. By exercising with a friend or attending a fitness class, many older adults find it’s much easier to stick to a plan. Simple exercises that can be performed at home can also help keep muscles and bones strong. Older adults should remember the importance of exercise in its many forms and make sure to have it as part of their daily routine.
Written by Michelle Owen and last updated Jan 5, 2017
Last reviewed by Jay Frank Vijar on Sep 25, 2016
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How the Scam Works
Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries across the country report receiving calls from scam operators (frequently with foreign accents), who claim to represent Medicare, Social Security, or an insurance company. These callers claim that new Medicare, Social Security, supplemental insurance benefits cards are being issued or that the beneficiary’s file must be updated. The scam artist asks the citizen to verify or provide their personal banking information, which is then used to commit theft.
Callers involved in this crime ring may be extremely aggressive, calling over and over, and at all times of the day, in an attempt to wear down the potential victim. These criminals will say anything to try to gain a person’s trust. In some cases, the criminals may have already obtained some limited personal information about the citizen, such as his or her name, address, or even Social Security number, which the criminal then uses to try to make the call seem legitimate. In other cases, the callers may claim that they can improve the benefits. Do not believe these claims, and do not carry on a conversation with the caller. Instead, if you receive a call asking you to disclose your bank account or other financial information, hang up immediately. These are criminals, and by speaking with the callers, even to ask them to stop calling, they may be encouraged to continue calling your telephone number.
If you are a Medicare or Social Security beneficiary, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Social Security Administration do not call you to ask you to disclose financial information in order to get a new card. If you receive such a call, you should report it to these two agencies as follows:
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
7500 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21244
Social Security Administration
Office of Public Inquiries
1100 West High Rise
6401 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21235
These three tips should help you avoid falling victim to this scam:
- Remember, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Social Security Administration will not call you to update your information or give you a new card.
- If someone who calls you asks for your personal information, do not provide it.
- If calls persist, you may wish to speak to your phone company about calling features that would enable you to be selective in the calls that you accept or receive.
If you have already disclosed personal financial information to an unknown party, you may be at risk of identity theft. There are certain steps that you can take to further protect yourself including:
- Call the three major credit bureaus and place a one-call fraud alert on your credit report:
- Equifax: Call 800-525-6285, and write P.O. Box 105069, Atlanta, GA 30348-5069.
- Experian: Call 888-397-3742, and write P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013.
- TransUnion: Call 800-680-7289, and write Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790 Fullerton, CA 92834-6790.
- Consider placing a security freeze on your credit reports. In most instances, the freeze prohibits a credit reporting agency from releasing any information from your credit report without your written authorization. To place a security freeze on your credit report, you should send a written request to each of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies by regular, certified or overnight mail at the addresses below:
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
TransUnion Security Freeze
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
- Order a free copy of your credit report and look for unauthorized activity. Many consumers first find out that they are victims of identity theft by discovering inaccuracies on their credit report. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) allows consumers to obtain a free copy of their credit report each year from the three major credit bureaus as follows:
- Logging on to www.AnnualCreditReport.com;
- Calling: 877-322-8228; or
- Writing: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta GA 30348-5281
- Monitor your financial accounts for suspicious activity. Look carefully for unexplained activity on your bank and other financial statements. If you detect unexplained activity, you may want to contact the fraud department of your financial institution.
The Do Not Call Registry and Unwanted Calls
Many people are bombarded by unwanted telephone calls – even though they are on the Do Not Call Registry. The problem is difficult to stop because the scam artists increasingly use modern technology – including caller ID spoofing and throw-away cell phones – to conceal their identity and location and evade law enforcement.
When in Doubt, Don’t Give it Out
Scams and crooked deals are everywhere today, often where we least expect it. At every turn you can protect yourself by following one easy principle. If someone contacts you and claims to need your private information, think twice and remember: when in doubt, don’t give it out.