From time to time, we learn of criminal scams being perpetrated against unwitting members of the public, particularly seniors. Often, these scams are brought to our attention by our own clients who have, unfortunately, already become victims. Hopefully, this alert will help you avoid these unscrupulous, predatory schemes.

Jury Duty Scam

For years, crooks posing as police officers or court officials have attempted to scam consumers out of information and money. Individuals have reported that these fraudsters go so far as to use official titles and badge numbers of legitimate law enforcement officers or court officials, names of federal judges, courtroom numbers, and addresses to make their scam appear credible.

The caller will tell their targets that they have failed to report for jury duty, and that the victim can avoid arrest by paying the fine over the phone. In other cases, the caller asks for personal information for “verification purposes”, such as their birth date or Social Security number. The notification may even be sent by email.

The con artists use these tactics to catch consumers off guard in hopes that they will be so frightened by the threat of being arrested that they share sensitive information or payment details over the phone. As a result, these scammers use the information to assume your identity and empty your account.

Don’t get coerced into their scheme. Know with confidence that these actions are NOT how the Federal Court System works. Once again, these calls and emails threatening recipients with fines and jail time are fraudulent and are not connected with the U.S. courts. Federal courts do not require anyone to provide any sensitive information in a telephone call or email. Most contact between a federal court and a prospective juror will be through the U.S. mail, and any phone contact by real court officials will not include requests for Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, or any other sensitive information.

Never give out personal information to any unsolicited caller. If you receive a call similar to what we’ve detailed, alert local law enforcement, your local Attorney General, and the FBI.

“The IRS Is Calling” Scam

An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.

Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information.

If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.

Note that the IRS will never: 1) call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill; 2) demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe; 3) require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card; 4) ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or 5) threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

Similarly, callers may request you to update certain information in the IRS’ records. Do not respond to these fake IRS calls.

You Can Help Others

If you’ve been approached with other types of scams, let us know and we’ll do our best to spread the word so others can be properly warned.

There’s No Place Like Home

Theres No Place Like Home

Are you (or a loved one) age 65 or older and living at home? If yes, then you probably share the sentiment of Dorothy when she famously declared “There’s no place like home” in the classic film The Wizard of Oz. This is especially true as we age.

Anything you can invest in your home to continue performing as many of the “activities of daily living” (e.g., eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, and getting around) will be money well-spent toward maintaining your independence.

Aging in Place

A survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that 90 percent of people over the age of 65 would prefer to remain right where they are – home. This desire is called “Aging in Place” which the Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

To age in place, you will need to plan for an aging “you” and make modifications to your present home today so you can remain there tomorrow. First, however, let’s consider the challenges.

Common Challenges

With each passing birthday each of us experiences diminished functioning on multiple levels, some more subtle than others. These levels include getting around, using our hands, thinking/remembering and our five senses (i.e., sight, sound, smell, taste and touch). When you add all of these functions together, it is only logical that the CDC identifies “falling” as the leading cause of injuries to seniors. In fact, one out of three seniors experience a fall each year. Consequently, anything that can be done to reduce the risk of falling is a big plus when it comes to remaining in your home.

Common Solutions

Fortunately, there is a lot that can be done to make your home more senior-friendly. Starting with the basics, eliminate any throw rugs and any clutter on the floor. Be sure to tighten up buckled carpet or remove it completely. While you are at it, improve the lighting everywhere. You cannot step around what you cannot see.

For those in a wheelchair, or who use a walker or a cane, ramps will be needed to permit access. Other structural changes may be required.

Remember: you want to ensure access and safety at the same time. One of the most hazardous, yet important places to make accessible and safe is the bathroom. With potentially slick floors and sharp-edged countertops, bathroom falls can be fatal.

Consider installing bathroom grab bars, railings, a walk-in shower, a hand-held shower head, and maybe even a walk-in tub.

New Technology

Have you ever heard of “smart homes”? The future is now as homes are being developed to “interact” with the senior living there. From monitoring health status and cognitive functioning to whether there is enough of your favorite food in the refrigerator, the latest developments could permit you to live independently much longer … and provide your loved ones with greater peace of mind regarding your safety.

A Win-Win

With the high costs of assisted living, intermediate and skilled nursing care, helping seniors age in place benefits everyone. Nevertheless, both planning and action are the twin keys to making that happen.

Visit the National Aging in Place Council online by scanning the QR code or visiting: http://bit.ly/1FB6Z75

Happy Birthday, KMO!

Happy Birthday, KMO!

This month, our law firm celebrates its 34th birthday! How time does fly. We started out in 1981 with just one client and over the years have grown to become one of the largest estate planning firms in all of California – – and the entire nation!

We’d like to personally thank each and every one of our clients, without whom we could never have accomplished this great achievement!