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Danger for Homeowners: Door-to-Door Sales

It seems like a good deal – new paint for your home that will give you huge savings on your electric bill; solar panels which are practically free; replacement windows that are as energy efficient as they are beautiful.  Special financing for seniors.  Who could pass it up?

If you fall for it, there is a good chance you could end up with a huge increase on your property tax bill.  That ‘special financing’ gets put on your county property taxes and has administrative costs, fees and interest.  It comes with a big risk if you can’t afford these new assessments on your tax bill.  You could have trouble refinancing or selling your home, and can even face foreclosure.

Most salespeople are good at what they do.  Our capable, careful clients have been duped by door-to-door sales pitches.  If you are asked to initial something or sign a bid, your initials or signature can be used to electronically sign documents you never reviewed, with terms you would never accept.

If you are interested in a home improvement product or service, ask for an estimate and for information on the service and product.  Next, call us – there is no cost to you – and we will review the documents with you.  San Diego 858-565-1392; Imperial County 767-353-0223

Take your time before you sign and have a safe, scam-free New Year.

 

Carolyn Reilly

Executive Director

 

 

Fake Calls About Your SSN

The FTC is getting reports about people pretending to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) who are trying to get your Social Security number and even your money. In one version of the scam, the caller says your Social Security number has been linked to a crime (often, he says it happened in Texas) involving drugs or sending money out of the country illegally. He then says your Social is blocked – but he might ask you for a fee to reactivate it, or to get a new number. And he will ask you to confirm your Social Security number.

In other variations, he says that somebody used your Social Security number to apply for credit cards, and you could lose your benefits. Or he might warn you that your bank account is about to be seized, that you need to withdraw your money, and that he’ll tell you how to keep it safe.

But all of these are scams. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The SSA will never (ever) call and ask for your Social Security number. It won’t ask you to pay anything. And it won’t call to threaten your benefits.
  • Your caller ID might show the SSA’s real phone number (1-800-772-1213), but that’s not the real SSA calling. Computers make it easy to show any number on caller ID. You can’t trust what you see there.
  • Never give your Social Security number to anyone who contacts you. Don’t confirm the last 4 digits. And don’t give a bank account or credit card number – ever – to anybody who contacts you asking for it.
  • Remember that anyone who tells you to wire money, pay with a gift card, or send cash is a scammer. Always. No matter who they say they are.

If you’re worried about a call from someone who claims to be from the Social Security Administration, get off the phone. Then call the realSSA at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). If you’ve spotted a scam, then tell the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

Link to original article: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/12/fake-calls-about-your-ssn

From Our Executive Director’s Desk

Scammers who target seniors were very active in 2018.  Most of these scams have been around for many years.  Why?  Because they work and the scammers get away with it.  Here are some to watch out for in 2019, along with my best tip: HANG UP before they can get to your money!

Your phone rings…

You won the lottery!

HANG UP!  It’s a SCAM!

Your grandchild is in trouble and needs you to wire money or get a gift card.

HANG UP!  It’s a SCAM!

You qualify for free home improvements-solar, roof, windows, ‘cool wall’ paint.

HANG UP!  It’s a SCAM!

The IRS calls to say you owe back taxes.

HANG UP!  It’s a SCAM!

Medicare is calling because you need to pay for a new Medicare card.

HANG UP!  It’s a SCAM!

If you have a question about a call, a letter, or a contract, contract Elder Law & Advocacy before you open your wallet.  An attorney will advise you free of charge.  For an appointment call 858-565-1392 in San Diego County or 760-353-0223 in Imperial County.

Best wishes for a safe and happy 2019!

Carolyn Reilly

AmazonSmile Increased Donation Rate October 29 to November 2

Dear Supporters of Elder Law & Advocacy,

Please consider making your purchases at Amazon.com this week through the Amazon Smile link that benefits Elder Law & Advocacy. From now until November 2nd, we will receive a donation of 5% of the value of what you spend at Amazon.com, if you do so through the Amazon Smile link.

Thank you for helping us to help seniors in our community!!

Elder Abuse Restraining Order – Can it help you?

June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  Elder Abuse is reported by about 1 in 10 older adults but thought to be vastly underreported.

Elder abuse is the physical abuse, mental suffering, sexual abuse, financial abuse, or neglect of someone 65 years old or over. Although it can be inflicted by a stranger, a neighbor or an acquaintance, it is too often inflicted by a caregiver, child, or spouse. The stress of caregiving and financial strain create circumstances that are especially susceptible to abuse. Elders are often stuck in these situations without the physical capability to leave or financial means to seek help.

If someone finds themselves in this situation and are in danger, they should call the police. In addition, there are resources in San Diego County that can help to construct a comprehensive protection plan.

A Civil Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Restraining Order is one of these tools.  In so many instances, stopping an abuser’s physical access to the elder or to the elder’s assets would stop the abuse. The judge can order the restrained person to stop the abuse (e.g. yelling, threatening), stay away from the elder’s home or place or work (e.g. the judge may order the respondent to stay 100 yards away), stop contact with the elder or other family members (e.g. stop calling them), and in some circumstances move out of a shared home. Unless the abuse was solely financial, it also requires the restrained person to give up all firearms. Violation of any of these orders can result in jail time.

Restraining Orders are not unique for elders. However, the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Restraining Order does differ in its accessibility.  The California State legislature has recognized that seniors need more protection and lowered the standard of proof required for success. The process can, hopefully, be a bit less daunting. Such a powerful tool that can make such a difference in the protection of these victims.

For these restraining orders, the court system is set up for people to come in and ask for the protection they need. Even so, it can be frightening for an elder to do this on their own.

If you would like more information on Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Restraining Orders please feel free to call Elder Law & Advocacy at (858) 565-1392. Since this is a limited program, all clients will be screened before representation is offered.

United Nations’ Elder Abuse Awareness Day

In the United States it is estimated that elder abuse will affect over 5 million seniors and cost them over $2.6 billion each year. The United Nations defines elder abuse as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.” Unfortunately of those 5 million seniors often do not report their abuse due to embarrassment or denial. The United Nations has designated June 15th as Elder Abuse Awareness-Day to raise awareness for the immense scale of this issue and to let seniors know that their abuse should not be a subject of embarrassment.

Some of the most prevalent types of elder abuse we see at Elder Law & Advocacy are scams and financial fraudulent activities. Sadly, scams and their effects are widespread among members of our senior population due to the fact that predators view seniors as vulnerable targets. Scam artists take advantage of lonely, sometimes confused seniors and strip them of hard earned and often very limited assets needed for their retirement and care. If caught or prosecuted, reparations are rare and thus in addition to helping those already affected by scams, we have created educations programs focused on awareness and prevention.

At Elder Law & Advocacy, we seek to protect seniors by providing legal advice and advocacy in order to help seniors defend their legal rights and preserve the respected place they deserve in our community. While the fact that Elder Abuse Awareness-Day is required to exist is dismaying, it only serves to further validate our mission, and inspires us to continue to advocate and raise awareness for seniors who are being abused.

We invite you to donate and lend your support to Elder Law & Advocacy and our efforts to address predatory activities towards seniors. Your financial assistance will have a direct impact on your local community by enabling us to advocate and empower our seniors. We are grateful for your generosity and aid it ending elder abuse.

by Bradley Sendel

Transferring Title of Home to Avoid Medi-Cal Estate Recovery Can Have Terrible Consequences

Too often seniors have told me that due to their concerns about Medi-Cal estate recovery, they have either transferred title to their home to their adult child, or other non-family member, or added them to title. Under most, if not all circumstances, seniors should avoid this option to protect them from Medi-Cal estate recovery.

Medi-Cal is a joint federal and state program that provides financial assistance for low-income individuals so they can afford medical and long term care. When a Medi-Cal recipient dies, the state may try to recover repayment from the deceased’s estate. It has been my experience that this estate recovery option causes many seniors to be overly concerned about holding onto title of their homes during their lifetimes. Many seniors do not realize that Medi-Cal will not pursue estate recovery until the recipient and surviving spouse (if married) die.

Rarely, if ever, is it wise for seniors to transfer title of their homes or add a child or another personto title to protect the home from estate recovery. Transferring title, or adding another person to title, is difficult and nearly impossible to reverse. If title is transferred, the senior has given up total ownership and control of his or her home. Unfortunately, some seniors who have done this tell me that the child, now on title, has evicted the senior form the residence so that the child can either sell the house or rent it out to tenants. This is obviously a devastating predicament for seniors. Of additional concern, if the child is a co-owner of the property and the child is successfully sued, the property could be subject to a lien by the child’s judgment creditor.

For most seniors their most significant asset, at the time of their death, is their home. If it remains part of their estate when they die, it is subject to Medi-Cal estate recovery. To best protect their home from estate recovery, most seniors would be best served by having a living trust prepared and transfer the home into their trust. It would then not be part of their estate at time of death. Seniors, who own homes and have been Medi-Cal recipients and are concerned about Medi-Cal estate recovery, should discuss a living trust or other appropriate options with an estate planning attorney.

by Attorney Bob Martin

Elder Abuse Restraining Order Representation Project

Elder Law & Advocacy is excited to announce the Elder Abuse Restraining Order Representation Project (EARORP) serving both San Diego and Imperial Counties. This program provides free legal advice and representation for victims of physical, emotional or financial elder abuse. Representation includes assistance with court paperwork and representation in the civil restraining order hearing.

California law defines Elder Abuse as “(1) Physical abuse, neglect, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental suffering. (2) The deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering. (3) Financial abuse…”

It is estimated that Elder Abuse is experienced by 1 in 10 older adults. It is also believed that many cases of elder abuse go unreported.

The Elder Abuse Restraining Order Representation Project offers free legal advice and representation to older adults (aged 65+) who have been the victims of financial, physical or emotional abuse. This program seeks to increase the access to justice for seniors who would otherwise be unrepresented and encounter many barriers to successful completion, including facing their abuser in court alone and navigating the technicalities of the court process.

For more information, please contact Elder Law & Advocacy at 858-565-1392.

Scam Alert

NEW MEDICARE CARDS GIVE SCAMMERS NEW IDEAS

According to the Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), new Medicare cards will be mailed out beginning in April 2018.  The new cards contain a unique, randomly assigned number that replaces the current Social Security-based number.

“The goal of the initiative to remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards is to help prevent fraud, combat identity theft, and safeguard taxpayer dollars,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

Good news, right?  This is very good news for beneficiaries who want more protection.  However, according to the AARP Fraud Watch Network, the proposed change presented an opening to scammers.  Scammers went to work as soon as they learned about the rollout of the new cards.

Here are some of the ways scammers have tried to use the new card rollout to scam Medicare beneficiaries:

Calling and claiming to be from Medicare-

The caller states that Congress requires a fee for the new card and it must come directly out of your checking account.  The scammer then asks for your account information.  THERE IS NO FEE FOR THE NEW CARD!

The caller will ask you to verify your Social Security number in order to issue the new card replacement.  MEDICARE WILL NOT CALL AND ASK FOR YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER!

This information will be used to steal your identity and your money.  Don’t fall for it and hang up.  You will eventually receive your new card by mail along with instructions to keep your new Medicare number confidential.  As the scammers continue to work on new ways to scam you, be aware.  If you stay aware, you can spot it and stop it.

If you have questions about the issues raised in this article or have another legal or Medicare-related matter, call Elder Law & Advocacy 858 565-1392 to see if you qualify for free assistance.

Scam Alerts

SCAMS AND FRAUD SCHEMES OPERATING IN OUR COMMUNITIES

 

[CREATING POVERTY FOR OLDER ADULTS SERIES]

When older individuals are scammed out of their savings, retirement and other funds, the logical result is a decrease in money needed to live. 

This would be the case for anyone, but for a person who is not able to work anymore, there is no way to make up for what has been lost.  The result is a lower standard of living for some and for others, poverty.

Once the money is gone, in many cases, it is very difficult to get it back.  As the old saying goes-‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’.

CURRENT SCAM-FALSE FAXES AND EERIE EMAILS

The problem: You got a fax or an email from someone who needs your help.

How did it happen?  Scammers and fraudsters have gotten your fax or email address without your permission!

What is the ‘pitch’? In return for a fantastic sum of money, you help out by becoming the ‘middleman’ in an oil deal between foreign companies, or you are identified as a potential heir of someone who has your same last name and died years ago in a foreign county.

What’s the catch?   These scammers and fraudsters want to you to respond.  If you do, they will always ask you to pay a small amount of money for something related to the ‘deal’ or inheritance.  And then, they ask for more and more money.  Many people feel they have invested so much money and time, they have to keep paying to recoup their investment.

Here’s what you can do to protect yourself: Never respond to these emails or faxes.

If you have questions about an unsolicited fax or email, contact Elder Law & Advocacy.  Our staff attorneys will review documents with you at no charge. We are a free legal services organization with a mission to help seniors who are age 60 and over who reside in San Diego or Imperial Counties. Call (858) 565 1392 San Diego County or (760) 353 0223 Imperial County for no-cost help