Medicare Card Scam

New AARP survey finds most beneficiaries unaware of redesigned card initiative

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Sixty percent of those surveyed mistakenly believe they might have to pay for the revamped Medicare ID cards, making them vulnerable to scammers.

According to a new AARP survey, more than three-quarters of Americans over age 65 know little or nothing about the federal government’s initiative to replace their Medicare cards. And that makes them susceptible to scammers intent on taking advantage of the confusion.

Individuals new to Medicare are receiving the updated card, which displays a unique combination of 11 letters and numbers rather than a beneficiary’s Social Security number (SSN). Current beneficiaries will begin receiving their replacement cards next month.

AARP found that 60 percent of those surveyed mistakenly believe they might have to pay for the revamped cards. The new cards are free. And more than half of respondents said they might not be suspicious if they received a call — supposedly from Medicare — asking them to verify their SSNs as a prerequisite to getting a new card. Medicare officials have emphasized that they will never call beneficiaries about the cards, which are being mailed out by the Social Security Administration.

“The new Medicare cards are a step forward for fraud prevention, but con artists are working overtime on new ways to scam seniors,” says Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s chief advocacy and engagement officer.

Scammers posing as Medicare representatives have already been calling beneficiaries demanding a processing fee. Other fraudsters are telling beneficiaries that they are owed a refund from transactions on their old card and then asking for bank account information to process the reimbursement. Medicare will never ask an enrollee for a bank account number, and no refunds are owed.

AARP’s telephone survey reached 800 respondents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network provides more prevention tips and advice on card-replacement and other types of scams. Consumers can also sign up for “Watchdog Alert” emails to get regular updates on new scams.

Aging Well Mini Expo

SeniorsPlus will be holding a mini expo for seniors on April 19th, 8 am to noon at the Kingfield Elementary School.  Registration is not required and the event is free of charge.  A free continental breakfast from The Orange Cat will be served.

The presentations offered are the following:

9 am–Preparing for the Future Now:  What Documents Do I Need  presented by Mark Nale, Elder Law Attorney

10 am–Self Defense and Safety Awareness for Seniors presented by Brianne Genschel, owner of The Foundry Brazilian Jiu Jitzu

11 am– Don’t Fall Victims to Scams presented by Nichole Bilodeau, Consumer Outreach Specialist for the Maine Bureau of Financial Institutions

For more information, call SeniorsPlus at 1-800-427-1241

No Talk Phone Scams

Most telephone scammers rely on talk, getting you to pick up the phone so they can give their impersonations of IRS agents, noble fundraisers, tech-support saviors or grandkids in need. But with a new breed of telephone fraudsters, sometimes you don’t even need to say “Hello” to get ripped off. Here’s how some of these crooks may target you.

Call Center Fraud

There are scam artists who spend hours calling the customer service centers of banks, insurance companies and other institutions, posing as people like you, to try to access accounts. These crimes have more than doubled in the past year. “That’s because reps only ask a couple of simple authentication questions — maybe your mother’s maiden name or your Social Security number — before you can transfer money or do whatever,” explains Ken Shuman of Pindrop, a company that provides antifraud services to call centers.

Scammers start by assembling information on you, stolen in data breaches, purchased on the “dark web” or gleaned with a simple Google search. Then, working from boiler rooms (often overseas), they spend all day phoning different call centers to determine if you have accounts with those companies. With your data in hand, they can often answer the authentication questions that call centers ask.

ATM PINs are especially prized — and vulnerable, adds Shuman. He notes that there are only 10,000 possible combinations for a four-digit PIN. Unless a bank’s system blocks calls after several tries — and some don’t — there are scammers who call back 150 times a day, trying different PINs until they get it right. Then they immediately log in as you, change your PIN and take over your account.

Smartphone Swindles

An ever-growing segment of the 20 billion text messages sent each day are attempts at defrauding people through “smishing” (a word that combines the SMS technology that sends text messages and phishing, a ploy to coax confidential information out of you). Typically, a scam texter will fake a problem with one of your financial accounts and ask you for data. Or they might pitch low-cost mortgages or credit cards, or promise free gift cards. If you respond by texting back confidential personal information, your identity may be stolen. Millions of these smishing texts can be launched simultaneously.

Your best defense is to be stingy with your phone number. Scam texts may result if you provide it to contests, say, or businesses. Mobile apps can also be to blame. When you install them, the fine print in the user agreement may grant permission to the app’s developer to use or sell your phone number and sometimes even the numbers of your contacts. In one recently popular scheme, scammers get your contacts from mobile apps, then text you posing as people you know to seek money or ID-theft-worthy information, says Jonathan Sasse, marketing executive at First Orion, a digital security firm that provides the mobile app PrivacyStar.

One more important tip: Never follow a text’s instructions to push a designated key to opt out of future messages. Instead, forward the questionable text to short code 7726, so cellphone carrierscan block that sender. You can further bolster defenses against mobile scams — which have quadrupled in the past two years — with call-blocking apps such as Hiya, Truecaller, NoMoRobo and PrivacyStar.

Curiosity Cons

Knowing that you are likely to ignore unrecognized or private numbers on caller ID, today’s crooks use software that allows them to display fake numbers that are hard to resist. Here are some variations.

  • The neighbor ploy Your area code and prefix are displayed, so the call appears to be from a neighbor or nearby business. “Fewer people are comfortable blocking local numbers, increasing scammers’ success rates,” notes Jonathan Nelson of Hiya. And the fake number makes it hard for law enforcement to track.
  • The “Hey, there’s a call from my own phone number” scam It’s hard to resist answering a call from your own number, which scammers can simulate. And they are able to get around any call blocking that you’ve set up.
  • The one-ring rip-off Criminals sometimes program auto-dialers to make repeated calls to you, each disconnecting after just one ring. They know this might spur you into calling back the displayed number to complain. There’s double trouble if you call area codes such as 268, 664 and 876. These are for Caribbean countries and other places that have high per-minute phone charges. One scam involves getting you to call one of those numbers, then getting you to hold through transfers that rack up your bill until a scammer gets on the line and starts a fraudulent pitch.

Reprinted from AARP Fraud Network.

 

Social Security Scam

Scammers are now going to the federal Social Security website and setting up a “my Social Security” account of citizens that are of retirement age. They hijack their accounts by setting up the accounts before the Social Security number owner does, and then they apply for funds. The scammers get a lump sum money of back pay out and the money is transferred to an account the scammers set up and then they take that money and immediately put it on gift cards. Beat scammers to the punch by setting up your own “my Social Security” account today at www.ssa.gov/myaccount.

Report scams to local law enforcement. Contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork for more information on fraud prevention. #Fraudwatch AARP Maine

my Social Security | Open a my Social Security account today and rest easy knowing that you’re in control of your future.
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IRS Unveils “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams

The Internal Revenue Service released its annual list of the top 12 scams, which inludes frauds committed by con artists and taxpayers alike.

As tax season reaches its peak, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued its annual list of “Dirty Dozen” tax scams.

Some of the frauds on the government’s list are examples of how taxpayers are being preyed upon, such as email phishing attempts or identity theft. Others are ways Americans are cheating on their returns, such as inflating refund claims or padding deductions.

“Taxpayers need to guard against ploys to steal their personal information,” the IRS says in a statement announcing the list. “And they should be wary of shady promoters trying to scam them out of money or talk them into engaging in questionable tax schemes.”

Although scamming is most popular as tax day — April 17 this year — approaches, the IRS advises taxpayers to be on the lookout throughout the year.

Hiya Inc., which monitors phone scamming, says on its blog that “from calls threatening to take legal action, sending arrest warrants, filing lawsuits, and requesting financial and personal information, Hiya still sees the oldest tricks in the book trending in 2018.”

Here are the Dirty Dozen list’s scams against taxpayers:

  • Phishing: You should watch for potential fake emails or websites seeking personal information. The IRS will never send you an email about a bill or tax refund. Don’t click on a message claiming to be from the IRS.
  • Phone Scams: Scammers who impersonate IRS agents are an ongoing threat. Some con artists who use this ploy have threatened taxpayers with deportation, arrest and revocation of their licenses if they fail to follow the scammers’ instructions.
  • Identity Theft: You should guard against possible identity theft. While the IRS has worked to better detect tax-return related identity theft, it reminds taxpayers that they can help in preventing this crime by protecting their personal data.
  • Tax-Return Preparer Fraud: Watch out for unscrupulous tax-return preparers. The vast majority of tax professionals are honest. But some dishonest preparers scam clients, perpetuating refund fraud, identity theft and other scams that hurt taxpayers.
  • Fake Charities: Groups posing as charitable organizations solicit donations. Some of these groups use names similar to nationally known organizations to deceive consumers. The status of charities can be checked using tools found at IRS.gov.
  • Inflated Refund Claims: Taxpayers should be wary of anyone promising inflated refunds. If a tax preparer asks you to sign a blank return, promises you a big refund before looking at your records, or charges fees based on a percentage of your refund, they are probably up to no good.

The Dirty Dozen list also includes these ways taxpayers are cheating the IRS, sometimes with a little help from con artists:

  • Excessive Claims for Business Credits: Don’t improperly claim the fuel tax credit. Taxpayers also should avoid misuse of the research credit. The IRS tends to closely scrutinize the use of these credits.
  • Padding Deductions: You should avoid the temptation to illegally inflate deductions like charitable gifts.
  • Falsifying Income to Claim Credits: Con artists may persuade unsuspecting taxpayers to invent income to wrongly qualify for tax credits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • Frivolous Tax Arguments: Some schemes urge taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims. Those who file a frivolous tax return face a possible penalty of $5,000.
  • Phony Tax Shelters: The IRS says it is committed to cracking down on complex tax-avoidance schemes and the people who create and sell them. Be on the lookout for fraudsters promoting tax shelters that sound too good to be true.
  • Offshore Tax Avoidance: It’s a bad bet to hide money and income in offshore accounts because the IRS has had lots of success in thwarting these schemes.

reprinted from AARP Fraud Network

More Effective Shingles Vaccine Now Available

The new shingles vaccine recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people 50 and older is now widely available in pharmacies and with physicians.

Testing found that Shingrix, which received Food and Drug Administration approval last fall, was 97 percent effective in adults 50 to 69 and 91 percent effective in those 70 and older. Those are far better results than provided by the previous vaccine, Zostavax, which was recommended for people 60 and up.

CVS announced this week that Shingrix is available in its stores nationwide, making it the latest of major chain pharmacies — including Walgreens, Duane Reed, Walmart and Albertsons — to have it.  It has been available to doctors since late November, but patients should check with their own physicians to determine whether they can get the shots there.

Shingrix is taken in two doses separated by two to six months. Zostavax, the previously recommended vaccine, was a one-shot dose. The CDC says even those who have received a Zostavax shot should get the new drug, as should those who have had shingles.

The CDC estimates that for every 1 million people 60 to 69 years old who receive Shingrix, there will be 87,000 fewer cases of shingles, as well as 10,000 fewer cases of postherpetic neuralgia (severe pain in the location of a previous shingles rash). The vaccine is also projected to lead to 80,000 fewer cases of shingles among people 50 to 59 years old, with 5,000 fewer cases of postherpetic neuralgia.

In addition to checking with individual pharmacies and physicians about the availability of the vaccine, those of eligible age should check with health insurance providers to see whether the shots are covered. Medicare Part D covers Shingrix, but Medicare Part B does not.

Sweetheart Scam : the wolf in sheep’s clothing

We have all heard different versions of how a well-educated, respectable member of the community was somehow duped into sending large quantities of money to a complete stranger. Sometimes the person in the story has even lost their entire life savings. At first, we are shocked and dismayed, but then we pause and think to ourselves, “That could never happen to me!”

The Sweetheart Scam is one of the most widely utilized modes of preying upon a victim for financial gain. It’s a scheme that can be perpetrated online or in person. The scammer convinces their victim that they are in love and uses these emotions to bilk money from the unsuspecting person—oftentimes a lonely senior. This is all brilliantly orchestrated, like a maestro conducting a symphony.

People often wonder how someone could be so foolish as to get involved with a stranger and send them money. Although almost any age group can be lured into this game of deceit, the number one target of sweetheart scams is usually men and women over age 40; the older the better. Seniors—especially widows, widowers and recent divorcees—are particularly vulnerable to this manipulation of the heart. And it is not gender specific either; both men and women are equally victimized.

John Joyce, former Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service Tampa Field Office is no stranger to investigating internet scams. “With most internet scams, including the sweetheart scam, it is difficult to identify the perpetrators due to the fact that they are usually conducting their business from outside of the United States,” he says. “Cooperation from foreign governments is often spotty or non-existent. These investigations usually do not result in the capture of the scammer or the recovery of monies. In most cases, the victim’s best option is to break off communication with the scammer as soon as possible and cut their losses.”

How The Sweetheart Scam Works

It’s important to understand how the sweetheart scam works so you can defend yourself against it and help others do the same. Love, or more accurately the illusion of love, is the key factor in fulfilling the sweetheart scam.

“We do a lot of work investigating various types of scams from the internet. Unfortunately, it is very common,” Joyce explains. “Essentially the victim meets a scammer on a singles or dating website who poses as a person also looking for a relationship online. They chat over the internet and exchange photos. The scammer typically sends photographs of a very good-looking woman or man, depending who their target is. The victim thinks they have developed a relationship and over time falls in love. Eventually the scammer comes up with a story about how he/she has a major problem in their life which requires an outlay of money. The victim, feeling the need to help their new-found love, ends up wiring money over and over again to this person, in some cases until they are bilked out of all their money. Since the scammers are usually corresponding with the victim outside of the United States, it is close to impossible for U.S. authorities to identify or prosecute them. Once the scammer has achieved their financial goal, they will drop the unsuspecting victim and disappear. Most victims are astonished when they realize that these deceptive individuals are adept at manipulating human emotions to get what they want.”

10 Tips for Spotting and Avoiding Scams

Anyone can be scammed by a supposed sweetheart. But, according to law enforcement authorities, including local police departments, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Secret Service, there are steps one can take to avoid falling victim to a sweetheart scam.

  1. Be on your guard. Try to look beyond the superficial. Whether you are interacting with people online or in person at a senior center, restaurant, grocery store or the post office, make a point of keeping your wits about you. Unfortunately, deception comes in all shapes and sizes and takes place in a variety of settings.
  2. Be honest with yourself. Look in the mirror and ask yourself the million-dollar question: “Why would a much younger individual want anything to do with me?” What is this person getting out of a relationship with you? If you discover anything pertaining to money in your answer, you know you are headed for trouble.
  3. Never transfer or wire money to anyone. This is especially important if you’re communicating with a stranger living overseas whom you’ve never met in person.
  4. Keep in touch with family. Share your new social interests and friendships with them. Your loved ones usually have your best interest in mind and can be trusted to provide honest advice and guidance.
  5. Consult a professional if an online relationship seems fishy. Law enforcement agents are experienced with sweetheart scams, especially since the usage of social media, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, has increased. If you have an inkling that something isn’t quite right with a new acquaintance, contact a professional for a second opinion.
  6. Do your homework. Nowadays, many people have left permanent digital footprints that even minimally tech-savvy individuals can find. Use Google to search for additional information on new individuals you meet and cross check the information they’ve told you about themselves. Even if things appear to match up, don’t assume they’re telling you the truth. Scammers often go to great lengths to pose as another person or create a believable online presence that backs up their phony story.
  7. Limit your use of social media. Scammers steal personal information online and utilize people’s social media profiles to learn more about them, their routines, vulnerabilities, likes and dislikes. They then use this information to tailor their manipulative approach to appeal to a person’s specific interests and weaknesses. Some scammers even monitor potential victims’ news feeds for information on friends and relatives they can pose as.
  8. Pursue relationships face-to-face. Avoid online dating if at all possible.
  9. Don’t feel ashamed. Although getting defrauded is embarrassing, understand that seasoned scammers have learned how to be very convincing so they can make a good living from deceiving people. If you or someone you know falls victim to a scam, report it as soon as possible to local law enforcement or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) website.
  10. Use common sense. This goes for any interactions with strangers, both online and in person. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Reprinted from AgingCare.com

 

Tax I.D. Fraud

As we enter tax-filing season, it pays to be aware of the signs that point to possible tax identity theft.

How It Works:

Tax identity theft occurs when someone steals your Social Security number to file a fraudulent tax refund or to get a job.

What You Should Know:

  • If the IRS receives a duplicate tax return filing using your Social Security number, you will receive a written notice through the mail.
  • Likewise, the IRS will send a notice if you have unreported income or that you and someone else are claiming the same dependents.
  • The IRS will not initiate contact with you by e-mail, text or social media.

To Reduce Your Risk Of Being Victimized By Tax Identity Theft:

  • Submit your tax return as early in the tax season as possible.
  • Be careful what you share – don’t give out your personal information unless you know who is asking and why, and don’t be shy about refusing.
  • Dispose of sensitive information safely – shred it with a micro-cut shredder.
  • Know your tax preparer.

Check the status of your refund after filing at www.irs.gov/refunds. If you think someone filed a fraudulent refund with your information, call the IRS Identity Theft line at 800-908-4490. To learn more, visit www.ftc.gov/taxidtheft.

Surviving the Flu: Flu Tips

Everyone needs  help surviving flu season, because this is a year of epidemic-level flu cases and a flu shot that doesn’t provide complete protection. This season, the predominant strain is H3N2, which causes the worst outbreaks of the four influenza viruses that are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year. The flu shot still helps! It might prevent the flu, and it might make any illness you get easier. Vaccines take at least 10 days to build full immunity, so don’t wait until your entire town is sick!

People are contagious for a day before they show symptoms, and for about five days after, while they’re actively sick. Stay away from sick people, and keep yourself at home if you or a family member are ill. Stay out of crowds for the next few weeks, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water when you do go out.

Talk to your doc NOW about if they recommend Tamaflu or some other anti-viral, and when you should call if necessary. That way, you’re prepared if flu strikes the family.

The flu has hit Maine hard, but you don’t have to be a victim! Here are some other tips for surviving flu season.

Tips for Surviving Flu Season

1. Get Your Sleep!
Studies show that sleep deprivation can make you more susceptible to illness by reducing the number of cells in your body dedicated to fighting things like microbes. The average adult needs about 6-8 hours of sleep. Flu season is a great time to reinstitute a rest period for yourself. Nap if you want to! Not a napper?  Declare some time out each day. During these few minutes close your eyes, breathe deeply, and think peaceful, happy thoughts. Meditation reduces stress. Reduced stress means less susceptibility to illness.

2. Get  Moving
Exercising increases your sickness-fighting cells. Get  in the habit of exercising with family or friends to improve your health and to enjoy some quality time together. Try walking, hiking, biking, yoga, or just crank up some fun music and dance. Attend available exercise classes, walk around the mall, or take the scenic route when food shopping.

surviving flu season3. Engage in germ warfare

  • One key to surviving flu season is to make sure everyone washes their hands often with soap. Ditch the antibacterials because research shows plain soap is just as effective. Sing the ABC’s while vigorously lathering palms, between fingers, around nail beds, and the backs of hands. Pay particular attention to hand hygiene before and after each meal, after playing outside, using the bathroom, handling pets, blowing noses, and after being anywhere in public. And make sure anyone coming into your home washes up first thing!
  • When you’re out and about, carry wipes or hand sanitizer with you for quick cleanups.
  • If someone in the family gets sick, keep his toothbrush separate from everyone else’s. Give it a good soak in boiling water or run it through the dishwasher after the illness isn’t contagious anymore to get rid of any lingering germs or viruses.
  • Wash your hand towels in hot water every three or four days during cold and flu season.
  • Sneeze and cough into your arm or a tissue. Coughing into your hands puts the germs right where you can spread them to any object (or person) you touch. Get rid of used tissues often!

4. Drink Water
You have probably heard how important it is to drink plenty of fluids when you are ill, but it’s just as important for preventing illness. Adequate hydration keeps the tissues of the respiratory system moist, which prevents microbes from settling in. Hydration also helps the immune system work properly. Opt for fresh, filtered water.

Keeping cool helps in surviving flu season

5. Air Out and Keep it cool
An overheated home promotes dry air, the perfect environment for viruses to thrive. And when your mucous membranes (i.e., nose, mouth, and tonsils) dry out, they can’t trap those germs very well. Lowering the heat in your house 5 degrees and using a room humidifier helps maintain a healthier level of humidity in the winter. Buy a hygrometer to measure humidity and keep your home at around 50 percent. As we age, it becomes more difficult to regulate body temperatue. Don’t just arbitraily lower your heat five degrees.Use your comfort level when wearing a warm sweater to judge how cool your house should be. Keeping plants well watered and a pan of water on the radiator helps with humidity.  Crack the windows a few minutes a day to let in fresh air.

6.  Eat Well
Carrots, kiwis, raisins, green beans, oranges, strawberries: they all contain such immunity-boosting phytonutrients as vitamin C and carotenoids. Cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, are good sources of betacarotene and help protect against free-radical damage. They also contain vitamin C and calcium. Try to eat five servings of fruits and veggies a day. Try to eat at least half of them raw and when you do cook them, be careful not to overcook. Overcooking destroys the immune enhancing properties. Research a little bit to learn more about feeding your immune system.

7. Go easy on the sweets
Sugar makes the body acidic, just the way pathogens like it (they thrive on sugar). So especially during cold and flu season, reduce sugar intake (that includes corn syrup and High Fructose Corn Syrup, as well).

8. Consider supplement
Talk to your physician about your specific nutritional needs. Ask if they recommend supplements, increased amounts of vitamin C or D, and what over-the-counter remedies might help.

Based on a WebMD article by  Janelle Sorensen.

Reprinted from Maine Senior Guide

 

Common Flu Myths Debunked

Myths about the flu are everywhere. Is what you hear true, or is there too much misinformation floating around? Debunk the seven most common myths about influenza.

Myth #1: Getting Vaccinated Can Give You the Flu

According to the National Foundation for Infectious Disease, there is no way that the vaccine can make you sick. Vaccines only contain a weakened or inactivated form of the virus, which cannot infect you. The truth is that people often mistake the side effects of the vaccine for the illness itself. Side effects of inoculation may feel like mild symptoms of the flu, but soreness around the injection site is typically the only symptom people experience. Keep in mind that flu season (which generally lasts from October to March) coincides with a time of year when bugs causing colds and other respiratory illnesses are in the air. It is possible to get the vaccine and then get sick with a completely unrelated cold virus within a few days.

Myth #2: There Is No Treatment for the Flu

There are three FDA-approved antiviral drugs that are highly effective against the flu. Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is available in pill and liquid form, Relenza (zanamivir) comes in powder form, which is inhaled, and Rapivab (peramivir) is administered intravenously. While these antiviral medications do not cure the viral infection, they can minimize symptoms, reduce the amount of time you are sick by one or two days and make you less contagious to others. Furthermore, treatment can prevent complications of the flu, like pneumonia, which can be especially dangerous for older individuals. It’s best to take these drugs within 48 hours of getting sick, so do not hesitate to make a doctor’s appointment if you or a loved one have symptoms of the flu.

Myth #3: Antibiotics Can Fight the Flu

Antibiotics only fight bacterial infections. Since influenza is a virus, antibiotics have no effect. Furthermore, overuse and misuse of antibiotics can result in reduced effectiveness against the bacteria they are actually intended to kill and even “superbugs” that are entirely resistant to these treatments.

Myth #4: You Can’t Get the Flu More Than Once During Flu Season

You can certainly contract the flu more than once a year, because there are many different strains of the influenza virus. There are two main types of flu, Type A and Type B, and there are also different subtypes of each. It is possible that you could get infected with one strain and then another during a given season, especially if you have a compromised immune system.

Myth #5: If You’re Young and Healthy, You Don’t Need to Get the Vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone over 6 months of age get vaccinated each season. Healthy adults are just as susceptible to the virus as other demographics. If you are caring for an aging loved one, simply getting them vaccinated only provides some protection. You and other family members should also get the vaccine to avoid endangering their health.

Myth #6: Cold Weather Causes the Flu

The influenza virus is spread year-round. Contrary to popular belief, going outside during winter without a hat on does not directly increase your risk of getting sick. Influenza peaks in fall and winter for a few different reasons. Scientists speculate that the flu virus thrives in cooler, low-humidity environments. Of course, during the colder months, people tend to spend more time cooped up indoors, making it easier for the virus to spread from person to person. Furthermore, less time spent outside means that most people experience drops in vitamin D during winter that can weaken the immune system. All of these factors contribute to the timing of flu season, which is the same throughout the whole country, even in warmer states like Florida.

Myth #7: If You Haven’t Gotten a Flu Shot by November, It’s Too Late

Flu season often peaks between December and February, but the timing can vary. Some years heightened flu activity has lasted until May. No matter how late it is, if you have not been vaccinated yet, go get it done. You could spare yourself and your family a great deal of misery.

The Facts: How to Avoid Spreading the Flu

Influenza spreads from person to person, often through the air, and you can pass on the infection even before you begin feeling symptoms. An infected individual is also contagious for several days after the onset of symptoms. Infection can stem from a contagious person near you coughing, sneezing or talking, or even from touching a surface that the virus is on, like a telephone or doorknob.

To avoid contracting and spreading the virus, use the following tips:

  • Clean your hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. This is especially important after you touch a sick person, common surfaces, used tissues or laundry.
  • Individuals with the flu should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing and sneezing to avoid spreading the virus to others.
  • Immediately throw away tissues and other disposable items used by an infected person.
  • Once diagnosed, talk to a healthcare provider about taking antiviral medication to prevent the virus from spreading to other family members, coworkers or friends.
  • Keep surfaces like bedside tables, bathroom surfaces, doorknobs and children’s toys clean by regularly wiping them down with a household disinfectant.
  • Do not share eating utensils, dishes or cups with a sick person. These items do not need to be cleaned separately, but they should not be shared without washing thoroughly first.
  • Wash linens (such as bed sheets and towels) by using household laundry soap and tumble dry on a hot setting. Use a basket to transport laundry prior to washing to prevent contaminating yourself.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to minimize the likelihood of contracting the flu and other viral infections.

Reprinted from AgingCare.com