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October 19, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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October 19, 2012
 

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 19, 2012 PAGE 7B (ARA)---An infant's Social Security number is used in a credit card application. A 10-year-old's identification information is used to apply for a car loan. Grandpa gets an email claiming that he won the lottery and needs to provide information to collect the winnings. Today, identity theft can occur to anyone, not just middle-aged adults. Savvy thieves are targeting every generation, from child to adult to senior. It's important to stay alert so every member of your family is better protected. Child ID theft Think you don't have to worry about identity theft for your kids? The fact is more than 19,000 cases of child identity theftwere reported in 2011, up from about 6,000 in 2003, according to the Federal Trade Commission. How does this occur to children, who typically don't even have a bank account? Every day many parents send their chil- dren to school and child care with personal information in their backpacks. Backpacks are typically hung out of sight for hours or information can end up in desks for days, providing ample opportunity for identity thieves. How can you tell if your child's ID has been stolen? If your child begins to receive suspicious mail, like pre-ap- proved credit cards and other financial offers normally sent to adults, his identity might have been compromised. Also, a child should never have a credit history until they are older and actually have finan- cial accounts. If yofi suspect that identity thieves may have targeted your child, complete a secure Child Identity Theft Inquiry Form at TransUnion. com. TransUnion will in- vestigate the existence of a potential credit file in your child's name, and after the search is complete, respond to you at the erflail address you provide. If a file is located in your child's name, additional information will be asked for in order to proceed with steps to protect your child from any impact associated with this fraudulent activity. The most important thing you can do to avoid child identity theft is to be mindful of the personal information your children are carrying. Make sure their information is kept in a safe spot and not just tossed in the bottom of a school bag. Even b e'tter, seal any documents that contain 3'our child's personal informa:ion in an envelope addressed tethe school. Also, explain to our kids that they shouldn't share personal information with strangers in-person or on[ne. Adult ID theft Unfortunately, as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year, according to the FTC. Innovative thieves can get your information in many ways - from online hacking to dumpster diving. To avoid ID theft, always shred personal documents; only use secure sites when shopping online, and give out your driver license number and other identification only when absolutely necessary It's also wise to pick up your mail from your box every day and consider depositing outbound mail in a mailbox at the post office. Awareness is your best weapon against identity thieves, so subscribing to a monitoring service like TransUnion Total gives you peace of mind. The service helps you minimize your exposure to identity tl eft by proactively monitoring the sites where posting personal information may occur. The service also includes moni- toring for changes in your credit, new addresses regis- tered with the postal service, court records arid non-credit loans not reported to the credit bureaus. If ID theft does happen, you won't be alone. TransUnion will help you restore your good name and also help you cancel stolen items fromyour wallet and obtain new ones. Senior ID theft Seniors are frequently targeted by online phishing seams. If you're a senior, or you are an adult child who cares for an elderly parent, it's important to always guard personal information closely: Seniors are often targeted on the phone with offers of free samples or lotterywin- nings - the caller simply needs some personal information to transfer the money or send the item. Another popular scheme is someone posing as a relative who is stuck and needs money in order to get home. Every senior should be highly skeptical when asked for bank accounts or Social Security numbers on the phone-or Internet. Another issue - that is an easy fix- is many seniors carry their personal information with them at all times - in- cluding their Social Security card, Medicare card, check book, etc. It's wise to only carry what is needed when leaving the house. Identity theft affects all generations. By knowing the different considerations for the various ages of your family's members, you'll help keep everyone safe today and in the future. (ARA) - For most of us, driving is a necessity, and so is doing it as cost-effectively as possible - even in retire- ment when most of us stay in our suburban homes. Sav- ing money on automobile- related expenses like gas and insurance can help free up cash for other important , things. Fortunately, many tac- tics can help you minimize vehicle costs, from doing basic maintenance tasks yourself to taking a driver safety course that could qualify you for insurance dis- counts. The driving experts at AARP recommend drivers 50 andolder focus on three key areas of opportunity for cost-reduction: Insurance Older drivers have lower rates of police-reported crashes per capita, limit their driving to familiar routes and better weather, and drive fewer miles than other age groups, but accident rates per mile start increasing when drivers reach 70, ac- cording to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Even if your personal driving record is clean, your age may put you in a demographic that insurance companies view as higher risk - and you'll pay higher auto insur- ance premiums because of it. Shopping around for auto insurance may help-you secure a better rate, but if you're facing very high pre- miums, it may make sense to take an extra step. Many insurers offer "discounts to drivers who complete driver safety courses. Check vith your insurance compmy to see if such a discourt is available [o you, then bok for a program, like AtRP Driver Safety's course, hat is specifically designecto help people 50 and oler refresh their driving sills and adapt to age-rel ed changes. There are no tsts to take for the course.To find an in-person cotrse near you, visit www.a;rp. org/findacourse, or signup for an online course. Fuel efficiency After insurance/fuel an be one of the highest c6ts of operating a vehicle, e e- cially for those who travel!ar, such as older drivers c(m- muting from winter to stm- met residences. Car malers have improved overall uel efficiency for many newer vehicles, but you can take steps to cut your gas costs more - even if you have an older car. AARP offers these tips for improving fuel efficiency: * Lighten the load. The heavier yotir vehicle and- contents, the more gas it will consume moving down the road. Remove excess weight from the trunk and avoid traveling with luggage or bike racks that create drag, add weight and decrease fuel economy. * Watch your speed. While it's important to safely keep pace with the flow of traffic around you, keep in mind most cars are at the opti- mum fuel efficiency around 50 mph. *Drive smoothly. Abrupt stops and starts, and fast, erratic movements in traffic all decrease fuel economy. * Try to consolidate trips. Rather than making one trip to the grocery store today, then the doctor's office tomorrow and your book club the next day, try to group errands to- gether. Starting a cold engine consumes more gas than keep- ing it running longer. Maintenance With the average age of cars on the road approaching 11 years, according to' R.L. Polk & Co an automotive market researchfirm, routine maintenance is more impor- tant than ever. Doing simple tasks like oil changes, wind- shieldwiper replacement and. filter changes yourself can help save you money. Tasks that you can easily perform yourself include: * Changing the oil and oil filter. * Changing the air filter. * Monitoring tire inflation and adding air if needed. * Checking and cleaning battery connections. * Replacing worn wind- shield wipers. * Replacing headlight or brake light bulbs. Other DIY tasks, like replacing brake pads or sparkplugs,* or flushing the radiator, require a bit more know-how. Fortunately, plenty of online resources offer step-by-step guides for doing more complex vehicle maintenance tasks. And, you can always check with your local community college to see if they offer a basic auto maintenance course. (ARA) - What did you do with that envelope that used to arrive once a year with estimates of your future Social Security benefits? You might have reviewed the information. You may have even filed the statement away as a reference. Now, this powerful financial planning tool is as close as the nearest computer. "Often, people don't think of their Social Security statement when thinking of their financial well-being," says Rod Griffin, director of public education for Ex- perian. "But your statement can be a valuable financial planning tool." Your SSA statement is now available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/ mystatement. It provides an estimate of the amount ,of Social Security benefits you could receive upon re- tiring, but it can also help you with retirement savings strategies, estate planning and making decisions about disability insurance. Retirement saving Knowing how much your Social Security payments will be can help you better understand how much you'll need to save in other vehicles to fund your lifestyle during retirement. After reviewing your statement online, you may decide to adjust your 401(k) contributions, open an IRA or seek other avenues for funding your retirement. The statement can also help you work with your current employer to ensure they're withholding the ap- propriate amounts. Estate planning Your online statement will also give you an estimate of how much your survivors might be eligible for if you die. This information cov- ers both spouses and minor dependent children. "This could be useful in- formation when you're plan- ning how you will financially take care of yo ar loved ones if you pass away," Griffin says. Estate planning often involves considering what sources .of income will be available to survivors, and knowing how much Social Security benefits yours could be eligible for can help in the planning process. Disability decisions According to the SSA, 62 is the earliest age people can collect a reduced Social Se- curity retirement payment, and the full retirement age is 67 for people born after 1960. But a 20-year-old worker has a three in 10 chanc of becoming disabled be re reaching retirement and the average age of peele receiving Social Secuty disability benefits is jus53 years old. If you have a health p~b- lem that you know will lad to disability, knowing bw much you could expeclto receive from Social Secuity may help you make decisins about how much disabity insurance you'll need. With the availability to access your Social Secuity earnings and benefit in r- mation online, it's eaier than ever to make use of this important finandal planning tool. The SSA tses Experian's fraud preventon services to securely authn- ticate and safeguard he identities of people accesa g their earnings and bendts information online. To access your statemnt, go to www.socialsecurty. gov/mystatement, crate an account and provide he information as prompted. You'll be able to access y~ur benefit information and e,en see a history of your anmal earnings for every year. For more information on how to live financially sma 't, go to www.livecreditsmart.com. Glickstein Laval Carris. P.A. CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS PROFESSIONAL SERVICES PROVIDED IN THE AREA OF: TAX PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR U.S. AND "FOREIGN INDIVIDUALS, PARTN ERSHIPS, CORPORATIONS," TRUSTS AND ESTATES ACCOUNTING AND AUDITING SERVICES MANAGEMENT CONSULTING SERVICES QUICKBOOKS CONSULTING Serving Central Florida Since 1975 555 WINDERLEY PLACE, STE. 400, MAITLAND, FL 32751 PHONE: 407-645-4775 FAX: 407-629-1606 www.glc.cpa.com