An Obvious Sign of Scams: Payment in Gift Cards
Recently, a resident of Wisconsin received a threatening call from someone saying he was from the Social Security Administration. The resident was told there was a warrant out for her arrest, and that she needed to cooperate or she would be arrested. He told her exactly how many minutes away the local Dollar General store was from her house, which is where he told her to buy $200 worth of eBay gift cards. The caller then instructed her to give him the redemption codes on the gift cards. The resident was obviously scared, and complied. After she met this first demand, the caller told her she needed to get another $500 worth of gift cards to get out of trouble. Luckily, on her drive back to the store, she realized this may be a scam and went to the sheriff’s office instead.
Gift cards have become a popular way for scammers to steal money because they are nearly as untraceable as cash and are much more transferable. In previous scams, imposters would ask you to wire money to them but, increasingly, they tell you to go put money on a gift card.
How the scams work
The caller will often tell you to go buy a popular gift card from iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, or in the case above, eBay. The caller will tell you to get the card at a particular store near you such as Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, or a dollar store. They may even have you buy several cards at several stores. Sometimes, the caller will stay on the phone with you while you go to the store. Once you buy the card, the caller will demand the gift card number and PIN on the back of the card. Those numbers let the caller immediately get the money loaded onto the card. Once the caller has those numbers, the money is gone, and usually without a trace.
Examples of the types of callers
• Someone may claim to be from the Social Security Administration, telling you that you owe money and if you fail to pay you risk losing your monthly benefit check.
• A caller may pretend to be from law enforcement, a court, or an attorney’s office, threatening arrest, court appearance, or bailing a family member out of jail.
• Someone might call you and claim to be from the IRS, collecting back taxes or fines.
• The callers might say they’re from tech support, asking for money to fix your computer. They may try to tell you that they’ve detected a virus on your computer that they will help you remove.
• Someone might even say he or she is a family member with an emergency and needs money right now.
• Callers pretend to be from a utility company, telling you to pay your bill by gift card or they’ll cut off your power or water.
• Sellers on online auction sites who ask for gift cards will ask to “buy” big items like cars, motorcycles, boats, RVs, tractors and electronics.
• Someone may pose as a servicemember to get your sympathy, saying he has to sell something quickly before deployment and needs you to pay by gift card.
• Callers will say you’ve won a so-called prize for a sweepstakes you probably never entered – but first you have to use a gift card to pay fees or other charges.
• A caller may buy something from you, probably online, and will send a check for more than the purchase price. The caller will then ask you to give them the difference on a gift card, and the check will bounce.
What all of these callers have in common is an urgent need for you to send money right away. The most important takeaway? Gift cards are not used — and cannot be used — to pay bail, taxes or court fines. Gift cards are just that – gifts.
What if you paid a scammer with a gift card?
If you paid a scammer with a gift card, tell the company that issued the card right away. When you contact the company, tell them the gift card was used in a scam. Ask them if they can refund your money. If you act quickly enough, the company might be able to get your money back. Also, tell the store where you bought the gift card as soon as possible. In the case above, the EBS helped the client notify the Dollar General store, which agreed to educate employees about these scams. You can also do the following:
• Tell the Federal Trade Commission about any type of scam or fraud you detect at ftc.gov/complaint, or call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.
• Report it to your state Attorney General (for a list of state offices, visit naag.org).
From FTC: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov /articles/paying-scammers-gift-cards
From AARP: https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/gift-card-fraud.html
By the GWAAR Legal Services Team (for reprint)
Happy Holidays from the Alzheimer’s Association
If you have a caregiver or a person with Alzheimer’s on your gift-giving list, we’ve got some suggestions to make your shopping a bit easier.
Gifts for people with Alzheimer’s
In the early stages:
• Magnetic reminder refrigerator pads
• Baskets or trays that can be labeled within cabinets or drawers
• A small pocket-sized diary or notebook
• Erasable while boards for key rooms in the house
• A memorable calendar featuring family photos (write special family occasions on calendar)
• Clock with the date and time
• Favorite musical CDs or DVDs
In the middle-to-late stages:
• Sensory stimulation gifts (scented lotions, soft blanket or afghan)
• Comfortable clothing (sweat suits, shoes with Velcro)
• Favorite musical CDs
• Framed photographs or a photo collage
• MedicAlert + Safe Return bracelet
Gifts for caregivers
• The gift of time
• Gift cards/certificates
Reducing Holiday Stress
It’s time for the holidays once again — decorating, shopping, parties, family gatherings, presents, greeting cards… and the list goes on and on. While many people look forward to the hustle and bustle of the season, others see the holidays as a time of stress, chaos and sadness.
People who have experienced changes due to Alzheimer’s, stroke or other medical conditions may feel a great deal of loss during the holidays. Those who are caring for these loved ones may feel overwhelmed by trying to keep up holiday traditions while continuing to provide care. They may also be uncertain about gathering with friends and family for fear the changes in physical health, behavior and personality may make others uncomfortable.
If you are experiencing anxiety over the upcoming holiday season it is important to realize that these feelings are normal, and you are not alone. There are ways to reduce stress during the holiday season. Please take a moment to contemplate what you can do to better manage your life during this busy season.
• Adjust your expectations. You can’t and don’t have to do everything you’ve done in the past. Talk with your loved ones and choose a few traditions to carry out.
• Ask for help. Involve other family members or friends in your holiday preparations. Not only does this reduce your stress, but it provides you and your loved one with socialization. Write down tasks that need completing so you can be specific when people offer to help.
• Prepare family and friends before getting together. Update family and friends on how your loved one has changed and what they can expect during their visit. Offer suggestions on how best to communicate.
• Offer suggestions about gifts. Give friends and family ideas of useful gifts they can give such as music cd’s, photo albums, comfortable clothing, videos or audio books. Don’t forget your own wish list, too! Gift certificates for dining, laundry or cleaning services are some ideas.
• Keep the needs of your loved one in mind. For those with memory loss, remember that distant memory stays intact the longest and plan activities accordingly, avoiding new games or activities. Many stroke survivors have lost the ability to feed themselves and may find it uncomfortable to eat in front of guests. An afternoon of looking at old slides or photos and reminiscing might be more appropriate than sharing a meal. Schedule gatherings during the day rather than in the evening since symptoms often are worse in the evening.
• Be good to yourself. Make it a priority to care for yourself. Getting away with friends for lunch, a movie or a concert might be just what you need. Or perhaps some time by yourself to read, write in a journal or enjoy a bubble bath is how you recharge. Determine what rejuvenates you and take the time to do it.
Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holidays add anxiety to your life! Find ways to simplify and enjoy a stress-free holiday season filled with love, joy and good memories!
By Jane Mahoney.
Older Americans Act Consultant,
Nutrient Rich Desserts
As we are approaching the holiday season, the challenge to keep our diets balanced and healthy becomes increasingly difficult. There has been research that has shown the average person gains approximately 1 pound each holiday season. That same research states that people may not lose this added weight and over the years, the pounds can add up. Holiday meals and desserts are an integral part of our holiday traditions, so how can we make these dishes healthier? There are various ways to tweak our recipes to make them nutrient dense, in ways where the taste remains unchanged! Some examples are using whole wheat flour instead of white flour, egg whites instead of eggs, and skim milk instead of whole milk. You could also add additional ingredients to your current recipes that would increase the nutrients in your desserts. For example, adding pureed beans in place of half the shortening in your brownies is a great way to make them nutrient dense without affecting the flavor. In pie crusts, you can also use ground up graham crackers and a couple tablespoons of low-fat milk as an alternative to butter, which saves you calories and added fats. Therefore, by reviewing your recipes for the holiday season, there are small changes that could be made that will make your favorite dish more diet-friendly! There are also many tasty dessert recipes out there that are good for you, and taste great as well! Happy Holidays!
DID YOU KNOW?
For baked goods, you can use half the butter, oil, or shortening and replace the other half with applesauce without changing the taste
Chunky Cranberry Spread
• 1 8-oz. package low-fat cream cheese
• 1-2 tablespoons low-fat milk
• 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
• 1/4 cup chopped blanched almonds or other nut
• 1/2 teaspoon orange zest, preferably fresh
1. Place cream cheese in a medium bowl and allow to soften at room temperature. Mash and work with a fork until texture is light enough to combine easily with other ingredients. (See Alice’s tip 4)
2. Gradually add just enough milk so cheese becomes soft and easy to spread.
3. Mix in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate up to 2 days ahead. Flavors will blend and mellow if this recipe is made ahead of time and allowed to refrigerate at least a few hours before serving. Spread on slices of a whole-grain bread.
Nutritional Information: Makes about 1 1/2 cups, or 1 tablespoon per average slice of bread. Per serving: 36
By Pam VanKampen, RDN, CD
Greater Wisconsin Area Agency on Aging
Kenosha County Durable Medical Equipment & Supplies Loan Closet in Need
Kenosha County Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) offers a free Loan Closet for those in need of Durable Medical Equipment and supplies. The loan closet is in need of adult incontinence pull-up underwear, in small, medium and large sizes at this time.
Individuals needing durable medical equipment and supplies for either short-term or long-term use, who are not enrolled in one of Wisconsin’s long-term care programs, such as Family Care, IRIS and Partnership may contact the ADRC to request equipment.
If you wish to donate, or are in need of medical equipment, please call the ADRC, 262-605-6646, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., or stop by and visit us at 8600 Sheridan Road, Entrance D.
This content originally appeared in
the December 5th, 2019 edition of The Smart Reader.