Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Protect Yourself From Coronavirus Scams

medicare dot gov

Protect yourself from Coronavirus scams

You may already be taking steps to protect your health during the COVID-19 emergency. Be sure to also protect your identity from scammers by guarding your Medicare Number.
It's easy to get distracted and let your guard down during these uncertain times. Scammers may try to steal your Medicare Number. They might lie about sending you Coronavirus vaccines, tests, masks, or other items in exchange for your Medicare Number or personal information.
Protect yourself from scams:
  • Only share your Medicare Number with your primary and specialty care doctors, participating Medicare pharmacist, hospital, health insurer, or other trusted healthcare provider.
  • Check your Medicare claims summary forms for errors.

More Info

Visit Medicare.gov/fraud for more information on protecting yourself from fraud and reporting suspected fraud.
Sincerely,
The Medicare Team
Note: You can learn more about COVID-19 and your Medicare coverage on Medicare.gov.

Massachusetts 2-1-1

 
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Information, Support & Solutions from Neighbors That Care
 
An Important Resource for Current Information Massachusetts 2-1-1

Massachusetts residents are urged to use 2-1-1 for information, resources, and referrals regarding COVID-19.
 
Operators are staffing this hotline 24/7 and translators are available in multiple languages. Residents with questions can dial 2-1-1 from any landline or cellphone, or use the live chat option on the Mass 2-1-1 website.
 
As of 9:00 AM today, Mass 2-1-1 has answered a total of 4,502 coronavirus-related calls since last Friday. There are 17 staff now answering calls, including staff from United Way and 7 staff members from DPH. 
 
 

Managing Stress During the COVID-19 Pandemic

medicare dot gov

Managing stress during COVID-19

More than ever, it's important to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19, and if you must go out, practice social distancing. While we stay home, don't let fear and anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic become overwhelming. Here are a few ways the CDC recommends managing stress during these challenging times:  
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories and social media.
  • Connect with others. Talk with friends and loved ones over the phone or via video chat about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Take care of yourself. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy meals, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep.

More Info

Remember: If you need to see your doctor, please call them first. Medicare has expanded their ability to use telehealth services during the COVID-19 emergency for common office visits, mental health counseling, and preventive health screenings.
Sincerely,
The Medicare Team

Medicare's Expanded Telehealth Benefits

medicare dot gov

Medicare and telehealth benefits

Medicare has temporarily expanded its coverage of telehealth services to respond to COVID-19.
Medicare beneficiaries can temporarily use telehealth services for common office visits, mental health counseling and preventive health screenings. This will help ensure Medicare beneficiaries are able to visit with their doctor from their home, without having to go to a doctor's office or hospital, which puts themselves and others at risk.  
If you have an existing healthcare appointment, or think you need to see your doctor, please call them first to see if your appointment can be conducted over a smartphone with video capability or any device using video technology, like a tablet or a laptop. For some appointments, a simple check-in over the phone without video capabilities may suffice.
Important: If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as a cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider immediately.

Get More Info

Remember: Medicare covers the lab tests for COVID-19. You pay no out-of-pocket costs.
For the latest information on the coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sincerely,
The Medicare Team

alzheimer's association | Coronavirus: Tips for Dementia Caregivers

Harsh SNAP Rules Stopped During COVID-19 - Massachusetts Adults With No or Low Income Have the Right to Apply for SNAP Benefits! Starting April 1, 2020

Massachusetts Pandemic EBT - Extra Food Benefits for Children (Information updated April 20, 2020)

Social Security Administration Response to COVID-19

In response to COVID-19 concerns, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has made significant changes to its operations and policies. As of Tuesday, March 17, local SSA offices are closed to the public indefinitely. SSA is also extending their deadlines for filing wherever possible. The agency is also regularly posting information about how the pandemic is affecting its services.
Some SSA employees in local offices are continuing to work on SSA’s highest priority workloads.
These include:
  • Requests for “dire need” benefit payments, for individuals who did not receive their regular monthly payment, are currently homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, or whose benefits previously were suspended and can now be reinstated.
  • Disability applications for those with the most severe disabilities.
  • Changes of address, changes of direct deposit, changes of representative payee, and reports of death.

How to Reach Your Local Office

Local offices continue to provide some services over the phone. You can now find the direct phone number for each local office by zip code. To find your local office number, look below the result for the local office, scroll down past the listing of the hours, and click on the plus sign to "Show Additional Office Information"—the phone number for the local office will be shown here. Online services also remain available. There are not enough SSA employees currently available to handle the call volume to the national 800 number, so callers will likely experience extremely significant delays or inability to access the line.

Continuing Disability Reviews & Overpayments

SSA is not starting or completing any medical continuing disability reviews (CDRs), and has suspended processing and collecting most new overpayments. Some automated processes will still proceed because there are not enough SSA employees available to take the manual actions necessary to stop them. However, SSA will continue established collection activity for existing overpayments.

Hearings

Currently, all SSA hearing offices are closed to the public. All in-person hearings before an Administrative Law Judge have been cancelled, and claimants and their representatives who are scheduled to have a hearing soon are being contacted to schedule telephone hearings. Postponements are being granted for anyone who declines a telephone hearing. Individuals are not required to do a telephone hearing, but if they decline to go forward with a telephone hearing at this time, it could be months before an in-person hearing is scheduled for them.
The status of each Disability Determination Service (DDS) varies, as these are state entities that contract with SSA to work on disability cases. The decision of whether or not to close the DDS is made by the governor of that state.

Scam Alert

SSA is not taking any new, manual actions to reduce, suspend, or delay any benefits during this period, although automated actions may continue. If an individual receives a communication threatening to suspend or discontinue benefits because SSA offices are closed, this is most likely a scam, and should be reported to the Inspector General.
As the COVID-19 public health situation is developing rapidly, these policies may change in the days to come. Please check SSA’s website for updates, and contact Kate Lang at klang@justiceinaging.org with any questions or concerns you have about what you and your clients are experiencing at SSA.
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info@justiceinaging.org

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Grandparent Scams in the Age of Coronavirus

Grandparent scams in the age of Coronavirus

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“Grandma: I’m in the hospital, sick, please wire money right away.” “Grandpa: I’m stuck overseas, please send money.” Grandparent scams can take a new twist – and a new sense of urgency – in these days of Coronavirus. Here’s what to keep in mind.
In grandparent scams, scammers pose as panicked grandchildren in trouble, calling or sending messages urging you to wire money immediately. They’ll say they need cash to help with an emergency like paying a hospital bill or needing to leave a foreign country. They pull at your heartstrings so they can trick you into sending money before you realize it’s a scam. In these days of Coronavirus concerns, their lies can be particularly compelling. But we all need to save our money for the real family emergencies.
So, how can we avoid grandparent scams or family emergency scams? If someone calls or sends a message claiming to be a grandchild, other family member or friend desperate for money:
  • Resist the urge to act immediately – no matter how dramatic the story is.
  • Verify the caller’s identity. Ask questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer. Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine. Check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
  • Don’t send cash, gift cards, or money transfers – once the scammer gets the money, it’s gone!
For more information, read Family Emergency Scams. And if you get a scam call, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
(This blog is part of the FTC's imposter scam series.)




Taxpayers should be aware of Coronavirus-related scams

Taxpayers should be aware of Coronavirus-related scams

COVID Tax Tip 2020-42, April 16, 2020
Taxpayers should be on the lookout for IRS impersonation calls, texts and email phishing attempts about the coronavirus or COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments. These scams can lead to tax-related fraud and identity theft.

Here's what taxpayers should know:

  • The IRS will not call, email or text you to verify or request your financial, banking or personal information.
  • Watch out for websites and social media attempts to request money or personal information. The official website is IRS.gov.
  • Don't open surprise emails that look like they're coming from the IRS or click on attachments or links.
  • Taxpayers should not provide personal or financial information or engage with potential scammers online or over the phone.
  • Forward suspicious emails to phishing@irs.gov, then delete.
  • Go to IRS.gov for the most up-to-date information.

Here's what people should know about the Economic Impact Payments:

  • The IRS will automatically deposit Economic Impact Payments into the bank account taxpayers provided on their 2019 or 2018 tax return for a direct deposit of their tax refund.
  • Those without a direct deposit account on file may be able to provide their banking information online through a new secure tool, Get My Payment..
  • Anyone who is eligible for an Economic Impact Payment and doesn't provide direct deposit information will receive a payment mailed to the last address the IRS has on file.
  • The IRS does not charge a fee to issue the payment.

Scammers may:

  • Ask an individual to sign over their Economic Impact Payment check to them.
  • Ask for verification of personal or banking information.
  • Suggest that they can get someone tax refund or Economic Impact Payment faster by working on their behalf.
  • Issue a bogus check, often in an odd amount, then tell a person to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.
Official IRS information about the COVID-19 pandemic and Economic Impact Payments can be found on the Coronavirus Tax Relief page on IRS.gov. The IRS encourages people to share this information with family and friends. Many people who normally don't normally file a tax return may not realize they're eligible for an Economic Impact Payment.

More information:

Managing Your Bills During COVID-19

Managing your bills during COVID-19

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COVID-19 has thrown the economy into a tailspin. Many people have been laid off, furloughed, or are working fewer hours. And as wages dry up, bills can pile up.
Financial Impact of the Coronavirus
Debt can be tricky – especially when you have more month than money. Here are some ideas about how you can manage your debts and start regaining your financial footing.
  • Gather your bills: Make a list of your monthly bills: rent/mortgage, car payment, utilities, student loans, medical bills, and anything else. Factor in how much you need for food, medicine, and other necessities.
  • Ask for help: Many companies have special programs to help people right now. Contact the companies you owe money to and try to work out a new payment plan with lower payments or delayed due dates. Make sure to get any changes in writing.
    • Find out if your state or local government offers programs that will allow you to hold off on paying some bills right now.
    • Trouble paying your mortgage? Here’s some advice on how to manage that. If you have a government-backed mortgage, you may be able to delay payment by contacting your servicer.
    • Need additional help? Check out ftc.gov/creditcounselor for tips on how to choose a counselor who really helps you out.
  • Prioritize if you need to: If you still can’t pay everything on time, look at what would happen if you couldn’t pay each bill and decide which to pay first. Would you lose your home? Would your car be repossessed? Would your debt go into collection and affect your credit report?
  • Study up: Check out the FTC’s advice on how to cope with debt in the short term, and how to get out of debt when you are able.
  • Watch out for scams: In stressful times, scammers are everywhere. Beware of any company that guarantees that creditors will forgive your debts, or makes you pay up front for help. If you are looking for debt relief, make sure to find help you can trust.
If you come across a debt relief scam, we want to hear about it. Let us know at ftc.gov/complaint.
Tagged with: coronavirus, debt, loan
Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Dealing with Debt Collectors During the Pandemic

Dealing with debt collectors during the pandemic

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Job losses have traveled hand-in-hand with the Coronavirus. If you’re having trouble paying your bills, you’re not alone. Here are a few things to keep in mind if a debt collector calls.Logo, which says "Financial Impact of the Coronavirus"
Consider talking with the collector at least once, even if you can’t pay right away or don’t think you owe the money. That way, you can confirm whether it’s really your debt. If it is, you may be able to work out a payment plan or settlement.
Collectors have to follow rules when they contact you. Watch the short video at the end of this post to learn about these rules. During the Coronavirus emergency, the federal government and many state and local governments also have put special programs in place that may help you manage your debt:
  • The Department of Education (ED) has temporarily stopped the collection of federally-owned student loans that are in default. In fact, whether or not you’re in default, if you have federal student loans, you don’t need to pay your monthly payments from March 13 through September 30, 2020, and interest also has been suspended. Visit ED’s website to learn more.
  • Some states are limiting what collectors can do during this emergency. For example, you’ve probably heard about the $1,200 economic stimulus payments that most people will get as a direct deposit to their bank account. If a debt collector or a creditor has sued you, they may have a garnishment order that would let them seize the payment when it reaches your account. Some states, however, are temporarily making debt collection seizures like this illegal. Check with your state attorney general to find out about any emergency limits on debt collection actions in your state. (A new IRS “Get My Payment” tool lets you track the payment to your account.)
  • Many state and local governments have temporarily halted actions like evictions, foreclosures, and water and utility shutoffs. Contact your state and local government to find out about emergency protections that may apply to you.
If the collection calls get to be too much, you can stop them. Just send the collector a letter telling them to stop contacting you. Keep a copy for your records. Stopping the calls won’t cancel the debt. You still might be sued or have debt reported to a credit bureau. But, stopping the calls may give you time to regroup, then start working your way toward financial recovery.
Drawing of a debt collector on the phone. Click to play debt collection video.
Tagged with: debt, debt collection, loan
Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Coronavirus stimulus payment scams: What you need to know

Coronavirus stimulus payment scams: What you need to know

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We know there’s been a flood of information and updates about the government’s economic impact payments, or so-called stimulus checks, lately. But quickly and safely moving massive amounts of money into the hands of those who need it is a big job with a lot of moving parts.
We also know that the more you know about the process, the less likely you’re going to be tripped up by calls, text messages, or emails from scammers trying to steal your money or personal information.
Here’s what you need to know about the stimulus payments and how to avoid scams related to these payments.

Who will get money?

Adult U.S. residents that meet established income limits are eligible to receive money from the government. This includes:
Taxpayers – people who filed a federal tax return for 2018 or 2019.
Retirees – people who get Social Security, Railroad, or other retirement benefits.
Beneficiaries – people who get public benefits like SSDI, disability, or veterans’ benefits.
Non-filers – people who do not have to file a federal tax return, including people who made no income or made less than $12,200 (or $24,400 for married couples).
If you get Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits, have a qualifying child, and didn’t file a return in 2018 or 2019, you have to take action by noon ET on Wednesday, April 22 to add the $500 per eligible child to your payment. See details from the IRS.

What to do

Most people don’t have to do anything to get their money because the IRS will use the same payment method – direct deposit, Direct Express debit card, or paper check – used to send you your tax refund, Social Security, retirement, or other government benefits money. If the IRS doesn’t have your direct deposit information, you can go to the “Get My Payment” feature at irs.gov/coronavirus and let them know where to send your direct deposit.
If you don’t usually file a tax return, go to irs.gov/coronavirus to access the “Non-filer” portal and to figure out what, if anything, you have to do to claim your money.
To check on the status of your payment, you can now use the “Get My Payment” feature at irs.gov/coronavirus.

Avoiding Coronavirus stimulus payment scams

Scammers are using these stimulus payments to try to rip people off. They might try to get you to pay a fee to get your stimulus payment. Or they might try to convince you to give them your Social Security number, bank account, or government benefits debit card account number.

4 tips for avoiding a Coronavirus stimulus payment scam

  1. Only use irs.gov/coronavirus to submit information to the IRS – and never in response to a call, text, or email.
  2. The IRS won’t contact you by phone, email, text message, or social media with information about your stimulus payment, or to ask you for your Social Security number, bank account, or government benefits debit card account number. Anyone who does is a scammer phishing for your information.
  3. You don’t have to pay to get your stimulus money.
  4. The IRS won’t tell you to deposit your stimulus check then send them money back because they paid you more than they owed you. That’s a fake check scam.
Report scams to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.
To keep up with the latest scams, sign up for the FTC's consumer alerts.
(This post is part of the FTC's imposter scam series.)
Updated April 21, 2020 with new deadline for some benefit recipients.

Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health | Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation

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In This Together: Helping Seniors Living with Chronic Conditions to Maintain Connections in Times of Isolation

Friday, April 17, 2020

Enhance Strength and Stretching with Frank

Join Frank for part two of this Enhance Fitness inspired class! This is a 30 minute segment including strength training, mobility, and stretching. The exercises can be done either with no weights or you can add weights to each one as you feel comfortable. A velcro ankle weight is ideal for the lower body exercises. Visit our website for more classes: https://www.ymcametronorth.org/studioy/
 
This information is being shared through Peabody TRIAD in honor of Senior Health. The Peabody TRIAD Council consists of Seniors and Law Enforcement working together to develop and implement policies and programs to reduce criminal victimization, promote crime prevention and safety awareness, and serve the needs of the senior community in Peabody. In addition, the Council designs and supports programs to improve the quality of life for our senior citizens.

The Peabody TRIAD Council believes they have the ability to make a difference in our community and are dedicated to serving our city and its residents. 
 
Please see our TRIAD page for other sponsored materials, events and scam alerts!