Amended Bill to Protect Seniors

The vast majority of cases of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older adults in the United States go unidentified and unreported. Not less than $2,900,000,000 is taken from older adults each year due to financial abuse and exploitation. Elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation have no boundaries and cross all racial, social, class, gender, and geographic lines. Older adults who are abused are 3 times more likely to die earlier than older adults of the same age who are not abused. Up to half of all older adults with dementia will experience abuse.

Almost 3 billion dollars? It’s sound unbelievable, but these words are from the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act passed by the House and sent to the President this week.

Abuse of senior citizens comes from a multitude of sources. So what can we do to help protect the seniors we love?

WHAT TO DO RIGHT NOW

  • Choose caregivers carefully
  • Keep an inventory of jewelry and other valuables in the senior’s home
  • Gift your senior with a shredder and teach them the importance of using it
  • Monitor their incoming and outgoing mail
  • Obtain their credit score annually
  • Remind them never to answer a phone call that doesn’t have caller ID
  • If having work done in their home or residence, ask to see the worker’s license
  • Review bank statements and credit card bills monthly
  • Talk to your senior about scams and warn them that they may be victimized
  • Stay involved in their life so you can spot warning signs of abuse before they happen
  • If you suspect a scam, call law enforcement to report it

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Medicare/Health Insurance Scams: someone posing as a Medicare representative asking for personal information or providing bogus services from mobile clinics with the intent of gaining personal information so they can bill Medicare and pocket the money.

Counterfeit Prescription Drugs: usually sold over the Internet at cheap prices. They may resemble real drugs but either won’t help a person’s condition or be harmful.

Funeral & Cemetery Scams: Grieving widows or widowers are told their deceased loved one had an outstanding debt with them to extort money to settle the fake debt, or funeral homes that add unnecessary charges or try to up-sell more expensive caskets or funeral services.

Anti-Aging Products: Completely bogus products that do nothing to reverse the signs of aging, and may have toxic consequences.

Telemarketing/phone Scams: With no paper trail or face-to-face interaction, a con artist might lie about finding a large sum of money and is willing to split it if the person will make a “good faith” payment first, or a lie about a child or relative being in the hospital and needing money, or fake charities that are rampant after natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes and floods.

Internet Fraud: Popup windows that fool victims into downloading virus-scanning software that is actually a virus, then demanding money to remove it, or an email message that appears to be from a legitimate, familiar company asking them verify or update personal information.

Investment Schemes: Foreigners seeking U.S. partners to claim inheritance money, or complex financial products, are completely fraudulent.

Phony Reverse Mortgages: A “request” from the County Assessor’s Office to, for a fee, reassess the value of a home to reduce the tax burden.

Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams: A phony call or letter saying they have won a lottery or contest of some kind but need to make a payment to “unlock” the prize.

The Grandma Scam: Grandma receives a call from someone who says, “Hi grandma, know who this is?” The unsuspecting grandma guesses a name, and the caller agrees. Once the connection is established, the scammer asks for money to be wired via Western Union to solve a problem (car repairs, medical expenses, etc.).

Beware of Disaster Scams

We were shocked to learn from the former director of the Justice Department’s National Center for Disaster Fraud that as soon as the National Weather Service releases storm names for the coming season that people start registering domain names associated with pending storms in order to set up scams. Walt Green, who now practices cybercrime law, goes on to say that these people do the same for any type of disaster, whether it be earthquakes, fires, flooding, or tornadoes.

key west

Key West home

While we in Ohio are not largely affected by the most ravaging hurricane season in recent memory, we remain part of the American framework of business and family. We are or know good-hearted people (many of whom are seniors) who are kind-hearted and more than willing to help fellow Americans suffering in the hardest hit areas of the Florida Keys, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and now Puerto Rico.

These scams come via email, on websites, social media, and even through the mail. As our senior population spends more and more time online, it’s imperative that their adult children and family members warn them of potential scams.

Tips to avoid disaster giving scams

Type the name of the charity or disaster relief group into a browser and go directly to their website. Verify their authenticity at CharityNavigator.org, GuideStart.org, or the BBB’s give.org.

Be wary of email attachments that claim they are links to charitable organizations as these could contain malware or ransomware that will leave a computer inoperable until money is paid for the scammer to fix it.

Check the actual email address of the person sending it. The name that shows may be different that the underlying name. Depending on the email client and computer platform used, the verification process varies, so check a reliable website like online-tech-tips.com to learn how.

The Department of Justice wants to know if you see a scam. They will track them down and work to shut them down. Report even a suspicious attempt at disaster scamming to the Department of Justice to disaster@leo.gov.

We must not let these scammers scare us from providing help to those who need it so badly.

Harvey’s Effect on Small Business

hurricane matthewWatching the effects of Hurricane Harvey on southeast Texas residents has been heartbreaking. The stacks of people’s home furnishings, kids toys, appliances, and carpets stacked alongside endless streets where flooding was deep and destructive is an optic we will not soon forget. And there’s another debris pile we see less frequently…those of the hundreds of small convenience stores, restaurants, dry cleaners, laundromats, flower shops, doctor offices, and insurance agents. All the small businesses that thrive in neighborhoods, employ locals, and serve families. The everyday small business that is the backbone of the American dream.

Even the small businesses that were not flooded are empty. Whole neighborhoods became ghost towns, leaving gas stations empty. And without gas to sell, no customers in the store either. While larger businesses might be able to handle disasters better, since they have more available resources to restore their operation, small businesses depend upon available capital. For many small businesses who exist to support the family, this capital is in short supply. The asset they owned on which to borrow is now of little use. Some may not even be able to reopen.

What we learned from Task Force Katrina after the natural disaster in New Orleans is that 40 percent of small businesses don’t even survive. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has some disaster recovery loans available, but aside from loans the rest is up to the American Spirit. May it be bright!

As we write this blog, our friends on the east coast are facing another hurricane named Irma. May God protect and preserve those small businesses, the people that own and depend on them, and everyone in the path of all natural disasters.

Thoughts on What Really Matters

bristlecone PineIn California’s White Mountains stands a lone bristlecone pine tree thought to be almost 5,000 years old. Nearby, its cousin Methuselah is believed to be younger—just over 4,849 years old. When these trees were mere sprigs rising from the forest floor, East Asian men had not yet invented a written language. Our time on earth is an average of 69 years, or .0138 the lifespan of Methuselah and his cousin. So within the blink of an eye lifespan, what really matters?

Studies about what matters most to Americans list: love, family, good health, financial security, and no regrets. While “regrets” are at the end of the list, they are actually sprinkled among the other things that matter.

Love. Love is good, free and perfect. But many of us experience our greatest regrets centered on love. Whether it’s our spouse, a family member, friends, our work, profession, or mission — in all these things, love (and forgiveness) matters.

Family. From our first moments of life, our parents and family define our future. We first learn to listen and work together within the family. Because we feel safe within family bonds, do we abuse that special trust and love? Maintaining strong family relationships really matters.

Good health. Health is connected to happiness. A recent book proposes that only 48% of happiness is genetic and 40% due to big events, like landing a big job or being in an accident. That leaves only 12% up to us. Maintaining our mental and physical health by maximizing our “happiness” portfolio matters.

Financial security. Americans are generally quite good at making money. When it comes to saving money, we don’t stack up. According to recent studies, the median savings for all working-age families in the U.S. is just $5,000. Many approaching retirement will experience much regret.

To the bristlecone pine trees, it matters that the sun shines, rains come, and that the soil tugging at its roots maintains nutrients. Human life is more complicated, but when we pay attention to what really matters, we improve our potential for a long life filled with happiness and few regrets.

Hidden Tax Deductions

Waiting until the end of the tax year to find, verify, and record potential tax deductions can take a toll on what otherwise could have been more productive time spent growing the business. To make life easier, you can hire a professional bookkeeper to do this for you or use an outside service, like us. For anyone just starting a new business, we’ve put together a list of a few of the most overlooked small-business tax deductions.

starbucks blog#1 Fees paid to your accountant, lawyer or business consultant
To run small business successfully, you need sound advice and a great accountant and bookkeeper. Fees paid to these professionals are “ordinary and necessary expenses directly related to operating your business” and are deductible in the tax year they were paid.

#2 Losses on bad debts
If you paid advance wages to hire a hot-shot “marketing expert” and she bailed on you 10 days into the job because your dress code was just a ‘bit too conservative’ for her, the IRS allows you to deduct those lost wages. You can claim a deduction for most bad business debt, but only if you included the amount owed to you in your gross income.

#3 Carryovers
Carryovers are overlooked deductions from previous years. These are not “carryouts” —so Starbucks to-go while driving to work is not deductible. What if, for example, you started a home-based business and your expenses in the first year were actually higher than your income? You can “carryover” the loss to a future year when you did earn income.

#4 Startup expenses
Start-up costs are out-of-pocket costs for both looking into buying a business and getting the business started. These might include analyzing the marketplace and buying capital equipment like trucks or computers. Then there’s domain name registration fees, website and advertising costs, wages for new employees, consultant fees, costs to secure goods or licensing—the list can be seem endless. It’s a critical time to stay focused on documenting every cost so your accountant can maximize your tax deductions.

The size of the business does matter in terms of complexity, but whether a small business or large enterprise, it pays to keep impeccable daily records. Or simply hire us to do that for you.