Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A New Support Group for Coping with Grief

by Emily Anderson

You may have heard of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's "Five Stages of Grief:" Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. In real life, grief is often complicated, rising and falling like waves, and refusing to follow a neat progression through stages. Everyone grieves differently, and having support in your grief process can be critical to finding a place of peace again.

The JFCS is launching a new program that runs from April 16th to June 26th this year that has a unique approach to dealing with grief. Meeting every other Tuesday from 3pm-5pm, the six-session group will focus on telling the stories of deceased loved ones to recognize and redefine our relationships with them. All participants will have a chance to share their stories, as well as participate in discussions and journaling exercises.

If you have lost someone--recently or not--consider contacting Kelli McElhinny at 412-422-7200 to participate in this one-of-a-kind experience.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Look Out for Tax Scams!

by Emily Anderson

Tax season is a boom time...for identity thieves and scammers looking to skim money from unsuspecting taxpayers. You and your loved one might be especially vulnerable to scammers. Your loved one might have a touch of memory loss, for example, making it easier for a stranger to deceive them. You might be overwhelmed by medical bills and daily chores and in the rush, give out personal information to a "phishing" scam. For other people, the unfamiliar landscape of the internet makes it more difficult to tell who is honest and who is dirty.

The AARP lists these scams as some of the "Dirty Classic Scams:"

  1. Phishing: You should watch for potential fake emails or websites seeking personal information. The IRS will never send you an email about a bill or tax refund. Don’t click on a message claiming to be from the IRS.
  2. Phone Scams: Scammers who impersonate IRS agents are an ongoing threat. Some con artists who use this ploy have threatened taxpayers with deportation, arrest and revocation of their licenses if they fail to follow the scammers' instructions.
  3. Identity Theft: You should guard against possible identity theft. While the IRS has worked to better detect tax-return related identity theft, it reminds taxpayers that they can help in preventing this crime by protecting their personal data.
  4. Tax-Return Preparer Fraud: Watch out for unscrupulous tax-return preparers. The vast majority of tax professionals are honest. But some dishonest preparers scam clients, perpetuating refund fraud, identity theft and other scams that hurt taxpayers.
  5. Fake Charities: Groups posing as charitable organizations solicit donations. Some of these groups use names similar to nationally known organizations to deceive consumers. The status of charities can be checked using tools found at
  6. Inflated Refund Claims: Taxpayers should be wary of anyone promising inflated refunds. If a tax preparer asks you to sign a blank return, promises you a big refund before looking at your records, or charges fees based on a percentage of your refund, they are probably up to no good.

What You Can Do

A little information can go a long way towards protecting yourself and your loved one from fraud. First, keep in mind that the IRS usually contacts people by mail, and never calls to demand payments over the phone. The IRS will not ask you to give out debit information over the phone, nor will they threaten to call the police and have you arrested if you don't make an immediate payment. Be aware that scam artists may have some of your information already, but that doesn't mean they are the real deal. If have any doubts, it is always ok to hang up and call the IRS directly yourself at 800-829-1040.

General fraud protection practices include shredding important documents, filing your tax returns as early as possible, and developing a personal relationship with your tax preparer. If your loved one has cognitive issues, you may want to peek at their mail or their checkbook from time to time to see if anyone is taking advantage of them financially.

For more information and to get alerts about new scams, check out the AARP Fraud Watch Network.